At our house we love fish and seafood and try to have it, at least, 2 times a week. When we were living back in Portugal we had a much more fish based diet - fish is very abundant and cheaper also, which allows people to have a higher access to fish. We used to have mainly cold water fish, from the Atlantic because that's what we get over there. A lot of grilled salmon, steamed whitening, grilled sword fish and sardines, in the summer time!
When we moved to the US I really got hit with the reality that we had to cut down, maybe by half, the weekly fish based meals due to the higher buying price. There are cheaper varieties and I used to buy them once in a while but now that my perception of food has changed I really try to make good food choices, like buying wild-caught fish instead of farmed varieties. The quality of the food we eat really impacts our health and well being and, if making better choices gets us having a couple of great quality fish meals a week that's perfectly fine by me.
I'm still looking for a local fish market to buy sustainable and wild-caught fish so if anyone from around Scotch Plains has a regular place where they use to go and recommend, please send me a message or write down a comment on this blog post so I can check the place out and maybe even feature it on the blog, on the "local businesses" section.
For this recipe I used the Virgin Bay Sea Food Co. wild-caught rock fish and it worked out perfectly!
A firm white fish, sturdy enough to incorporate in a stew without loosing shape or flavor. This kind of dish really is a hearty and healthy meal - incorporating potatoes and peppers allows for you to have the vegetables along with the meal and cooking everything in just one pot makes it a winner for any home cook, right?
Keeping things simple during the week is my most precious motto for weekday meals.
Don't complicate and use simple but great quality ingredients and you'll do just fine and won't have to stress about cooking that much. I cooked the stew in a big pot and used 4 big portions of rock-fish which was enough for 8 individual servings.
1 big sweet onion, diced
3 grated garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
2 carrots, peeled finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 small orange bell pepper, washed and diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste *
2 Tbsp parsley
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic powder *
1/2 fennel bulb, washed and thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
4 large rock fish fillets
1 lb frozen wild-caught mussels *
2 large white potatoes, washed and diced in big chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and diced in big chunks
bone broth * to cover the vegetables (I used about 4 cups)
Dill to season at your discretion
* To make this dish Whole30 complain just make sure that this ingredients are compliant by reading the ingredient list on the package/can.
1 - In a big pot add the olive oil and when it gets to a good temperature add the onion and the garlic to cook them lightly. Add the bell pepper, the carrots and the celery and give it a good mix to combine all the vegetables. Let this cook in medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables get soft.
2 - Add the washed and diced tomatoes, the tomato paste, the bone broth and the thinly sliced fennel. Give this a stir and add the seasonings and the herbs - salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (I used 1 tsp), the bay leaves and the freshly chopped parsley. Let this cook in slow heat and with a lid on, for about 25 minutes.
3 - Add the chopped potatoes and cook for an additional 8 minutes and after that add the fish cut up in big chunks and the mussels. Season the fish with some salt and lemon juice.
4 - Cook with a tightly closed lid to get the fish cooked, around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the chopped dill on top of the stew.
5 - Let the stew cool down a bit for a couple of minutes without the lid (so it doesn't overcook!) and serve it in individual soup plates with some of the broth.
If you you're not doing a Whole30 round feel free to have a sliced baguette to go with the soup, it'll go amazingly with the broth!
This is the absolute warm weather comfort food for me! I love salads and cold food too but a fish stew will always get to me! The combination of flavors is just mouth watering and, honestly, I can not wait to cook a batch of this scrumptious stew again!
As a plus, my kids loved it which makes it even better since cooking two different meals, one for us and one for the kids, was never an option around here!
Give this amazing meal a try and let me know how it went and if the whole family enjoyed it as much as I did!
A couple of weeks ago was "Small Business Week" in Scotch Plains. As I've previously mentioned I used to have a small business when we were living back in Portugal - a beauty store that sold cosmetics and perfumes. I loved the "people" aspect of having my own store. Getting to know people and recommending the best products for them was something that I truly loved and enjoyed. With that usually came a more personal conversation and, eventually, I became friend with a LOT of my costumers.
