Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos

Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos (With an Avocado Spread, Tomato and Red Onion Salad, Roasted Bell Peppers, and Slaw) –

I made these for “Taco Tuesday” this week. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it worked out perfectly! I air fried the tilapia with a blackening seasoning. To go with the fish, I made a slaw, a tomato/red onion “salad”, roasted bell peppers, and a smashed avocado spread. For the taco shells, I bought Old El Paso soft taco bowls! (By the way, greatest invention ever to avoid spilling the taco guts.)

This another one of those recipes you can so easily adapt to your preferences. For example, you could try shrimp or chicken instead of fish. You could make a salsa or pico de gallo instead of the tomato/red onion salad. Use sour cream instead making an avocado spread. Use plain diced avocado. The possibilities are endless, but you probably already know this if you are any sort of taco or fajita lover!

I eyeballed all the amounts, so I’ve put some estimates, but just make sure to adjust based on your taste and how much you intend to make. I made 8 tacos, not completely filled.

I seasoned the tilapia (.72 lb) first. We have probably 3 different blackening seasonings, so I just used the first one I found. It happened to be the one pictured below that Jake and I bought on a trip to PA one holiday season to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I rubbed both sides until lightly/moderately coated. I laid the filets in the air fryer and set it aside while I prepared the other ingredients.

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I then prepared the avocado spread. I scooped out the flesh of one avocado into a small bowl. I then scooped about 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, seasoned with salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp lime juice, and then mashed it all together really well. I was originally going to make whipped avocado, but I didn’t feel like “whipping” out the blender (See what I did there? Haha.) I topped with some cracked black pepper and paprika for looks. 😊

Next, I prepared the tomato and red onion salad. I diced a few campari tomatoes I had on hand (they’re small) and sliced about 1/4 of a small red onion thinly. I tossed the tomatoes and onion with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, a 1/8 tsp cumin, and a 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar.

On to the slaw. I bought a pre-made coleslaw mix. It’s not seasoned with anything, but the cabbage and carrots are already cut up, which is so convenient! I used about 1 cup of the mix. For the dressing, I mixed up 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin, and two minced garlic cloves. I mixed this rapidly to get the mixture a little creamy (due to the olive oil). I imagine you could throw this into the blender, too, to get it a little creamy. Once the dressing was done, I tossed with the coleslaw.

I prepared the bell peppers. At our local grocery stores they sell “stoplight” peppers. They are called that because each package contains one red, one yellow, and one green bell pepper. I sliced up about a quarter of each pepper into 1/2″ strips. I baked in the oven with olive, salt, and pepper until tender.

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I left air frying the fish for last so that it was freshly cooked when we were ready to eat. I hate when fish finishes early and I’m forced to reheat or keep warm and then it’s overcooked! I purposely broke up the filets so we could put smaller pieces into our tacos.

I served everything a la carte style so we could make our own tacos. This would be a fun dish for the kids with their favorite types of toppings – just be sure to make extra because they will gobble it up!

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Sincerely,
Fu’d

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Forget the Chinese Takeout – A Simple Beef and Broccoli Dish

Now, I know there is no substitute for the really salty, greasy, and guilty pleasure of Chinese takeout food, but this beef and broccoli dish is sure to please. Plus, it is really easy to make. I finished prepping this dish way faster than most of my other weeknight meals. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

Before I walk through how I cooked up this recipe, here are a few comments:

  • This first note isn’t really a tip, but more so a testament to how good this was. Jake came in from doing yard work and the first thing he said was, “Wow, that smells really good!”
  • In reading through the recipe comments (and I agree) that substituting the protein for chicken or something else would still work perfectly. So, you should definitely try this with something other than beef if that’s what you prefer.
  • I had also asked Jake later what he thought could be improved about the dish and he said more sauce. For me, the amount of sauce was perfect, but I did see other comments of people who doubled the sauce. So, if you’re a sauce lover, go ahead and double it.

