Friday, April 22, 2011

Korean-Style Grilled Mackerel

This seems to be the season for me to try new fish!  Today it is Mackerel.   Mackerel is well-known for its numerous health benefits.  It ranks right up there with the other oily fishes like Salmon and Sardines as being food for the brain and the heart. Many people take fish oil capsules to substitute but nothing can be better than getting your oils from directly from the fish. 

Before you all rush out to buy you a mackerel fillet for grilling, I should offer up a fair warning.  This fish is, well....fishy!  It needs to be eaten as fresh as possible and you should anticipate a nice, rich, fishy aroma during cooking.  That being said, if you can overcome the smell, the taste isn't bad. 

In Korea, Mackerel is grilled and enjoyed with medium grained rice. Koreans would also serve at least 2 or 3 vegetable side dishes to round out their meal.  I find that Mackerel stands up well against the strong flavors of Sauteed Rainbow Swiss Chard and Pickled Beets; two of my family's favorite "panchan" (that means "side dish" for those who don't speak Korean).  Heat up the grill, get out your chopsticks and give this Mackerel a try!

Korean-Style Grilled Mackerel

1 Mackerel fillet
1 wire-mesh fish grilling basket
  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Rinse the mackerel fillet under cold water.
  3. Open the wire-mesh basket.
  4. Place the fillet, skin side down, on the bottom half of the basket.
  5. Sprinkle the fleshy side of the fish with salt.
  6. Close the basket and secure.  The fish should be squished tightly inside the basket.
  7. Place the fish, flesh side down, on the hot gril.
  8. Cook for about 7 minutes, or until the fish begins to brown, then flip the basket over.
  9. Cook the skin side of the fish for about another 7 minutes, or until the skin begins to crisp and brown.
  10. Remove from the basket and place on a serving plate.
  11. To eat, use your chopstick to break off a piece of fish.  Eat both the flesh and the skin with a bite of rice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Allergy Friendly "Egg" Decorating

Inevitably when people think of Easter, they think of decorating eggs.  When we first discovered our angels egg allergy, this left me at a loss.  What else can we do?  How will she decorate eggs?
Until this year, we have avoided decorating eggs. However, this year seemed to be the year for questioning.  "Why are the eggs colored?  How do they color them?" After a few trips down the Easter aisle, I realized that I would have to find an alternative.  With a sever allergy to eggs, we would have to find a safe way to enjoy this Easter tradition. 

So, off to Michael's we went, armed with coupons, time, and an open mind.  It was kind of like a scavenger hunt - who can find the best feaux eggs for decorating?  We began scouring the aisle of "eggs".  Our hunt ended when we found a bag of 6 paper mache eggs.  Oh, the things we could do with these!  Armed with our "eggs" and goodies from our craft closet, we were ready to decorate.

Supplies: 6 paper mache eggs, stickers (paper not plastic), pastel paint, glue, paint brushes, pastel colored tissue paper, rhinestone stickers, colors, sequins, glitter, scissors, patience, imagination

Ideas for decorating:

Tissue Paper Mache  For these eggs, we cut up pieces of pastel colored tissue paper.  Then, we mixed glue and water in a 1:1 ratio and painted it on the eggs.  One piece at a time, we began covering the egg with the tissue paper, painting over the pieces with glue when necessary to help them stick.  We did this in several layers, allowing each layer to dry in between, until the egg was covered. (ages 3-12 years old) 

Coloring  Using crayons (markers didn't do very well) color the eggs.  These will probably not be your prettiest eggs but they were perfect for the littlest angels to do by themselves.  (ages 18 mos - 5 years old)

Painting We painted the eggs using acrylic paints.  We added glitter to some to make it shiney but the glitter could also be used to sprinkle over after painting.  The youngest ones will need help holding their eggs for this but the painting is fairly simple.  (ages 2 1/2 - 10 years old)

