Friday, September 30, 2011

Easy Fish for EVERY Family

Do you eat enough fish? You really should. Did you know that eating fish once or twice a week will benefit your health? It will. Fish is low in fat and high in protein and also contains Omega-3 fatty acids which fight heart disease and many other common health issues. 

Fish has not always been in our regular rotation of meals. Like many others, I was operating under the assumption that if I fixed fish, it would make my home stink for days. I also associated fish with dry lifeless, bland diet food.

However, a few years ago, I came upon a recipe for a fish dish that could be prepared and on the table in under 20 minutes start to finish. That was enough to pique my interest and begin my journey toward introducing my growing family to an "alternative" entree.

I never quite understood where to begin with any kind of seafood that lacked a thick dark brown layer of breading. I firmly believed that Mrs. Paul was in charge of that sort of thing and I trusted her completely UNTIL I turned that box over and looked at the fat content of just one tiny serving!

I headed to the grocery store's freezer section. There I found large bags of frozen fish and I began to work my way through the varieties week after week, month after month until I figured out which fish tasted like what, which were boneless, and which were skinless. 

The skinless feature was important to my family as the children turned out to be quite averse to eating fish that still looks very much like a fish and, as it turned out, so was I! I've learned that most bags of fish fillets are well marked as "boneless" and "skinless" and "individually wrapped", but it's always a good thing to read the labels closely...just in case.

I've found that we enjoy tilapia, cod, haddock and many others. Generally the white fish varieties are interchangeable in recipes. Also, I've learned that this kind of fish doesn't stink at all and it beats a chicken breast hands down on moistness and taste--in my humble opinion. Now all you need is to grab a bag o'fillets and get started.

After you get home and open the big bag, you will find individually wrapped fillets. The quickest way to defrost them is to fill a large bowl with cool water and plop those fish into it for about 30 to 45 minutes.

After the fish has thawed, grab some scissors and release them from those little plastic bags. Now, you're ready to create. For ultimate simplicity, place the filets on a foil-lined and sprayed baking sheet, salt and pepper the fish and bake for 15 minutes at 400˚. Remove from oven and enjoy.

Tonight, I tried a new fish dish called Easy Baked Parmesan Tilapia*. My son bestowed upon this meal the much coveted "Double Do-Over" rating. Quite an honor. Really.

Here's what you need:
Recipe adapted from {How Sweet Eats}

6 (I used a few more) whole Tilapia (or other white fish) fillets
salt & pepper
6 TBSP butter, softened
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Here's what to do:
Preheat oven to 400˚
Defrost the fillets in cool water.

 Remove thawed fillets from plastic and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Salt and pepper each piece of fish and place in oven for 10-15 minutes.

While fish is cooking, combine Parmesan cheese, thyme, garlic, and butter in a separate bowl.

 Stir into a paste. My butter was not soft enough to mix into a smooth paste so I put the entire mixture in the microwave for 5 seconds to soften a bit. (This paste can be made the day before to speed the process even more...)

 Remove fish from oven and turn oven to BROIL setting and move your oven rack to broil position. 
Gently flip each fillet.

Place about 1/2 of a tablespoon of the butter paste on each fillet.

There! All, put 'em back into the oven...carefully, it's very hot!
  Return baking sheet to oven and broil for 2-3 minutes. 

READ: DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE OVEN! Do not turn your head to explain to a three year old why dogs bark. Do NOT discuss the three phases of science history with your tween in the next room. Do NOT even think about answering a text from your sister. 

These actions and many others WILL absolutely result in burnt fish. Burnt fish, in turn, will cause you to cry. Crying while preparing fish will cause you to never fix fish again. Never fixing fish for your family will result in less than optimal health...this is not good. You can do better. You must...they are counting on YOU! 


When the fish looks like this, lightly golden-brown and yummy, it's done.

We added a little steamed spinach, warm applesauce, and corn-on-the-cob to our plates, and dinner was served! 
(I had a few fillets left over and I'm gonna use those for fish tacos tomorrow!!)

