February 18, 2012

Guacamole Egg Salad

My family loves egg salad and we also love guacamole. Today I decided to combine the two and see how it went over... it was a HUGE hit. I used my own home made guacamole for this recipe. Homemade is always better, but if you aren't having an easy time finding good avocados, there is one ready made guacamole product out there that I like... Wholly Organic Guacamole is very good stuff. You can find it in the refrigerated area in the produce section.

I served the egg salad open faced on round whole wheat sandwich thins for the kids and the honey. I had mine in endive leaves instead of bread. I really enjoyed it with the crunch from endive and it was great for my low-carb diet. I fell in love with this, so much better that the usual egg salad.

My guacamole recipe is super simple. I don't like to add tomatoes or salsa like some recipes call for... but feel free to add it to taste if desired.

Simple Guacamole
3 ripe avocados
1 large Jalapeno, seeds removed, finely minced
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely minced
Juice from 1/2 a fresh lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:1: Remove avocado from skin, discard pit. Put the flesh from the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork until you achieve the consistency you desire. I like to leave the avocado slightly chunky.

2: Add the jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and lime juice and combine well.

3: Salt and pepper to taste.

4: Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole (to prevent browning) and refrigerate.

Serves 4

Guacamole Egg Salad
6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
4-6 Tablespoons guacamole
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together chopped egg and guacamole in a bowl. How much guacamole you use is up to you and how creamy you want your egg salad. For 6 hard boiled eggs I used 5 Tablespoons of guacamole and found it was just the right consistency for my liking. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on toast, in lettuce leaves or eat it right out of the bowl.

Serves 3

February 13, 2012

Asparagus Stuffed Swai

We recently tried swai fish for the first time after my local grocer started carrying it. The fillets were frozen, which didn't thrill me as I prefer to buy my fish fresh, but at under $5.00 a pound I couldn't help myself from picking some up to try.

Upon thawing I was pleased with I found. The fillets were firm and had no fishy odor. They looked clean and were of a very nice size and thickness. So far, so good. The evening I decided to make them for dinner, I had a lovely bunch of fresh asparagus in the fridge that needed using. I could steam the veg and serve it as a side dish, I pondered... or I could wrap the fillets around a bundle of the asparagus to make a pretty presentation.

Unfortunately, the looks and price of the fillets were where my love of swai ended. Oh, the recipe I came up with worked just fine. I tried this same preparation on some flounder fillets a few days later and everyone raved. It was delicious! Now, before anyone who has tried and enjoyed swai gets upset... I can't say it was a BAD fish. It wasn't distasteful or anything... we just found that it had very little flavor. It was bland and kind of... boring. Maybe if it had been fresh, instead of frozen it would be better... but to be honest, I've yet to find fresh swai. I believe swai is imported, so chances are that's why.

The benefit of this fish (in my humble opinion) is in it's price and perhaps the fact that it was so mild would be a plus for getting a child (or adult) who is leery of fish to try it. Certainly it's not difficult to cover the flavor of it. My family enjoys fish very much and we like the flavor so the swai just wasn't a big hit.

Have you tried swai? How did you prepare it? Did you enjoy it?

Asparagus Stuffed Swai (or flounder!)

1 Pound Fresh Asparagus
6- 6 ounce Swai Fillets (or flounder)
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
2 Tablesppons, shallot
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 anchovy fillets
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
A splash of white wine
A glug of olive oil

1: Preheat over to 450* F

2: Wash and trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Peel the spears with a vegetable peeler to just below the tender tips.

3: Use your preferred method to steam the asparagus 2-3 minutes until barely tender. Do not over steam or your asparagus will be mushy after baking. Rinse under cold water to halt the cooking process and set aside.

4: In a mortar and pestle combine 2 Tablespoons of the lemon thyme leaves and all of the shallot, garlic, cayenne pepper and the anchovy fillets. Muddle with the lemon juice until everything is mashed together well. Set aside.

5: Prepare a 9 X 13 baking dish by covering the bottom with a couple good glugs of olive oil and a good splash of white wine to help keep things moist.

