Tag Archives: Lenten recipes

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Twice-Baked Potatoes/From Appetizers to Entrées

Yes, I said I’d put this recipe up before, but I had a quick request for my Codfish Cake recipe by people who missed the Gorton canned codfish cakes,(no longer available.)
Twice Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, but I serve them often with seafood for Lent.

Twice-Baked Potatoes are also one of the tastiest ways to stretch your budget and leftovers. They are very convenient, and can be made well ahead of time and even frozen, ready in your oven or microwave in short order.

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

From appetizer to entree, an easy and delicious budget-stretcher

[The ones pictured above are made with tiny shrimp and spinach]

Twice-Baked Potatoes can be made with many ingredients, used as a side dish or as an entrée. They can even be made with mini-potatoes and used as finger-food, appetizers or placed on a buffet. They can be made with meat, seafood or vegetables and they can be made completely vegan.

You start with a nice, firm potato, any size. (For an entrée, I suggest russets.) Bake the potato to very soft in the middle. Times will vary according to the size of your potato, and, if using a microwave, the power of your unit. (Use 400F oven for baking 45-60 minutes or microwave on high for about 5-7 minutes for good-sized potatoes.)
Microwaves make perfectly acceptable Twice-Baked Potatoes, and makes them much more quickly, but when done in an oven, the potato skins become nice and crispy and the tops brown. One compromise is to first bake the potatoes in the microwave, (saving up to an hour) and then finishing them off in the oven, or even more quickly, under a low broiler.

If you are unused to baking potatoes, wash them first under running cold water and brush them with a vegetable brush or rub them using a clean cloth. If you usually wrap your potatoes in foil to bake them in the oven, omit for this recipe. Pierce the potato skin with a fork, just once. This will release enough of the pressure from the steam that may build up when the moisture in the potato get heated. If there is enough steam build-up and it cannot escape, potatoes can explode all over your oven or microwave!

When the potatoes are done, (a fork can easily slip all the way into the center of the potato), remove and, using a clean towel, oven mitt or pot holder, carefully cut through the potato length-wise. The potatoes will be very hot and the escaping steam may burn you if you are not careful. Allow to cool slightly, (but don’t let them get cold) and gently scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving the skin intact. (You may want to leave up to ¼ of an inch of the pulp all around the inside so that your potato skin does not break.) Place the pulp in a bowel, and now the creativity begins!

Here is where your taste, what is available and the season challenges you.

From appetizer to entrée any of the suggestions or your own ideas will determine your finished potatoes.

Start by mashing or even whipping the insides of the potatoes with any of the ingredients below, or a combination: [*See Note for easiest suggestions]

Butter, margarine or coconut oil

Cream cheese, sour cream or vegan sour cream, (made from tofu)

Small amount of cream or milk,{rice, soy, coconut or almond can be used

I usually use tiny shrimp, but have used crab meat and imitation crabmeat,(see ‘Seafood Pasta Salads’; Feb 2013 archive for guidelines), but I have used any pre-cooked fish.
You can also use minced bacon, ham, roast beef, or no meats at all. (For roast beef, you can add a little horseradish to the mix.)

You can add cheeses, (or vegan cheese substitutes); cheddar is the best choice here.

Use salt and pepper of any type.

You can add cooked, minced onion, green onion or onion powder, a little garlic or garlic powder;

Sautéed shallots, leeks, celery carrots, sweet peppers;

Cooked, (or frozen and well-drained), spinach is very good in these, as are canned or jarred asparagus

Parsley, paprika, celery salt, chives, sage

Dehydrated vegetable mix

A couple of drops of sesame oil and sesame seeds

Mix & match the above to taste.

* Note: I suggest you start out simply if you are unused to cooking. Add sour cream or cream cheese, salt and pepper, a little onion of some sort and vegetables, cheese, minced ham or tiny shrimp.

