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Fish Tacos: Rediscovering Seafood

The first 18 years of my life were spent just a stone’s throw from the ocean. I grew up just a 20 minute drive from a real beach. Summers were spent on the water surrounded by farmlands. I’ve built more sandcastles than I can remember and stung by jellyfish I’ll never forget.

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For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. I always clarify this as just north of Maine so people don’t think I grew up in New Jersey.

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I didn’t wander too far for university (100 miles to be exact). And these past five months have been the first time in my life I haven’t been a short drive from salty air.

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I have to admit, I have not bought fish since moving to Ontario. I grew up next to the Lobster Capital of the World where shellfish was literally eaten right off the boat. Fried clams, lobster rolls, fish n’ chips, clam chowder, mussels dipped in butter. These are things that Maritimers take a lot of pride in. They are things I grew up eating on the regular and never really thought twice about.

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However, it seems my Maritime upbringing has failed me.

I unknowingly was missing out on one of the greatest seafood dishes of all.

Fish tacos.

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I blame the British influence in the East. It wasn’t until I travelled to the other ocean that I learned there was a whole culture of seafood I was missing out on. Namely, Mexican.

Canada, we have got to get into this Mexican thing.

While at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, I attended a breakout session hosted by Alaskan Seafood. Susan Milliken, of Border Grill fame, demonstrated a couple varieties of her famous fish tacos. I was immediately hooked.

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I got to try the fish tacos at the Tasting Pavillion and fell in love. The soft tortilla, flaky fish, chunky and spicy salsa with the cool sour cream. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. Not to mention an utter mess to eat.

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Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of these fish tacos ever since. I’m no longer in the Maritimes, or on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little spice to Mid-Eastern Canada.

I started with the above taco…

Haddock Fish Tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa.

We were given recipe cards for the tacos and I totally lost them. No bother. It made recreating them even more fun. I had to do it from just one tantalizing memory!

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I began with the salsa:

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium orange, segmented and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, minced (I’m sure Susan used a different pepper, but regular grocery stores in Canada don’t carry many choices!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro

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I didn’t want a whole bunch of salsa leftover, so I started small. Since all I could remember was the cucumber and orange from the recipe, I just went with what sounded like usual salsa ingredients for the rest!

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But I need to work on my segmenting skillz. And a sharper knife.

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I prepared the salsa the day before as these things usually taste best when they’ve had time to sit and mingle flavours.

The fish however, I was not on the ball with.

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The Alaska Seafood people encouraged buying frozen fish. It’s usually flash frozen at its freshest, whereas the stuff in the fish market of your grocery store could be up to two weeks old! I went for Wild Pacific Haddock. Rather than defrosting it slowly like you’re supposed to, I let it thaw in hot water.

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Then pan fried until just cooked. I do not like my fish overcooked at all so this is a step I’ve actually gotten pretty good at.

The key to my homemade fish tacos were the tortillas. I made those too!

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I’ve actually done this before and it’s super simple. I really don’t know why more people don’t do it. Three ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup hot water

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Some people let it sit for a little bit. But by this point I was hungry and got to rolling.

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Apparently, something else I need to work on.

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Cooked in a medium-heat pan until brown and bubbly.

Here’s where some of Susan Milliken’s tips came in handy. To soften the tortilla before eating, quickly dunk it in water to make it more pliable. Then, when assembling your taco (or whatever you may have) put lettuce on the bottom to prevent the juicier ingredients from soaking through the tortilla.

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I lettuce-d like a good girl, placed my flaky fish down, spooned a heap of salsa over top, and finished with a dab of plain yogurt.

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First, the tortillas. Best idea ever. You could taste the better quality and they really brought the whole thing up a notch.

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The salsa turned out fantastic. I am so proud of this little cucumber citrus salsa and can see myself making it time and time again! It’s so simple, versatile, and sounds way fancier than it really is.

The fish? Weellll, it’s not quite “off the boat” good. But not too shabby for my first inland foray into seafood. I can say fish tacos will definitely be added to my regular rotation of seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for all my fellow fish lovers back home. Chased down with mussels drenched in a butter sauce of course ;)

Speaking of which – 29 days until I go home for Christmas.

Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.

 

Question of the Day: Let’s talk fish tacos. Have you had them? Favourite kind or combination?

