Moroccan Halibut en Papillote

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Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to cook light and easy dishes that won’t weigh you down after a day spent out in the heat. I love cooking seafood in the summer, and a nice, light fish dish is always my go to. It still packs a punch of protein but I always feel better after eating fish than a heavy meat dish.

This weekend, I had a friend over for dinner and we decided it was a perfect summer night for some seafood. We thought about making fish tacos, but after evaluating my pantry stock, I was inspired to make a Moroccan dish. I think I’ve mentioned my Try the World box subscription before, but I had some spices and couscous from last month’s Morocco box that I hadn’t tried out yet, and I was ready to experiment. We picked up some halibut fillets from Whole Foods and decided to make halibut en papillote (in parchment paper packets). Cooking fish en papillote may sound fancy, but it’s actually so easy and so quick. You just throw everything together in the little packet with some oil and it all cooks together. To learn how to make and fold parchment paper packets, check out these instructions.

For my Moroccan-inspired halibut, I seasoned the fish with a little salt first, then sprinkled kefta rub on top, added some tomatoes, garlic, raisins, and herbs to the packet, and drizzled it with culinary Argan oil. Argan oil is a traditional Moroccan oil, but feel free to use olive oil instead.

Once everything was ready to go, I folded up the packet (learn how to fold a packet here) and stuck in the oven.

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12 minutes later, we had perfectly cooked flaky halibut.

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The taste of this Moroccan halibut was so delicious and flavorful. The kefta rub gave it just the right amount of seasoning without overwhelming the flavor of the fish, and the Argan oil imparted a nutty taste. The tomatoes cooked down and the raisins (also typical to Moroccan cuisine) were a sweet complement to the spiced kefta taste. I served the halibut over couscous with sautéed green beans.

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I will absolutely be making this dish again. You can also play with the elements of your packet and the vegetables you include and seasonings you use. Get creative and let this Moroccan dish inspire you!

Moroccan Halibut en Papillote
(makes 2 servings)

2 (6oz) halibut fillets
Sprinkle of salt
1 tsp. kefta rub
3 Tbsp. Argan or olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Raisins
Parsley
Parchment Paper
Hot cooked couscous

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place one fillet on one half of each parchment paper packet. Lightly sprinkle each halibut fillet with salt. Rub 1/2 tsp. of kefta rub on top of each fillet.

3. Arrange garlic, tomatoes, raisins, and parsley to your preference with fish on one half of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil, about one and a half tablespoons over each fillet. Fold paper in half and crimp edges to seal. See instructions here.

4. Bake for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

5. Remove fish from packet and serve over couscous.

Strawberry Basil Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

As you may have figured out from some of my last posts, I love goat cheese. So when I found out April was grilled cheese month (yes, I’m behind in posting this recipe), I knew I had to make some sort of experimental grilled cheese. Of course, my mind went directly to a goat cheese grilled cheese. And what pairs well with goat cheese? Fruit! I knew strawberries were coming into season, and thus my idea was born – strawberry goat cheese grilled cheese.

I picked up some fresh strawberries, whole-grain bread and honey goat cheese from the store and got to cooking. I decided to jazz things up a little and make balsamic strawberries, and use some fresh basil for added flavor. The result was absolutely delicious. The fresh basil really made the sandwich, so I’m glad I decided to add it. I knew it would complement the strawberries well, and it gave it that fresh-from-the garden taste. It lightened things up from the heavier flavors of the balsamic and goat cheese. Paired with a salad, this is a quick and easy springtime meal. It’s also a perfect addition to any brunch or afternoon tea. Try experimenting with other fruits and herbs – I’m going to try blackberry and sage next!

StrbrryGrillCheeseStrawberry Basil Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese
Makes 2 sandwiches

Honey (or regular) goat cheese
About 8 strawberries, tops cut off and sliced
1 – 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (or to taste – I didn’t really measure)
Sprinkle of sugar
Fresh basil, chopped
4 slices whole-grain bread

First, make the balsamic strawberries. Sprinkle strawberries with sugar to slightly sweeten them. Add balsamic vinegar, stir and let sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavor. You can also make the strawberries ahead of time – the longer they sit, the more they absorb the flavor.