After you have mixed all the ingredients, spoon the filling or pipe it with a pastry bag,( or from a zipper-lock bag with the corner cut off), into the potato skin “boats”; they should be heaped in the middle, as there is more to the filling than what you scooped-out. Place the ‘boats” back in the oven, preferably under the broiler on low setting for a short time or placed back in the microwave until heated all the way through. These can then be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen in a zipper-lock bag, (with as little air trapped as possible), for months. They are great to have on hand as a quick meal or for an addition when having unexpected guests. You can make the little ones ahead of time for a party or gathering.

I hope you try these.

Easy Codfish Cakes

From what I can gather, I am not the only one who misses Gorton’s canned codfish cakes. The mixture came solid in a can and one only had to slice and fry them in butter or margarine for a real treat. When they started getting scarce where I lived, (and now are non-existent), I developed the recipe based on the label ingredients, which I share with you today. I think it is close to what you may remember.

Codfish Cakes (Gorton-style)

1 lb of cod filets { frozen
1 ½ cups mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. milk {can be rice, almond or soy milk
2+ Tbsp flour {all-purpose, potato or rice flour
(opt. 1+Tbsp. parsley)
Butter or margarine

Poach the cod by placing the filets in a deep flat pan and covering them with water.(Can be still frozen). Add 2 tsp. of salt and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Simmer until the filets are no longer translucent,(nearly clear), but opaque in color, (solid white). [ I used to wrap them in cheesecloth to prevent them from breaking apart while boiling but found that they are fine cooking a little longer at a gentle simmer, just under boiling.] Drain the filets and flake them in a mixing bowl.

Add premade mashed potatoes, [See Dec. 2012 Archive, You Can Do It…Breakfast Potatoes and Leftovers if you need instructions.] and milk and salt. Stir in the eggs, mix well and add the salt then sprinkle in the flour. Depending on the wetness of your potatoes and the absorbency of your flour, more may be required, but please do not expect the consistency of our belated, beloved canned codfish cakes: This mixture will be somewhat loose.

Melt butter or margarine in a large , flat pan or griddle,(preferably non-stick).Keep the pan on a medium-high setting and  pick up the cod mixture, roll into a loose balls and flatten before dropping onto the pan or drop the mixture by a large spoonful and immediately flatten with a spatula.( You need to make these rather thin). Leave the cakes cooking for some time until the bottoms are deep golden-brown and flip them gently with a ‘pancake turner’ once, and allow them to brown equally on the other side.(In the ones pictured,I went heavy on the option of parsley!)

codfishcakes2

I hope that if you grew up loving codfish cakes as I did, these will satisfy you.

One of my son’s friends was a local fellow and one day we were discussing food,(which should be of no surprise). He complained that he had gone to a restaurant with his father somewhere in New England and he had tried to order biscuits and gravy, but the waitress had no idea what he was talking about. I told him that biscuits and gravy was a local favorite and that I had not learned to make sausage gravy until I had moved to Kentucky.
He still did not understand; after all, the restaurant had been one in a national chain and he had ordered the same breakfast at nearby locations many times.
I said, “But the menus vary; they feature local favorites. For instance, I was born in Maryland and if I walked into a restaurant here and ordered codfish cakes, they’d look at me like I am crazy”, to which my Tennessee-born then-daughter-in-law replied, “Kinda like I’m lookin’ at you right now?”

Maryland or any where else, I hope you are crazy about the recipe for codfish cakes that you found here.

Last Minute Dinner Salads/Lent or Anytime

Last Minute Dinner Salads

One Ash Wednesday Husband came home late as he went to Mass after working overtime. Our sons and I had eaten our Twice-Baked Potatoes(next post) and the one good thing about them is that it is easy to make just enough, if you don’t care for leftovers. (Although they do freeze quite well for a short term, like 4-6 months).
When Husband came in, he informed me that his boss had been at Mass as well and he had invited the man to dinner.
Husband has done this to me a few times. When we got married I had never cooked for less than six people and we ate a lot of leftovers,(fortunately, I learned to freeze things well.) Let me make a couple of steaks, or a couple of chicken breasts and, used to having too much food, that seemed to be exactly when the Husband would invite someone to stay. I was always last-minute hustling!

