Broiled Tilapia

This post doesn't feature a fancy recipe or anything too exciting really. We're sharing it to illustrate how to use a little creativity with your meals and utilize what you have. For example in this meal I purchased nothing immediately from the grocery store. We have frozen tilapia fillets in the freezer, lettuce on hand (before our leaves from the garden were producing I would regularly purchase lettuce for salads since they're an easy side that can go with anything), and the couscous was in the pantry. Read on to see how we assembled the meal:

For the tilapia
We actually used the counter convection oven for this since we just needed to broil the tilapia. We placed a little bit of butter on the fillet (halved a small slice and placed on each half of the fish) then sprinkled with a basic seafood seasoning that we found in the pantry. Then continue to broil!

For the couscous
We cooked according to package directions and then added chopped sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese.

For the salad
To these mixed greens we added a white wine vinegar, olive oil, shaved parmesan, and almonds.

Use your creativity for the "add-on's". If you think it'd be good, try it.

Pork Lo Mein

Recently I've been planning our weekly meals more routinely. This cuts down on my trips to the grocery store and since I cue Patrick in on the meal plan he's able to start meals if I'm working a little later than usual. As I was planning meals for this particular week I was having a little trouble figure out 5 days--it's hard to meal plan for a whole week! Fortunately our latest EatingWell (April 2012) magazine was hanging out on the coffee table. So I browsed it and found this! You can find it online here or below. And I usually incorporate a blog recipe or two in my meal planning since we know how to make it and think it's good!

This is officially called "pork and snap pea lo mein" but I substituted the snap peas for edamame just because I thought it would be good. Patrick altered the preparation a little so I'll note that below.

Pork Lo Mein 4 servings | Active Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes
8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti (we had soba noodles in the pantry so we used those)
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups snap peas, trimmed (substituted in frozen shelled edamame)
12 ounces boneless pork loin chops or tenderloin, trimmed, cut into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 scallions, sliced
1 carrots, peeled and thinly chopped* *our addition!

   Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.
   Combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl. (Patrick added the pork to this mixture and let it marinade while the veggies sauteed.)
   Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add snap peas (Of course we started with edamame and carrot so you can use whatever you want) and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add pork and cook, stirring, until no longer pink on the outside, about 2 minutes. Add garlic (we added the scallions here versus the end because we wanted them incorporated into the saute) and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir the soy sauce mixture, pour into the pan and cook, stirring, until thickened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce. Serve topped with scallions.

Pork Lo Mein!

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, and Chives

Patrick may have mentioned in a previous post that on our last trip to Costco we purchased a large bag of frozen tilapia filets and shrimp! It's been fun experimenting with these two items in some new seafood dishes. This particular recipe is from our Food Made Fast Seafood cookbook. I chose it because it was simple and featured chives. Our chive bucket is getting a little out of control and needs some harvesting. This recipe also reminded us of one of Patrick's favorite dishes: Lemon Spaghetti. This new one might replace that one because this has a few less steps and is equally delicious. We served this with a light salad and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (recipe follows).

Linguine with Shrimp from Food Made Fast: Seafood
2 lemons
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp fresh chives
salt and white pepper
1 lb linguine or fettucine (we used whole-wheat spaghetti)
1 tbsp olive oil

Boil the water and warm the sauce: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Grate 1 tablespoon zest from the lemons and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cream and lemon zest and heat until hot. Remove from the heat if the mixture begins to boil. In a small bowl, combine the shrimp, lemon juice, and chives; set aside.

Cook the pasta and finish the sauce: Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to the package directions. When the pasta is within about 3 mintues of being al dente, warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring, until they are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Add the warm cream to the pan and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, add to the pan, toss to coat with the sauce, and serve.

For the salad: we use chopped buttercrunch lettuce, sliced avocado, and almonds
For the vinaigrette: in a small food processor we combined sun-dried tomatoes (~1/4 cup), balsamic vinegar (2-3 tbsp), olive oil (~1/4 cup), small dash of sugar, basil, salt and pepper; pulse until smooth. Continue to add ingredients until the ratio of the vinaigrette is to your liking.

Vanilla Cream Fruit Tart

I know you've been waiting for this dessert recipe! It complemented our spring potluck meal perfectly. This recipe came to me through my mom and one of our dear family friends, Sissy. I've had this recipe in my little cookbook for quite some time waiting for the perfect event to make it. I tested it out here and can't wait to make it again for a summer cookout.