Stickers  Before painting or after painting, cover the eggs with stickers.  We found that small, paper stickers worked best.  The plastic stickers didn't want to stick on the paper mache and the large stickers puckered.  (ages 1 - 6 years old)

Rhineston-ing (can we say that?) This was a simple thing to do but it required incredible patience.  We covered the egg with rhinestone stickers.  Although we didn't paint our egg first, that would probably make it a little more attractive.  For the little ones they can place the stickers on the egg without trying to cover it entirely.  But, for your older children, they may cover the eggs using stickers of varying sizes placed closely together.  These eggs were especially pretty.  (ages 7 - 18 years old)

I would really love to hear how you are safely decorating "eggs" this year.  I hope that you will share how you are including your angel in this holiday tradition.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Perfect Easter Basket

Every Easter, our "bunny" would leave us the most perfect Easter basket.  It was never store-bought, it was always full of the things we love and each item was perfectly nestled amidst the straw.  The whole basket was then loving wrapped in cellophane with a giant bow at the top.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I had a very talented "bunny".  Our bunny cooked and cleaned with the best of them.  But her real talent could shine around Easter when those perfect baskets were thoughtfully left for us to find.

While I am not nearly as talented as the original Easter bunny, here are some suggestions on how you can make a basket more perfect than those in the store!

Step 1: Choosing the perfect basket  In our house, we each have our own basket or bucket that is especially selected to be used at Easter.  It is not too big (too hard to fill) nor to small (won't hold larger items) but perfect.  The color of the basket doesn't really matter though our are usually neutral or white.  Those colors just work better with the items that might find their way into the basket.  Also, remember that the basket does not have to be a basket at all.  You may choose to use something different like a beach bucket, helmet, make-up box to make the basket extra special one year.  I have even seen someone roll and tie a beach towel then stuff the goodies in the top.  Step 1 is the beginning of your chance to be creative.

Step 2:  Choosing the items These items should be a variety of shapes and sizes.  You will need a few large items for the back of the basket, some medium sized items as the bulk of the basket and some small eggs or items as fillers for the bottom.  Remember, if the items are too large, they won't fit in the basket.  However, one very large item is ok because you can place it next to the basket and hold it in place with the cellophane wrapping.  Also, too many very small items will be lost in the bottom of the basket and won't be found until the straw is removed.  For very tiny items, it is best to put them in a small bag and tie them with a ribbon.  For some ideas, see my post "Allergy-friendly Easter Treats".

Step 3: The straw  Straw comes in plastic, paper and even authentic varieties.  Which straw you choose is less important than how you place it in the basket.  You will begin by wadding paper bags or tissue paper and placing them in the bottom of the basket until it is just below the top of the basket.  Be careful not to push this paper down but place it gently in the basket.  This paper will help support the filling and give it height.  On top of the paper, you will place the straw.  Place enough straw so that the bottom papers do not show through.

Step 4:  The goodies  It is now time to fill your basket.  Decide which side of the basket with be the front.  Begin in the back of the basket by placing your large, tall items across the corners and back.  This backing will give help hold the medium sized items in an upright position.  Next, work your way toward the front of the basket leaning medium sized items in front of the taller, larger items.  Finally, place your fillers, eggs and other small objects in front.  If there are any small spaces behind the larger items, you may fill it with these items as well.

Step 5:  The cellophane  Cut a very large piece of cellophane from the roll.  Lay it flat on a large hard surface.  Place your basket in the center of the paper.  If you have extra large items, you may place that behind the basket on the cellophane.  You may also put a few small items like jellybean-sized candies or eggs on the cellophane at one of the front corners for added interest.  Now, grabbing one corner at a time, pull the cellophane to the top of the basket and gather it in your hand.  While gathering, tuck any open sides in so that the pleats come together.  Tie a piece of ribbon at the top to keep the cellophane closed.

