Fish Tacos

Tacos are the ultimate weeknight meal.  They come together quickly, and require very little actual cooking.  The protein, vegetables and starch are all accounted for, so there is no need for extra side dishes.  And everyone likes them.  I have never met someone who doesn’t like tacos.*

These fish tacos take the standard beef-lettuce-salsa-cheese formula and lighten it up, while also adding flavor and spice.  It may seem a bit fancy, but still come together in about 30 minutes.  Fish filets are ideal for weeknights, since they cook up quickly, and pre-shredded coleslaw is a great time saver.   Perfect for your next Taco Tuesday.  Or Wednesday. Or any day, really.

*I now expect at least a dozen taco hating comments.

Fish Tacos                          

  • 1 TB chile powder
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt, plus a bit more for coleslaw
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (give or take based on your spiciness preference
  • 2 TB olive oil, divided           
  • 2 filets white fish, about 12 oz total weight – I have used both halibut and mahi mahi with success
  • ½  a head of cabbage, thinly sliced, or ½ a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 chipotle pepper, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Corn tortillas, warmed
  • Queso fresco and hot sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix first 6 ingredients (through cayenne) with 1 TB of olive oil to form a paste.  Rub the spice paste all over the fish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a few minutes.

While fish marinates, make the coleslaw.  Place the cabbage, green onions and cilantro in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, chipotle, lime juice, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Taste for spiciness and seasoning, add more chipotle or salt if needed.  Combine sour cream mixture with vegetables.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat the remaining olive oil in an oven proof sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add fish filets; allow to cook about 3 minutes.  Flip and put in oven to finish cooking. Cook time will depend on the thickness of the filets; usually about 5-8 minutes. While fish cooks, heat tortillas in a dry pan or in the microwave. 

Remove fish when done, and using a fork, flake the fish into bite size pieces in the sauté pan to coat in seasoning. 

Assemble the tacos by placing fish, coleslaw, queso fresco and hot sauce on a corn tortilla.




Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

A few weeks ago, I was all set to make a quick, healthy dinner of Buffalo Chicken Salad.  But, while scanning at work, I discovered THIS and my plans were altered.  It uses all the same ingredients as the salad, with a few extra staples that I had in the fridge or pantry.  I made a couple modifications, removing bleu cheese and adding some extra hot sauce. It was delicious, cooked up quickly and was still a light and healthy meal. 

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

Adapted from

  • 1/4 cup shredded 2% cheddar
  • 3 wedges Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese 
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup carrot, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package thin boneless chicken breasts cutlets
  • 1 cup corn flake crumbs
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 6 tbsp Franks hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp light butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly coat your baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix cheddar, laughing cow cheese, green onion, carrot, salt and pepper in a dish.

Lay out the chicken cutlets, placing even amount of mixture in the middle and spread in the center.

In one bowl make a breading station out of corn flake crumbs. In another bowl combine mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, and lemon juice.  Roll chicken breasts in the mayonnaise mixture, then into the crumbs, and put on a lightly greased pan, seam side down.

Lightly spray top of chicken with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes. While the chicken cooks, melt butter and mix with the remaining hot sauce and garlic powder. Drizzle buffalo sauce over finished chicken breast and serve.

Pepperoni Chicken with Zucchini “Noodles”

Have I talked about carbs?  I probably have.  What girl hasn’t had the internal carbs monologue…are these the “good” carbs or the “bad” carbs? What’s the difference between whole wheat and whole grain? What’s gluten and why is it terrible?  Does wine have carbs? Is butter a carb? 

Honestly, I can’t really answer your questions, except to say if wine has carbs, they are always good, and butter is most definitely a carb.  I am firmly in the “all things in moderation” camp of eating, but sometimes everyone needs a break from heavy, starchy meals.  These zucchini “noodles” are a great summertime pasta substitute, and are so very easy to make.  The secret is using a julienne peeler.  Mine is Swissmar, and I got it in a three pack from Williams Sonoma.  It makes the process simple…just grate a whole zucchini, skin and all, into a bowl and top it with your favorite pasta sauce! 

If you prefer to cook the zucchini, add the “noodles” to a hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil and cook for a few minutes, until slightly softened.  They are delicious both ways, and a really satisfying, yet light, substitute for pasta.  I topped mine with the always awesome Pepperoni Chicken, which is one of my husband’s favorite recipes. 

Pepperoni Chicken

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • ½  white onion, chopped
  • 2-3 oz pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I usually use turkey pepperoni)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼  teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½  cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil , plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets (or you can cut regular chicken breasts in half)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat broiler to high.

Heat one teaspoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and pepperoni.  Cook 2-3 minutes until onion begins to soften, stirring frequently.  Add oregano and red pepper flake and stir to combine. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Heat remaining olive oil a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt pepper, and add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil.  Serve immediately with pasta or zucchini noodles!

Sweet Potato with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing

Food magazines are a big problem in my house.  I only receive two a month (Bon Appetit and Cooking Light), but I refuse to throw them away.  They are stacked and stashed in all over our condo, probably taking up more than their fair share of space, because you just NEVER KNOW when you might need the Thanksgiving 2005 (or was it 2006?) Bon Appetit that had a really, really good squash gratin recipe. My mom has a Bon Appetit from 1981 that has the world’s most amazing cheesecake recipe, so I come by this particular hoarding tendency naturally.  I wish I had through of  The Bitten Word, which is one of my favorite blogs, and I would feel much better about the magazines that spill out whenever I open certain drawers.