It’s All About the Food

Hello friends!! Hope your weeks are off to a great start! I was all grumpy about returning to work yesterday, then I showed up and remembered how much I like it and had a pretty good Monday! :)

As promised, today’s post is all about the food. If you’re catching up, here are my other Chicago/Healthy Living Summit posts:

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Deep Dish
The Summit

First off, I need to give props to my favourite treats provided during the conference. On Saturday, Athenos stepped it up for their sponsored break and had some delicious goodies.

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All “my kind of food.” Tortilla chips with a feta dip (crazy delicious), hummus stuffed cucumber, chicken and feta skewers, watermelon/basil/feta skewers, legitimately tasty pita chips with more hummus. Thumbs up!

My favourite meal came on Sunday with the Bagel Thins sponsored breakfast.

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They had a table set up where you could pick plain or low-fat cream cheese and choose all sorts of mix-ins for it. They then whipped up your speciality cheese on the spot. I thought it was a really neat idea.

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This breakfast was already in line to be my favourite because I showed up starving after getting lost on the fun run. Any food at that point would have been scarfed down and claimed as the best meal ever! :P

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Above photo credit goes to the amazing photog Arnold/Oroweat had around all weekend. Check out the photos here.

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I was feeling something savoury after the hot and sweaty run. I called mine Upstream Cheese and added salmon, capers, cucumber, carrot, scallions, and a pinch of salt.

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Taking pictures of taking pictures ;)

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The bagel thins were just okay. I’m not a huge “thin bread” person. If I ate more bread it may be an issue, but I only have a couple slices a day, so I like to have the real hearty stuff when I do.

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Where’s the rest of my bagel?? :P

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I also jumped for joy when I saw Sunday’s breakfast had eggs + sausage. Saturday’s breakfast was all carbs and left me feeling icky after. This body needs some protein :)

A lot of bloggers were also handing out goodies over the course of the weekend. So happy I ran into Valerie! ;)

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The only thing better than homemade business cards are business cards that come with chocolate…

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After the satisfying breakfast on Sunday, Callie and I hit the road. But not without a very important stop first…

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Sad fact: there are no Trader Joe’s in Canada. I’ve been reading about this store foreevveerrr on blogs and on the internets and was superduper pumped to finally check it out. For Canadians that have never heard of it, it’s just a healthy/organic store that carries a lot of neat products under the Trader Joe’s brand.

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Happy shoppers!! (ps the above photo was taken with Callie’s camera!)

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I got tons of great TJs suggestions from you guys, but I tried to keep my goodies to a minimum. First, because I already had two full bags of food to bring home with me. Secondly, it had to last the nine hours back home!

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I picked this up to eat for lunch in the car.

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The whole container was only 100 calories and 14g protein. The taste was a little off though, egg salad needs mayonnaise and egg yolk, this had neither.

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Eaten on top of these crackers, which are quite tasty.

Callie and I then proceeded to snack on our Trader Joe’s goodies for the whole drive home. Me more so than her because I had both of my hands free and nothing better to do ;)

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I had some of Callie’s peanut butter filled pretzels. I purposely did not buy these because I knew they would be a “danger food” to have in the house. They were beyond delicious, reminding me of a better version of peanut butter Ritz crackers.

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I’m not crazy about these, but they make for a good quick chocolate fix, and the stats are a million times better than peanut M&Ms.

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We have dried mango in Canada, but it’s always really hard to find dried fruit that isn’t sweetened. Why do they always add extra sugar to it??

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Reminds me a lot of fruit leather, and very mango-ey.

The first time I saw this stuff on Paige’s blog, I freaked out. It looked amazing.

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I was so amazed when I pulled out the banana and realized it was one big flattened piece! 
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At first, I sandwiched some almond butter between it…

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But the flavours weren’t quite right, so I added a little more AB and rolled it up.

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Omgamazing. I can see this being the perfect pre-workout snack.

Callie and I also had a bunch of coupons in our swag bags that could only be used in the U.S. We stopped at a Krogers in Michigan to put them to use, but unfortunately they didn’t have a lot of what we were looking for. I decided to try out a Chobani for $1.19 (which is a crazy good price for Greek yogurt compared to Canada)

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Topped with a Mix My Granola sample also from the Summit swag bag.

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Loved the texture and flavour of the Chobani, plus it was super filling!! I wish we could get little tubs like this in Canada, it’s such a great way to get a little protein in.

Also bought at Trader Joe’s…

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Clif flavours you can’t find in Canada, also at half the price they’re sold for in Canada.

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Suflower seed butter and corn salsa.

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New blue cheese Laughing Cow flavour that hasn’t made its way up north yet.