Step 6:  The bow  For those of you who know how to make a bow, this would the time to let your talent shine.  Make a large bow and tie it where the cellophane is gathered.  For those who are not so much of a bow specialist, you may purchase a pre-made bow from a florist like that at your grocery or at Michael's.  For a quick and easy bow,  you will need about 1 yard of ribbon (the kind you might use in your hair) or wired ribbon from Michael's or your local sewing store.  Tie that ribbon around the gathered cellophane just as you would tie your shoes.  Pull the loops to make a large floppy bow.

VOILA!  The perfect Easter basket ready to deliver to your favorite angel!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vietnamese-inspired Mahi-Mahi

I recently asked my readers what fish you would like to see cooked for a Lenten Fish on Friday.  I was intrigued when a reader responded with Mahi Mahi.  We don't cook this fish at my house and, in fact, I don't know that I have ever eaten it.  "What could I do with Mahi Mahi?" I asked myself.  It wasn't long before my mind swirled with ideas.

I had no idea how to properly cook Mahi Mahi, but it seemed to me that an exotic fish such as this should be cooked by an exotic method.  The decision: marinated and grilled Mahi Mahi served Vietnamese style.  I know....grilling isn't exactly exotic.  But, we don't have a yard large enough for a fire pit so this was the next best thing!

Emily, this recipe is for you.  I hope you enjoy it!

Vietnamese-inspired Mahi-Mahi

2 lime
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 half onion, thinly sliced
2 T fresh mint, chopped
2 T rice oil
4 3-oz. pieces of Mahi-Mahi
2 T fresh mint, chopped

  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a large ziploc bag and mix.  Add the fish to the bag and refrigerate until ready to grill, between 4 and 8 hours.
  2. When ready to eat, preheat the grill.
  3. Grease the grill using a paper towel and rice oil.
  4. Be sure the grill is very hot then place the Mahi Mahi directly on the grill. 
  5. Cook 5 minutes.
  6. Flip the fish; it should come off easily if when that side of the fish is cooked. 
  7. Cook another 5 minutes or until it flakes.
  8. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with the remaining 2 T mint.
  9. Serve over Cilantro Rice drizzled with Spring Roll Sauce or rolled in Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

1/2 head of red leaf lettuce
1/2 head of green leaf lettuce
1 stalk of basil
1 stalk of mint
2 springs fresh cilantro
1 binch chives
1 cucumber, cut in thin 2-inch spears
1 C carrots, julienne
Vietnamese rice paper (shaped like a circle)

1/4 C rice vinegar
2 t sugar
1/4 C carrot, julienne
1/4 lemon, juiced
1 t fish sauce (nuac mam)
  1. Wash the 7 fresh vegetables and place on a dish in the center of the table.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients and place a bowl within reach of each person at the table.
  3. Place the rice paper on the table with a bowl of warm water.
  4. When ready to eat, soak the rice paper in the hot water.  When it is soft, lay it flat on your plate.
  5. Place a little of eat vegetable in the center of the rice paper.
  6. Fold the right and left sides of the circle over the ingredients.
  7. Now, fold one of the remaining sides over the ingredients and begin rolling until the rice paper is wrapped around the fillings.
  8. Dip the roll in the sauce and eat. 
  9. Suggestion: You may find it easier to eat if you cut them in half.

NOTE 1:  When purchasing fish sauce, price = quality.  You want a fish sauce that contains only fish and salt.  Also, you want a fish sauce that is from the first press.  If you purchase a cheaper nuac mam, you will find it fishy, smelly, and salty.  As with all international ingredients, the processing plants may not be held to the same standards as ours and this includes labeling standards.  There is always a risk.  It is wise to feed the food first under the same conditions that you would use in a food challenge if you are concerned about safety.

NOTE 2:  Read the ingredients for the rice paper well.  Some may contain wheat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cilantro-Lime Rice

One of my favorite parts of visiting Chipotle's is getting to eat their Cilantro-Lime Rice.  What a great blend of flavors!  While I don't know how they make theirs, I gave it a try at my house and came up with something pretty similar and pretty tasty!