I always try to remember that when I have to buy something now and, even though, I don't do it as often as I would like to I made an effort this past week to buy locally. In Scotch Plains we have Park Avenue which is filled with businesses, from beauty services to an amazing butcher, different kinds of restaurants and small shops. There is also East Second Street with a good amount of shops and services, so if you happen to have some time available, please, look around and enjoy the great spring weather while browsing through our local community businesses.
My mindset was to try and get my produce and meat shopping done here instead of doing it at the supermarket. It was also a fun way to get to know places where I had never gone before and it was an excellent opportunity to meet great people and to see some of them back again.
I started my produce round on Monday - I try to always meal plan and to get everything I need for the whole week as early as Monday or Tuesday. I went to "Tom the Green Grocer" after looking the place up online and thinking that it had a good variety of produce and some extra grocery items that I was going to need. I also noticed their plant and flower section which was just blooming with different colors and varieties - what a great way to start the day!
I was also looking for a place to get great quality, organic, certified meat and I decided to, finally, check out "John's Meat Market". Every time I'd go to the farmers market on Saturdays I would say to myself "I have to check that place out!" but convenience has spoken louder for me and supermarket butcher has been the most easy and fast choice. Not from now on, it won't!
That same week happened to be "Teachers Appreciation Week" and I called my Brazilian friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" to get me some small Acai Bowls to offer my children's' teacher at school. It was great because, due to the nuts allergy situation, Desire was able to get me the bowls with just the Acai and the fresh fruit, without the nut portion that is usually included! You can personalize your order and you can be sure that, at Oba Brazil they will make sure that you get exactly what you ask for. Also, I was still on the soft diet and I didn't get the chance to buy some of the amazing appetizers that you can find there, like the "coxinhas" which are amazing! Can't wait to have those again!
Another place that I went to is a favorite of my kids and husband who have a pretty active sweet tooth! "The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" at East Second Street has a great variety of baked goods and bread and you can also have a cup of coffee while you're there. The kids got some decorated cookies and I also bought some raisin scones. Will go back, for sure.
Last but not least, I have to mention a place where I go twice weekly - the 'Robert's Dry Cleaners", also on East Second Street. I love when people always great me with a smile and a happy face and that happens here every single time!
Tom's Green Grocer
I was surprised when I got to the parking lot with the variety of flowers and plants. Talk about a great greeting card! I entered the store and the first though was the the space really was a bit hidden from plain sight. It's a small store and, maybe because of all the flowers outside which make it grand the inside of the store really is peculiar. I was greeted by the cashier, a very nice gentleman that made sure that I was comfortable enough to ask for help, if I needed to.
There is a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and, once again, the colorful aspect really brings the store alive. I came home with tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and some apples. There is also a good range of pantry item like pasta, jar sauces, spices and snacks.
There's a section of ready made food which is super convenient when you're in a tight spot on those busy weekdays! Soups, stews, pasta dishes and vegetables you can choose from a well stocked supply! The sandwiches are also famous, as I've noticed from reading the reviews online. There are several choices between sandwiches ($5.95 - $9.95), wraps ($6.95 - $7.95), Panini ($6.95 - $8.95) and salads ($6.95 - $7.95) with several different dressing to choose from.
I don't usually buy prepared food because I really like to cook and I'm used to it. I'm sure that I'll need something quick by summer time and I'll be sure to check some of these options because they really looked tasty. There was also a selection of baked goods and tarts and I bought a salad fruit cup for the kids' school snack for the next day and I also grabbed a scone for the husband on my way out.
The service was great and everyone was very nice which is a really important aspect in a local store where people need to feel welcome!
John's Meat Market
This was a place that was planning on visiting for a very long time. Getting my diet on track, first with the Whole30 and now with the Paleo approach lead me to look for healthier and safer choices, both in the produce department and in the protein department. Making sure that I buy good quality fish meat and eggs has become a priority so buying certified meat on a renounced establishment like this one seemed the perfect choice. This butcher has been in Scotch Plains since 1939 and has costumers that, even tough have moved to other towns, still come back to get their meat and that says a lot to me about the trust that I can put on this business.
