fish tacos

How’s your Wednesday looking? If it’s anything like mine, and I’m sure it is, the day is packed. There’s a reason Wednesdays are called “hump day.” Before my head hits the pillow tonight there is laundry to be done, dry cleaning to be picked up for a traveling husband, email to answer, a car rental to be booked, packing to be done for Memorial Day weekend, a workout I WILL squeeze in, a haircut for my son, an ortho appointment for my daughter, soccer fitness training for the same daughter, a Geometry tutoring session for my son and finally, book club where I will be bringing a salad – thinking about a Kale Caesar (The Rosie Project was our latest book; I highly recommend – it’s witty and light and the motion picture rights have already been secured). I’m predicting that my son will be texting me at book club asking what time I will be home so we can watch our nightly episode of Sons of Anarchy (we are deep into Season Five) and telling me the printer either doesn’t work OR is out-of-toner. Oh, and perhaps can I please grab some Gatorade before I get home because he’s dying of thirst and the bounty of liquids that I stock the fridge with are inaqdequate. Just a prediction…

We are overscheduled and busier than a one-armed paper hanger but I’m certain that it’s all part of this season of my particular life which involves two active teens and a family with ALOT of interests and commitments. Everyone I know is the same. So what happens at dinnertime on days like these? I still want my family to have a good and healthy dinner but clearly, spending an hour or more in the kitchen isn’t on the agenda today.

I suggest fish tacos. They are simple to make and involve NO MESS as the meal is completely prepared on the grill in a matter of 15 minutes. While the fish is grilling, dice up a tomato, shred some cheese, pop open a bag of already shredded cabbage, slice a lemon and cut up an avocado or two. Have your tortillas ready to go and this meal will be on the table in 20 minutes (I promise) with minimal clean-up required.

Ingredients
2 pounds white, lean fish (I have been buying Pacific Cod from my local fish market. Halibut also works well)
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced kale
1 tomato
1 lemon
1-2 avocados
cheddar cheese, shredded
tortillas
Olive oil
McCormick’s Lemon & Pepper Seasoning
Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing (a MUST for drizzling on top)
Aluminum foil
FishTaco1

Directions
1. Preheat your grill.
2. Place fish, skin side down on aluminum foil.
3. Brush the top of each filet with Olive oil.
4. Season each filet with McCormick’s Lemon & Pepper Seasoning.
5. Top each filet with the finely diced kale.
6. Place aluminum foil on the grill and set your timer for 13 to 15 minutes depending upon the thickness of the fish.
7. While the fish is cooking prepare your toppings (tomato, cheese, cabbage, avocado and lemon). *NOTE– there is no need to flip the fish ever. It cooks perfectly skin side down.
8. When your timer rings, remove the foil with the cooked fish to a wood cutting board and bring inside.
9. Cook your tortillas on a gas stove (if you have one) flipping each tortilla with tongs as soon as it starts to bubble up. The edges get nice and golden brown.
10. Place two tortillas in a basket and with a spatula flake off pieces of the fish and put into the tortillas. Have each person add whatever toppings they want to their fish tacos (these plastic baskets can be purchased almost anywhere and make clean-up nonexistent. Click on the link above to find them on Amazon).

FishTaco2

I highly recommend squeezing some fresh drops of lemon juice on top and drizzling Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing – the flavors are addicting.

So that’s what we’re eating this Wednesday hump day…good luck with your Wednesday on a Whim and send me any shortcut yummy ideas you have to maintain sanity in the kitchen and health at your dinner table.
Fish Tacos Lead

mexican chocolate doughnuts

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this familiar refrain, “Mom, don’t forget I need [insert food item here] for class [insert urgent date here]. I admit that my son did give me the weekend to prepare, although he had a basketball tournament on Saturday and Mother’s Day was yesterday (Sunday). Timing, eh?

My son needed to bring in a Mexican food item to share with 16 kids in his Spanish class. There are tons of things that can be made BUT transport was my main concern. A 16-year old boy transporting handmade, hard-labored over food to school without getting crushed, smushed or dropped was tantamount to my plan.

I originally had visions of making Churros that were delicately wrapped in wax paper, light and fluffy with the perfect coating of cinnamon and sugar. I also had a glaringly opposing vision of me sweating over my electric skillet, oil flying everywhere only to be left with soggy and sad looking pastry sticks somewhat resembling churros (all the recipes make them sound so easy to make). So I went with my gut and chose this delicious recipe for Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts. They are easy to make and they are BAKED not fried.

I did a test batch of the doughnuts and brought them to Mother’s Day brunch at my sister’s house. The number one food critic in our home, my son, gave me a thumbs up. When other people said they were “so good,” I knew I made the right choice. I still want to try making Churros but not when someone’s grade is dependent upon it.

The Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts would be a fun item at holiday time served with a side of cinnamon whipped cream and Mexican hot chocolate or wrapped in a crisp white box and brought as a hostess gift with a pretty recipe card or served as an easy brunch item the next time there’s a sleepover. Thanks to the talented ladies at Garnish With Lemon for solving my dilemma and creating a recipe that will be used over and over, especially in times of “crisis.” Hopefully, my son will flawlessly dictate in Spanish how to make these delicious morsels and “WE” will get an A.

Ingredients
Doughnut batter
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1¼ cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Glaze
5 T unsalted butter
⅓ cup chocolate chips
2 T milk
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325.

For the doughnuts
1. Mix buttermilk, brown sugar and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix until incorporated. Add the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.
3. Pipe mixture using a frosting bag into greased doughnut pan and fill each well ¾ of the way full.
4. Bake at 325 for 12-14 min. Let set in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire
rack to cool. I found that if I let the doughnuts sit a bit longer and cool they were easier to pull out of the doughnut well with my fingertips.

For the glaze:
In a medium saucepan mix the butter, chocolate chips and milk. Heat over med low heat until melted. Add cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts into glaze and set on drying rack to set. Serve.

Doughnut1

Doughnut2

Doughnut3

Doughnut4

 

NOTES
1. I found my Wilton Doughnut pan at Bed Bath & Beyond.
2. Instead of spooning the mixture into the doughnut pan well, I piped it in using a frosting bag without a tip. I cut a bit of a larger hole and it worked perfectly and easily.

 

lemon-thyme cake

Isn’t it annoying when a recipe calls for a few sprigs of a particular fresh herb and you are essentially left with the full amount? In my case, the culprit was thyme, whose two sprigs capped off my perfect pot roast. Rather than toss the bunch, I decided to try a few different recipes and really max out the versatility of the herb. One such recipe is this scrumptious cake that popped up as soon as I Googled “lemon-thyme cake.” The talented ladies from the blog Spoon Fork Bacon published the original recipe in 2014 and it is a winner.

No one in my family could pass the cake stand without breaking off pieces of the light fluffly deliciousness. We chipped away diligently until all that remained was a smattering of crumbs.

The Lemon-Thyme cake will debut at my sister’s house on Mother’s Day; one cake wrapped for my sister as a thank you for hosting and another cake as an “I Love You” to my mom. I’m picking up white cake boxes and wrapping each one in soft yellow ribbon with sprigs of thyme on top. Personally, I think it’s a gift everyone will enjoy and it comes straight from the heart (and, of course, will be accompanied by a bottle of champagne).

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

Makes 2 (8”) cakes

Cake Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (I used C&H pure granulated sugar and it was fine)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme

Frosting Ingredients
I strayed from the SFB frosting and made a lemon buttercream which was easy and divine, especially with the hint of lemon subtly popping through.

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Lemonthyme1

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
3. Place sugar, butter and eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together until very thick and combined.
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the zest and thyme, until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
5. Gently fold in the zest and thyme until just combined.
6. Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans (bottoms lined with parchment and lightly greased) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting them cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
2. Beat in the confectioners sugar, vanilla and lemon juice
3. Beat until well-blended.
4. Fold in the lemon peel just until mixed.
5. Frost each cake layer when cool and assemble.
6. Decorate the top with a few leaves of thyme and a lemon wheel

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

love bites

If there is any chance of denying your kids are growing up right before your eyes, it only takes a holiday or two to make it clear that there has been a shift.

My “babies” are only 16 and 12 but gone is the Valentine’s Day frenzy of candy grams, homemade treats for the class and finding the perfect Valentine’s cards for the big exchange. Perhaps its denial but I refuse to “go gently into that good night,” when it comes to my maturing babes and ANY holiday. When they are grown with families of their own, I want them to remember their childhood home as a place of tradition and celebration – no matter their age.

So for the past few years, I have made them their own Valentine’s Day celebration replete with decorations and a decadent amount of treats and sweets. I call this little party, “Love Bites,” because each morsel is filled with love (and of course, you can’t overlook the fact that sometimes, love DOES bite).

Love Bites Menu

The first year I created “Love Bites,” it was a wild-haired idea that came to me about an hour before school pick-up. I dashed to the store and bought heart-shaped cookies, nuts, conversation hearts, caramels, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t a fancy display but I knew from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t about the fancy, it was about making an unexpected and special gesture just for them. Don’t think over the top if you create your own Love Bites table, just keep it simple and real – for whoever you’re loving.

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Click HERE for recipe

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Click HERE for recipe

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

 

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

 

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

 

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

 

Food alone won't fill your table - pay attention to the special touches

Food alone won’t fill your table – pay attention to the special touches

Happy Valentine’s Day!

white chocolate peanut butter krispies

Perfect for any holiday or special occasion, these White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies are highly addictive. A friend gave us some after her annual family cookie baking session in early December. Everything she gave us was yummy but my kids went wild for these delicious morsels. They are soooooooooo easy to make that I gave them out for teacher gifts at holiday time (I was asked for the recipe by several teachers).