I always wondered how the U.S. Laughing Cow slices are 35 calories a piece while the Canadian ones are 45 calories for two. Check it out!

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American version on the left, Canadian on the right. Who knew??

I combined my new Laughing Cow and corn salsa for lunch yesterday.

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On a sandwich with smoked tofurkey.

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Maybe an odd flavour combo, but it was positively delicious.

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Meanwhile, I tried out the sunflower seed butter for breakfast this morning – on top of a yogurt bowl mixed with protein powder, blueberries, oatmeal cinnamon and syrup.

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I’ve had plain, natural sunflower seed butter before and found it to be good, but a touch bitter. The Trader Joe’s stuff is lightly sweetened and salted and so much better. My gosh, I really loved it.

Last but not least, I picked up some new gum flavours!!

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It’s a well-kept secret that I am an obsessive gum chewer. Truth of the matter is, I really love gum. So finding these new-to-me flavours was really exciting. So far the Stride citrus mint is my favourite!

 

I still have a lot of leftover coupons from the Summit that I can’t use in Canada. Once I get them organized I’ll be giving them away on the blog as a little consolation prize for those of you who couldn’t make it to the Summit – so stay tuned!

 

Question of the Day: What would be in your specialty cream cheese? I wish they had maple syrup at the table, because maple salmon would be mine!

The Elusive Protein Powder

Helllooo! How is everyone doing? I had a very laid-back Saturday, my favourite kind :)

Started off at 7am (sleeping in!) with some egg-white french toast.

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I prefer french toast made with egg whites, but I still spread some almond butter on top for my fat ;)

Citrus on the side!

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I hung out in bed for a little bit, then went to BodyStep. Step class is probably the most fun I have working out all week. I don’t always feel motivated to work out on Saturdays after a long week, but I always look forward to that class, so it’s a good way to get me off my butt!

Came home mega sweaty and replenished with a protein smoothie.

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  • 1 scoop peach-mango whey protein powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 dates
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum

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This was soooo thick and creamy! Just like a thick milkshake – it was divine. Those gums are 100% worth the extra $$ if you like smoothies.

However, smoothies never stick with me for that long. Ninety minutes later I was hungry for lunch.

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Mini pizza off sorts – garlic tomato paste, Kirkland no-salt seasoning, sliced tomato, smoked mackerel, cheddar cheese on an english muffin.

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With carrots + salsa on the side. LOVE this combo! More than any other dipper for carrots. Try it if you haven’t yet!

I somehow found a spurt of energy today and cleaned a bunch and spent some time in the kitchen! First was a kitchen experiment that has been on my mind for a long time. I finally got the guts to do it, and boy am I glad I did!!

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Bacon Peanut Butter.

  • 1-2 cups dry roasted peanuts (I just dumped it in!)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • sprinkle kosher salt
  • 2-3 tbsp real bacon bits

I blended the peanuts until smooth first, then added the other ingredients. I had to try it immediately on some rye crackers.

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Okay, so I know this combo may weird some people out, but I promise you it’s REALLY good, and I would not purposely steer you wrong :P I didn’t add so much bacon that you can taste it. It just adds more depth to the salty peanut butter, and if you concentrate really hard you can taste a little smokiness.

I also whipped up another batch of Deb’s Protein Faux-nola.

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First, in a small saucepan, I brought to a low boil:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Once it boiled down a bit, I stirred in two scoops (60g) vanilla whey protein powder and one tablespoon cinnamon.

Then, I mixed it up in a big bowl with:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Spread out onto a baking sheet and put into a 325 F oven. I have no idea how long it cooked for, but I took it out every 5 minutes or so to stir it around, until it was browned and getting crunchy. Some of the bigger pieces may not seem crunchy when you first take them out of the oven, but they will be when it cools down!

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The big chunks are my favourite ;) The Grape Nuts added to the crunchy texture too.

I also made a potato salad of sorts earlier in the day that I let chill in the fridge so it was nice and cold for supper.

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  • 4 baby red potatoes
  • 1 block herbed tofu
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • few shakes Kirkland no-salt seasoning (it’s a garlic/oregano/veggie-type seasoning)
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 sweet bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 3 small pickles, chopped
  • 2 tbsp real bacon bits

I steamed the potatoes and tofu together first, then mixed everything together once they cooled.