I met Mr. Vinnie (I hope it's the right spelling!) who made me feel utterly welcome and confident enough to ask for advice when choosing my meat products. Please feel free to ignore my messy hair (don't care!) or lack of make-up because when I'm around on my daily errands I'm really in a hurry and just really don't care about how I get it done! I had a great time at the butcher, I'll tell you that!
So, the first thing I did was to look around the store to get a general idea of what they offer. After all, this butcher was voted NJ's best butcher 4 wears in a row, I really have been missing something! They have the "regular"meat but there are also pre-marinated meats and separate marinades for those who prefer to do it on the spot, which is a great idea!
There are also several varieties of sausages, hamburgers, including veggie burgers, duck, organ meat, quail, lamb and oxtails, for example! I mean, I could be here and pick one of each and I'd be a pretty happy cook! Just looking at the meat you can see that it really is fresh, the color is something that is not altered here and what you see is what you get.
There's the freezer section where you can find something for everyone. I got my eye on the buffalo steak (which I never had), the rabbit (which we used to eat frequently back in Portugal, with slow cooked rice) and the rack of lamb. With so many choices I just kept thinking about the delicious meat dishes I could cook up and it felt amazingly perfect to have such a gem in our community. I'm really sure that I'll come back in a couple of weeks, after finishing what I've bought on this shopping trip.
One of the things I was looking for just bumped into me at the counter! I have a weekly budget for grocery shopping which includes everything from food to cleaning products. I wanted to start using a third of that to buy the protein every couple of weeks and try that system to see how it would work out. Would it be enough? Would I spend more? If so, I'd at least know that it was good sourced meat and that would be fine by me.
With that in mind I found out that this butcher has several pre-made packs in the sense that you have a particular set of cuts of meat that comes out a little more economical than if you would get your meat items separably. This was the perfect opportunity for me to try out that plan - I already had some beef at home and what I really needed was chicken, so I bought the "Chicken for days package" which seemed perfect for what we usually eat at our house.
As I'm writing this blog post we already had the whole chicken (roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies, over the weekend), the chicken sausages (I grilled them and they were amazingly delicious - will get some in the future, definitely!), half of the bone in breast (I cooked it in the InstantPot and made some chicken soup) and half the chicken cutlets (very tasty and juicy, the kids loved them). The verdict can only be one - 100% approved and will get back next week to try some of the cuts that I got curious about.
Also, I love meat organ, which is one of the richest cuts of meat you can eat so I'll be sure to ask for cows liver, kidney, heart and tongue. It might sound strange but I was used to eating this foods since I was a kid. My mom used to make a braised cows tongue with a tomato and vegetable sauce which was to die for. I'll make sure to ask her the recipe to see if I can cook it up for my kids - they have tried it but I don't know if they remember it. It will be nice to cook something familiar and with such a sentimental value since this was one of my comfort foods growing up.
Moving on there are other packages, like the BBQ one which is perfect for the Memorial Day Weekend that's coming up! Also, the "Cooking in a Pinch Already Prepared" is perfect for people who have little time to cook and need something really quick, yet delicious, to put on their plate! I'm sure that, even if you don't like or want something on the package they'll try to accommodate your request and change it for something of an approximate price.
I had my eyes on an "oxtail package" and was glad to bring it with a well received discount from Mr. Vinnie! The attention to detail was another thing that made me love this place from the first minute I stepped in and the fact that they even helped me bring the meat to the car was another charming and promising sign. Loved the personalized service and, in my opinion, it's the image of perfect costumer service.
There is also the deli section with different kinds of cheese, hams and bacon and also a refrigerated section with soups, cooked meats and fast choices, like crab cakes or chicken tenders.
I really hope that I was able to capture the soul of this business and its personal core because when you buy meat you need the perfect assistance and I really found that here, at "John's Meat Market". I would love to know if you were already a costumer or if, by reading this blog post, you became curious enough to go there and give it a try!
If you leave in Scotch Plains, please, comment and show these businesses some love!
"John's Meat Market" is located at 389 Park Ave, in Scotch Plains and can be reached on the following telephone number: (908) 322-7126.