Toast 2 slices of bread slightly, to make spreading the goat cheese easier. Spread goat cheese on one side of both slices of bread. Top one slice with strawberries and fresh basil. Top with other bread slice. Grill sandwich in panini press or skillet until goat cheese is slightly melted. Repeat (starting with toasting bread) for second sandwich. Enjoy!

StrbrryGrlldChse

Repurposed Leftovers: Goat Cheese-Butternut Squash Ciabatta

I know, I know, I’ve been the worst blogger EVER. But the weather has finally been nice so I’ve been running a lot and then I have to come home and cook dinner, and then clean up, so the last thing I feel like doing is blogging after all that. But I’m finally making myself do this because I’m building up a stash of recipes I need to share.

In my last post, I told you to stay tuned to see what I did with the leftover squash. Well, I created a goat cheese, roasted squash and red onion marmalade ciabatta sandwich. Let me give you some background on my inspiration for this. When I was studying in London, my parents came to visit for a week and we went to see the white chalk cliffs at Seven Sisters, located right outside the town of Eastbourne, on the coast of England. Since it was cold, rainy and extremely windy that day, we didn’t spend too much time at the cliffs for fear of being blown off (I’m actually not exaggerating – the wind ripped all of our umbrellas to shreds and I had to crawl on my hands and knees to even get close to the cliff). To make the trip worth it though, we walked around the town of Eastbourne and went to a local pub recommended by our cab driver. I wish I could remember the name of this pub, because it was some of the best food I’ve ever had – and my family agrees. My mom and I still talk about how we wish we could go back. I ordered a toasted ciabatta sandwich with honey roasted pumpkin, goat cheese, and red onion marmalade and it was to die for. The combination of flavors was wonderful and it was actually the dish that started my love affair with goat cheese. I have wanted to recreate that sandwich for over 2 years now, and I finally did.

Butternut squash is an acceptable substitute for pumpkin, but since I’d roasted my squash for the risotto, it wasn’t honey roasted. To make up for it, I bought honey goat cheese. I whipped up a red onion marmalade (I used this recipe from Mirror Mirror), toasted some ciabatta bread, and voila! I had my English pub sandwich! Of course, it didn’t taste quite like the original, but it was still delicious and brought me back to one of my favorite memories.

English Pub Goat Cheese-Butternut Squash Ciabatta

Honey Goat Cheese
Roasted Squash
Red Onion Marmalade

To roast squash: Combine squash and 1 tablespoon oil, tossing to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until squash is just tender. (My squash was seasoned with garlic for the risotto, but it wasn’t strong.)

Toast ciabatta bread until crispy. Spread with a thick layer of goat cheese, top with squash and red onion marmalade. Enjoy!

Repurposed Leftovers: Marmalade

The marmalade recipe makes a good bit (I actually only used 1 large onion and reduced portions a little), so save the leftovers and add to other sandwiches or snacks. I spread goat cheese on pita crisps and topped with the marmalade for a perfect after-work snack!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts

After two weeks of craziness, a visit from my parents, and a last minute trip home to NC for Easter, I’m finally settling back into a schedule and can share some more recipes! Since I’ve had a few requests for this recipe after I posted a picture on Facebook, I wanted to get this one up first. Last night for dinner I made Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts and it was so good! It’s more of a fall dish, but I had a squash I needed to use, and since this weather has been so unusually cold and rainy I figured it was justified. If you know anything about risotto, you know it’s not a quick dish, and this definitely took me a while since there were so many steps (from chopping to toasting to roasting to stirring for 20+ minutes), but the end result was definitely worth it. Plus, I felt super accomplished and I love getting that feeling from cooking. It’s something you made and while you don’t get to keep it forever like a work of art, you get to EAT IT, which is even better! There are few things I appreciate more in life than a good plate of food. 🙂

