Sunday, 6 May 2012

Blackened Tilapia Baja Fish Tacos

I only recently discovered my love for fish tacos. I would never eat them until a few months ago. This had nothing to do with me not liking them and everything to do with me not being willing to try them. I don't know why, but I just would not give them a chance. I finally caved a few months back while eating at one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston (Molinas) with my parents. They order fish tacos every time we go there and I decided it was about time I gave the fish tacos a try. I now order them every time I eat at Molinas. I'm totally hooked. Since I had never liked fish tacos, I had never attempted to make them, so it was obviously time that I attempt making my own.

 Cooking your own food instantly makes it better than if you ordered it at a restaurant. There's so much more satisfaction thanks to the effort that goes into making the food. I took a chance and tried something new in the kitchen. That alone provides a certain instant satisfaction with the recipe. It helped that these tacos tasted awesome. They also looked really pretty!

 I found this recipe on CookingLight's website. I had eaten quite a bit of junk in the days preceding this one, so I really wanted to eat something lighter and healthier. This particular recipe was under reader favorites, so I figured it had to be pretty good. Also, two tacos only have 362 calories. Unlike a lot of fish tacos, the fish isn't fried, making it a lot healthier. This was such a satisfying, light, and healthy meal. I definitely plan to make these tacos a regular addition to my diet!

Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos
recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

serves 4

1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 chopped jalapeno pepper (keep the seeds if you like it hot, ditch them if you don't)
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
4 lime wedges

Combine sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeno in a food processor and process until smooth. Combine the jalapeno sauce and onion slices in a bowl.
Combine paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and red pepper. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the tilapia fillets.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place fish in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.
Warm tortillas according to their package directions. Divide the fish, onion mixture, and avocado slices evenly among the tortillas. Serve with lime wedges and enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Gruyère and Parmesan Soufflés

I almost ate two! (shared the second one with my dad)
half-eaten deliciousness
I recently went home (again!) to play at a fundraiser in Houston. The fundraiser was for an organization called Musiqa. They promote new music and new composers and it was such an honor to play for a benefit to help them raise money. 

Of course, I do most of my best cooking when I'm home in Houston, due to the much larger and better stocked kitchen that is a part of my parents' home. I've been really craving cheesy soufflés as of late, but don't own the ramekins to cook them in, so going home was the perfect opportunity to try out a new soufflé recipe.
ramekins lined with parmesan...yum!

 I always hate directions for whipping egg whites. Stiff peaks, medium peaks, small is so easy to go wrong and over-whip or under-whip. I'm almost too scared to try whipping the egg whites. This time around, my mom did the whipping part. This recipe called for medium peaks, and judging by how fluffy and light our soufflés were, I think my mom whipped the egg whites just right.
medium peaks

 The business of folding egg whites into other mixtures is also tricky. The whipped egg whites are so delicate and have to be folded in and handled incredibly carefully.

I love going home and being able to eat by the pool!
 Along with our soufflés we had salad and fresh watermelon. It was a perfectly light and lovely dinner. The beautiful Houston spring weather definitely helped!
my whole meal

Gruyère and Parmesan Soufflés
recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
8 teaspoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 oz cave aged Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Coat each of the 4 soufflé dishes evenly with 1/2 teaspoon of butter. Then, sprinkle each dish with 2 teaspoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Tilt the dishes so that the cheese evenly covers the sides and the bottom.
Combine the flour, red pepper, nutmeg, and black pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add the milk and wine, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Cook for four minutes, or until the mixture is thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add salt and gruyère cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Spoon this mixture into a large bowl, let stand for 5 minutes, and then stir in the egg yolks.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until medium peaks form. Gently stir 1/4 of egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Carefully spoon this mixture into the prepared dishes.
Place the dishes on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Bake the soufflés at 375 degrees for 17 minutes, or until they are puffed up and golden.
Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Belated Passover Seder Post

Last Friday night I spent the first two nights of Passover at home. This was the first time I've been able to spend Passover with my family in four years. It was great. I had a lot to do while I was home (headshots and a manicure...both more necessary than you'd think) so I wasn't able to help my mom a whole lot with the seder preparations. However, I was able to snap a few pics.
We snuck in some pre-seder margaritas in the afternoon. No one makes margaritas quite like my mother does. They're perfect. My family is very particular about margaritas. They should always be made with fresh lime juice. No sugar. No mixes.
Our table was beautifully set up for the seder. There was also a kiddy table of sorts at the end of the table that I didn't get a pic of (which I still sit at...the kids are now 19, 21, and 22).
I love our seder plate. It is so much classier than the plastic one that I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond last year for my seder in New York.
I took a few pictures of my mom preparing the tenderloin. I made chicken last year. Chicken will never be able to stand up to tenderloin. I wish I could make tenderloin all the time. Unfortunately, it's a little (a lot) expensive.
Omg yum. Perfectly rare.
Me and my mommy in the kitchen.
My mom forgot that I don't mix meat and dairy, so both desserts were made with dairy. As a result I had to wait a ridiculously long time after our meal before I could eat dessert. The chocolate torte was amazing. I took some to eat on the plane back to nyc on Sunday.
The lemon cheesecake was not the greatest. We think it may have been a tad bit undercooked. These things happen with new recipes. It was quite beautiful though. Now we know to cook it a bit more.

