Friday, June 20, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Salmon Patties and a non-Apéritif

When we started our first Whole30, I obsessed with never repeating a dinner for the entire month. I was out to prove to myself and my family that eating real food would not sacrifice variety or taste. While pouring over the book It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, I came across their "No-Fuss Salmon Cakes" recipe. While it sounded tasty to me, I simply could not imagine adhering to the canned salmon and sweet potato ingredients. So I created my own version, and held my breath while my family took a taste.

They rejoiced. They raved. They gobbled up the entire tray and asked for more. It was the only meal I repeated in the 30 days, per their request. I made them at my mother-in-law's house for a party of seven as an appetizer. Two family members requested the recipe.

This is on rotation in our house. And when I say I'm making them, everyone shows up for dinner. They are great as an appetizer, as an entree with a couple of vegetables, or in the early afternoon for brunch with a hockey player.

Mr. Musky loves them leftover, chopped up with scrambled eggs. It sounds weird, but they are absolutely divine as a breakfast food. Here's how I make them:

Salmon Patties  

2 wild caught sockeye salmon filets, about 12 ounces (NOT farm raised! Yuck!)
1 cup sweet potato, cooked
1 egg
1/2 cup almond flour
2 green onions, sliced thinly (white and green parts)
2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh dill
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Ghee or Coconut Oil, melted

Slice the skin off the salmon filets by holding on to the skin with one hand as you slide your knife blade at a 45 degree angle where the skin meets the flesh, salvaging as much of the fish as possible. Chop the fish into small pieces and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (except the ghee) and mix thoroughly.
Welcome your sweet prince to the land of the living - something that occurs around 10:00 daily for a few weeks before summer camp begins. Oh the life of a teenager.
These cakes form best when chilled, so look down at your adoring pooch and ask him, "Wanna go for a walk while the salmon sits in the fridge?"
I just love the Wanna Go look. It slays me every time. Even if he can't walk very far anymore, the look is worth it every single time.

After a 20 minute walk, preheat the oven to 425 degrees, melt some ghee and brush it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, form the salmon mixture into patties and lay them on the baking sheet. Mine were about 2-2.5 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick.
Brush the tops with more ghee, then place in the preheated oven to bake. After 20 minutes flip each patty and bake for 10 minutes more. I turned the broiler on after 30 minutes and watched them closely. I like a very slight char on mine, which only takes a minute or two under the broiler.

Aaahhhh. Brunch is served.
Loving greens these days, I sautéed some spinach in bacon grease with a bit of chopped garlic and a squeeze of lemon as the bed for my patties to rest upon. But they still looked like they were missing something.

Mmmmmm. Now we're talking. My version of jacked up tartar sauce. Earlier in the week I made Baconnaise. It's as ridiculous as it sounds. It's homemade mayonnaise, but made with bacon fat instead of olive oil. Here's a recipe. To that, I added fresh dill, a little garlic powder, diced cornichons, and a few diced capers. When I topped the salmon with my concoction,
crazy, delicious ooziness infused the patties. That baconnaise tartar sauce melted all over them, seeping its goodness into what already is a fan favorite in our house. There'll be more of this stuff in our future, as surely demanded by my brunch partner for the day.
Note there's no spinach on his plate. Nor have I detailed the apéritif for this post. That's because we dined at about 1:00 last Friday, thanks to hockey playoffs. I'm now that mom. I let a sport rule my life and calendar, but not the food that goes into the gullet of my son. You don't want to eat your vegetables? Fine. You can drink them. Check out my birthday gift.
The Blendtec. A five-sided, whirring, pulverizing wonder machine. For a Green Machine Smoothie guaranteed to inject energy into any hockey playing, veggie adverse teenager, I add 1-2 leaves of Kale (minus the tough stalk), 6-7 strawberries, one frozen banana and 8-10 ounces of unsweetened almond milk to the wonder blender. 
Hit smoothie, and watch magic unfold. The trick to get a picky eater to try this? Blindfold him on the first try. DO NOT let him see the color of the smoothie, but make him take a sip. Ask him what he tastes. Strawberry-banana will undoubtedly be his answer. It works like a charm. When he did finally see the color he balked, but I promised him he'd play better.
And thank the stars of irony, he had one of the best games of his life after his first Green Machine Smoothie. He's hooked. It takes him about an hour, but the kid will suck this down and claims that it gives him all kinds of superhero energy on the ice. It's quickly become a ritual before every practice and game. I'm just thrilled that he's getting a solid dose of greens on a semi-regular basis.
My (non) apéritif for our little lunch made use of a mistake I made a few days earlier while using my new toy. I pureed some watermelon and froze it in little ice cube trays, in the hopes of making a frozen watermelon cocktail. The cocktail sucked. It was horrible. Not sure what to do with the remaining watermelon ice cubes, I simply plopped a couple into a fancy glass filled with water, and viola! Tasty water that actually got better with every sip as the cubes melted and infused the water with a slightly sweet, refreshing flavor.

