Two things typically eluded me before I starting learning to cook. 1) Quick, tasty meals that didn’t get microwaved or come in cardboard and 2) summer meals that didn’t feel heavy or meaty. I like salads but I can only eat so many salads in one summer.
I don’t remember where I first saw a recipe for tilapia parmesan but at this point I’ve changed it a few times, made it probably 20 times in 15 different ways and have adjusted everything about it so … no link, just recipe and photos today.
Now, I’m all for fresh ingredients. Get some fresh tilapia and do this. However, I’m going to show you in photos a 15 minute meal that doesn’t have to be defrosted. You can have this plate of food in 15 minutes or less. And on those hot summer nights, a light fish, quick rice and veggie can make the perfect meal.
- Tilapia filets (fresh taste slightly better, frozen are more convenient .. both work)
- 1 tbsp light mayonnaise per filet
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice per filet
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic or
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan per filet
- couple dashes of pepper
- Preheat oven to broil. Move the oven rack near the broiler.
- Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie tray. Spread the tilapia filets on the foil with the “top” side up.
- Broil the filets for 3 minutes (fresh) or 5 minutes (frozen).
- While the filets broil, mix the mayonnaisse, lemon juice, garlic and pepper together in a small mixing bowl.
- Remove the cookie tray from the oven and carefully flip the filets.
- Broil another 4-6 minutes on the “bottom” side. While they broil heat your vegetables and some 90 second Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice in the microwave.
- Remove the cookie tray from the oven and flip the filets again. Broil until the fish is white and cooked.
- Cover each filet with some of the mayo mixture and top with parmesan.
- Broil until the parmesan is browned and melted.
Inspiration comes from many places for me. As a new cook I tend to stick to the basics (ingredients, techniques, etc.) and learn as I go.
For recipe tracking I use LivingCookbook because it’s *perfection* in recipe form. I have about 52,000 recipes in my LivingCookbook from all sorts of places. You can import (and export) Mealmaster format, a LivingCookbook format, plaintext and more. I use the RecipeFox plugin for Firefox to grab and save recipes off the major sites. It comes with a list of 100s of recipe sites. These are some of my favorites, many of which use RecipeFox.
Great for finding recipes from your favorite FN stars (such as the ever-hot Giada). A dedicated Healthy Eating section, full episodes of your favorite shows and recipes that easily export to MealMaster, LivingCookbook or plain text format. A large database of great recipes makes this a no-brainer at #1.
A little higher-end fare (read: fancy) makes Saveur a keeper. While not being as culinarily challenging as Epicurious, many of Saveur’s recipes are accessible, tasty and excellent. RecipeFox integration makes this my 3rd favorite recipe site. RecipeFox friendly.
You will be more likely to find a Roasted Vegetable and Prosciutto Lasagna with Alfredo Sauce than a traditional chicken alfredo but that’s why I love Epicurious. This site is advanced and typically not what the home cook makes. (The first recipe under Christmas is a Prosecco-Raspberry Gelee) If you have orange-flower water and Prosecco in your pantry, this is the site for you. (If you have no idea what those are, this site may be overwhelming at first.) RecipeFox friendly as well.
Under the Radar
Quite possibly the only mixed drink site you need. I have never really had much trouble finding anything on here. Recipes for everything from A Berry Breakfast Drink to the Zipper. Search by ingredient, drink name, etc. Terminology, a glossary and drinking games. RecipeFox friendly!
Step-by-step photographic how-to of each recipe. This site is a MUST for new cooks.
This is my favorite healthy-only site. With a healthy cooking 101 section and my favorite – recipe makeovers, and one of my favorite magazines, this was a must-include on my favorite recipe sites.
Another *huge* recipe site with all sorts of great and simple foods. This is my go-to site when I just need something I can make tonight.
I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for Jamie’s cooking. I am the only American I know who watches Oliver’s Twist. I don’t understand his temps or half the ingredients he says until I see them. I don’t care. I would watch Jamie cook all day (and sometimes do!) My mini shell pea pasta and smoky bacon sauce is a Jamie food. They are homecooked goodness and rich, high quality skill. Does he cook 89-star food? Not usually. Is he amazing in a kitchen? Absolutely.
I’d love to tell you that I made this Warm Caramel Apple Cake and shot that for today’s food. That’s what I want to do.
It looks awesome. I can imagine how it tastes and I want to try it. I will, soon. Then I’ll post that. Today is one of those “eh, I’m a photographer, not a cook” days.
So I cheated.
