Smoky Blackened Tilapia

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Growing up, I loved to fish. It was one of my favorite ways to spend time with my dad — and his parents, Mammaw and Pappaw, before they passed.  They were big crappie (important note: pronounced “croppy”) fishers, which is still my favorite fish to eat.

My dad and I have clocked many hours at my aunt & uncle’s pond, on the river (for catfish, but no noodling for us, thank you very much!), or–when we could get there, out on the lake, usually angling for bass. I am still filled with peace picturing being out on the water at Pine Creek Lake in SE Oklahoma as the sun rises with a thick mist across the water, surrounded by pine trees.  It never really matters if they’re biting on a day like that.

Having a big fish fry after a morning of fishing was almost as much fun as the fishing itself.  As I’ve gotten older I a) have less time to do the fishing myself, alas, and b) have been trying to find healthier ways to prepare it than the cornmeal frying I grew up with — though I still love a big fish fry now and then. Don’t get me wrong!

Fortunately, I also get my love of all things spicy from my dad’s side of the family, and this blackened tilapia I threw together tonight after some fiddling with different possibilities is simple to make, a really fast meal, and scrumptious!

~Robin

Ingredients:

16 oz. tilapia, 4 fresh fillets (about 4 oz. each when cooked)*

34 tsp. packed light brown sugar

1 ½ tsp. garlic salt

½ tsp. to 1 1tsp. ground cayenne pepper (depending on desired spiciness—1.5 was pretty warm, but I love spicy food so that was perfect for me)

2 T. smoked paprika (I like McCormick’s organic)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients except fish and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Pat fillets of fish dry with a paper towel.

Sprinkle seasoning on the fillets of fish generously & coat evenly on both sides.

Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a large skillet on med-high heat.

Cook all fillets for about 3 1/2 minutes on the first side, then 3 minutes on the 2nd side — or until cooked through, opaque white and flaky.

Weight Watchers Info.: 5 SmartPoints for 4 oz. fillet.

*If you have frozen fillets, be sure to thaw and pat dry with a paper towel before you begin cooking.

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Spicy Roasted Cauliflower – Two Ways (Spiced & Buffalo Style)

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Spiced Cauliflower

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Buffalo Cauliflower

Posted by Erin

Both these cauliflower recipes are pretty much on repeat in my house.  Raw cauliflower?  Nope.  But roasted cauliflower is amazing!  I like it with several different seasoning variations but these two are my favorite. Both my kids even like the spiced one… one insists on dipping in ranch dressing but I still consider it a win!  My son will eat the buffalo version, but I’m not going to lie — it’s too spicy for my daughter.  My husband, Albert, and I love both versions.  Sometimes we make the buffalo version and just eat it all by itself (with Ranch) for lunch.

For our fellow Weight Watchers, the Buffalo version is zero SmartPoints.  The Spiced version is 4 Smartpoints for the entire recipe (divide as you wish or eat the whole thing) because of the olive oil.  You could easily make it zero SmartPoints as well by coating the cauliflower in cooking spray instead of oil.

Spiced Cauliflower Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, washed, stem & leaves removed, cut into small pieces

1 T. olive oil

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. paprika (I used smoked paprika but you can use either.)

¼ tsp. chili powder

¼ tsp. onion powder

¼ tsp. garlic salt (regular table salt is fine if that’s all you have)

dash of cayenne pepper

nonstick cooking spray

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Spray a large sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.  In a small bowl, combine olive oil and all spices.  Pour spice/oil mixture into a gallon size resealable baggie.  Squish (Yes, that’s a technical term.  Ha!) the oil mixture around to coat the bag.  Open the bag and pour in the cauliflower pieces.  Squish it around again to evenly coat the pieces.  Pour the coated pieces onto the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly into one layer.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the edges & small pieces begin to brown.

 

Buffalo Cauliflower Ingredients:

Cauliflower (one or two heads), washed, stem & leaves removed, cut into small pieces

Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce

Cooking spray

Foil (highly recommend – the cooked-on sauce is hard to scrub off)

Ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping, optional

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Cover a sheet pan with foil.  Coat it with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.  Place cut cauliflower in a gallon size baggie.  Pour in Frank’s wing size, a little at a time, sealing and shaking the bag to coat the cauliflower each time.  Add more if needed, until all the pieces are LIGHTLY coated.  Spread the cauliflower on the prepared sheet pan; roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve with Ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Spicy Italian Chicken & Artichoke Pasta

All four of us love spicy food, and if you do too, you’ll know how annoying it is that most things marked “spicy” in restaurants are really fairly bland.  After many frustrating Italian restaurant visits (thank goodness for Tiramisu), Robin and Barry decided to come up with their own perfect pasta. Barry tinkered in the kitchen, ending up with a hybrid of some favorite Italian dishes.  This creamy, savory pasta is serious comfort food.  And the best part is, we can set some aside for the kids — or guests with low-spice-tolerant palates — and (cayenne!!!) pepper our portions to our hearts’ content.  

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Ingredients:

4-6 chicken tenders, depending on size, diced

1/4 cup canned sliced mushrooms, drained (we use Giorgio)

1/2 cup dry, julienned sun dried tomatoes (thoroughly rinsed if packed in oil)*

1 15-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, then quartered  

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 cloves minced fresh garlic (could use jarred garlic, but we prefer fresh)

3 T. butter

For Sauce:

1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic Alfredo sauce (We use Classico)

1 ½  cups finely shredded parmesan cheese

⅓ cup milk

¼ to ¾ tsp. of cayenne pepper, aka “red pepper” (depending on heat preference)

8 oz. farfalle (bowtie pasta) — half the box of Barilla that we usually use

3-4 sliced green onions

Instructions: 

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*The Bella Sun Luci sun-dried tomatoes pictured here are strongly recommended…far superior to those packed in oil both in terms of mess and flavor as far as we’re concerned, but if you’ve found a favorite that’s in oil, that’ll do too!  We normally do fresh garlic, but this is the jarred brand we use if the pantry is lacking the fresh variety.  If you’ve never bought fresh garlic, it keeps much longer than you’d think.

Prepare farfalle per box instructions.

In a small pot, put all sauce ingredients on low heat, stir occasionally while preparing chicken portion (be sure not to let it stick).  

In a large skillet heat butter and garlic on low. Add chicken and Italian seasoning. Increase heat to medium. When chicken begins to brown, add mushrooms, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, heat on medium high for two to three minutes. Add sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

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At this point, it’s hard not to just eat this as is, but it’s worth the wait to put it all together.

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Serve over farfalle; top with green onions.  We like to add a little more ground cayenne pepper too, both for a touch of color and, of course, some spice.