I had to stow the baked potato and put together a salad with what I had on hand. I added small shrimp which I fortunately had left over from making the potatoes and I put in some diced cheese. I served rolls and crackers and the men ate well…the boss was none the wiser!

If I have posted on salads before, it bears repeating: Almost any vegetable can go into a salad, as well as fruits and not all of them need to be fresh. I have had someone break up a head of iceberg lettuce, pour on bottled ranch dressing and call it salad and I have had salads that included everything imaginable. You can put together a nice salad with many things you should already have on hand. Hopefully, you have some greens, a lettuce or spinach. Even if you don’t, you can wing it. Here is a list, although not complete, of what you can include in a nice dinner salad:

Any type of ‘greens’, iceberg or leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, turnip greens
we all know:
carrots
tomatoes
cucumber
radishes

but how about:
celery
shredded parsnips
fresh pea pods
broccoli
cauliflower,
sweet peppers
bok choy
grated zucchini or squash
thinly sliced onions or leeks
diced green onions

Use your imagination

You can add fruit in with vegetables as long as they are firm, such as :
Pears
Apples

If you know your guests can tolerate seeds and nuts, you can add:[*See Note]

Almonds/Hazelnuts/Walnuts/Pine nuts, etc.

Peanuts

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds (roasted)

 

And, especially in a pinch, these canned items do a good job in rounding out sparse fresh veggies:
corn
peas,
beets
green beans
wax beans
chick peas/black eyed peas/
kidney/navy/pinto/black beans
black or green olive
pineapple
sliced apple rings
pearl onions

And I always keep pickled vegetables,(giardiniera ) on hand.

Mix and match, pick and choose. Add tiny shrimp/ crab or imitation crab meat, shredded or diced cheese,(Cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Havarti Muenster); you can also do a great job with diced ham, chicken, roast beef or turkey cold cuts, (or ‘Tofurkey’). Diced hard-boiled eggs can be added at the last minute,(they will break up in the tossing and it isn’t pretty.)You can use leftover roasts, chicken or whatever flavorful meat you have on hand.
With this type of salad, you may find that you don’t need dressing. If you have guests, allow them the option. On the other hand, I have found that if the flavors are a bit bland, I add some that I like to whip up quickly on my own using Olive oil and pomegranate molasses, which is bitter, contrary to it’s name, so I add honey or a syrup. I also have several vinegars on my shelf to use. However, there are perfectly good bottled dressings out there, and several flavors are in my refrigerator as I type this; use them.

As I did, serve with crackers, fancy beads or rolls. You can add prepared rice, couscous, barley or small pasta for a one-bowl meal, or serve a simple couscous, rice or pasta dish on the side.

[*Note]The real beauty is that these can be made for Lent, pescaterian, vegetarian or vegan.It is gluten-free, (without  cheese), dairy-free and can be served with meats, cheeses, fish, seeds/nuts, grains and  pasta on the side, if you are unsure of your guests’ needs.

I hope this gives you some ideas…and I hope you try some of the ideas, not only for Lent,(meatless), but throughout the year. These are wonderful in hot weather for a light but filling and nutritious meal that anyone can be proud to serve…quick and praise-worthy!

Mahi-mahi/Fish with Dirty Rice, Pasta, Potatoes

Judy,” Petit4Chocolatier” asked to see my Mahi-mahi recipe. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, “Mahi-mahi” means “very strong” in Hawaiian and it is a strong-flavored fish, although I would not say that the flavor is ‘fishy’. Although it does not taste the same, the type of flavor-strength is reminiscent of salmon’s flavor strength.
I will give you my recipe below, but not a picture. I had not be able to purchase Mahi-mahi where I live,(I used to make ‘food runs’ out of town to a bigger city), and I just hadn’t looked lately. When I did find it in frozen filets at the biggest supermarket here, I found that it is priced at $20.00 a pound! That is a bit steep for my budget this year…(I’m planning on winning the lottery next year.)
Below is a way that went over big when I was where I could get nice, fresh Mahi-mahi.
You can make this with any type of fish filets, which is in fact, what I do. I found that Mahi-mahi and broccoli go well together. You may substitute or add cauliflower, California-blend or Italian-style frozen vegetables, instead of cooking fresh.

