The very easy, delicious Easy Baked Maple Glazed Arctic Char recipe has long been a staple in our weekly dinner rotation but it hit me recently that I hadn’t made it since the weather turned cool. Originally, I discovered this recipe on the blandly named, All-Fish-Seafood-Recipes website. It’s perfect for a healthy dinner on a busy weeknight: excluding the fish and the optional toppings, this recipe calls for just 4 ingredients – and they’re likely in your pantry already:
maple syrup (real!)
fresh ginger (I use ground ginger that I keep in my refrigerator)
What reminded me to make this recipe last week was that my 91 year old mother-in-law said she was going to try it for the first time. Luckily, when we called the next day to ask how it turned out, she said she didn’t have 2 of the ingredients (!) so hadn’t made it yet. I felt lucky she hadn’t attempted it yet because I ran into a never-happened-before issue when I made it this week, and need to warn her about it.
Backstory: my ‘old’ oven died over Thanksgiving – cliche, I know, but luckily disaster was averted. Cue newly installed ovens, an unwelcome surprise expense weeks before the holidays. Sigh. But I was excited to test out the oven, so I prepped the fish with the four easy-as-pie ingredients, as usual, and popped it into my new oven. Within five minutes it began emitting copious amounts of smoke. Like I was, well, smoking something!
As I often do, I baked the fish in the top oven and roasted brussels sprouts and Ina Garten’s Garlic Roasted Potatoes in the lower oven. Lower oven was A-OK. But the upper oven smoked so much we threw open windows and doors to the arctic (sorry!) air and felt lucky the house smoke alarms didn’t go off.
This dish always smokes a bit. Sometimes a good amount. I mean, baking a sugar-soy glazed dish in a 450 oven will of course burn the sugar and set off smoke, but this level of smoke was unprecedented.
I’m not sure if my brand new oven is running too hot – I guess i’ll get an oven thermometer and test it out. And I’ll try it on a lower rack next time, and warn my mother-in-law to do the same.
I’d be interested in any other suggestions. The fish was the same, delicious dish – the smoke affected just my kitchen, not the taste. But do try this recipe for a fast, healthy weeknight dinner – and let me know what happens smoke-wise!
At our annual Cape Cod family vacation, I am responsible for serving the annual Fish Dinner for 10-15 people (there is also the annual Steak Dinner and the annual Lobster & Ribs Dinner, hosted by my brothers-in-law along with, The-Night-Everyone-Arrives-Baked-Ziti-Dinner my now 90-year-old mother-in-law whips up.)
Let’s be clear. Cooking for a very large group in an ill-equipped ‘cottage’ kitchen and serving it as a sit-down dinner in a too-small dining room is NO VACATION. It’s actually a potential nightmare. But it’s what we do. Every year. And once dinner’s on the table, it’s a blast… Plus, my wine-collector brother-in-law brings a LOT of wine so that’s, um, great. (I make sure to finish with all knife skills before imbibing – that’s another story that ends at the hospital).
Anyway, we’ve been doing this for years, but last Thursday I faced a fish dinner crisis: the only feasible date was our last night at the Cape – and we had to pack up our rental house and be on the road by 7:30 the next morning. I tried for a fish dinner hiatus. No dice (a huge compliment yet also frustrating). So I agreed to with one condition: I would cook but I would NOT host 12 people in the rental house that we were in the midst of packing up.
Once that was swiftly agreed upon, I had to devise a dinner plan. Usually my goal is a new variation on fish everyone will like. This year, my goal was: how to cook a full dinner for 12 with very little clean up. Like, none. Else we’d never finish packing and get out on time.
The answer: I devised a menu that required NO pots. Thus no clean up, and no ferrying pots, pans and serving utensils to and fro.
Amazingly, it was a huge success – both the cooking and the quick clean-up… but also, the dinner itself. There were actual accolades! My mother-in-law declared it, “your best fish dinner ever,” and someone dubbed it, “totally gourmet.” There were no leftovers and literally, we had NOTHING to clean up – all we had to do was load the plates and cutlery into the dishwasher. Oh, and the very many wine glasses.
The trick: a dinner plan that relied on heavy duty aluminum foil on the grill, sequential cook times, and ‘sauces’ prepared in advance.