All in all it was a beautiful seder and a wonderful weekend. It was so nice to be able to spend a couple of days with my parents. I was able to squeeze in some mexican food before passover started, so that was amazing and delicious. I always love being able to go home to Houston. To all of you who also celebrate Passover, I hope your Passover is going well. Only two more days until we can eat carbs again! Yay!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

GOOP Junger Detox

Just a few of the foods I've been juicing, putting into smoothies, etc.

6 days ago, my friend Kathryn and I decided that we wanted to do a cleanse. Now, I know that there is no way I could do the master cleanse. Lemon water with syrup and cayenne pepper? and laxatives? Gross. I subscribe to Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter GOOP. I remembered reading about a 7 day version of the Junger Cleanse that she had done after new year's one year. I went to the GOOP website, found that particular newsletter, looked it over, and decided that this was a reasonable looking cleanse. It's only 7 days long, and you get to eat one solid meal a day! I'm currently on day 6 of this program. Basically, I have a fruit, rice milk, protein powder, and greens powder smoothie every morning for breakfast. For lunch, I have a solid meal consisting of chicken, fish, or salad. Then dinner is either soup or juice.
I've been juicing things I never thought I'd eat, such as beets and kale. I think I've had more vegetables in the last 6 days than I've had in the last five years. I feel quite healthy and energized. In fact, I'm surprised by how good I feel. I'm also surprised that I like beets. This has been an interesting learning experience for me. If anyone is thinking of doing a cleanse, I absolutely recommend this one!
Here's the link to the newsletter:
The beet, carrot, apple, lemon, ginger juice is by far my favourite one!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Leaving the Kitchen: Calle Ocho

Today, I partook in my first ever boozy brunch. My friend Yvonne had made a reservation at Calle Ocho a couple of months ago and invited our friend Kathryn and me to join her. Their deal is that complimentary sangria is served throughout your brunch. This was not your typical, sloppily made, somewhat mediocre sangria. It was fantastic, and you could order from 8 different flavours of sangria! My favourite out of the flavours we tried was called Blanca, and it was made with white wine, brandy, fresh fruit, and a splash of spirits.
I loved the presentation of the bread basket. They served an array of breads in a cuban cigar box, with a side of strawberry butter. I love strawberry butter, but there aren't a whole lot of places that serve it. Also, the cigar box was such a cute touch.
No good brunch is complete without good friends and good conversation! I love these girls!

We all shared a side of incredible home fries.
I got their take on steak and eggs, called Vaca Frita. Steak and eggs can be an overwhelming dish, but this was actually a perfect amount of food. The latin rice that came with it was one of the best parts. The skirt steak was flavourful and the fried eggs were done perfectly. I tried to get a little bit of everything on the plate in each bite.
Yvonne ordered the Tortilla Espanola, a sort of Spanish frittata. I tried one bite of it, and it was quite delicious.
I didn't get a chance to try any of Kathryn's Pollo Ranchero, but it looked amazing. We really couldn't find anything to complain about with this restaurant. The food and drinks were tasty and the presentation was beautiful. That's probably why you have to make reservations about 2 months in advance.
Calle Ocho is located inside of the Excelsior Hotel at 45 w 81st Street
between Columbus and Central Park West

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've got 15 minutes until Valentine's Day is over, so my title for this post is just barely legitimate. As everyone well knows, today is Valentine's Day. For the most part I think it's kind of a silly holiday, but that doesn't mean it can't be a fun one! Pink is one of my favorite colors, and I love a pretty decoration as much as any girl, so I do rather love the design scheme that generally comes with this holiday.
Every year, my mom sends me a Valentine's Day package. Last year it contained heart shaped measuring cups (as seen in the above picture). This year it contained thin mints and a bottle of one of my favorite salad dressings. Cookies and salad dressing may seem like an odd combo for a Valentine's Day gift, but they were much appreciated. There are few things that make me as happy as a thin mint. Now I just have to be careful to ration them out and make the two boxes last as long as possible. I can never seem to find thin mints in New York. Girl scouts can't exactly go door to door here, so where do they sell their wares?

In honor of the holiday, I decided to bake heart shaped sugar cookies. I was too lazy to make the frosting that goes with the cookies, so I just decorated them with multi-colored sugar flakes. The sugar flakes do give the cookies a pretty, festive look, and take way less decoration time than frosting!

I enjoyed these with a delightful mug of milk. The mug shown here is a "hug mug" from Max Brenner. You can hug it with your hands! I thought that would be a cute compliment to my heart shaped cookies. Hug mugs are also a pretty good gift idea for Valentine's Day, especially if your loved one enjoys drinking coffee or tea!
Sugar Cookies
recipe adapted from 17andbaking

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugars and the butter until fluffy.
Beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, then gradually mix into the butter-sugar mix until just blended.
Flatten the dough into a disk, cover in plastic wrap, and cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or store in the freezer for up to a week.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut with a cookie cutter and transfer to ungreased baking tray using a spatula. Sprinkle sugar flakes on cookies.
Freeze these cookie shapes for 15 minutes before you bake them to help preserve the shapes.
Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on cookie size) until edges are lightly golden.
Cool on tray for 5 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.
Enjoy them on your own, or with a valentine!