The recipe I used came from our new book, Cooking Light’s “Pick Fresh Cookbook.” It totally feels like an indulgent meal, but the best part about it is it’s only about 260 calories! I made a few changes, but mostly followed the recipe exactly since it was my first time making risotto. I omitted the pancetta since I’m not a huge fan of bacon in dishes (I know, some might consider it a sin). I also just used brown rice instead of Arborio, since I’m on a budget here and couldn’t justify $8 for a small container of rice. I hope you all enjoy the recipe as much as I did! And get excited to see a post soon about the recipe I created using the leftover roasted squash!

IMG_5176Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts
from Cooking Light

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio or brown rice
1/2 cup chardonnay
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh lemon thyme (or 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme plus 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I didn’t think the risotto needed cheese so I didn’t use this)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring twice. Place nuts in a bowl. Drizzle butter over warm nuts; sprinkle with sugar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss well to coat.

Combine squash and 1 tablespoon oil, tossing to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until squash is just tender. Remove from pan; stir in garlic. Set aside.

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to saucepan; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Stir in squash, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top with nuts and cheese, if desired.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

It’s Monday. Which means the weekend is over. Which is sad, considering the beautiful weather we had this weekend. But I did lots of cool things this weekend and can’t wait to update you on all of them. First, let’s start with Friday. No thrilling activities occurred that night because I decided to have a relaxing night to myself. However, what did occur was a craving for some comfort food (and some wine, of course). I was flipping through my new issue of Cooking Light and saw some macaroni and cheese recipes. While the recipes sounded good, they were a little more gourmet than what I was feeling. All I wanted was some pasta and lots of cheese. I looked at a couple of recipes online and made a list of the ingredients I needed and headed to the store. I located everything I needed and then much to my delight, the wine aisle was right across from the cheese. I was super excited to see they were having a good sale and I got a $14 bottle of a white blend (Chardonnay, Riesling and Moscato) for only $6! Could my night get any better?

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Troublemaker wine…

I got home and put the water on to boil, then began getting out all the ingredients I needed. Pasta, check. Milk, check. Cheese, NOT CHECK. I realized with a panic that in my excitement about the wine sale I’d totally forgotten to grab a bag of cheese! You’ve got to be kidding me. What was I going to do? I couldn’t make macaroni and cheese without CHEESE! And I literally had no other food thanks to my limited budget (hey parents, you’re taking me grocery shopping when you come visit Thursday). I was so mad at myself and my water was just about to boil but I had to turn it off, leave the apartment again after I’d already settled in for the night, and head back to the store. Thankfully, a new Target was built a mile from my apartment so I didn’t have to go back to the grocery store but it was still a hassle. Finally, I got my silly bag of cheese and got to cooking. Luckily, the mac and cheese was worth it. It was creamy and cheesy and everything I was craving. I went ahead and made the whole pound of pasta (I used penne because that’s what I had) so I would have lunches (or late night snacks) throughout the week, too.

I looked at a few different recipes but mostly based off of this one from theKitchn, with a couple of changes. This was good the first time, and even better leftover. I think it was because some of the cheese sauce was absorbed, so it wasn’t as rich.

Oh, and the wine was great too, despite the trouble it caused!

photo 1 (1) Homemade Mac and Cheese
Adapted from theKitchn

1 pound of pasta
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Cheddar Jack for a combination of flavors)
1/2 tsp. salt

Bring about 4 qts. water to a boil. Salt the water generously. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain; set aside.

While pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Heat 1 cup of milk in small saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1/2 cup of milk with flour. When milk in saucepan is warm, whisk in milk and flour mixture. Whisk until the mixture thickens to consistency of heavy cream, about 3-4 minutes. Begin adding handfuls of cheese and stirring until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.

Pour cheese sauce over pasta (in bowl or pot, if cool) and stir until evenly coated. Serve when warm. Enjoy!