Here’s what I prepared:
2.5 pounds of Arctic Char and 1.5 pounds of Haddock that I prepped with olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, slivered onions and halved cherry tomatoes: grilled in foil and served with two homemade sauces (really, dressings): Green Goddess and Mustard Vinaigrette. I thought folks would enjoy trying two very different types of fish, which they did. And surprisingly, my favorite, Arctic Char, was the big winner! (See Lo-Co Recipe page for other fish/Arctic Char recipes!)
Asparagus we grilled in the afternoon and served at room temperature.
Cooking fish in foil on a grill is dead-easy. All you do is place a fish fillet in foil (skin-side down, if it has skin), slick it both sides with olive oil, add salt and pepper and any fresh herbs you like (I used chives, thyme and rosemary). Atop that, squeeze some lemons and place some very thinly sliced lemon along with very thinly sliced onion and halved cherry tomatoes. The only truly ‘obligatory’ ingredient is olive oil and some lemon – but it makes a nice presentation with all these items! Then wrap it TIGHTLY in foil (I double wrapped it) and grill over medium-high or high heat for 10 minutes — longer if it’s a thick fillet. We needed 15-20 minutes for the 3 wrapped fillets. Take them off the grill and transfer to a serving platter – I removed the onion and lemon slices, but placed the tomatoes back on top for a pretty presentation. I like my fish plain but feared others would not, so I served the fish with choice of a Mustard Vinaigrette (David Tanis’ recipe on my Lo-Co Recipe page) and a Green Goddess dressing/dip mix from Penzey’s Spices that I had whipped up in minutes that morning.
The other element we needed to grill at my brother-in-law’s rental home was the phenomenal “Grilled Potato and Onion Packages” recipe I found on epicurious. Read the recipe and reviews online, or recipe PDF is here and also on my Lo-Co Recipes page. These, my husband and I prepped in the afternoon, then brought over 11 packages all ready to go on the grill! While they’re meant to be served individually I just opened all 11 packages into a large serving bowl – either way is great. A few notes from my read of the reviews and my experience making this fabulous and fabulously easy recipe:
I used baby red potatoes that I washed and left skins on – and cut into small pieces (like eighths!) so they’d cook quickly enough.
Instead of white, I used red onions – again cut into very thin slices – about same size as potatoes.
Use heavy duty foil – there’s a size that’s the right width the recipe calls for.
Move the packets every 5-7 minutes or so – maybe 3 times for the 30 minutes – but don’t flip them – goal is to move so that no one spot gets too hot and burns.
It’s very easy BUT takes time to cut the potatoes and onions – leave plenty of time for all the slicing!
Even if you hate mustard, you won’t taste it here… and if you LOVE mustard, you need to increase the amount used.
The whole dinner took 1 hour to cook at my brother-in-law’s rental home (though a few hours to prep — and we did grill asparagus (see below for how) at home first and served it room temperature.)
Once we landed at my brother-in-law’s I prepped the fish while my husband grilled the potato packets. In the end, it looked like this:
Two notes on the finished dishes:
The fish fell apart, which doesn’t happen when you bake or cook fish directly on the grill. But it’s juicy and tender, and if you have enough wine, no one will notice.
The potato & onion dish looked much more appealing than this photo; I’d had a few glasses of wine by then…
Hope you try! So easy and healthy and delicious – and no pots to wash!
To grill asparagus: soak for 10 minutes and snap off the tough bottoms, loosely dry, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and put right onto a medium-high grill for about 10-15 minutes, rolling them to grill evenly.
If you’re grilling up a nice, healthy fish dish for a summer get together (or even if you’re grilling steak or burgers) it can be a challenge to come up with tasty, healthy side dishes. This summer, I have two new favorites: Grilled Sweet Potato Fries and Broccoli Slaw.
I discovered Grilled Sweet Potato Fries on Health.com and it’s so easy and delicious that I’ve made these five times already this summer. It’s a great dish for 2-4 people: if you’re making it for a crowd, you’ll just need to budget your grill time to get a mound of fries done and turned!
The concept’s perfect for summer weather when you don’t want to heat your house with anything oven-based. Just wash and poke a few sweet potatoes, dry, and microwave on high for 6-7 minutes (more if the sweet potatoes are huge, though it’s much easier to use small-medium sweet potatoes!). Let them cool a bit, cut into wedges, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a seasoning of choice (recipe calls for paprika; I favor Penzey’s Balti seasoning or a paprika / cumin / chili pepper blend.) Then grill on a medium-hot grill for 3-5 minutes per side. Not only are they fantastic, they keep in the refrigerator pretty well – toast ’em on up next day in your toaster oven for fabulous side-dish leftovers. Link to web recipe above or download this PDF of Grilled Sweet Potato Fries.