For "Teachers Appreciation Week" I decided to call my friend Desire at "Oba Brazil" after noticing, on the business's Instagram feed that she had done some Acai bowls for her daughter's school. I thought it was a great idea and something out of the ordinary to gift the teachers! Also, it was healthy and something that I thought would be more personal. The only thing was that I had to ask to skip the nuts, for allergy issues, and Desiree had these beautiful and delicious bowls delivered at my doorstep!
Personal service at its best!
When someone goes above and beyond to make sure that the service is well done it shows the commitment level and I was really appreciated for the last minute arrangements and for the adorable bowls that I got to offer my kids' teacher and aid.
Thank you, Desire!
You can visit "Oba Brazil" at 2507 Route 22 West.
Besides the Acai bowls you can choose from smoothies and yummy appetizers like "coxinhas" which are delicious chicken appetizers or "pao de queijo"or cheese bread, so good!!!!
Also, make sure to check their Instagram feed so you can look at some beautiful creations with healthy and refreshing ingredients!
The Swiss Chocolate Shoppe
I had only been at this pastry shop a couple of times in the almost three years that we've lived here, in Scotch Plains. We loved it, at the time, specially the kids! The pastries were really good and there was a pretty good variety. We just ended up not going out looking for pastries mainly because I usually bake something at home. This time I got some cookies for the kids and a couple of raisin scones.
I went there in the morning and there was a line at the door! It's always a good sign when you have people lining up at a store, it can only mean that the products are good! There were people ordering pastries to go, some ordering to eat in and I order to go too - I gave up gluten after discovering that it was my trigger for migraines so what I bough was for the rest of the family.
Of course the family loved everything I got and they even asked if they could go the next time! As you can see from the pictures they have several kinds of pastries, donuts, muffins and cupcakes. They also sell cookies, cakes and several kinds of bread and bagels.
Everything looked fresh and was very well presented.
The "Swiss Chocolate Shoppe" is located at 1711 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains and can be reached by phone at the following number: (908) 322-4751.
This is the dry cleaner that I usually go to and I'm pretty satisfied with their service. Every time I go there they are super nice and polite, always asking about my kids and they also pay attention to detail which I think is a must in this particular kind of service.
I don't have anything negative to say about them, just positive input!
If you're looking for a new place to switch this is a great choice.
They are located at 1832 East 2nd Street, in Scotch Plains with the phone number (908) 322 6538.
These were my picks of the week and, as you can see for yourself, we DO have a good variety of local businesses and we CAN help our community by shopping local.
Where are you going to be shopping during this next week?
I've got this thing with butternut squash - I love it when it's cooked by me but whenever I ask for it when I'm eating out it seems to never come out quiet as good! I do love to play with different flavors and textures and I think that's what so amazing about cooking - you can always try something out of the ordinary, think outside the box: in most cases it works out pretty darn well!
This was a side dish that I tried while I was still on my Whole30. It goes perfectly well with meat, either grilled or roasted and, as a plus, the kids had the apples and walnuts as a dessert and it was a hit! They are not fans of squash but they tried it, as I always make sure they do every time I cook up something new and different. It's extremely important to expose them to all kinds of foods and ingredients and they will only know if they like it by trying it, right?
1 butternut squash
5 medium apples
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 - Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2 - Start by preparing the butternut squash: cut it in half with a well sharped knife. Peel the squash and hollow the inside of each half and discard the seeds. Put the squash in a baking tray and cut some deep cuts (not going all the way through) like seen in the pictures. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and finish with the freshly chopped parsley.
3 - Evenly distribute the olive oil between the two squash halves. I use the spray bottle which makes it a lot easier to control the amount of fat I'm using in my cooking. It''s my usual way of getting the fat in my roasted veggies too, the spray is wonderful and you won't get too much fat in your cooking.
4 - Prepare the apple mix: wash the apples and cut them in quarters. Take off the seeds and stems and cut in big chunks or slices, whichever you prefer. Place the apples in a bowl and drizzle the lemon juice to help prevent the oxidation on the apple. Add the cinnamon and the chopped pecans and mix everything really well.