Cilantro-Lime Rice

4 C cooked long grain rice
1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 - 1 lime
2 t salt
  1. Place the rice and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Squeeze the juice of  lime over the rice.
  3. Gently toss the rice to mix the flavors.
  4. Taste.
  5. Add salt, if needed, and toss again.
  6. Serve.
NOTE:  Some of my limes have been quite tart.  If yours are like these, you will want to add less lime rather than more.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Allergy-friendly Easter Treats

Traditionally, Easter baskets are filled with chocolate, jelly beans, stuffed animals and all sorts of other items which are unsafe for children with allergies. 

Here are some allergy-friendly items that the Easter bunny often puts in our baskets:

Play dough (home-made or store-bought) in plastic eggs

Plastic eggs filled with safe candy


Gardening supplies

Pencils, erasers, sharpeners

Notepads or coloring books

Easter video (great if you are traveling that day)

Ribbons, ties, purses, barrettes or other accessories to wear with our Easter clothes




Family games

Fruit tied with a bow

Special cup or mug


Coupons for: "An extra trip to the park", "Get out of chores for a day", "Stay up an extra _____ minutes", "Dinner of choice", "30 minute activity of choice with Mom or Dad"

For some more good ideas, check out this blog post by Slave To Target.

What allergy-friendly items does YOUR bunny put in the basket?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bagna Cauda (Anchovy Spread)

My family has yet to taste this recipe but being the anchovy-loving, veggie-eating people that they are.....they will go BONKERS over it!  Yes, I said "anchovy".  I must be honest;  I had never heard of Bagna Cauda until recently.  A website,  Food52, featured a salad version of this Mediterranean dip called "Bagna Cauda Salad".  The colorful dish peeked my curiosity.  Until that time, I had no idea how to make an anchovy tasty and I would not have touched this to my lips had I not seen it poured over a plate of beautiful veggies.

Bagna Cauda is garlic, oil and anchovies cooked into a creamy dip then served with bread or vegetables.  In the recent Food52 article, they put a spin on this by using it as a dressing...BRILLIANT!  I came up with my own version of this healthy food and decided that Bagna Cauda not only works well as a dip or dressing but also as a sandwich spread.  Couple with vegetables, this Mediterranean specialty seems the perfect tribute to spring.  Served with asparagus, lettuce, and spring radishes, you won't be able to stop with one bite.  As the rain comes down and the veggies spring up, try some Bagna Cauda and let me know what you think!

Bagna Cauda Spread (Anchovy Spread)

This spread is cooked in much the same way as Dads Famous Onion and Mushroom Steak Topping.  The ingredients are slowly cooked until they reach a creamy consistency.  They cook well in a small LeCreuset pot which may be placed over a warmer for serving.

1.5 oz bottle anchovy fillets
1/2 T anchovy paste
10 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 C rice oil
    1. Place all of the ingredients in a shallow pot, preferably a small enameled cast iron.
    2. Heat ingredients on medium-low heat and allow to cook slowly for 20 minutes or until the ingredients have softened to a sweet taste. Watch carefully!  These ingredients will burn quickly and you will end up with blackened anchovy plus one very smelly house!
    3. Alternatively, if you are using an oven safe pot, you may place the pot in the oven to cook at 275 for 30 minutes or until the ingredients have softened to a sweet taste. Again, this can be tricky so watch carefully to avoid burning!
    4. Throughout the cooking process, use a fork to mash the anchovies and vegetables.  If still too chunky after cooking, you may run it through a Magic Bullet or smash it with a mortar and pestle.
    5. Adjust seasoning by adding salt or oil.
    6. Serve warm over on a vegetable sandwich or as a dip with vegetables. It is also scrumptious when drizzled on salad veggies.  Have fun with it!

Burned Bagna Cauda

NOTE 1:  When purchasing your anchovies, read the labels.  There should only be anchovy, oil, and salt.  Most of these are packaged internationally in fish factories but if you are concerned about cross-contamination, call the company.