Vanilla Cream Fruit Tart
3/4 c butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 - 10 oz pkg vanilla chips, melted and cooled
1/4 c whipping cream
1 - 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1 c fresh blueberries (the grocery store was out of blueberries when I was shopping; kiwi made a great substitute/addition)
1 c fresh raspberries
1/2 c pineapple juice
1/4 c sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp lemon juice

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioners sugar. Beat in flour (mixture will be crumbly). 

Pat into bottom of a greased 12-in pizza pan. 

Bake at 300F for 25-28 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. In another mixing bowl, beat melted chips and cream. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Spread over crust. 

Chill for 30 minutes. Arrange berries over filling. In a saucepan combine pineapple juice, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice; bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Cool; brush over fruit. Chill 1 hour before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

My first sprig of mint!

I've harvested my first sprig of mint! I was enjoying a relaxing afternoon off and thought I'd like some tea with mint. So I cut off a mint sprig, washed it, and put it in my tumbler, like so...

Then I put some ice cubes into the tumbler (about 5-6). I placed my hand over the tumbler and shook it so the ice cubes would bruise the mint leaves and release its extract. While I was doing this I was brewing some black tea. Once your tea is brewed, put in your preference of sweetener to your liking, and then pour over the ice cubes and mint sprig, like so...

And here is your perfect summer afternoon refresher!
Here's a funny story about Patrick choosing our Tervis Tumblers:
I'm sure some of you wonder about the dynamics of our relationship; being that Patrick is a Blue Devil and I am a Tar Heel. Let's just say there are a guaranteed two nights a year one of us will be really upset and the other really happy (and we hope it's only two basketball games; luckily we didn't have any tournament meetings this season). We were enjoying a nice stroll through Macy's one weekend and decided it was finally time we invested in Tervis tumblers. As I was browsing through housewares I told Patrick to go pick us out some. Patrick comes back with one tumbler and of course it's a Duke one. When I asked him "where mine was?" he courteously turned around to get one for me... he came back with a second Duke one!!! Silly Patrick, I gave him a little look and traded that Duke tumbler for the better blue. And now we're each represented in the cabinet.

Deck Drinks

Patrick and I have taken to enjoying a "deck drink" on our back patio after work. The weather is so nice. We define a deck drink as any cool liquid consumed while sitting in the lawn chairs. On this particular evening I blended a frozen concentrate limeade with ice and added a sprig of mint.

We like watching the birds and hearing them chirp. However as you can see here sometimes the ducks invade!

Our first lettuce harvest

This isn't a particularly exciting meal since we just marinated some salmon and had a salad. But it's on the blog becauseee... it's our first lettuce harvest! As you can imagine this is from the plants that we bought at the Durham Farmers Market and transplanted into our container garden.

Isn't it pretty?!
Inspired by our fresh green leaves we decided to make a fancy salad. This was right after we had visited home and Granny shared some freshly picked local strawberries with us.

For the fancy salad we added a little arugula to our harvested lettuce and topped it with sliced strawberries, chopped pecans, and shaved parmesan. The salad was dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The salad was served next to salmon marinated in a lemon pepper marinade. Of course you can prep your fancy salad while your salmon roasts and this meal is ready in less than 30 minutes!

Melt in your mouth chicken

Another recipe pinned! Thanks to Pinterest for this Melt in your Mouth Chicken recipe. Since I've been meal planning I'm able to plan easier meals with less prep on nights I get off a little later than usual or Patrick has evening practice. Since the chicken in this recipe needs to bake for 45 minutes it wasn't a "quick" one but it was an "easy" one. Just mix together the mayo-parm mixture and start baking the chicken. With all the mayo it's not the healthiest chicken but we found that you didn't need all the mayo that's called for!

While the chicken cooks you can assemble your sides. On this particular evening we went with more easy stuff: a microwaved sweet potato and an arugula salad with goat cheese and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Melt in your Mouth Chicken
Serves 4
4 boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Mix mayonnaise, cheese and seasonings.
2. Spread mixture over chicken breast and place in baking dish.
3. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Spring Potluck

With warm weather abounding and lots of fun things to do, a "spring" themed potluck seemed like a no-brainer. Even though our offerings aren't as bountiful as they used to be since friends have been moving away, we still had plenty to eat!

