Monday, December 3, 2012

A Countdown to Christmas: Day 3 and our Favorite Dinner

Hi everyone! Today is Day 3 of our Countdown to Christmas. (If you're just chancing by, you can read more about it here.)

Well, today was definitely not our typical December day here in Chicago. We reached a humid 70 degrees! Since we didn't have a ton of time for out of the ordinary activities today I was hoping to do something quick, like "enjoy a cup of hot cocoa." But sitting in the dining room with no socks on and the windows open just didn't seem like the right setting. So when Alora and I were out grocery shopping, I spotted these - seasonal pomegranates!

Today's activity was to enjoy a tasty treat that only comes around during the holiday season and it was probably Alora's favorite and most engaging activity yet.

In case you're new to the world of pomegranates, they are the perfect mixture of sweet and tart, juicy and crunchy.  I think I had my first pomegranate only 3 years ago so I had to do some "research" to find out the best way to get at them. They are not the easiest to prepare, but it turns out they make a great time filler for kids. Here's what we did:

 Cut off the top.

Make slits about 2/3 of the way down the sides then pull it apart into chunks. It's best to do this part over or in a big bowl of cold water.

 Then you just start picking and popping the seeds (fruit) off of the rind. The water helps to keep the juice from making a huge mess, but even more important, it makes this step so much easier.

 The seeds sink to the bottom and the rind floats to the top. Once you have all of your seeds separated you just scoop off the floating rind and then drain the seeds.


Alora thought the new fruit and the whole process was quite a treat.

Our pomagranates made the perfect dessert to one of our favorite dinners. And since I haven't shared a recipe in ages, I thought this would be perfect. Most of my favorite meals to make are very easy and can be pretty flexible with quantities and ingredients. So here is our go-to family meal of Salmon, Broccoli and Pasta.

Parmesan Salmon with a Kick
Preheat your oven to 400.

Rinse and dry your salmon and place it skin-side down on a foil covered pan.

Mix together equal parts mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. You can use more or less based on the amount of fish you have, but as a reference I used about 1/3 cup of each.

Then add a few dashes of crushed red pepper. The original recipe called for ground red pepper (cyan) but as I mentioned, I use what I have on hand. I had crushed red pepper the first time I made this and after trying the cyan, I preferred the crushed. Again, I don't have an exact amount. You can see I just used a few dashes in the photos. Use more of less depending on how spicy you like your food.

If you have lemon juice or a fresh lemon, squeeze a little juice over the fish. I couldn't find mine this time and I have to say I didn't really miss it in the end.

Spread your mixture over the fish and set aside while you prep the broccoli.
(If you're skipping the broccoli, the fish bakes for 18-20 minutes.)

Baked Broccoli
Cut the broccoli into thin "spears". Any amount you want to use will work.

Drizzle with olive oil. I used about 2 teaspoons for 2 medium heads of broccoli.

Add a little salt and pepper and toss it all together.
Once everything is evenly coated, spread it out on the pan again.

 Put both the Salmon and the Broccoli in the oven (400 degrees) .

After 10 minutes, take the broccoli out and give it a toss.
Then add some Parmesan cheese. The amount is up to you, but I say the more the better because it turns into a delicious crisp on the broccoli.

Put the broccoli back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.

Your fish and broccoli should come out at about the same time with a total baking time of 18-20 minutes.

We also like to have either pasta or dinner rolls with this meal. Tonight we had pasta.
Angel hair is best, but thin spaghetti will do, too. Cook according to directions. For timing with this meal I start the water boiling as I'm prepping the fish and broccoli and add the pasta when I add the parmesan to the broccoli. When the pasta is done I toss it with olive oil,  add some freshly chopped garlic if I have some on hand (otherwise garlic salt is tasty, too) and, you guessed it, more parmesan cheese.

Alora even had a second helping tonight. And the pomegranate was the perfect dessert pairing. I love it when a meal comes together like this!

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