We finally arrived to our version of summer this week. Both kids are tucked safely away at their respective camps, one a Counselor in Training, the other one of the older campers having the time of his life. We are relishing the sound of silence, enjoying some time with good friends, and looking forward to a little vacation in the coming week. More to come!

Try these Salmon Patties. Especially if you're on the Whole30. You'll crave them for the rest of your life. I promise.

XOXO,
Jen





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Bitch Known as Mother Time

I've mentioned this before here, but I don't mind repeating myself. One of my biggest pet peeves is when parents lament, "They grow up so fast. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday they were little babies. I miss them being young."

Barf.

I love seeing my kids grow and stretch their wings. Adventuring out of their comfort zones. Making mistakes, and learning from them. Engaging with us as miniature adults, full of wonderment at the infinite possibilities that lie ahead for them. Do I want to go back to wiping butts and cleaning up messes? No. No, thank you.

I will never tell them in which direction they should go, but I'm here to guide and help them based on the wisdom I've gained myself over the years. When they ask, I'll advise.

And Mr. Musky and I encourage, without forcing them to do anything in the extracurricular world that they'd rather not. Last January, I wrote about watching Jake onstage playing guitar with the other kids at Plainfield School of Rock. During one of our cold-weather Apéritif Fridays, while crackbrained shenanigans unfolded between father and daughter, I encouraged my firstborn.

"Kahley, you can sing."

"Right, Mom."

"No. I mean it. You can REALLY sing. And sing well. Why don't you give School or Rock a try?"

She paused a moment, then agreed. "Sure. Why not?"

And that's what I love about her. Her thoughtful consideration, followed by a willingness to stretch out and dive in. 
Months of practicing ensued. I watched my daughter, my once shy, self conscious little girl, tackle one of the scariest things in life. Worse than public speaking...
...my timid little girl nearly adult daughter, with no prior training, started to sing in front of total strangers.
Leading up to concert day, she stressed out about her songs, knowing that the other lead vocalists were more polished. She compared herself to kids who have prior performance experience, sing daily in their school choir and have had more opportunities to hone their musicality.
But with some words of encouragement, she forged ahead. I reminded her that if she's singing four songs, she'd have a "worst" song, and that's ok. That nobody expects her to sing perfectly, every note on tune, for every song. That as long as she does her best, and gets up there on that stage and pours her very best effort into the experience, then every single person in the audience will appreciate and applaud her.
Was she perfect? No. Did she try her best? Yes. And for me, that made her performance absolutely perfect. It was perfectly her. I even caught her red-handed, laughing and enjoying herself backstage.
When our kids were growing up, Mr. Musky and I sang a little ditty to them at full volume. Those of you my age will remember this one well. Especially if you hail from Chicagoland, as this band originated in our hometown.

"Today is the greatest
Day I've ever known
Can't live for tomorrow
Tomorrow's much too long
I'll burn my eyes out
Before I get out..."

Except...we never got past the first two lines. Because this song was reserved for days like:
  • Early mornings
  • The end of  Christmas Vacation or Spring Break
  • The first day of school. Especially, and most vigorously, the first day of school

So you get the point. My kids loathe this song. We merely have to bellow the word "TO-DAY" and they go batshit. We love it, and belt it with all the exuberance we can muster.

