Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Healthy" Southern Fried Catfish & Tarter Sauce, Oven Fries

Last week Greg and I took a little time off for some R & R that turned out to mean "Restlessness & Ruminating" for me, rather than "Rest & Recreation." Got the flu, and then took on a bundle of worries about a family member I love who is going through a very rough patch. Though I was grateful for a soft hotel bed in which to recover from the flu, and in which to toss and turn over my loved one's troubles, I was never so glad to be back in my own home as I was last night. When other things are unsettled, there is no place like home to deliver the comfort of sameness and familiarity. I felt better the minute we stepped into our Home Sweet Home.

Tonight, continuing with all things comforting, I was in the mood for a favorite southern comfort meal: cornmeal coated fried catfish, fries and coleslaw.Thankfully, I upsized the health of this traditional meal without sacrificing any of the taste. In fact, I have to say I think this was the best catfish dinner I've ever had anywhere, and it came from my own kitchen in minutes. So here's how I did it just in case the mood for a catfish dinner should strike you, too.

First of all, I drove through KFC and picked up their coleslaw, because I could live to be 100 and not make coleslaw as good as theirs, so I bow to the Colonel in this side dish category.

Secondly, a trip to Whole Foods, yielded me two large, gorgeous fresh boneless catfish fillets for about $10.00 (1/2 lb per person). I have found that our Whole Foods has the freshest, non-fishy-est tasting fish around and is more than worth the extra cost. I also grabbed a couple of organic russet potatoes and headed home to cook.

First I heated the oven to 425, then scrubbed and cut the potatoes, skin on, into steak fry sized pieces. Squiggled olive oil on a baking sheet and then sprinkled the oil with Coarse Sea Salt, rolling the pieces of potato in this mixture then popping the whole thing into the oven while I turned my attention to the catfish.

In a large skillet I heated about 1/4 c. coconut oil. I've come to love this healthy oil for its wonderful light flavor when frying foods. Then I lightly rinsed the fillets in water, patting off excess water. In a shallow bowl I put about 1 c. of organic corn meal, 2 t. citrus seasoning and 1 t. paprika. (You can also use Cajun seasoning or whatever suits you!) Then I dipped the fillets in the cornmeal and "fried" them in the small amount of coconut oil until they were golden and crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. Let them drain on paper towels.

Now is a good time to check fries and turn them so the other side gets brown.

Here's a delicious and healthier version of tarter sauce to serve with the catfish:

3 T. light mayo
2 T. light Ranch dressing
2 T. Greek yogurt
1 t. dried dill or 1 T. fresh dill minced
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 T. pickle relish
1 T. minced capers
1 T minced onion if you like (Greg doesn't so I left out!)

Fries should be ready about now.

Serve catfish with a wedge of lemon and tarter sauce alongside oven fries with a little catsup (I like a few shakes of Tabasco on the catsup) and some coleslaw from KFC. An alternative to coleslaw might be a fresh cucumber and tomato salad, lightly marinated with a little rice wine vinegar and ice water (equal amounts),then salt and sugar to taste.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Easy Peach Cobbler

My mother used to make this delicious fruit cobbler on cold nights, and I am sure her mother also made it before her. It's a classic old recipe and can be made with pantry ingredients in a jiffy. It's also a very inexpensive way to serve a bunch. I use more peaches than the recipe usually calls for, otherwise it seems to be mostly cobbler and not enough fruit! You can also substitute canned sliced pears.

In a 9 by 13 pan, plop 1 stick (1/2 c.) of butter. Place in oven and heat to 350, removing pan w/ butter as soon as it is melted. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix by hand:
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Squiggle batter over melted butter.

Using two big cans of sliced peaches (29 -32 oz. each can) ladle fruit on top of batter, then pour rest of peach juice on top of fruit.

Sprinkle all this with about 3 T. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon (Optional: chopped pecans are also a nice addition)

Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until top of cobbler is golden brown. It will rise and puff up between and on top of peaches.