NOTE 2:  I prefer enameled cast iron because most cast iron companies pre-season their non-enamel cookware in the factory with either soy, corn or vegetable oil.  If you are sensitive to any of these oils or ingredients, you should be careful.  See my review of Le Creuset enameled cast iron for more details.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Botanical Food Family Lists

I recently came across this very interesting list on the Calgary Allergy Network's (CAN) website.  CAN is a local organization affiliated with the Allergy/Asthma Information Association of Canada. 

Often times, when someone is allergic to a food, they are allergic to other foods in the same food group.  While we are not able to assume that because you are allergic to peanuts that you may also be allergic to all beans, this is true for some people.  I have found that foods which cause major reactions for my angel are in the same family as some of the foods that cause more manageable reactions.  AS a resource for parents, CAN has published a list which includes a foods by their common names and the family of foods to which each belongs.  They have also listed some of the common cross-reactors such as those for people allergic to birch or Mugwort.

I found this link quite interesting and of particular assistance when I am trying to better understand why my angel might be allergic to certain foods.  I hope that it is helpful to you, as well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Butterfly fruit kabobs

This fun springtime snack was made by one of my followers. She chose her favorite fruits, threaded them on butterfly skewers from Michaels, then displayed it all around a watermelon half.  A beautiful, healthy and safe snack....pretty enough for a party and easy enough for everyday!

Our Michael's was already out of the butterfly skewers.  I did find some clip-on butterflies, though.  These could be clipped on the end of regular wooden skewers for a fancy and re-usable presentation.  With this new find, I began to think of other ways that we could easily dress up ordinary fruit.  I am sure that you all have some great ideas, too.  So...

How do you "dress up" your fruit?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cedar-wrapped Trout

I used to think that all fish should be fried in oil or drowing in butter.  However, with age and education, I have learned that there are some pretty amazing ways to cook a fish and which don't involve quite as much cholesterol!

This Cedar-wrapped Trout is a creative twist on the old cedar plank grilling method.  To make this trout, you wrap the ingredients in thin sheets of cedar before cooking.  The cedar then infuses the fish with a lovely, woody flavor.  These cedar wraps are made by a variety of companies, including some organic.  I found my at the fish counter of my grocery but you can purchase them on  These wraps add a creative twist to an everyday fish.  I think you will find this Cedar-wrapped Trout easy to prepare, attractive to serve and flexible enough to cook in the oven or on the grill. It is the perfect way to usher in the spring!

Cedar-wrapped Trout

cedar wraps
1 T kosher salt
1 T garlic powder
12 oz trout fillet, cut into 3 oz portions
rice oil
1 bunch chives, cut into 3 inch pieces
1/2 lemon, cut into thin wedges
  1. Soak cedar wraps and strings for 30 minutes.  While soaking the wraps, mix the garlic powder and the salt then set aside.
  2. When wraps are pliable, place a 3 oz. piece  of trout in the center of one sheet.  Drizzle the fish with oil, sprinkle with the salt mixture, then top with chives and a lemon wedge.
  3. Roll the ingredients in the wrap and secure it with a string. 
  4. To cook in the OVEN: Place the wrapped fish  in an oven-safe pan.  Add a little water to the bottom of the pan.  Cook the fish in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for between 20 and 30 minutes or until the fish looks flaky. 
  5. To cook on the GRILL: Line the grill with foil being careful not to cover the entire grill so that the flame can breathe.  Close the lid and allow grill to preheat.  When ready to cook, place a little water on the foil then place the fish on the foil.  Close the grill and cook 20 - 30 minutes until the fish is flaky.
  6. When the fish is ready, remove it from the oven or grill.  You may need to use kitchen shears to cut the wrap from the fish before serving.  For pretty presentation, cut away the top of the wrap and serve the fish on the remaining cedar piece.