I know … don’t look at me like that! It doesn’t happen as often anymore!
Ultimately, I’m just a food photographer. I need to shoot, even when I don’t want my hair all full of flour 3 hours before a meeting with a potential bride to shoot her wedding. I still need to make, shoot and eat food.
Today’s excellent cheat is a straight-out-of-the-box Duncan Hines Apple Caramel Streusel. Follow instructions. Maybe cut up an apple into bite sized bits and add it. This recipe is sweet, delicious and moist. I actually *really* love it and will eat it again.
Yes, I know I used a pan that was too big. Guess I have to do it again.
Sunday I’ll be back with something special for the blog and Tuesday I’ll post up my famous tilapia parmesan. Fish & cheese? Seriously. Tuesday.
Even though I once posted my soft gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe on StartingtoCook, I don’t often post cookies. There is a reason for that. My mom is a certified chocoholic. She makes cookies. Not good cookies, not great cookies. She makes fantastic cookies. So if I want a cookie, I want her to make it. I don’t like to compete with fantastic since I’m a somewhat-new cook (but getting better!)
When I found this double chocolate chip cookie recipe, it seemed simple enough. Hoping and praying, I made it.
Some cookies last in this house. Not long, mind you, but they last. At least a moment.
Not these. *scarf* Double chocolate chip cookies barely last long enough to type the words double chocolate chip cookies!
Photos, recipe … you know how these food blog things go.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup cocoa (or slightly more)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugars and vanilla.
- Beat in egg. Add cocoa and milk.
- Combine flour and baking powder; fold into creamed mixture with chocolate chips.
- Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.
- Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.
One of my goals for a long time has been to complete the 31 Days to a Better Blog project from ProBlogger. I didn’t start with 3 blogs with growing readership but apparently that is where I am now. Pushing each further means more advertising revenue each month and more opportunities opening around me. I like money and I like opportunity so … starting June 1 I began the 31 Days …
Day 7 was the most relevant day for me.
7) Plan your next week’s posting schedule
I did the project dutifully and mapped out 7 days of blog entries. (This was not one of them, by the way.) I felt good having accomplished a week of blogging topics on all 3 blogs. I didn’t know I could feel so far “ahead” on work for the blogs. My style has always been to blog impulsively which is why sometimes I blog frequently and sometimes blog infrequently. I often treated blogging as the red-headed step child of my businesses. Shooting, networking, marketing, advertisements, social media, gawker submissions, editing, uploading, keywording … if there was time left over maybe even talk to my woman, hit the gym and cook some food.
Since leaving Syracuse and going out on my own last year I felt it was time to get more organized about how I do things, more controlled as far as my blogging habits and get back some of the momentum on this blog. I knew I wasn’t doing what I wanted when an opportunity presented itself to make serious money blogging and …
I didn’t qualify. I hadn’t posted frequently enough at the time. On ANY of my blogs.
So where are we today?
Prep, course … these are food words. Today, they are blogging words. I need to prep posts ahead of time and plan my course. Maybe blogging is my fourth course of the day. I think of planning my blogs like I plan my food shoot ideas. It doesn’t take long one day a week to get FAR ahead on it but it takes you a very long time to do everything on the fly. Last night I was inspired to create blog ideas and actually came up with topics for all 3 blogs FOUR weeks in advance. (Click on image to enlarge it.)
I always decide at the beginning of the week what foods I will make that week (this week I’m making scallop linguine, chicken alfredo, blueberry smoothies, caramel flan and maybe a peanut butter dessert.) Planning foods to shoot keeps me from either forgetting to shoot, being too lazy to shoot or simply coming up with last minute plans. The same seems to be holding true for my blogging.
It’s been 9 days since I planned my first week and with only a few minor changes in plan, I’m sticking to it. Good news for my blog readers! I should have brand new content up 2-4 times per week, every week.
Do you plan your food shoots? Do you shoot everything you eat? What is the plan on your blog?
My dad drives truck over the road and so is out of town almost everyday. My mother raised five of us kids nearly alone and in the process learned to cook efficiently. Sometimes cooking for a family on a busy evening isn’t about speed so much as your quality of life and the time you get to spend with loved ones.
This meal takes 45 minutes or so but the effort is so minimal that it’s not a “real” 45 minutes. Trust me. (Or read ahead…it’s there, I swear.) It’s a very simple meal I’ve had in my back pocket for awhile now. Think about the incredible number of chicken and rice variations on this dish, too.