I didn’t need to any extra milk when I reheated it for leftovers, but if you find your mac is dry after reheating, just add a splash of milk!

P.S. Maybe one day when I can afford a new, non-broken lens for my nice Nikon I’ll have some non-iPhone photography 🙂

In my attempt to be healthy…

So this is a delayed post but there has been a lot going on in my life lately! I was busy packing up my room at my aunt’s house to make the move to my new apartment! I officially moved in yesterday and I’m loving it! I moved into the Homewood area, which is a really nice neighborhood in Birmingham, basically convenient to everything. It’s so nice being only 1 mile from work (versus the previous 20) and 3 miles from the downtown areas of Birmingham where I always am on the weekends. The only bad thing is I don’t have furniture yet so I have to sleep on an air mattress for two weeks until my parents bring me a bed!

In addition to my move, I’ve also been crazy busy at work. I got promoted on a couple of projects I’ve been working on, which is awesome, but it also means I have a lot more work! In fact, I’m still working on it now from home, but I needed to take a break and blog about what I made for dinner earlier this week.

IMG_4654I’ve been trying to eat healthier and fresher and some days I just crave greens and vegetables and want nothing else. I considered making my Brussels Sprouts and Kale Stirfry (recipe to come at a later time), but then I saw this post on Betsylife and thought I’d give something else a try.  I followed her ingredient amounts pretty closely, but you can choose your own amounts. It’s so easy and so good for you! And I love how sneakily healthy sweet potatoes are. You wouldn’t think anything with the word “sweet” in its name would be healthy, but they contain almost three times the fiber of regular potatoes. Plus, they’re chock full of vitamins! Super easy, super healthy dinner! And I definitely needed all that protein for my crazy week I’ve had!

Healthy Sautee
Adapted from Betsylife

1 small sweet potato, cubed
8 asparagus spears
1/2 white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup cannellini beans
1 egg
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee sweet potatoes, asparagus, and onions in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and beans. Sautee about 1 minute; add egg. Cook egg to desired yolk consistency. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dill Chicken Salad Melts

For the past two months, I’ve been living with my aunt in Birmingham to save some money before getting my own place (which I’ll be moving into soon). We have our weekly routine, and Thursday nights are my night to cook for us. I’d come across a recipe for Dill Chicken Salad, and since dill is my second-favorite herb (after cilantro), I was really excited to try this recipe. I decided to make chicken salad melts to jazz it up a little for dinner. I really liked the taste of this salad and it got the stamp of approval from my aunt and cousin!

I made a few changes to the recipe, but not much. The main thing that I did differently was not putting the chicken in a food processor. I like bigger chunks of chicken in my chicken salad. I also cut corners and picked up a rotisserie chicken so I didn’t have to cook the chicken after work. I just used the white meat and cut it up into small chunks.

Dill Chicken Salad

Adapted from Mommy Hates Cooking

6 Oz Nonfat Greek Yogurt- Plain
1/2 Cup Nonfat Sour Cream
1 Cup Mayo
2 Tbsp Fresh Dill, chopped
1/2 Tsp Seasoned Salt
1 Tsp Parsley
4 Chicken Breasts, cut into chunks
3-4 Green Onions, chopped
3 Celery Stalks, chopped

Mix together first six ingredients until well blended. Add chicken, green onions and celery and stir until combined. Chill or serve immediately.

Note: Since I didn’t have 4 chicken breasts from the rotisserie chicken (I probably had the equivalent of 3 with the the meat from the wings), the salad was a little “saucier” than I would have liked it, but if I’d had a little more chicken it would have been perfect!

For the melts:

Put desired amount of chicken salad on a slice of your favorite fresh bread – I used Publix’s Italian Chicago Bread. Top with a slice of provolone cheese and toast in toaster oven until cheese is melted.

I meant to take a picture of the melts but I was so hungry that I didn’t remember until halfway through! I’ll get better at this food blogging thing, I promise…