5 - Place the apple mix on the baking tray alongside the squash and bake for about 35 minutes or until the butternut squash gets golden as well as the apples. Don't cut the apples in small pieces or you'll end up with burnt apples! Not good!
As you can see, this recipe is extremely simple and can serve as a side for so many dishes or as an add-on to a simple salad and turn it into something completely different! If you're not doing a Whole30 round you can also drizzle some honey right at the end of the cooking time to give it a sweet natural touch and it'll turn out perfect too!
Next time I'll add some more nuts and apples to make sure that I have enough to eat this as a side and to have enough dessert for my kids! They went through this like crazy - better have the sweet tooth satisfied with some fruit and nuts than with some high sugar candy, right?
Since wrapping up my first Whole30 I found out several things about the effect that different foods have on me. I found out, among other things, that gluten IS the trigger to my migraines: I used to have 2-3 each week and I'm down to one a month which is amazing! This discovery allowed me to change the way I eat in order to control something that was really disturbing and disruptive to my daily life.
Coincidentally, I was contacted by Cappello's brand to whip up some recipes with their gluten-free products! They offer a great range of product, from pizza to pasta and cookie dough. Guess I won't be missing anything on my gluten-free diet! I decided to start with the gluten-free gnocchi because I've always wanted to try them but ended up never doing it. I can only say one thing: PERFECT!
This little golden clouds of puffiness were an absolute delightful meal, paired with roasted veggies that have now a precious place in my daily food routine. Getting them cooked and then crispy by sauteing them in garlic ghee was the perfect choice and resulted in a crunchy outside and a soft and creamy inside - I'm serious, you must try these gnocchi!
Ingredients (3 servings):
1 package of Capello’s gluten-free gnocchi
1 acorn squash
½ butternut squash
4 leaves of Lacinato kale
15 fresh wild-caught shrimp
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp new bae seasoning (I used the Primal Palate one)
1 tbsp garlic ghee (I used the 4th and Heart one)
1 – The first thing to do is to start on roasting the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2 - Wash the acorn squash and cut it in half, remove the seeds and cut thin slices. Peel the butternut squash and dice it finely.
3 – Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray some olive oil on it and place the veggies on top. Season with a bit more olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and the fresh thyme leaves. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the veggies are cooked (time may vary according to the oven). Midway through the cooking time toss the veggies around so they get evenly cooked on both sides.
4 – Now, start working on those beautiful gnocchi. Get a big pan, fill it with filtered water and take it to a boil. When the water is boiling add the gnocchi and keep moving them around every 30 seconds or so, just like recommended in the package. When the gnocchi float that’s when you know they’re cooked through!
5 – Melt the garlic ghee on a pan and add the strained gnocchi. Let them brown and get the taste from the garlic ghee which is amazing! This process takes about 6-8 minutes but make sure to keep shaking the gnocchi around the pan, so they get brown all over – this step will give a wonderful crispiness that goes amazingly well with the creaminess of the inside of the gnocchi!
6 – When the gnocchi are golden remove them from the pan and cook the shredded kale for about 4 minutes, just enough time to get it flavored but not soggy. Add the gnocchi back to the pan. Turn the heat off.
7 – The last thing to do is to cook the shrimp. Season them with new bae seasoning and just grilled them on a bit of olive oil for just a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and reserve to drain any liquid that may come off.
8 – Assemble your dish: add the butternut squash to the pan where you have the gnocchi with the kale and plate each serving on a single serve dish. Add the acorn squash and the shrimp and that’s it! A feast for the yes and for the taste buds!
I can't wait to try the other products by this brand! As I'm writing this blog post I'm having another 6 weeks of soft food diet due to a second gum surgery that I had done. It's always boring to be limited to soups, smoothies, scrambled eggs, mashed banana, apple sauce and steamed fish but...it's necessary! Can't wait too get back to solid food and start creating delicious meals again!
In the meantime I have some tasty suggestions that I've cooked these past few weeks and that I want to share with all of you. Stay tuned for another great recipe on Thursday!