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After tossing everything together, I felt that something was missing. So I channelled Mark, my mom’s boyfriend, who always says bacon makes anything taste better. I used up the rest of the bacon bits and he was right! Dee-licious! ;)

 

Q&A – The Elusive Protein Powder

 

Justine said:

What kind of protein powder do you use? I bought some chocolate Designer Whey to use for protein cookie dough, and it was hell of nasty.

simplypresent Said:

Question: I have heard mixed reviews about soy protein. What are your thoughts? – Em

I have a question for you.  I don’t really understand the whole protein powder thing.  I see so many recipes for Breakfast cookies and shakes that have protein powder in them.  I went to the local health food store and they have about 100 different ones to choose from.  (they are expensive as I am sure you have noticed…LOL)  What one(s) do you recommend?  Do you know the difference between Whey and Soy powders??  Do you recommend one over the other??
Help I am so confused…LOL.
thanks Stephanie
AKA
www.eatrunquilt.blogspot.com

 

It seems protein powder is a popular source of confusion :P I’m not sure if I’m the most informed person to give you the deal on protein powder, especially since I’m in Canada and have access to different brands. But I’ll give it a shot. Let’s call it a starting point, shall we? ;)

If you had told me two years ago that I would have to dedicate a whole cupboard to this:

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I wouldn’t have believed you :P

I thought protein powder and “Muscle Milk” were only consumed by jocks with no necks that grunt at the gym. Okay…douchebags.

But when I started lifting heavy weights, I did a lot of research that said protein can help muscle recovery. Back in those days I was a pescetarian and looking for more ways to get it in my diet. Specifically protein shakes, as they digest quickly and work to repair your muscles faster after a hard workout (remember! muscle is built during that recovery process!)

I went into GNC and was totally overwhelmed by the hundreds of expensive, giant canisters, so I instead went to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest one I could find. Since then, I’ve tried to do a lot of experimenting to find what I like. For the most part, I prefer whey powder, which is a protein that comes from dairy. When searching for whey powders, you’ll likely find two kinds: whey isolate and whey concentrate. Isolate just contains more protein than concentrate, so it’s often more expensive. I either buy an isolate powder, or a mix of the two.

So I’ll show you what’s in my cupboard right now for protein powder. First is President’s Choice Whey Protein Isolate in chocolate flavour.

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When looking at the nutrition information, I always look at the serving size. I usually shoot for a powder that has 20-25g protein for 100-120 calories. This one may seem like a lot, but the serving size is 45g, when the standard is around 30g.

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The next one is from another Canadian company – PVL. I actually don’t care for their Whey Gourmet line, but the Naturelle vanilla bean flavour caught my eye because it’s sweetened with stevia. 

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The biggest downfall of flavoured protein powder is that they’re typically artificially sweetened (it’s how they keep the calories and carbohydrates low). This can be a problem if you’re trying to stay away from artificial sweeteners, or if things like sucralose give you stomach problems.

Finally, I have the source of today’s smoothie, Thermo-Lean Iso-Lean in Peach Mango flavour.

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I find the ISO Lean stuff to be a little too “fake sweet” for me, so this one has been in my cupboard for a while. Okay for a treat sometimes though!

Ironically, I don’t have any of my favourite powders on hand right now, but I’ll show them to you anyway. I always need to have a chocolate and vanilla on hand, and Iso Femme is a brand that is both tasty with good nutritionals.

This powder also makes the best breakfast cookies!

My other favourite kind is from PVL, the Whey Cooler.

This stuff is neat because you mix it with 32 oz water and tastes similar to kool-aid or gatorade.

It really is an awesome thirst quencher! And 20g protein for just 80 calories. 

Now, besides whey powder, I’ve only ever tried hemp protein and soy protein. Hemp is not so great, as it’s “earthy” tasting. But hey, some people dig that. Soy protein is actually not too bad. I’ve only ever bought Bob’s Red Mill unflavoured soy protein powder. I really liked it for cooking and baking, but not so much for smoothies. It was also a really fine powder, so it didn’t harden well in no-bake cookies and bars, it just got chalky.

I know protein powder seems like a lot of money at first, but just remember that it will last you weeks! Think of it like your car – the $30+ you spend on gas is like an investment because it keeps your car running for several days. Well protein powder is an investment that will keep your body running for several days!

Last but least, I feel like I should add protein powder will not make you gain weight!!! I helped my friend pick out protein powder last weekend and she was worried it would make her put on pounds when she is trying to lose some. But it’s just a matter of calories in, calories out. Replace the calories of something you’re already eating with the calories in a protein shake and it won’t make a difference.

Hope that helps!

Question of the Day: Do you use protein powder? What kind? Favourite thing to do with it?

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