Mahi-mahi, (again, like salmon) comes in filets, often with a thick skin on one side. If you choose to grill or bake it, leave the skin on; if you want to pan-fry the filets, remove it first. This is done by placing the fish skin-side-down on a flat cutting board or a counter covered with a towel,(so that it will not slip). Take the longest sharp knife you have. Slowly slice between the flesh and the skin. Hold the fish down with your fee hand and continue slicing through the fish. If you are less than confident in being able to judge, place the fish skin-side-up, and knick the corner between the flesh and the skin. Slowly and gently cut the skin away lifting the skin with your free hand. Be very careful so the knife does not slip and you cut yourself.

Fish with ‘Dirty Rice*’
1 lb fish filets (Mahi-mahi or?)
2 Tbsp. regular olive oil, peanut oil or other cooking oil
2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice (You can use Balsamic, Malt or other vinegar)
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
½ cup chopped green onions (or other onions, diced)
½ cup minced green peppers
1 ½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt

2 cups prepared rice*[see footnote]

Rinse and dry filets; brown quickly in the oil and salt. [You may add other herbs or spices as you like. See “Lent/Easy Baked Fish” post for ideas.]
Remove the fish and drain the oil from the pan, but do not clean it. Add the butter, melt it and , using a spatula, pick up any bits of stuck fish. Add the lemon juice, onion, peppers, paprika and salt. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the broccoli or mixed vegetables. Fold in the rice and warm thoroughly. Place on platter and place fish over top.

I often make the ‘Dirty Rice*” and omit the mixed vegetables, or place them on the side. It rather depends on the type of fish, how big the pieces or if I have made them another way, or with more herbs and spices.

One way is :

Lemon –Pepper Fish

Fish filets, any type
Lemon juice
Butter
Salt,
Pepper (preferably cracked or course-ground)

Melt butter in a pan,( the amounts of ingredients will vary depending on how much fish you will be cooking; use your best judgment)
add 2 tsp-1 ½ Tbsp (1/2 to 1 lb of fish) lemon juice
cook on med-high until bubbly and the lemon has reduced,(evaporated) somewhat
add the fish; salt and pepper it
cook it quickly until brown underneath and turn quickly. Cook until just done.(Time will vary by thickness of fish. “Done” will be when the flesh is completely opaque).
Remove the fish, keep warm and repeat with the recipe above for ‘Dirty Rice*, but omit lemon juice or vinegar.

* Note: Another twist is to use pasta, potatoes or couscous instead of rice.
I like to use/vegetable couscous or any type of small pasta instead of rice. Vegetable pastas, such as the tomato-carrot one picture above, adds more flavor and nutrition.
It is also tasty and easy to grab a bag of frozen ready-to-cook hash browns
potatoes ,
make your own potato cubes or to grate them and cook them in the
butter/pepper/onion mixture.

fish with pasta

I will leave you with one curious piece of information. Mahi-mahi is also called
“common dolphinfish”; but it is a true fish, not at all related to the animals we normally
call ‘dolphins’. It also has the name of “dorado” .
Unrelatedly, but curiously, the word “mahi” means “fish” in Persian.

Creamed Tuna/Tuna Salad

In keeping with our fish and seafood theme, consider the lowly can or packet of tuna. Humble, but convenient, easy to prepare and although the price has risen, it is a good buy. I stock up when it is on sale.

Open a packet or drain a can of tuna, toss a little mayonnaise in it and I am happy. I had been out of touch with a cousin for many years but when we reconnected, I found that she eats it with crackers, as comfort food. She remembered my mother giving it to her that way. I love it with cottage cheese and dry bread crumbs.(Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.)

