Thursday, June 30, 2011

Healthy Homemade Fish Sticks

Phil grew up eating fish sticks on a weekly basis, and he still loves them. However, frozen fish sticks are a little less appealing now that I'm an adult, so I haven't made them in all the years we've been married. SO, when I saw this recipe in the June issue of Cooking Light, I knew I had to try it (website has helpful step-by-step pictures). Don't be deterred by the long ingredients list. Most of them you have on hand, and if you don't you can omit or substitute easily (see my changes in green). Also, I was a little skeptical of the red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, and cumin, thinking that it would be too spicy, but it wasn't spicy at all and would even be kid-friendly. I served the fish sticks with steamed broccoli, fresh tomato slices, and homemade squash casserole. I'll definitely be making these again!

Fancy Fish Sticks

  • YIELD: 4 servings (serving size: about 3 fish sticks, 2 tablespoons sauce, and 1 lime wedge)

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard (such as Zatarain's) I used Dijon b/c I didn't have Creole mustard
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning I used Tony's because it's what I had on hand
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup lager-style beer
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons creamy mustard blend (such as Dijonnaise) I used a blend of mayo & dijon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • large egg whites
  • large egg
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) I used crumbled Ritz crackers
  • 1/3 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels, toasted I omitted and added more crackers
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper I used a dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound halibut or other lean white fish fillets (such as cod or pollack), cut into 4 x 1-inch pieces (about 12 pieces) I used tilapia and it worked great
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • lime wedges

  • 1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cover and chill.
  • 2. Preheat oven to 425°.
  • 3. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, and spread evenly with oil; heat in oven 12 minutes.
  • 4. Combine flour and black pepper in a shallow dish. Combine 1/2 cup beer, mustard blend, lime juice, egg whites, and egg in a shallow dish; stir with a whisk until foamy. Place panko, pumpkinseeds, cumin, and chipotle pepper in a food processor; pulse 20 times or until coarse crumbs form. Place panko mixture in a shallow dish.
  • 5. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt. Working with one piece at a time, dredge fish in flour mixture. Dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture until completely covered.
  • 6. Remove preheated baking sheet from oven; place fish on pan, and return to oven. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork, turning once. Serve immediately with sauce and lime wedges.
  • Sustainable Choice: If Pacific halibut is not available, you can use Alaskan pollack and U.S. Pacific cod as alternatives.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

30 before 30 update

It's been 6 months since I made my 30 before 30 list, so it's time for a little update:

  1. Read through the Bible (or at least be in the process of doing so). In progress. I'm still in Exodus, but am only a couple of chapters away from Leviticus and I've taken lots of detours along the way. I'm okay with it.
  2. Publish something I've written. Hoping to get on this sometime this summer.
  3. Take another big trip with Phil Done...sort of. Probably won't happen with Phil, but I did go to Boston with my Aunt in April, so I'm counting that. :)
  4. Work up the guts to sing karaoke in public. Not counting on this happening, but we'll see...
  5. Journal weekly. Hasn't been weekly, but has been regularly, so I'll take it.
  6. Plant a vegetable garden in our back yard. Done. See the updated picture. I ate raw green beans and cherry tomatoes this week! Still waiting on the peppers & cucumbers to come in. 
  7. Roll my own sushi. Done
  8. Finish typing my grandfather's WWII letters to my grandmother. Also in the plans for the summer.
  9. Learn to change a tire. Not yet.
  10. Donate platelets. Not gonna happen for a while since I'm preggo. 
  11. Find some new teenage girls to invest in since all mine are graduating this year. Done. Have some amazing girls from Samford that I get to hang out with about once a month!
  12. Take more pictures. Working on this. Still a struggle...
  13.  Invest in a bookshelf for our bedroom. Done
  14. Our new reading nook!
  15. Volunteer. Done. Helped with VBS this summer. Not that I'm done for the year, but it's a start!
  16. Go to a Broadway show (doesn't have to be in NYC) Hoping to see Les Miserables (my favorite!) when it comes to Bham this fall!
  17. Actually use my yoga videos. Um...yeah. Hasn't happened. Should probably get on that.
  18. Shop at Whole Foods from time to time. Not yet.
  19. Try at least 4 new restaurants in Birmingham. Done. 
  20. Invest in at least one more piece of art crafted by a friend or family member. Hoping to make this happen at Christmastime...
  21. Snorkel. Another one that probably won't happen. Oh well. 
  22. Get a massage. Or two. Not yet.
  23. Dance at wedding reception (call me crazy, but I hate dancing in public). Done! I slow danced with my 12-year-old brother at my other brother's wedding. Taught him the box step and he was a natural! I have to admit that dancing was his idea, though. :)
  24. Watch a sunset. Or two. Sad that I have to put that on a list. Done. Phil and I spontaneously pulled over at a lookout with our takeout food in hand last weekend. A little taste of heaven. 
  25. Play volleyball. Not yet.
  26. Go camping again with Phil. Not yet.
  27. Ride my bike. Not yet. 
  28. Help a stranger. Not that I remember.
  29. Write a letter to someone who has greatly influenced your life who has no idea the impact they've had. Not yet.
  30. Cook a five-course dinner using all new recipes. Not yet, but several of you have offered to do this with me, so let's get going!
  31. Thank you, Craigslist!
  32. Paint our bedroom a color I like. Done. Changed this one. I decided I was fine with the color, but have been doing a little makeover on the room. Added a bookshelf & chair for a reading nook, moved around some furniture, and hung some pictures. Love it!