The ingredients you need are listed in the recipe at the link above, but here’s what I did:

First, I sliced up the steak tips into about 1/4″ slices. You could even do thin strips if you prefer smaller pieces and more sauce-to-beef ratio. 🙂

I then prepared the mixture that would coat the beef, giving it a little more texture with the cornstarch for pan frying and some flavor with the garlic powder. I liked that this was a liquidy mixture, rather than some other recipes that simply tell you to toss the meat with cornstarch.

In most cases, I like to prepare the later ingredients before I start cooking. So, I took this opportunity to cut up the broccoli, begin cooking the rice, and prepare the soy sauce mixture.

I used a deep pot because I wanted room to toss the beef and broccoli in the sauce, without accidentally flipping everything out of a pan. I heated up oil and cooked the beef until I had some browning on the outside and the pieces were cooked through. I took the beef out and put in a bowl to set aside. (I usually like to place cooked food in the microwave, not turned on, to keep warm.)

I then cooked the broccoli. I actually also decided to add some sliced mushrooms, which was a nice addition. When done, I tossed the beef back in and added the sauce mixture I had prepared earlier. I tossed to coat everything and let that cook for a few minutes.

Then, it was done! My rice had also finished cooking in that time. Just plate and serve! I happened to have some sesame seeds on hand, so I sprinkled some on top as a garnish. Since I love sriracha, I also added a drizzle of it on my dish.

This was very yummy and I would definitely make this again!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Pitas

This was soooooo good! I made this meal once before, but I changed it up a little this time. I used a recipe from Pinterest (surprise, surprise) as my basis. (Here’s the link to the recipe.) The results were delicious. It was really filling, but I was still craving more.

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The Filling

The recipe calls for two heads of cauliflower. I had one large head, which was more than sufficient for Jake and I who like to eat a lot. First, I cut up the large head of cauliflower and cut off/discarded any really large pieces of the stem. Feel free to keep them if you like, but I wanted to make sure I had enough room filling the pitas to use all the florets.

The recipe also calls for 2 cans of chickpeas. I only used one – drained and rinsed. I put the drained chickpeas on a paper towel, took another paper towel and patted them down, then rubbed my hands around a bit over the towel and chickpeas. This is so I could dry them a bit and also loosen some of the clear shells around them. I picked those away and discarded them. (Don’t go crazy doing this – you could be there forever and drive yourself nuts trying to peel them all away.)

I decided to add a few chopped mushrooms, as well.

With all that in a large bowl, I drizzled some olive oil and added the seasonings. I mixed it around and did a little taste test. I ended up adding some more Garam Masala. I actually also decided to add some cumin and turmeric.

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I spread the filling out on two large baking sheets so there wasn’t too much overlapping and put them in the oven. I would suggest the middle rack. The recipe calls for the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, but I found that to be too hot – I was getting more of some burnt pieces than browned pieces (and my sensitive smoke detector went off, ugh), so I turned the oven down to 400 degrees Farenheit.

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Jake wanted some shrimp, so I planned for two shrimp per pita. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I then cooked them on the stove with a little butter.

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The Spreads

The Pinterest recipe includes directions on how to make an avocado cilantro lime dip. I didn’t feel like going through the trouble of all that, so I made a modified version. It was just one avocado smashed with some plain Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, lime juice, and some thinly sliced red onion.

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The other spread was a carrot sriracha hummus that I bought at our local grocery store. The brand name on the hummus is Lantana.

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The Pita

I also just bought pita from our local store. The brand is Joseph’s – it is a Flax, Oat Bran, and Whole Wheat pita and only 50 calories per pita! These were the smaller kind – only about 5″ in diameter or so. Feel free to use whatever pita you want, though – most kinds should work great.

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I assembled all of the pitas ahead of time, mostly to get a good photo!  Otherwise, I would’ve served it tacos or a fajita style so that we could create our own custom pitas with all the fixings. In the end, this was really good and really filling. Although I wanted more of this, I didn’t even want snacks after dinner, like I usually do! 😉

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Happy eating!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

A Simple Meatless Monday Meal – Salmon, Delicata Squash, and Cabbage

This meal is really simple, but easy and delicious enough to start the week off right. I just happened to decide to pair these 3 things (salmon, squash, and cabbage) together, but you can mix and match these with almost anything. For example, you could use chicken or steak instead of fish. You could also even use the cabbage or squash in some sort of Buddha Bowl with a grain.