An island full of spring food [from l to r]: ambrosia, roasted vegetables, grilled pineapple, and pasta primavera. 
Tim made ambrosia. To add an extra spring touch to it, he dyed the whipped cream purple!

Patrick roasted cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, and sliced asparagus. The vegetables were roasted with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and seasoning staples of salt and pepper.

Richard made pasta primavera complete with lots of colorful, spring vegetables including red onions, peppers, and sundried tomatoes.

I grilled pineapple (on the grill pan) and made a vanilla fruit tart; stay tuned to the blog for that recipe and pictures later!

Broiled Tilapia with Mustard-Chive Sauce

This recipe from Giada came up in our search for more ways to prepare our large frozen bag of tilapia filets. The tangy sauce complemented the fish perfectly, and all we had to buy was the greek yogurt! To help keep the fish warm, I would recommend heating the sauce briefly in the microwave before drizzling it on. Also, I like to flip the filets halfway through broiling.

4 (5 to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

For the fish: Preheat a broiler. Spray a small baking sheet or glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

Drizzle the tilapia fillets on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and broil until cooked through and the flesh flakes easily with a fork, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, agave nectar, and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer the tilapia to a serving platter and drizzle with the sauce.

Patrick Proposed & I SAID YES!

Have you heard the news?! Probably so but if not we're ENGAGED! We couldn't be more thrilled to share the news and a few details here. Then we promise to return to our regular blog posting as scheduled.

Last weekend we went to Asheville for a short trip. We liked the idea of taking a little spring getaway and that's exactly what I thought it would be (a little spring getaway). I certainly didn't suspect it would be what I look back on and remember as "our proposal" weekend but Patrick had other ideas up his sleeve.

We left Friday morning and went straight to our first destination: The Biltmore House & Gardens. We toured the house and then the gardens which was one of the particular reasons we wanted to go in April. The gardens were featuring a "Festival of Flowers" and we thought it would be really pretty. I had no idea while we were touring the house and the gardens Patrick had a diamond ring in his pocket! He didn't want to risk me seeing the box in his camera case so he slipped it into his "secret" pocket that morning.

The garden trails led to a nice pond with a rustic boathouse. We sat here for a bit to enjoy the view and then continued around to a waterfall where Patrick took advantage of such a serene setting to propose!

Our first picture as an engaged couple! This was taken about 10 minutes after our engagement by a couple who was on the waterfall overlook and saw the proposal.

Here's the diamond ring that occupied Patrick's pocket for the day.

We kept the news to ourselves for a little over 24 hours and then called our parents, family, and close friends! For more pictures and details follow this link to our photo album.

Just for fun and keeping with the blog we came home Sunday evening and fixed a light salad. We topped mixed lettuce with panko fried shrimp, garlic pepper snap peas, and a honey-dijon-balsamic vinaigrette.

Stuff's still growing!

As you recall we're growing a few things on the back deck. Refresh your memory here. Last time we had just worked on our herbs. Well now look at our "container" garden:

We've got herbs, salad leaves, one tomato plant, and lots of colorful flowers!

In the corner are our herbs. In the red buckets are basil, chives, and thyme. Rosemary on the very left in the little blue bucket, mint is below in the little yellow bucket, and the black boxes hold our basil seedlings and arugula seedlings. Then on the far right are colorful flowers!

You see our salad leaf boxes above and some more mature basil here. We actually cheated a little bit and bought some plants because we weren't sure if our seedlings would make it. At the Durham Farmers Market we purchased basil plants, spinach plants (in the picture on the left), and then a variety of leaf lettuce (romaine, red leaf, and butter crunch). Then the third box has our mesclun mix seedlings that are coming right along.
One small helpful bit of advice: if the forecaster forecasts frost, no matter how small the amount and how low the chance, do cover your plants! Even if the forecaster makes his forecast on the 11pm nightly news and you're tucked in bed. Unfortunately three of the basil plants there didn't make it through the frost and neither did many of our seedlings. If this happens you'll just have to make a post-frost trip to Lowe's and replace what you lost then you'll be back on track!

And here's one of our more colorful corners: pink geraniums, yellow gerber daisies, and purple petunias. Complete with a miniature hummingbird feeder!