Guess what? Both kids were assigned to "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins.
Oh sweet justice! They wanted to DIE!
Mr. Musky and I just belly laughed. There was nothing in the world like seeing our two kids onstage, together, performing a song that means a little something to us all.
This was actually Kahley's first song...the first few bars she sang. Look at little brother, smiling at her. Encouraging her.
Melt.
From the minute they stepped up to the front of the stage, quiet tears rolled down my cheeks as I gawked and snapped pictures, trying to freeze the moment. I let pure, hardcore, raw emotion overwhelm me. I've never wanted so badly to extend a three minute moment into something longer. For once as a parent, I willed time to stand still. But it didn't. Because Mother Time doesn't give a shit about what we want. She won't keep your babies little, she won't take her time letting them grow up, and she sure as hell won't hit the pause button for a few minutes so I can enjoy watching my kids sing and play guitar.
Not even when they high five one another at the end of the song and walk off the stage together.
But that's ok. Because they mustered the confidence to perform in the first place, then walked off together, onto bigger and better things to conquer. And I'm lucky enough to have a front row seat to watch what happens next.

XOXO,
Jen


Friday, June 6, 2014

Apéritif Friday - NOMAD AM, Frozen Cucumber Mint Mojitos, Guacamole and Proscuitto Wrapped Stuffed Poppers

Last week we invited Adam over for dinner before Jen's big wedding extravaganza weekend. Adam is Mr. Musky's cousin, and he just returned to the USA from a two year hiatus in Asia, where he taught children English in China, climbed mountains and got lost in several countries while absorbing the culture of a unique part of our world.

Along the way he started a blog called Nomad am, found here, while honing his landscape photography skills. Adam is a master. I love his photography and always get a little thrill when he posts something new.

Check out this blog post. I cried laughing when I read it, and knew upon his arrival back to America that we'd invite him over, Apéritif Friday style, for some guacamole and cocktails. Bacteria free.
We also wanted to hog him a little bit. Knowing that we'd be in the presence of 50+ family members for the wedding and wouldn't have a chance to really grill him about his adventures, we invited him over so we could hear first hand about his overseas shenanigans. 

It was a great way to spend a lovely summer evening. Adam, come back anytime and entertain us with more stories! I'll feed you a real meal next time - not just appetizers.

Cucumber Mint Frozen Mojito
1 cup light rum
1/4 cup honey simple syrup (equal parts honey and hot water, mixed)
4 limes, juiced
10-12 mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped into large chunks 
2.5 cups ice cubes

Place the ingredients in order in a high-powered blender and select ice crush. Pour into a fun glass and garnish with a mint sprig and cucumber slice. This is a refreshing drink to cool the summer heat, and it tasted great with spicy appetizers.

Guacamole
4 avocoados, mashed
3 limes, juiced
7 cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño, diced
1 clove garlic, microplaned
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients together, and taste the dip. Add more lime juice or salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or crudités.
Proscuitto Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers
1 lb ground bison (or any other ground meat of your choice)
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ancho chile pepper
7 sun dried tomatoes, diced
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
6 jalapeño peppers
12 slices proscuitto

Melt about two tablespoons of fat in a large sauté pan - I used bacon grease. Brown the bison and  and add the chopped onion, garlic, and seasonings, cooking until the onion is soft and the seasonings are absorbed. Add the tomatoes and cheeses and stir to combine. Slice the peppers lengthwise and carefully remove the membranes and seeds. WASH YOUR HANDS! Don't be like me and rub your eyeball with liquid fire on your fingertips. Stuff the peppers with a considerable amount of the meat mixture, then wrap each half with a slice of proscuitto. Place in an aluminum grill pan and cook over medium high heat on the grill for about 20 minutes, or until the proscuitto is cooked, the peppers are softened and the mixture is heated through. These were definitely spicy (the jalapeños were good 'uns) and tangy thanks to the goat cheese and tomatoes. Enjoy!

Thanks Adam. We had fun listening to your stories!

XOXO,
Jen