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Salmon

This was a piece of Norwegian salmon that I grabbed at the local grocery store. There was nothing to this prep – just some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little fresh parsley on top. If you don’t have fresh herbs, use dried herbs or skip the herbs all together! It is still delicious simply seasoned.

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I air fried the fish, as I normally do. (I find the cleanup with this method a bit easier, but feel free to cook in the oven or stove top.) We usually have one larger piece that we split into two portions. This gives me the perfect opportunity to cut it down the middle with my spatula after cooking a while to check for doneness. It should begin the flake easily with a fork. Also, this salmon had the skin on, but once the salmon is cooked, I can usually lift the salmon apart from the skin without much difficulty. I just make sure the wedge the spatula carefully between the fish meat and the skin. If you usually cook fish, this may be known territory!

Cabbage

This is the way my mom used to make cabbage when I was growing up. It’s as easy as it can get. Jake really likes it and sometimes requests it. I just slice some carrot with a knife. If you don’t want to do this by hand, just buy already-sliced carrots or use the slicer attachment on a food processor. I also then slice some cabbage. In fact, I think a lot of grocery stores sell a “cole slaw” mix with exactly what you need. In a pan on the stove, I add a little oil, the cabbage and carrots, and some salt and pepper to taste. I then sauté it on medium heat until tender.

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Delicata Squash

I got so excited this past weekend when delicata squash was back at the grocery store. To prepare this, I cut off the ends and sliced it in half the long way. I scooped out the seeds from each half and then cut in approximately 1/2″ semi-circle slices. Because the squash is a bit lighter and sweeter in flavor (in my opinion), I like to play up the sweet and savory. I toss the slices in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a dash of cinnamon powder.

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I ended up air frying the squash until tender, but in the past, I’ve also baked it in the oven.  If baking, I’d set the oven to  375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 15 minutes, flipping about half way through. Every oven is different, so just adjust as needed. Poke it with a fork part way through. If it’s tender, then it’s done.

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These are some great ideas and are easy enough that you can do them any day of the week!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Bone-In Pork Chops and Cabbage with a Mustard Cream and Leek Sauce

My friend, Kami, is one of the only people from college that I still stay in touch with. She and I have a sort of cosmic mental connection, meaning I can say something extremely vague and she’ll still know exactly what I’m talking about.

She very recently sent me a text message with the picture of a recipe that looked like it was in a newspaper. I looked it up and it was from the Boston Glob. (Here’s the link to the newspaper article/recipe.) She also sent me a photo of her real life and successful attempt at the recipe. Wow, did it look delicious! I hope she doesn’t mind (and if we are channeling that cosmic connection, then I don’t think she will), here’s her photo below.

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She sent me the recipe because she thought it’s something I’d be interested in as a nice fall transition recipe.

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So, here comes the next part…Jake and I were at the grocery store today. I hadn’t previously mentioned this recipe to him and he literally said to me, “Do you want to get bone-in pork chops?” Heck, yes! I immediately pulled up the image of the recipe and scrambled around to get all the ingredients we needed.

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Kami was also nice enough to tell me some of the things that she thought weren’t great or that she would do differently next time, so I was able to incorporate those.

First, she mentioned that the pork chops weren’t as juicy as she would like. I interpreted this as they were a little dry or overcooked. When I told Jake about this recipe, he had immediately asked if it called for the pork chops to be brined (as he normally likes to do). I originally intended not to brine the pork chops because the recipe didn’t say to do so, but after thinking about Kami’s comment, I decided to do this. I used 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of salt. I also added a tiny bit of the sliced leaks, parsley, garlic powder, and pickling spices. I think all that’s really needed for a basic brine is just the water and salt. I did this for the minimum of 30 minutes.