So, lots still in the works, but it's nice to have some of them checked off! Let me know if you want to join me for any of them!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Really Big Thing #2: my new niece!

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law brought home their daughter, Finley, from China! She has been longed for and prayed for and loved for so long and it's surreal to have her here. I had the privilege of spending some time with them this week, and it's remarkable how natural she is in their home, to see her smile, to watch her smitten older brothers play with her. She is funny, beautiful, playful, and sweet, and I pray she will know how loved she is by her family, community, and heavenly Father. Welcome home, sweet Fin!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Belated BIG news!

I was on vacation last week, which, for me, means vacation from blogging too, so I'm officially back now and it's time to catch up on some really big things!

Really big thing #1: We're pregnant & just found out this week that we're having a boy! "Most definitely a boy," according to the sonographer. :) Glad it was clear, and it dispelled any irrational fears that our child would be a hermaphrodite. We all have those irrational fears. That was (one of) mine. The ultrasound was amazing, though. Seeing him move around (he's very active), suck his thumb (or pick his was kind of hard to tell), and have a healthy report made him so much more real to us and we were all smiles leaving the room. 

Here are a couple of 4-D shots of him from the ultrasound. Makes it hard to wait to meet him!
Top right is his head w/ eyes, nose, & mouth. Not sure where his hands ended up, but I promise he has arms & hands somewhere too! Phil says it looks like his baby pictures. If so, we're in luck because he was one cute baby!
His boxer pose (and evidence of his arms and hands)! Check out his little foot too!
You might be wondering: why is Cara just now blogging about this really huge thing in her life when she's already halfway through her pregnancy? Good question. I have several answers for you. 
  • Pregnancy is overtly public and intensely personal at the same time. Most of the thoughts I have about being pregnant and being a mom I'm writing in my pen-and-paper journal, for my eyes only. It's just too deep and too intimate to include in a blog like this for the world to see. 
  • The purpose of this blog was to help me write more frequently and to give me an audience (a.k.a. a little motivation to write), and I want to guard against this becoming a blog exclusively about my son. While I'll love him fiercely and will probably want to write about him all the time, I really want to preserve the varied nature of this blog, so you'll probably see frequent posts about him, but not exclusive posts about him. (Disclaimer: for those of you who blog exclusively or often about your children, I think that's wonderful and I love reading about your kids and what you're doing! Keep it up! Also, I may find blogging about my child irresistible once he's in the world, so I'm not making any promises, just sharing my intentions).
  • I honestly couldn't figure out a way to put "We're pregnant" into what I'll call "writer words." In other words, "We're pregnant" sounded too boring for the miracle and mystery of new life, so I was paralyzed as a writer, copped out, and wrote nothing.
On to what you really want to know:
  • Due date: 11/11/11 (best. due date. ever.)
  • Yes, I'm showing, but not that much. Since people have a strange curiosity about preggy pics, I'll include one here, but it's not that exciting. Promise.
  • Names: We have no idea, but when we do, we won't share it until he's born. We're open to suggestions, though, so bring 'em on!
Oh, and here's what my mom gave Phil & me for Mother's Day and Father's Day. We were thinking about wearing them on a date soon to see if we can get a free dinner out of it. :) 

Really big thing #2 coming later...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Banana-chocolate chip muffins

It's summer, and that means that I'm engaging in a little cooking therapy since I'm a free woman for a couple of months. Always a sucker for new recipes, I found one this weekend for banana chocolate chip muffins that now has a permanent place in my recipe box. I was making them for our college class, and I demanded the following of my recipe search: 1) it must take 30 minutes or less start to finish, and 2) I must have all the ingredients on hand. Check and check. This recipe is quick, easy, and oh-so-delicious!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
(shamelessly taken from

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm with butter.

I didn't have any plain yogurt on hand, but I did have vanilla yogurt, so I substituted that and omitted the vanilla extract and it tasted great!

Warning: this Chex mix IS addicting

I have lots of big, exciting things to blog about, but for now, I leave you with one of my favorite easy recipes--perfect for a crowd or just to have around to munch on for a few days (if you can last that long). The best part: it takes 15 minutes or less, start to finish! Can't beat that.

Enough stalling. Here's the recipe, straight from my mama's kitchen. While she didn't make up this recipe, I have no idea where it came from, and since I've eaten it from her kitchen my whole life, it's now "hers."

Mom's Chex Mix
8 cups (1 box) Quaker Oat Squares cereal 
1-1/2 cups thin pretzel sticks
1-1/2 cups peanuts
3/4 cups butter or margarine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

In 4-quart microwavable bowl, microwave butter/margarine on high 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until melted; stir in cheese and seasoning. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until well coated. Microwave on high 6-7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on wax paper to cool. Store in tightly covered container or 1-gallon Ziploc bag.

We don't love peanuts at our house, so I usually just add extra pretzels and omit the peanuts. The combination of sweet and salty is perfection! My mouth is watering just thinking about this stuff. I made some this weekend for VBS...only half of it made it to church today. :) Enjoy every delectable bite!