If you add a little minced green or yellow onion, a dash of celery salt and a bit of minced celery, I am very happy; add a little minced dill pickle, put it on a nice Kaiser roll and I am more than happy…stuff it in a tomato and I am ecstatic. That makes a wonderful hot weather meal and a nice luncheon entrée or first course.
The salad alone or in a tomato can be made ahead of time and will last several days in your refrigerator.

Easy to make, delicious to eat, a great tuna sandwich is ready in minutes.

Easy to make, delicious to eat, a great tuna sandwich is ready in minutes.

Tuna Salad, my favorite way:*[see note]

1 packet or drained can of tuna
1-2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1Tbsp. minced celery
1 Tbsp. minced dill pickle
½ tsp celery salt

Serve on toasted bread,(rye is wonderful,), Italian or French bread, rolls or stuff into a tomato, top-off and seeded. Serve on a bed of lettuce with toast, crackers or plain rice cakes.
*note: Alternatives include using salad dressing “Miracle Whip” instead of mayo, if you prefer it a bit sweeter, and my husband opts for a bit of tartar sauce or sweet pickle relish. You can also add melted cheese of whatever type suits your fancy.

Another hit that I grew up with is Creamed Tuna. Easy to make, it is a warm and different take on tuna and can be served in a variety of ways.

Mom’s Creamed Tuna

2 Tbsp, butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. flour[use part corn starch or arrowroot if you are not using whole milk]
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups milk (can be soy or rice)
2 packets or well-drained cans of tuna
[opt: ½ tsp onion powder &/or ¼ tsp. white pepper]

Melt the butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan. Mix the flour in to make a smooth paste. (This is a ‘roux’; do not brown it.)
Add the milk slowly, (a wire whisk may come in handy), and cook over medium heat until quite thick, stirring constantly. If you are called away, return as soon as possible and stir briskly with a wire whisk. As long as the bottom has not scorched, it will be OK.
When thickened, add the tuna and stir over low heat until it is blended and warmed thoroughly.
Serve over cubed toast, (traditional), rice or small pasta and side vegetables. Green beans are a good choice with it; the flavors truly compliment each other.

In a container by itself, it can stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, be warmed on the stovetop or in a microwave and then spooned over fresh toast or warm rice /pasta.
(Do not let it boil or scorch).

It can be also made in a bigger batch, in a bit thinner consistency and layered on rice,(preferably), or pasta with green beans in a casserole dish. It, too, can stay pre-made in the refrigerator for a few days. Warm in a slow oven (325F) before serving.

Give it a try!

Lent/Easy Baked Fish

Lent sneaked upon me!. Although time sure got away, here I am, back in time for Ash Wednesday anyway. I hope that you learn a bit about cooking fish and try some of the recipes in the upcoming weeks, especially if you have had bad experiences with seafood. [Please check into the July and August Archives for meatless protein combinations to add to your repertoire of Lenten meals.]

If you have read the “About ” of this blog, you’ll know it started out as an answer to a
plea for help with Lenten dishes, and more meatless recipes throughout the year.
Where I now live was once considered “The Holy Land of the South”, where it was highly Catholic, but even the Baptists here do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday.

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

For those of you who do not understand, going meatless on Ash Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent,(and in past times, on all Fridays and certain other days), were considered ‘penitential’ or done as a sacrifice. That is why instead of the year-long Friday ‘abstinence’,(abstaining from meat),the faithful in many parts of the world have been given the option of doing something different, perhaps giving up something more in tune with sacrifice for them or ,( even better), for them to take on something…do good works, help someone, give of themselves. I am in favor of that, because, frankly, many meatless meals are far from penitential.
For example, a great couple I knew happened to be one of Old New York Presbyterian money who married Irish Catholic Boston/Philadelphia money. When their nest was empty one Lent, she bemoaned the fact that she did not want to cook fish just for herself. He gallantly stated that he had felt like a good steak anyway, so he took her off to a fine restaurant. They were seated and she left for the ladies’ room. When she returned, they were at the table for some time when she asked, “Where is the waiter with the menus?” He replied, “Oh, he came right away before you came back; I ordered for you?”
“What did you order for me?” she asked.
He replied, “Lobster”.
“JACK!”, she cried.
“What?” he answered, “It’s not meat”.
“That’s not the idea!” ,she practically wailed. Believe me, it would have been far more penitential for her to have gotten a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.