Serve in bowls, warm, with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

Makes 8 -10 servings.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Confused? Overwhelmed? Simply Take the Next Right Step

(Walking our niece Whitney back home to our hotel through the confusing streets of downtown Chicago at dusk,carrying her shopping bags, holding her hand. She didn't have a care in the world because her beloved Uncle Greg was leading her, one step at time and she knew that he knew the way.)

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Charlie Shedd told the story of his young daughter Karen, who became overwhelmed by the multiple pieces involved in creating a model of the human brain for a science project. Her friend Ben was helping her but still, she could not see the forest for the trees of "brain parts." One evening Karen came home, excited about a new plan she and Ben had worked out. "Ben says I should bring the whole business over to his house. Instead of me taking him the parts, he wants the whole deal. then he'll give me the parts in their right order."

What a concept to apply to our tangled lives. Give God the whole deal (whatever your current "overwhelm" might be) and then let Him show us which thing to do deal with and how to do it, one focused step at a time. Only He knows where we ultimately want to be, and revealing too much at once only clogs our all-too-human brains.

Stormie Omartian wrote a book with the title, Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On and the title alone may be worth the price of the book. It's a powerful way to deal with overwhelm when there are too many tasks to be done, too many bills to pay, too many relationships in confusing disarray. At this juncture I've found it helps to simply stop, drop and roll on over to God's presence and say, "Okay, I'm going to give you the whole business and let you tell me which part you want me to tend to today. Please give me just enough light for the step I'm on."

Jesus warned us not to worry about tomorrow because "each day has enough trouble of its own." We were not created to borrow tomorrow's worries. Like manna, God only gives us a daily portion of strength to deal with the next 24 hours. Overthinking about tomorrow,leaves us paralyzed for the only task we are equipped to handle and lands us in a place that fries our brains.

In the bestselling book, Eat, Pray, Love, the author Elizabeth Gilbert recalls a time when she could not sleep because she was so desperately confused, living in an unhappy marriage, and overwhelmed as to what to do about the mess she was in. She finally had nowhere to go but to God. She asked Him what to do. The answer was very clear. "Go back to bed." It was the first of many small steps to getting better, but it was an important first. She needed the sleep to give her brain the rest and strength for the turmoil ahead.

If you have no idea where to begin or start, with anything that needs fixing in your life, you might begin by praying, "I trust You to show me the next right step." Then do that, and when it is done, ask for your next step. It is amazing how fast this will clear mental fog and bring peace to anxious hearts.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Pet. 5:7

Friday, January 1, 2010

Quick n' Hearty Feel Better Chicken Soup

Greg's fighting a cold this New Year's Day, and nothing tastes better, or is better for you, than a steaming bowl of chicken soup when you're under the weather. I invented this one on a night when I was in a hurry, and Greg says it is the "best chicken soup I ever tasted." Bingo! Quick, easy and good! He liked it so well, I doubled it & made it for our New Year's Eve party. Adjust vegies to your liking or to whatever you have on hand. It's creamier and meatier than the average chicken soup, so all it really needs is perhaps a cornbread muffin, maybe a few slices of apple, and dinner is done.

Into pot put:

A quart of chicken broth (I like the boxed organic brands)
1 can no fat cream of chicken soup, condensed
1/3 frozen peas
1 or 2 nuked carrots, cooled and diced (I put them, whole and peeled, in a steam proof zip lock bag and zap them about 3 minutes. Carefully drop on cutting board and dice when cool enough to handle.)
1/2 leftover baked potato, chopped up (or nuke one!)
1/4 c. corn
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
2 T. Thai chili sauce
Angel hair pasta, broken into 1 inch pieces -- about 1/2 cup (dry) or so (More if you really like noodles)

All the breast meat from a deli roasted chicken, diced (I love the big juicy ones at Sam's Club)... if you want dark meat as well, be my guest, and bone that, too!
pinch oregano and terragon

Simmer all until pasta is tender... (about 10 minutes), taste and season with salt, if needed, and plenty of pepper. You can thin it a bit with water or milk if it seems too thick to you, but it turned out just right for us!
I like a bit of diced green onion tips or fresh parsley on top of mine.