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Second, Kami mentioned that she wished she had some buttered noodles or potatoes on the side. Based on what I saw of the recipe, I could definitely see this. All the recipe really has is the meat, vegetables, and sauce. Some sort of starch would complement it nicely. We happened to have bought little potatoes at the grocery store, so I halved them and air fried them with a little bit of oil, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.

Lastly, Kami didn’t mention this, but when I mixed the heavy cream, grainy mustard, and dijon mustard, I thought that the amount of mustard was a little small. So, I squirted extra of both kinds of mustard into the mix. This was more of my own preference because I like that mustard-y taste.


Here are some photos of the cooking process.

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This was a really great and hearty dish. Unlike usual, I couldn’t finish my meal! (That’s a first! 🙂 ) If I make this again, I’d reduce the cream and perhaps even use light cream instead of heavy cream. I would definitely put this on the list to make again, though. If you’re looking for an impressive dish for a special occasion, this is it.

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Thanks, Kami, for sharing!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Homemade Italian – Pasta & Garlic Bread

I’ve already written other blog posts on a homemade pasta with infused tomato puree and one about my first experience making (french) bread. This time, I experimented with a couple of new recipes I found on Pinterest. Since I’m new to the pasta and bread making game, I think I’ll have to keep trying and tweaking recipes before I get those “signature” dishes!

The French Bread

I tried a french bread recipe that only requires one rise instead of two. Since I had decided to make it last minute and I happened to have rapid rising yeast on hand, I thought it was worth a try. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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The recipe was for two loaves, but I only wanted one, so I cut all the ingredient amounts in half. This was easy to do because a lot of the amounts look like they had probably originally been doubled. For example, it calls for two packages of fast rising yeast, so instead, I simply used one.

This was way better than the last french bread I made. The outside got crustier and the inside was fluffier and less dense. Plus, it took a fraction of the time to prepare. I actually used bread flour instead of regular all purpose flour and let the mixer knead the dough a little longer than the last time. These things may have contributed to the better bread. However, although the inside of the bread was fluffier, I felt it still had a tiny bit of toughness to it when pulling it apart. I don’t think this has anything to do with the recipe. Just some alterations I need to make to what I’m doing.

So, I prepared the dough, let is rest covered for 10 minutes. I then made it into a loaf shape, only sort of using the jelly roll method. I did it roughly because I didn’t want that spirally inside that I got last time. I let the loaf sit covered on a oiled baking sheet for about 35 minutes. I took this opportunity to prep a couple other things and take a shower! I also timed it so that the pasta noodles were drying at this time.

Also, I decided to bake it half way without a wash or butter brushed over it. Then once it was a little bit browned, I took it out, brushed some butter over the top and let it cook the rest of the way. This helped give it that nice golden brown. Similar to last time, I also only cooked the loaf part-way through before I took it directly off the baking sheet and put it on a baking rack because the bottom browned before the rest of the loaf.

I let the bread cool a little. I used half of it to make garlic bread. The garlic bread was just melted butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper, dried basil, freeze-dried chives, and parmesan sprinkled on top. I let those pieces broil in the oven just so they got brown on top and little toasty. This was just a quick solution for making garlic bread. If I hadn’t already been making a bunch of other stuff and had fresh herbs, I’d make this delicious herb garlic bread recipe I found years ago. (I’ll save that for another time :))

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Bonus, I sliced up a couple of pieces of leftover bread this morning to make toast. I topped them with some smashed avocado, tomato, and sprinkled with pink Hawaiian salt. YUM!

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The Pasta

The pasta recipe was a very basic one and had 5 stars with 46 reviews at the time. I spiced it up a little but sprinkling in a little dried parsley and dried basil. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

The verdict: The pasta was fine and is probably a good traditional recipe if that’s what you want. My noodles ended up being too thick, so they were a bit dense and chewy. I think it’s because I didn’t spend enough time rolling the pasta out before using the fettucine cutter. I’d like to give this recipe another try because I really think this was my own fault and I’d like an easy go-to pasta recipe.