I am very glad the October issue of Cooking Light was still on the coffee table, because this was one awesome side dish.  I love sweet potatoes, and I love sweet/tart/spicy combinations in sauces.  This hits all those notes beautifully.  I already have ideas about how to adapt the cranberry-chipotle pairing into other recipes.  I love it when that happens.

Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing

adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I used fresh)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • I tablespoon honey
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (plus a little sauce)
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 450°. Place sweet potatoes on a large jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, cranberries, water, and honey in a saucepan.  Finely chop the chipotle pepper.  Add chopped chipotle and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce to pan. Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mash with a fork until chunky.

Combine potatoes, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture to bowl; toss gently to coat.

Skinny Onion Rings

Anyone who grew up an Army brat has developed a real love/hate relationship with Burger King.  For those who don’t know, basically every Army post has a Burger King, and it was generally the only food option.  Posts now have Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell and more.  We always had a free standing Buger King, and a PX foodcourt full of generic fast food knockoffs like Anthony’s Pizza and Robin Hood Sandwiches.  Burger King was the way to go…but that often meant getting sick of it, and quickly. But I loved Burger King for one reason…the onion rings option.  I love onion rings, and almost always opted for those instead of fries. 

When I saw a recipe for “skinny” onion rings, I knew I needed to try it.  Personally, I don’t fry things at home.  It’s messy, it’s greasy, it’s generally a pain.  Not to mention it produces some very unhealthy food.  So, this baked option, using onions, low fat buttermilk, panko and not much else, really jumped out at me. 

The recipe was a success for sure; the onion rings were crunchy and quite good.  The process was a bit messy, though not hard.  There are two parts of this process that are integral to success:

  • One, LINE THE BAKING SHEETS WITH PARCHMENT.  Don’t skip it, don’t think you can just sprayy them with Pam…rings on an unlined sheet will burn.  Trust BistroBess. 
  • Two, BREAD THE RINGS IN SMALL BATCHES.  My breading got wet and clumpy really fast, and once that happens, nothing sticks.  I had to toss out my first batch less than halfway through the process and start over.  My suggestion would be to mix up the breading in one bowl, and add it to a seperate breading bowl a small amount at a time. Put in about enough breading for 2 or 3 rings, bread those, wipe out the bowl, and add fresh breading crumbs for the next few rings.  It takes more time, but your results will be dramatically improved.

If you follow these two guidelines, the reward is crispy, hot onion rings that you don’t feel bad about eating.  But don’t worry, Burger King, your onion rings will always be my nostalgic fave.

Skinny Onion Rings

Adapted slightly from

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup crushed corn flake crumbs
  • salt to taste 
  • Pam cooking spray

Slice onion into ¼ inch rings.  Separate the rings (I discarded the tiny middles), and place in a shallow baking dish.  Cover in buttermilk, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450. Combine the three types of crumbs and salt to taste in a small bowl.  Have another bowl nearby for breading.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove onions from refrigerator.

Put a small amount (¼ cup or less) of the breading mixture into your breading bowl.  Remove the onion rings one at a time from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off.  Quickly dredge in the breading mixture and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat with all onion rings, replacing breading as needed.  Wet, clumpy breading will not stick to the rings!

Spray the onion rings generously with cooking spray, and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Chicken Taco Salad

Remember last week when I said no one needs a salad recipe? I still stand by that, and this is again NOT a salad recipe…it is a salad COMPONENT recipe.  There is a HUGE difference (sort of).  We try to eat fairly healthily, and dinner salads are a great way to pack in some extra veggies and lean protein.  But like other things, you can get stuck in a salad rut, which is where these component recipes come in handy.

This recipe is for a marinade.  In this particular instance, I marinated boneless, skinless chicken tenders, though I think it would be great on beef as well, or on seafood (for a shorter period of time).  The Latin vibe of this marinade set the tone for the salad…a Chicken Taco Salad. 

We marinated and grilled the chicken, and served it with chopped leaf lettuce, black beans, fresh salsa, shredded cheese and some crushed tortilla chips.  For a dressing, I whisked together lime juice, a chopped chipotle pepper, some sour cream and salt and pepper.  We didn’t have any, but avocado would be great here. 

It was a great light dinner, and completely different from the flank steak salad last week. Really, there is no reason to get stuck in a boring salad rut.  Use different marinades and homemade dressings to had some variety to your healthy eating!

Honey Chipotle Marinade

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1-2 canned chipotle in adobo peppers, chopped, depending on your desired spice level
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¼ canola oil
  • Salt and pepper

Whisk together all marinade ingredients.  In a ziptop bag, combine protein and marinade. If marinating chicken or beef, leave in the fridge over night.  If marinating seafood, about an hour in the fridge should do it.  You don’t want the acid from the lime juice to start cooking the fish!

Spinach and Quinoa with Feta

Quinoa is a new thing to me, though I have been reading about how amazing it is in food magazines and blogs for the last year.  In case it is new to you as well, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a protein packed grain, great to keep you full without weighing you down.  Quinoa cooks like rice; I actually find it easier to cook than rice!  It is gluten free and can be used to make pastas and flours, which is great for people with celiac disease.  Most importantly, it has a fabulous, slightly nutty taste.  Absolutely delicious.

I made this warm quinoa and spinach side dish to go with the Maple Mustard Pork Chops last week.  It was a great dinner…very satisfying and yum!!  Give quinoa a try soon!

Spinach and Quinoa with Feta

adapted slightly from Weight Watchers

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed if necessary
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 cups baby spinach or one box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add quinoa to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, until quinoa starts to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and red pepper flakes to skillet; bring to a boil. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low and simmer for 13 minutes; stir in spinach. Cover skillet and cook until spinach and quinoa are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with feta cheese.