What to serve with your protein and Grilled Sweet Potato Fries? How about a tasty broccoli slaw? The title of this recipe on ‘thekitchn.com’ compelled me to take a risk on a new recipe for a friend’s BBQ: Light & Easy Broccoli Salad. If you have a food processor (or can find broccoli slaw in a store) this is a snap to make. And testament to its tastiness: everyone asked for the recipe. It’s worth reading the comments on ‘thekitchn’ website – I successfully followed several recommendations and substituted dried cranberries for the currants. And as I failed in my quest for bagged pre-shredded broccoli, the only challenge was shredding it myself in my Cuisinart; it’s not hard but took me a while to figure out which blade to use. But once I got the broccoli shredding down, this recipe was very easy and with just 1/2 cup mayonnaise, far healthier than store-bought slaw. Check it out on thekitchn site and read the reviews and/or download this PDF of Light & Easy Broccoli Salad.
Here’s a picture of both along with a sad little piece of grilled pork – but don’t the sweet potatoes and broccoli slaw look enticing?
Hope this adds some variety and fun to your healthy summer dinners!
With my cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure higher last month, I needed to try to salvage things before my doctor(s) advise statins and/or blood pressure medication. Step one: a lo-co lifestyle exercise and diet review (and correction):
Exercise. I’d let my exercise habit lapse in the past six months, so have recently re-started exercising daily. Of course today I pulled my hamstring. Sigh. But I am determined to at least walk daily, because ‘Study Proves Exercise Staves Off Bad Cholesterol.’
Diet – General. While I don’t eat a lot of red meat, I do eat a lot of carbs (pasta and bread) and sugar (M&Ms and wine). So I’m cutting down on pasta, pizza and sticking with 1 glass of rose per night. And M&Ms, well…not sure how they got back into my diet but it ends now.
Diet – Supplements. As with exercise, I had stopped my daily dose of Metamucil. Which is lame, because Metamucil both lowers cholesterol and helps with diverticulosis, which I also have. So I tossed my very expired Metamucil and bought a new, huge jar of Orange Smooth Metamucil, with sugar.
Then I got to thinking about that Metamucil. I chose Orange Smooth Metamucil (with sugar) because I both despise aspartame and believe it to be unhealthy. As all the sugar-free Metamucil products have aspartame, that left me with the Metamucil with sugar. But with sugar-sensitive high triglycerides and a desire for a nightly glass of wine, it seemed sugared Metamucil might not be a great choice.
So I dug a bit more and found ONE Metamucil product with neither sugar nor aspartame. Called Metamucil Original Smooth, it was just what I was looking for. Oh, except for the taste. While I did not despise the ‘wheat-y’ taste as much as others on the internet seem to, it was certainly not a flavor I wanted to wake up to every morning.
So I started thinking about how Going Lo-Co reader Eileen makes a cholesterol-loweirng grapefruit juice / Metamucil smoothie: info here.) Smoothies are too much work for me, so I looked around on the web and found many who said they mixed the Original Smooth with juice. Which is what my Mom does too – she mixes Metamucil with diluted orange juice. But OJ is just a lot of sugar with no cholesterol-lowering benefit so that did not appeal. Then it hit me: what if I combined grapefruit and orange juice?**
This morning, I stirred up an inaugural glass of Going Lo-Co Metamucil Elixir. To make it, I combined 1 teaspoon of Metamucil Original Smooth with 4 ounces of grapefruit juice, splashed in some (about 1 oz) orange juice to cut the tartness of the grapefruit juice, then topped it off with about 2 oz of water. After a vigorous stir, I guzzled it.
I am pleased to say that I really liked it. Well, as much as one likes these things.
The taste is decent AND unlike sugared Metamucil, my version delivers potassium AND the blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride lowering properties of grapefruit juice (see Grapefruit Pros and Cons for more info.)
Then I estimated the nutritional value for my Going Lo-Co Metamucil Elixir. My concoction does have more calories and sugar than sugared Metamucil, but I’m willing to accept those extra 30 calories and 4 grams of sugar for the better taste AND potassium AND the cholesterol-lowering benefits of grapefruit juice. Here’s how they compare:
If you don’t take ANY medications, give my Going Lo-Co Metamucil mix a whirl. If you do take medication – any medication – read message below: and do NOT try this unless you’ve consulted with your doctor.