For Valentine’s Day, I followed the recipe below and added conversation hearts and pink sprinkles for a little Valentine’s Day flair.

Ingredients:
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup creamy peanut butter
*2 pounds white melting chocolate =  (2, 12-oz packages plus 1 1/3 cup)
**I used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Melting Chips (NOT chocolate chip morsels)
**You can also use vanilla CandiQuik

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine's Day Flair

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine’s Day Flair

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter on high for 1 minute and then in 30 second intervals until fully melted. Stir chocolate into cereal mixture. Mixture will be slightly runny. Drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper. Add sprinkles (conversation hearts) at this point if desired. Let set until firm, 2 hours. Store in airtight container.
One batch makes between 20 and 30 pieces depending upon how big you drop them onto the wax paper.

mini strawberry layer cakes with fresh cream

The perfect little dessert for any occasion, these cakes are tailored for Valentine’s Day with bright red strawberries, fresh cream, chocolate zest and mint.

Ingredients:
Cake
Use your favorite vanilla/white cake recipe
Add 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Add 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Large 6-well cupcake pan

Fresh Whipped Cream
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 Tb pure granulated sugar
1 Tb vanilla extract

Other
Cleaned and sliced strawberries
Dark chocolate zest
Fresh mint leaves

Directions:
Make cake batter according to your recipe, adding the additional ingredients listed above (lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract). Pour each cupcake well 3/4 full of cake batter and bake according to directions. Once finished, let cool.

In a blender, mix together the heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract. Blend on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

Using a perforated knife, cut each oversized cupcake into three layers.

Layer cupcakes with whipping cream, strawberries and mint. Repeat. Once the top layer is finished, zest dark chocolate over the whipped cream and top with a strawberry or two and a fresh mint leaf.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

champagne and flowers

This simple and stunning floral arrangement will beautifully grace your holiday table or serve as a novel hostess gift. It works double-duty as a floral arrangement and a festive drink. Once the flowers have run their course, you can remove the oasis and pop open the bottle of bubbly.

Embellish arrangement with descriptive words for your Thanksgiving table

Embellish arrangement with descriptive Holiday Expressions tags

Surprisingly, this arrangement was made with just three bunches of flowers from my local Pavilions grocery store. The flowers and the Oasis floral foam came to a mere $18. The bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine) adds to the cost, but you can still create an affordable arrangement or gift on a budget. See this list from Gayot for their top Ten Sparkling Wines; all reasonably priced.

Start with three small bunches of florals

Start with three small bunches of florals

 

Alstroemerias in a deep burgundy play well against the Chrysanthemums

Alstroemerias in a deep burgundy play well against the Chrysanthemums


Items Needed

1 bottle Champagne or Sparkling Wine/Prosecco
Oasis floral foam
2 to 3 bunches of flowers
Chrysanthemum (burgundy and gold)
Alstroemeria (deep burgudy)
Fishing wire
Holiday Expressions tags (the ones pictured below are from the Paper Source)

Gently hang word tags from your arrangement with clear fishing wire

Gently hang Holiday Expressions tags from your arrangement with clear fishing wire

Directions
Make sure oasis is soaked in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once soaked, take the oasis out of the water and let drain for a few minutes. Take the oasis and cut the edges so the shape is more circular. The oasis is easy to cut with a sharp knife – think of it as slicing a piece of cake. Once you have the desired circular shape, carefully push it down onto the chamapgne bottle until it is firmly in place. Water may drip down the bottle as you are working with it so keep a paper towel on hand to wipe up any moisture.

Trim corners of the square oasis into a circular shape

Trim corners of the square oasis into a circular shape

Gently push oasis onto top of bottle until firmly in place. Wipe up any moisture that may drip down the bottle while you are creating the arrangement

Gently push oasis onto top of bottle until firmly in place. Wipe up any moisture that may drip down the bottle while you are creating the arrangement

Start filling in around all sides of the oasis, one flower at a time. Be sure to fill in from the bottom as well for a round and robust effect. Keep filling in the oasis, varying the colors and types of flowers. Your goal is to create a round shape that is full. You don’t want to see any part of the green oasis. Once you have everything filled in, make sure you turn the bottle to look at it from all sides.

Start filling in the oasis from all sides, making sure to cover the bottom as well

Start filling in the oasis from all sides, making sure to cover the bottom as well

 

Keep filling in with flowers until you have a full effect and the oasis cannot be seen at all

Keep filling in with flowers until you have a full effect and the oasis cannot be seen at all

If you want to embellish the arrangements with special holiday words (like this version below for Thanksgiving), tie each small card with fishing wire and hang from the arrangement. To keep your arrangement alive, you can spritz with water every other day. This arrangement here lasted over a week.

I love how the fishing wire is invisible, creating a floating look with the word cards.

I love how the fishing wire is invisible, creating a floating look with the Holiday Expressions tags

Bold holiday colors showcase the beautiful arrangement

Bold holiday colors showcase the beautiful arrangement