However, we’re going with the flow and going meatless when proscribed and any other time we wish, even if they end up being better meals than quick, meat-laden ones.

Before we start, let me say that I happen to be living in an landlocked area in the United States, and have been for many years. I miss my fresh seafood. Unless you are in another part of the world where you know your seafood is safe, or if you live in the U.S. on a coast and can get truly fresh seafood, your best choice for fish is fresh frozen filets , (alliteration unintended), or shrimp and the like. Most of the fish are caught and processed onboard ship, so they are ‘fresher’ than the ‘fresh’ fish you may be buying from your grocer’s seafood case. Check labels, fine print and ask the counter people. You may find that what they are selling had been previously frozen anyway. They have thawed it, and it’s been sitting around. You better cook that seafood immediately and don’t even think about freezing it again at home.
My next statement may be controversial, but let me tell you why I do it: I buy mostly wild-caught fish. I am concerned about over-fishing; I would like to see food and the fish be sustainable, but most fish and shrimp that are farm-raised are done so in countries where there is little to no inspection or standards, indeed; some are literally raised in sewerage. They are then treated in the muck with anti-fungals and insecticides that are illegal to use in the United States, Canada and a few other countries, but, despite the fact that they then contain levels of the poisons, they are allowed to be sold in your local markets. Until standards are raised and safety standards are consistent, I will continue to buy wild caught seafood, or farm-raised only in in the U.S. and Canada.

Are you worried about your fish being ‘fishy’? Lemon juice is a fish cook’s best friend.
Thaw your fillets in tepid water with a generous squirt of lemon juice. I prefer cod to any other fish for most dishes; it is the least fishy, but whiting and perch can be used, even flounder and you can do it for the halibut.(If you are allergic to lemon, vinegar can be used; apple cider is the best choice, wine or balsamic is you like the taste …and can afford it.)

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta...easy!

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta…easy!

And I will leave you today with the easiest and most versatile recipe I have.

Thaw the fish filets in lemony water and drain. Press dry with paper towels,(or I have a big Little Mermaid beach towel that I use for the fish alone and wash with my kitchen towels.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, if you wish, but with them or plain, brush it with olive, peanut or vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt,(preferably sea salt, but any will do.) Place the filets flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and herbs or spices, [combination suggestions listed below]. Sprinkle with more oil,(and more lemon juice if you’d like), and bake at 375F until well done,(may brown at edges), but not until the fish is rubbery. Serve with rice , pasta or potatoes, with salad or side vegetables.

Some spice or herbs good on fish can be as complex or simple as you’d like. It depends on your taste and if you’d like to serve the fish with seafood sauce or tartar sauce,(then use less herbs and spices). I find it doesn’t need either. There is no right or wrong, just your own personal taste.

Some toppings I use are :

Parsley,(which I usually add with most of the others listed below)
Dill weed
Italian spices (parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, all or mix&match)
Oregano
Dehydrated sweet pepper and tomato flakes
Garlic
Minced onion
Cracked pepper
Lemon peel\
Celery salt/celery seed
Tarragon
(mix or match any of the above)

Chipotle
Garam Masala (it is a bit sweet if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is interesting)
I hope you give these a try.

I will be back; I have more easy fish tricks up my sleeve which include Mahi-Mahi, Salmon, (canned and filets,;BBQ, Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes, Salmon Patties), Stuffed whole fish, Fish Tempura, Smelt, Codfish cakes, Seafood Pasta Salad, Tuna Salads, Creamed Tuna, non-dreadful Tuna Casserole, Twice-baked Potatoes with Shrimp , Oyster Stew, Adriatic Fish,  Cajun Fried Fish, Lemon–Pepper Fish…I’ll think of more.

Anything sound interesting? Any requests or questions? Leave a message…(don’t wait for a tone…just Tonette!)