** VERY IMPORTANT: do NOT try this ‘recipe’ — in fact, do NOT drink any grapefruit juice — if you are on statins or other medications.Specifically,do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol without speaking first to your doctor. Same grapefruit warning exists if you take other types of medications that can also interact with grapefruit juice, including drugs for blood pressure, heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures. It is dangerous to start eating grapefruit (or drinking grapefruit juice) if you take any of these medications – unless you speak to your doctor first.
Last week, I got some bad news which I’m hoping I can turn into good news.
The bad news: my cholesterol has hit a personal high of 267 but more concerning, my triglycerides skyrocketed to 253 (‘goal’ is lower than 150 … and in the 10 lab results I’ve tracked since 2002 my triglycerides have NEVER been over 200.)
Also, I now have some “mild kidney insufficiency” which may be related to what’s driving my triglycerides sky-high: a) a diet too high in sugar, carbs and alcohol; and b) not enough exercise.
It’s this – the poor diet and exercise – that I’m hoping I can turn into good news. Which I may be able to, because when I really considered my actions over the past few months I was appalled. In fact, I was surprised and chagrined to realize that since my October 2015 knee surgery I’ve not jumped back onto my near-daily exercise routine (not even close) … and am binge/stress eating chocolate…and wine. Oh, and my new favorite starch, baked sweet potatoes, is probably not helping.
More on the high triglycerides and kidney problem in a more medically-focused post (once I do a bit more research and discuss more fully with my doctor.) With my medical questions stressing me out and wine not the right choice, I decided on Saturday to start righting the medical ship with a lo-co recipe review.
So we went grocery shopping over the weekend and yesterday I made the only salad dressing I like (mustard vinaigrette a la David Tanis – see my love salad post or see recipe below). Then my husband and I grilled bok choy, baked brussels sprouts, and steamed green beans so we have vegetables to easily toss into dinners this week. He then grilled a steak (I know, right?) while I made a new fish recipe that was AMAZING and so very easy: Honey Dijon Arctic Char.
This fish recipe is a snap – as for the fish itself, if you prefer salmon go for it: both salmon and char are ‘meaty’ fish so they hold up well on the grill. I whipped up the marinade in five minutes and let it absorb on a plate for just 20 minutes instead of 30. We (OK, my husband) grilled it skin side down on medium heat for 5 minutes, and it was an easy flip for another 2-3 minutes for perfectly cooked fish. As you can see, I served it with low-glycemic quinoa (instead of the baked sweet potato that’s been my go to side for the past six months) and baked brussels sprouts and string beans. Plus ONE glass of wine (I wanted two but…)
Having never made this before AND despising honey, I wasn’t sure I’d like this so I didn’t bother measuring the ingredients. Thus, I was absolutely astonished at how tasty this was. Click the link for recipe details (and for ingredients for 4), which I’ve cut roughly in half, and summarized here:
Honey Dijon Arctic Char / Salmon: for 2-3 servings
1 large filet of arctic char or salmon, skin on – about 3/4 pound (for 2-3 people, or to have leftovers!)
1/8 cup dijon mustard (I didn’t really measure this)
1/8 cup honey (or this)
1 TB extra virgin olive oil (or this)
2 cloves of garlic – supposed to be minced, I put through garlic press
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (again, no measuring)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (didn’t measure, used black pepper)
juice of half lemon (plus more for serving, if desired)
Combine mustard, honey, oil, garlic, thyme, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon, coat fillet (both sides) with mixture (if not enough for skin, just throw some olive oil under it). Cover dish with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator for 30 minutes (I just let it sit on counter instead for 20 minutes).
On grill pre-heated to about medium, place fish, skin side down (on a fish screen) and cook for 5 minutes. Carefully, turn fish and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. (It’ll be done – you can tell it is if the flesh of the fish no longer appears shiny and flakes easily). Remove from grill and serve – with a little extra lemon juice if desired.
Thank you to Derrick Riches on bbq.about.com for the recipe and inspiration. I cannot WAIT to have this fish again tonight. And maybe again for lunch tomorrow – in a salad with my homemade mustard vinaigrette – recipe again here:
Mustard Vinaigrette a la David Tanis– for a TRIPLE recipe: 2 TB Dijon mustard, 6 TB Sherry Vinegar, some finely grated garlic (I use 2 cloves – the recipe asks for 1 1/2 teaspoons) and 9 TB EVOO, salt and pepper to taste. To make: whisk together mustard, vinegar and garlic. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Pour into carafe and refrigerate.