Christmas Eve + a Pot of Fish Chowder

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I’ve just returned to DC after a few wonderful days in Richmond at my parent’s house for Christmas.  It is the first year having Christmas at my childhood home – we usually celebrate in Baltimore but my grandmother recently moved into a smaller home and couldn’t host us all this year.  So, my mom volunteered to host and my aunt, two cousins, grandmother and her dog, Miss Marple, were able to come down from Baltimore/NYC and spend Christmas with us in Richmond.

On Christmas Eve we traditionally have gone to a church service at my grandmother’s church and then come home to hors d’oeuvres, beef tenderloin, and a host of other dishes.  However, over the past couple of years we have started having soup and a salad instead.  This was mostly to cut down on the enormous amount of energy that my grandmother typically put into the meal, but didn’t hurt the waistline either so we decided to stick with it.

This year’s soup was a fish chowder that my mom created.  I was initially wary of a seafood chowder since the only fish soups I’ve ever had were made by Campbell’s, but this soup opened my eyes to the potential of chowders.  Full of fresh halibut, waxy yukon potatoes and other seasonal vegetables, it had a rich, creamy flavor with a depth and warmth that lent itself to the coziness of Christmas Eve.  We ate it crowded around our dining room table (and I truly mean crowded – quite a few of us were straddling table legs trying to fit 7 at a table made to comfortably seat 4) with my mom’s Christmas flower arrangements in the center.

In addition to the soup, we served a salad of mixed greens, goat cheese, grapes, toasted pistachios and a lemon vinaigrette.  It was refreshing and balanced the heaviness of the soup.  We used my mom’s special lemon olive oil and it really made the dish.  I would recommend purchasing some if you can find it, as it adds a less acidic lemon flavor to dressings and is a great base for sauteing vegetables or proteins.

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Fish Chowder (adapted from Simply Recipes)

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay (optional, can use a little paprika and a dash of cayenne)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs halibut or other white fish, bones removed and filleted
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

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Heat oil and butter in the bottom of a large pot (6-qt) on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and turn up the heat, cook, uncovered until the wine reduces by half. (If not using wine, add 1/4 cup of water with the clam juice.)

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Add the potatoes, clam juice, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, and Old Bay spice. (The potatoes should be just barely covered with the liquid in the pot. If not, add water so that they are.) Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost done, about 10-15 minutes.

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Add the fish to the pot of potatoes. Return to the stove. Cook on low heat, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. When the fish is just cooked through, slowly add cream and stir to heat (watch the heat and make sure not to boil).  Once heated through, remove from heat. The flavors will improve if the soup rests 30 minutes before serving.

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Top each bowl with a dash of parsley and chopped bacon, and consume!

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Grape, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad

For Salad (use the following in whatever amounts you would like):

  • Red Grapes, sliced
  • Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • Pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • Mixed Greens
  • salt and pepper to taste

For Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon olive oil (or olive oil and lemon zest)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl or dressing container and mix.  Top greens with all ingredients, add desired amount of vinaigrette and toss.

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Quinoa Sliders

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At then end of my first year of college, I read a book called Skinny Bitch that turned me into a vegetarian.  As superficial and fluffy as it sounds, the book was eye-opening and, if anything, it made meat seem so unappetizing that I couldn’t stomach eating it after reading the book.  I adhered to the diet pretty strictly for almost 2 years, until I remembered how much I love meat.

Now, I like to call myself a “non-practicing” vegetarian, i.e. a conscious meat eater.  I still feel strongly about the benefits of vegetarianism (health-wise and environmental), and I make an effort to only eat meat that is locally and organically raised.

My stint as a vegetarian taught me that not every meal has to include meat.  Vegetarian dishes don’t have to be tasteless or bland, and much of the time I prefer a meatless alternative to a juicy steak.  I saw these quinoa patties on one of my favorite blogs, How Sweet It Is, a few weeks back and decided they looked simple enough to try out on a weeknight.  I am constantly searching for a good homemade veggie burger recipe, and although these are not heavy on the veggies, they taste amazing and still include the protein provided by quinoa.

They crisp up nicely and although they are a bit crumbly, you can smush them back together in the frying pan.  I served them on mini pitas with avocado and dijon mustard, and I froze the leftover patties for another time.

Crispy Quinoa Sliders (from How Sweet It Is)

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (I used whole grain bread crumbs because I didn’t have panko – still turned out fine!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (I used regular sweet onion because I didn’t have green onions)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 multigrain slider buns or dinner rolls (I used mini pitas)
  • 2 avocados, sliced for topping
  • topping condiments

Add quinoa and stock to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for 10-12 minutes.  Then let stand off heat, covered, for 5 minutes. You can do this ahead of time or even the night before (and store quinoa in the fridge) so the quinoa can cool.

While quinoa is cooking, slice the onions, chop the carrots, mince the garlic and grate the cheese. Place it all in a bowl, then add bread crumbs and mix. Coarsely chop the chickpeas and add to the bowl. One quinoa is finished cooking, add it to the bowl and mix well until incorporated. If needed, let cool or place in the fridge for a few minutes to cool. Add in beaten egg + egg white, salt, pepper and mix well. Form into patties (I really squeezed a handful of quinoa together and smoothed it into a round, it may take some squeezing and forming to get the patties to stick – be careful, they stick to your hands) that fit the size of the buns you have. <- this will differ!

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Once hot, add 5-6 quinoa patties and cook until deeply golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Gently flip and cook 5 minutes more. Remove and continue with remaining olive oil and patties. Serve with sliced avocado and whatever other toppings you like!

Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Lime and Sriracha Glaze

I published this post a month or so back on my other blog, Instructions for Living a Life, but decided to start this blog,  so I am posting it here as my first post!

I used to hate brussels sprouts.  It wasn’t until I had a dish at Estadio a few months ago that I realized their potential.  The chef roasted them and prepared them with pine nuts, currants and caramelized onions.  They were decadent – crunchy and melt in your mouth good.

Since then, I have been on a mission to find a good brussels sprouts recipe. I stumbled upon this one on Pinterest and have made it a few times.

It is perfectly spicy, sweet and tart – the brussels sprouts are roasted and then glazed with honey, lime and sriracha.  Sprinkle some peanuts on top and you have a tasty side dish, or in my case, main course.

Having made this dish a couple of times, I departed from the recipe in a couple of ways – I used olive oil because I did not have peanut oil on hand, and I eyeballed the mixture for the glaze.  I like to add a little more sriracha and lime than is called for.

With the brussels sprouts, I served boiled beet greens.  To give them some flavor, I added cayenne pepper and bacon salt to the boiling water.

The finished product was delicious and one that I am sure I will make again.

Brussels Sprouts with Honey, Lime and Sriracha Glaze (from A Crafty Lass)

For 2-4 servings:

  • 3 cups brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1½ tablespoons honey
  • ½-1 teaspoon sriracha
  • The juice of half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Trim the woody ends off the brussels sprouts and then slice them in half lengthwise. On a baking sheet, toss the brussels sprouts with the peanut oil and season lightly with salt. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Toss the sprouts and roast for 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, sriracha and lime juice until combined. After the brussels sprouts have roasted for 20 minutes, pour the glaze over them, toss to combine, and roast for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the peanuts, and serve immediately.