How many boxes does this tick? Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Quick? Check. Light cleanup? Check. You knew you read this blog for a reason.
Effortless Chicken & Rice
- 2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
- 1 cup white or basmati rice
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 can of mixed vegetables
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- Italian dressing
- Cube the chicken breast into bite sized bits and marinate in italian dressing.
- Place all ingredients except chicken in a microwaveable bowl. Mix well.
- Cover and cook 20 minutes in the microwave.
- Add chicken to bowl. Stir thoroughly.
- Microwave 5-7 more minutes until rice is completely done and chicken has warmed back up but not dried out.
I swear that’s all there is to it. When you pull it out just give it a stir, season it with a bit of salt & pepper and you’re done. Home cooked taste with very little effort and almost no dishes to clean. (Hint: in the 20 minutes this thing cooks you can help a kid with homework, send another to get a bath and pour yourself a drink. Just sayin’.)
Leave me a comment on how you modified this! (Think: different veggies, other broth, meats, more seasoning, garlic & herbs…)
At my parents’ house in Maine we have four acres of land. When I lived in Syracuse I mainly lived in apartments until the last few years. I always longed for the countryside. The acres of grass and openness called my name and always will. When I moved home I saw an opportunity to be outdoors more and have definitely taken advantage.
Last year I moved back too late to do anything serious with food outdoors. This year? I knew I had to plant a garden. Mom and I laid out a plan for a raised bed vegetable garden and we went to work. We built three 4×8′ boxes and filled them with veggies and herbs. We planted spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, peas, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary … it makes me tired just thinking about it!
Over the last 17 years I’ve been out of the state for the entire time. Growing up as the oldest of 5 I often helped mom around the house, cooked, cleaned and worked closely with her. Being home, I’m excited to share that sort of time with her again for as long as it lasts.
I took some early photos to show what we’re doing and will take more throughout the summer. As a food photographer I thought it was only appropriate that I grow some of my own food. I cannot wait until some produce gets indoors to shoot.
I’m excited for our garden, our time together and all of the great food we’re going to get from this project. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow the journey!
I only seem to post these type of posts once a year but now is as good a time as any. If you’d like to follow along with StartingtoCook without opening your browser to my page every single time:
Subscribe to StartingtoCook here. Or add http://feeds.feedburner.com/StartingToCook to your feedreader. (We currently have almost 200 subscribers – THANK YOU!)
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Happy Cinco de Mayo!
So a week ago I was contacted by TortillaLand with an offer to ship some tortilla to me if I’d make up some nice Cinco de holiday recipes and blog about the TortillaLand product. That’s the disclosure part. The rest of this entry is the “yum” part.
Let’s talk about the tortillas. They are uncooked, fresh tortilla. I can’t imagine how they could be any softer or fresher. They arrived in a cooler and were still chilled when I opened the box. I unwrapped some and immediately wanted to try one. I quickly cooked one up, ate it with egg and it was delicious! I started thinking about what I wanted to make for Cinco de Mayo.
I assumed (rightfully, it seems) that many people would make dinners, wraps, burritos, etc. I knew that was out for me. I have wanted to do some homemade tortilla chips for quite awhile but hadn’t found the time (or motivation) so that was definitely on the list. I did want to throw a bit of Mex spirit in so I knew I’d at least rock out a couple cheese quesadillas as well.
What I didn’t know even 3 days ago was that I would be blogging a *dessert* made with TortillaLand flour tortillas. But yes, I did dessert. Why? Because it’s FREAKING DELICIOUS. That’s why.
So here are the photos. First few are just the tortilla cooking (and puffing. They puffed GREAT!) The next few are some fried bananas I quickly heated. Assembly included adding some chocolate chips, warming in the microwave and rolling the finished product into a dessert wrap. I’ve included a few quesadilla and homemade tortilla chip photos as well, just so you can see the variety of foods I’ve made with my tortillas.
I will accept any sponsor offers people want to send but I’ll always be honest about the product. In this case, that’s SUPER easy. The TortillaLand tortillas were probably the best I’ve ever eaten (and my step-dad is Mexican so that’s a lot of eating.) I actually wish I could make them like this. I’d have to own a farm to keep myself in stock on flour, though. They’re that good. And yes, I’m having another egg wrap tortilla tomorrow for breakfast.
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been on a pie kick. Last time was cherry pie, this time it’s a traditional pumpkin pie. Now, I know most everyone has a pumpkin pie recipe but I strongly recommend the ease of going with the traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe. Simple, straightforward, easy to make, and very tasty!