For more information on the health benefits of fish from the Mayo Clinic, click here.
Happy Fishing!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Butterfly, Butterfly

They arrived in mid-August, a surprise to my girl who'd just begun to add an interest in bugs and such to her already lengthy list of topics

We opened the box, saw the five caterpillars and their food inside the plastic jar. We introduced ourselves, and after a few days, we discovered that our caterpillars weren't very good housekeepers.  They were, however, very good at following directions. Within the specified number of days, three of our new friends climbed to the top of the container, attached themselves to the tissue paper at the top, and formed the letter J with their bodies. 
The other two caterpillars were a little slower to the job... we waited.

Finally two days later #4 #5 climbed to the top. After hanging for around 24 hours, the caterpillars began to form their chrysalids (what we commonly refer to as cocoons).
As each caterpillar formed its chrysalis, our excitement grew. So we watched...

...and we watched some more.

Finally, all five caterpillars had made it into their next phase in the cycle. All were in their chrysalids. Next, it was up to us to move them to their new home.
Behold the "Butterfly Garden" future home to our butterflies.
Now all we had to do was detach the tissue disk from the top of the plastic jar that had been serving as home for the caterpillars 

and attach it to the netting of the butterfly hut. 

No sudden movements!

Mission accomplished.
 It was time to wait 7-10 days for the butterflies to emerge.
Seven or eight days later, we awoke to find...
one empty chrasalis and one which had fallen to the bottom.
After closer look we found our first butterfly. 
We were all a bit bummed that we'd missed his exit from the chrysalis, but we were still confident about our chances of seeing the other four come forth.
Later that same day, another of the chrysalids began twitching and shaking. We were convinced that this was the moment, so we FaceTime-d our cousins' classroom and invited them to watch with us...

They watched and...
we watched...and
until the next day when, while six Wrights were in the kitchen eating breakfast, two more butterflies joined us...UNNOTICED!!!

During the next few days, the remaining butterflies emerged from their old homes into the new one, each with out being seen by anyone. Sigh.

Painted Lady butterflies live for 2-4 weeks after exiting their chrysalids. Ours lived long, laid eggs, and then one by one completed their cycles. 

Happily, our super-sentimental bug-crazy gal was off galavanting at her Grandma's during the final demise of her Painted Ladies.  

Additional Information: I ordered the butterflies from a company called Insect Lore and was pleased with the service, the product and the instructions provided. Their website is an excellent resource for information and all SORTS of bug related gear.

During the lifetime of the Painted Lady butterflies, we read lots of books about these amazing insects. Below is a list, linked to of some of our favorites.
and our favorite, 
We also colored some butterfly coloring pages which can be found here.
Some fun Painted Lady facts from the Insect Lore website:

~Her scientific name is "Vanessa Cardui L."
~She can lay up to 500 eggs.
~She may travel 1,000 miles in her lifetime.
~She tastes with her feet.
~She has 10,000 eyes.
~She breathes through her abdomen

AND now you know!!

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life.  And everyone deserves a little sunshine.  
~Jeffrey Glassberg

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Haircut...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had chocolate cake all over her face.
Chocolate cake and Kool Aid, that is.

In addition to all of the chocolate and the Kool Aid was the problem of The Bangs. The Bangs had reached St. Bernard status.
All was not lost, Mrs. Tina, hair stylist extraordinaire, had been called earlier and was expecting the little girl.
As the little girl ascended the swiveling throne of beauty, she flashed her attendants a winning smile. Oh how she loves her throne.

Mrs. Tina set quickly to work and began to fashion a hairstyle reminiscent of a bygone era...
(Kate, September 2010)

As I was saying, the little girl adores her throne!
Honestly, who WOULDN'T be in a super mood wearing those shoes??
Lots of hair fell to the floor and then...

...the little girl got very serious.

Just to here Mrs. Tina...there's an awful lot of hair on the floor, you know.
All done! What a dooooo!

Let's take it out for a spin...
Yep! It's a keeper...
Just like the little girl herself!

The little girl didn't want her hair washed for days because she was fearful that the shampoo would wash away her special hair cut!! 

Her mommy was very careful not to wash away the haircut and the little girl lived happily ever after...

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