6: Lay out your fish fillets on a cutting board and season to taste with salt, pepper and the remaining thyme leaves. Take 5-6 asparagus spears and lay them across the fillet and roll up to create a "package". The ends and tips of the asparagus will be exposed.

7: Place each package, seam side down, in the baking dish.

8: Spread the mixture you made in step #4 evenly over each each package.

9: Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in the center of the over for about 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serves 6

Kitchen Notes:
* The next time I made this I used flounder, as I mentioned, and we enjoyed it much more. Any mild fish could be used.

* We liked this recipe on it's own but the addition of a simple sauce was also nice another time I made this. I used this white wine and butter sauce recipe and it was divine with the flounder and asparagus... the lemon thyme was a perfect pairing for it.

*If you can't find lemon thyme... regular thyme would work just fine.

*Don't have a mortar and pestle? No worries... just chop everything well and then mash together in a small bowl using a fork. You don't need to smash the ingredients into oblivion, you just want them to marry and become easy to spread.

February 12, 2012

"Fake" Potato Salad (aka low carb)

Since the beginning of the new year my family and I have been trying to adopt a lower carb way of eating. In the middle of December I ended up in the hospital with some serious health issues and while I was there it was discovered that I was pre-diabetic. My Mother was diabetic and it contributed in a major way to her early death at 60. I turned 40 years old this year and I want many more years than she had, so I knew things had to change. Watching my diet more closely and keeping the carbs down seems to be working for me. So far, my blood sugar levels have been much more even and staying in a normal range. Hopefully this will be the solution to keeping me from becoming full fledged diabetic. Of course it's not just the carb watching that will keep me healthy... it's a combination of being a healthy weight, being active and exercising regularly, and making sure I'm getting a diet full of whole, fresh, non processed foods. For the most part, I already had those things in control... the carbs, on the other hand, have always been my down fall. I LOVE potatoes, bread, pasta and other starchy veg and foods. I've been working on finding substitutes for those carb laden foods I love so much... so far, it's been pretty easy for me. I'm only into this new way of eating a month and a half but I think I can make this into my new normal. Oh sure, I will still occasionally have those high carb foods I love and crave... but from now on I have vowed to make them a "once in a while" thing instead of a whenever I want it kind of thing. Recipes like this one help out with that tremendously. I can have that carb craving "itch" scratched, but without all the problems that go along with the usual preparation of the recipe.

And in case you're curious... I'm feeling great and doing well. The health issues that landed me in the hospital have been resolved and actually were a blessing in disguise. While no one wants to be told they have an health issue they need to be concerned with... if I hadn't had the crisis I did, it may have been a long time before I found out that I was just steps away from being diabetic. Perhaps even too late. I'm thankful I have a chance to get this under control on my terms and without medication. That's huge. In a way, I feel like I've been given a new lease on life.

This recipe is basically my usual potato salad recipe... only instead of potatoes you use gently steamed cauliflower. I wasn't a believer until I tried it... but now I find I actually like this version better than regular potato salad. If you feel a little iffy about the idea of this substituting for potato salad, go into it thinking of it as cauliflower salad instead. It stands out as an excellent dish all on it's own.

Cauliflower "Potato" Salad

1 large head of cauliflower
1 Cup of your favorite mayonnaise (regular or low fat)
1 Tablespoon yellow or Dijon mustard, depending on your preference
1 bunch green onions, chopped
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen young green peas (don't use canned, they are too soft)
3/4 Cup finely diced celery
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1: Trim cauliflower into florets and steam until barely tender. You do not want your cauliflower mushy. Err on the side of less tender. You want the cauliflower to stand up to mixing with the other ingredients without mashing.

2: Drain florets and rinse under cold running water. Set aside to drain well.

3: Steam or boil the peas until just tender. Do not over cook. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside to drain well.

4: Combine mayo, mustard, garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside.

5: Pat dry the well drained cauliflower and chop into small "macaroni" sized pieces, add to a serving bowl.

6: Add chopped hard boiled eggs, green onion, celery, and green peas to the chopped cauliflower.

7: Add mayo mixture to cauliflower mixture and combine well.

8: Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight for the best melding of flavors.

Serves 6