Provençal Fish en Cocotte with Garlicky Tomato Sauce


My Dad called me up the other day and gave me a piece of his mind.  "Where are the healthy recipes for folks with dietary restrictions like me?  Your stuff looks great, but there's a lot there I can't eat.  People need healthier recipes, too."   "Sure, Dad," said I.  I offered to get to it after Christmas and New Year's Day.  He kindly suggested that dietary restrictions didn't take a holiday and that some people might really enjoy a lighter food break occasionally even if it was Christmas...   After a week of my kids climbing the walls, bouncing off the ceiling, and being on each other like ugly on apes, it occured to me that perhaps the steady diet of Christmas treats might be affecting them adversely.  My Dad had been right.  Of course I realized this at about 5:30p.m. and had nothing remotely healthy on the radar for dinner that evening.  I stuffed the block of cheese and the ground beef back in the fridge, took a minute to reconsider my plans and stuck a pot of rice in the rice cooker.  I rifled through the freezer and dug out a pound and a half of individually frozen blue hake fillets.  Surely I could do something with that!   Twenty five minutes later I had thrown together what is a new favorite in our house; Provençal style fish en cocotte with a garlicky tomato sauce.  Don't let the name fool you.  We've done cocotte here and here before and it was super simple and quick.  Cocotte is the French word for casserole.  We all know casserole=easy. This fish … {Read on...}

Christmas Pickles (a.k.a. Fire and Ice Pickles…) Foodie Gift #14


Have you seen 'Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean'?  I love Mr. Bean.  If I weren't married to the suave and debonair Evil Genius I might have a crush on Mr. Bean.  I'm just that kind of dork.  And one of my favorite Mr. Bean lines ever comes from this , my favorite,  episode.   Can someone please explain to me why it's so darned funny when Bean says"Christmas socks." Is there any reason why it should double me over in laughter?      Val and I haven't forgotten our promise to provide a new homemade gift idea for each day leading up to Christmas.  In between Val preparing mass mailings for the camp, me ferrying kids to and fro, and all the other tap dancing that comes this time of year, we've been busy cooking our bums off.  Actually, the reality is more that we're cooking our bums bigger.  If we could 'cook them off' we'd be in serious business and the world would beat a path to our doors.  As it is, we'll be content if everyone puts on a 'winter coat' of padding along with us.  But we digress...   What we mean to say is that while we've had a couple of days interlude between the last recipe and this one, we'll make up for it.   If you approach this like a politician we're not in a recipe deficit at all.  We'll just back load our recipes and call it even, eh?  After today's we owe you 10 more recipes.  And unlike  politicians, we'll deliver!   Price Breakdown: (rounding up) $4.00     2 jars, 32 ounces each, hamburger dill slices $1.00     4 cups white … {Read on...}

Why I do what I do…


I had someone ask me an interesting question today in church.  It's not something that is foreign to me.  In fact, I get asked this question nearly every time I haul all five boys through the grocery store or to the library, doctor's office, bank, post office, etc...  "Five boys?  Are you going to try for a girl?"    I have heard this question hundreds of times, but today, for the first time, it made me think.  I always wanted a bunch of boys.  Granted, it would've been fun to shop for tights and Easter dresses.  You know what, though?  Even if I wanted to have a girl, I wouldn't have much time to think about it...   Why I'm happy with my XY handful.   'Cause superheroes still show affection. Because sleeping boys are just as beautiful as sleeping girls. Because they consider themselves dressed up if you slap a tie on 'em.  Because baby boys are very, very furry. Because pirates wearing safety glasses will eat your sticky barbecued ribs. Because of faces like this... Because, well, just look at him! ...And him! ...And all of them! But most of all, because boys still hug their mommies.  And those hugs are just as wonderful. … {Read on...}

Hot Crab Dip: Foodie Gift #13

Only have a few minutes in between things to do today, but I thought I would pop this in--makes a nice quick hot appetizer for unexpected company, and a nice gift for friends who might like this kind of dish. As a gift, pack the spread into a jar or place it in an appropriate baking dish, wrap as needed, and include the recipe and instructions for heating. If not being baked right away, it must be refrigerated.   I came across this several years ago, and my family loved it from the first bite.  Even my grandfather, who always liked best the plainest of plain food, thought this was worth eating!  I can't remember where I found it, but it was certainly a good find!   Hot Crab Dip   1 8-oz. block of cream cheese, softened to room temperature 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 2 T. milk or cream 2 T. prepared horseradish 1 T. Worcestershire sauce (or more if you like it) 1 small can crab meat, drained and flaked (or 6 oz. imitation crab, broken into small pieces)   Cream the cheese, blend in the onions, cream and seasonings till well blended. Stir in the crab, and place in a shallow 1 qt. baking dish or gratin dish.   Bake at 350 till hot and and you see it beginning to brown on top. Garnish as you wish, and serve with savory crackers and/or veggies.  (My favorite is sesame crackers--terrific with the crab and horseradish.)   Enjoy! … {Read on...}

Homemade Nut Butters: Foodie Gift #12

Nutella was only the beginning....I've made homemade peanut butter for some time now -- I buy 30 pound bags of Valencia peanuts and our PB is cheaper and fresher and better than what we could find at the store. It is good, quick and easy, and while I've made foods that incorporated pulverized cashews, almonds, pecans, etc., I don't remember making just plain nut butters out of these. So, today was the day.   First, I have to say that except for the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house, the smell of browned nuts can't be beat--something about that toasting and browning process that seems to bring the best out of so many foods!  Today I made cashew butter and macadamia butter, both incredibly easy, both incredibly good. Tonight and tomorrow I'll be trying pecans, almonds and brazil nuts.   From what I've observed so far, the process for all of these is about the same. Toast the nuts (2 to 3 cups at a time) at 350 degrees for 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the nut--cashews, blanched almonds and macadamias brown more quickly than the others (I don't blanch my almonds for this). If you have a trustworthy sense of smell, that can help here as well--when a nice nutty toasty smell comes from the oven, it's time--the beginnings of a burnt smell do not bode well for the finished product.   Let the nuts cool for 15 to 20 minutes, place in a food processor with the chopper blade, and let 'er rip.  Depending on the speed of your processor, it will take … {Read on...}