The Sauce

I had a can of san marzano tomatoes in the pantry, so I dumped the contents into a large pot and used my mashed potato smasher to break up the tomatoes. I added quite a few seasonings, but I was just experimenting with the flavor. If you’re looking for a simple sauce, you don’t even need to add anything. Here’s what I used to add some depth to the sauce flavor:

  • sliced garlic
  • dashes of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper
  • one bay leaf
  • a little bit of chopped onion
  • a little water and chicken bouillon powder
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • dash of parmesan
  • tomato cooking wine
    • We had just gone on a winery tour last week and purchased this tomato cooking wine. It has a subtle flavor and perhaps it drowned in the sauce. I think this would be really nice to use in other dishes, perhaps to deglaze a pan of mushrooms or something!

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I also wanted to add some protein to the dish, so I pressure cooked some chicken we had in the freezer and shredded it. (Since I didn’t season it, the other chicken breast was cut up and saved for the pups!) I put the shredded chicken directly into the sauce. I also air fried some frozen shrimp and peas and put those into the sauce last minute, just before serving.


I won’t lie; this was overall a lot of work. But since I like cooking and it was a leisurely Saturday night, I enjoyed it. This would also be great for a date night if you and your significant other ever like to cook together.

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I hope you give some of those recipes a try and share some of your lessons learned, as well!

Sincerely,
Fu’d

Tofu In A Honey Soy Sauce

I’ve had a container of tofu in my fridge for a few weeks now and we finally decided to use it last night. If you don’t normally like tofu, this might change your mind.

We were staying in for a cozy Friday night and didn’t want to binge out with totally unhealthy food. (Although, I cant lie, we really wanted pizza or Chinese takeout.) We usually don’t do much with the tofu – either stir fry it with other vegetables, use it in a fried rice, or we’ve also made tofu fries a couple times. This time I found a recipe for a honey soy tofu. The recipe had directions for making a really simple sticky sauce with soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, pepper, and Chinese five spice. (Here’s the link to the recipe.)

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I had forgotten, but the tofu that I bought was already cubed. That was a win in terms of effort, but I think when I make this again, I’d prefer to buy the block of tofu and cut it myself. The only reason is that the already-cubed tofu is a little small. Bigger cubes would make it a bit easier to eat and probably make for a better ratio of sauce to each piece of tofu. (Sounds so scientific, doesn’t it?)

The recipe calls for crisping up the tofu on the stove. I have never found cooking it on the stove or baking it in the oven to be easy or effective to get that “fried” look or consistency. The only thing that works for me is the air fryer. So, that’s what I used. I didn’t bother using any seasoning at all because I knew I’d already have plenty of flavor from the sauce it was going to be tossed in.

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In the meantime, I prepped the sauce per the recipe. The only difference is since I wasn’t cooking the tofu on the stove, I prepared and mixed the sauce right into the sauce pan (versus a separate container). Once the tofu was done, I put it in the sauce and turned the stove on to medium. Cooking down the sauce didn’t take long at all – really only five minutes or so until it became a more sticky consistency.

On the side, I made a few things:

First, I made kale chips. So simple. Just tear the kale leaves into smaller pieces, place on a baking sheet so they don’t overlap with each other, spray with some olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt. I baked these in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten minutes.

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Second, I was also really excited because I can never usually find already-cooked polenta that is in the tube shape. Jake and I stumbled into a new store yesterday while picking up Whiskey (one of our dogs) from the vet. There it was! So, I grabbed the polenta, sliced up about half of the tube into 1/2″ rounds and air fried until there was a little golden color on top. I think next time I’ll try lightly frying these on the stove so I can get the golden brown color without overcooking the insides and drying it out.

Third, I air fried some mushrooms, just seasoned with some salt, pepper, and paprika. Lastly,  I cut up some ripe avocado that we had on hand.

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Can you tell which one below is mine? Hint: Did I mention that I eat everything with either Sriracha or Frank’s Red Hot? (Haha – I love the spiciness!)

Overall, this was a great weeknight dinner that keeps it healthy and interesting! You could certainly mix up the grain and use farro, brown rice, or quinoa. The vegetables could be spinach, broccoli, etc. These “buddha” bowls are so versatile!

Happy weekend!

Sincerely,
Fu’d