Fish! Light, healthy and packed with Omega fatty acids!

I have fond memories of eating fish and chips with malt vinegar as a child. I still love fish and feel great that I am getting lots of Omega fatty acids that are good for me. I am very careful about mercury levels and the eco-friendly/health of the fish and oceans. So, I use  the website by Monterey Bay Aquarium http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx to check the best fish to buy and which ones to avoid. This changes constantly, so bookmark it and check it every month or at least every quarter when the season changes. A visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of my favorite things to do, so take the kids and have a great time and learn a lot. The films they show are excellent and very informative while being mesmerizing and fascinating!

When shopping for fish, I always go as close to the water/source as possible! If I can get fish fresh off a boat all the better. Some shopping tips: fish should always smell like the ocean, if it smells fishy it is old, leave it there. If the head is still attached, the eyes should be clear and bright not foggy or white. It should be firm and bounce back to the touch not be soft and mushy. Ask the fish monger what is fresh that day. Most fish is delivered M-F, so Sunday may not be the best night to have fish-ask the store/fish monger.

I keep a little cooler in my car for fish/ meat, and ask the store of a bag of ice or put my frozen block into my cooler when I am leaving my house to go shopping. I learned to do this when I lived in the desert and the summer temperatures climbed to 120F degrees! Even if it is not this hot, remember the optimal bacterial growth is between 40Fdegrees and 140degrees! So unless you live at the poles, you need to get the food to your refrigerator that is between 36-38 degreesF as soon as possible. Ice chests help, but are not usually that cold. Be safe and avoid food borne illness.

Since I live near the ocean, I am not a fan of frozen fish, but some people love it. It is very eco-friendly and if you live far from the ocean(especially in a hot climate) it is a good way to purchase fish. Most frozen fish is frozen at sea and air shipped to the distributor- ask.

I suggest that you purchase the fish the day you want to eat it or freeze it the same day you purchase it. Do not keep fresh uncooked fish for longer than 2 days. Remember so see my cookbook Hints and Professional Tips section on the safety of food handling. Always defrost in a pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator .

I love all kinds of fish. It is a nice thing to eat after last weeks hearty Buffalo Stroganoff! We went to dinner at some friends home and we cooked Black Sable, Black Cod  or Butterfish and it was so delicious. It was white, tender and melted in our mouths. I can see why it is called Butterfish since the texture is so buttery minus the butter! I seasoned it with salt and pepper and shook the 1 inch fillets in a light dusting of Gluten-free Oat Flour http://mtmonstermunchies.com/?a=gfoats or Rice flour and sautéed them in a pan with oil for 4-5 minutes per side, only turning once. The skin was left on and was delectably crispy and mild-and packed with nutrients.  I set the fish aside and poured Sauvignon Blanc, a squeeze of lemon, lemon zest and capers into the pan and reduced it by half and then poured it over the fish and served immediately! Alongside we had sautéed Kale(pg.86) and Scalloped Potatoes(pg.90) and Double Chocolate Chip Cookies(pg. 206). Yum!

Once in a while I indulge in Fried Fish-this weeks Recipe of the Week with French Fries. Kids, big and small, love this.  Cod is my favorite for this recipe. The key is to be sure the oil is hot enough, 360 degrees so it forms a quick crust/seal around the food so the oil cannot be absorbed. It is when the oil is not hot enough that a seal cannot form and the food will soak up the oil and you have greasy food! Yep, it’s true…try it. Yes, there will be some oil, of course, so just drain the food on a paper bag and dab with paper towels to remove the excess.

Fish is full of Omega oils and low in calories. Yes, we must be careful of the heavy metals too. So, that is why I rotate what I eat and incorporate variety. I got on a salmon kick about 20 years ago. There was a little fish shop down the hill from my house and I could get fresh caught salmon(doesn’t even taste fishy and smells like the ocean). I had learned to make Hollandaise sauce and went crazy and could not touch or eat this fish for years, but am happy to say I love it and developed a delicious dairy-free Hollandaise sauce(pg.100).

I will be writing more about Omega fatty acids and fish later. We do not consume enough fish to get all the health benefits of Omega fatty acids we need.  For more information you can visit www.nordicnaturals.com I love their products and do feel better since I’ve been taking them. I alternate between the flavored liquids and capsules. When using the liquid(comes in an array of flavors) I put 1 teaspoon-1Tablespoon into a shot of fresh Orange juice and chase it with more OJ-not bad. Do not blend it as the structure and benefits will be compromised.  The kids gummies are yummy!

Milk Alternatives-Hemp,nuts, rice etc…

In my cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem, the recipes contain milk alternatives such as  Almond Milk. I decided to try all the various milk alternatives such as Hemp, quinoa/millet/amaranth, soy, rice, various nuts, and I found that I really like most of them, but some I like better than others.

I am not a big fan of soy for many reasons-mostly because we get too much of it. If you do choose soy, it is best in its natural form-Organic Edamame beans. Be sure that you purchase Non-GMO or Organic soy. If you want to know more see the film Food Inc.

My new favorite milk alternative is Hemp byTempt Living Harvest. Why? It tastes good and is very high in Omega 3 and 6. Hemp has no known allergens, and is a valuable source of calcium(40%),  protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin E, iron and zinc. It is FREE of dairy,nuts, soy, gluten and cholesterol. It has no trans fats, is low in sodium and is vegan, Kosher and Non-GMO! I buy the Unsweetened Original, but it also comes in vanilla and chocolate. It is not inexpensive, so I buy it on sale and stock up. You can find it in health food stores.

Tempt now makes Ice “Cream”-a non-dairy frozen dessert, but I have yet to try it. I am parital to my Ice “Cream” recipes because I have found the texture of my recipes to be closer to that of the real thing than other alternatives. I do buy Coconut Bliss when I don’t have time to make my own. Yesterday, I made a batch of Vanilla Ice “Cream” and it only took me 1 hour and 4-8hours to set-well worth it!

I alternate each week with a different alternative for economic reasons and health reasons. I developed my wheat allergy due to overexposure, and the last thing I want to do is become allergic/sensitive to any of my alternatives! So I alternate between Almond, Hemp, and Hazelnut. Occasionally I will drink rice milk or non-GMO soy milk when nothing else is available when I am out.

Hazelnut is so delicious plain or chocolate! Try it in my Hot Chocolate recipe for an Italian version-Che buono! Hazelnuts are very anti-inflammatory-Dr. Perricone and many others recommend them. Hazelnut milk is high in calcium(30%), vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin E. You can make your own Hazelnut or Almond Milk from my cookbook too-use organic nuts to avoid pesticides. Pacific Natural Foods makes it and it is Kosher and Gluten Free.

You can find these alternatives in boxes on the store shelves. They do not need to be refrigerated until opened, and last 7-10 days once opened and kept in the refrigerator. I take the individual ones on the road-great for vacation or when I only need a small amount in a recipe. I have been using these alternatives in my breakfast smoothies with a small amount of coconut milk for the creamy mouth feel. A sure way to loose weight is to drink an 8 oz smoothie in place of breakfast or lunch with the soy lecithin(see blog post) which breaks down stored fat-especially in the belly!

Do not use these alternatives for infants because their is not enough of the proper balance of nutrition for them, but it’s great for kids and adults. So, go buy some boxes of these Unsweetened versions of milk alternatives and find your own favorites-chill them and do a taste comparison both alone and in smoothies. See Recipe of the Week for my smoothie. Come back next week to read about my favorite new cream alternative!

Have fun and Be Well,  Chef Lauren