Sockeye Salmon with Whole Wheat Pasta

I feel like I’ve been terribly negligent in keeping you all updated on my Whole Foods Pantry Challenge.  Because I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to see just what I’ve been cooking with all of those pantry staples – right?  Like you have nothing better to do than sit around wondering about my meal-planning abilities.

Mostly you’re probably just wondering when I’m going to get around to choosing a winner for that awesome $50 Whole Foods gift card.  Don’t ask me why I decided to make that contest go the whole month of January.  In retrospect that seems like an awfully long time.  However, the good news is you still have a week left to enter, so get on it if you haven’t already.  Just follow the link above, or tweet: I want to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift card from @HFM_Alpharetta and @lifeinrecipes: http://bit.ly/AsEio7.  If you’ve already done both of those things, then yay! you’re entered (don’t do it again, though, because you can only enter twice – once in the comments and once on twitter).

Today, I’m talking about salmon.  Which I always want to pronounce saL-man (as in Salman Rushdie).  It’s annoying.  However, it tastes good, and it’s good for you, so I eat it despite the fact that I practically embarrass myself every time I have to ask for it at the fish counter.

I don’t buy salmon (rushdie) often, because I like to buy wild-caught, preferably Alaskan (because their fisheries are reputed to be some of the most sustainable) and that can be expensive.  Luckily, every so often Whole Foods will run a sale, and you can get whole salmon filets for $7.99 a pound (normally it costs $14.99 a pound).  When that happens, like it did this past Friday, I like to stock up.

Today was one of those days where I just didn’t want to do much of anything.  Last night I helped a friend out by catering a dinner for 50 people at her church, so I was tired.  Exhausted really.  And the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  It was a lazy, rainy Sunday, is what it was.

At almost 5:00 this afternoon, I remembered that I was supposed to do the Week 4, Day 3 workout in my Couch to 5K program (I bet you thought I’d given up on that, since I haven’t really talked about it in the last three weeks.  But I didn’t – I’ve been very good.  In fact, today I did something I never thought I’d be able to do – I ran for 20 minutes straight without stopping.  I realize that for some people that is a small feat, but for me (who could barely run for one minute when all of this started), it’s huge).  Despite the fact that the last thing I wanted to do was get on the treadmill and run, I made myself put on my workout clothes, lace up my running shoes, and do it.

The point of all that (aside from giving myself a huge pat on the back) is to say that I usually try to have dinner on the table by 6:00.  If I didn’t start my workout until almost 5:00, that means I didn’t get finished with the workout until almost 5:30, and that means I had fewer than 30 minutes to get dinner ready.  Luckily, fish is fast.

Seared Sockeye Salmon over Whole Wheat Pasta in a Saffron Cream Sauce

adapted from this recipe from Cooking in Sens

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 20 minutes

serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds wild-caught sockeye salmon, cut into 4-oz. portions
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used the spaghetti I bought at the beginning of the month, for the pantry challenge)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white whine
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in boiling water (also from the pantry challenge)
  • parsley for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put a large pot of well salted water on to boil. Cook pasta.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the diced onion and cook until traslucent.
  4. Add the wine and saffron, stir in the mustard and mascarpone.  Cook to thicken a bit.
  5. Add the sundried tomatoes.  Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the the cream sauce and stir to combine.
  7. Heat a large iron skillet over high heat.  Add the olive oil
  8. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper.  Place them in the skillet, skin side down.  Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
  9. Serve  salmon over the pasta, garnish with some chopped parsley.

This was a hit with the entire family.  The youngest asked for seconds, and the oldest barely complained (which in my book is a huge accomplishment).  My husband, who isn’t a huge fan of salmon (he prefers the milder, whiter fishes), even liked it.  The sauce was light and mildly floral from the saffron.  The pasta had a nice bite to it, and the salmon was delicious – crispy skin, nice sear, tender and flaky on the inside (please don’t chastise me for the layer of albumin sneaking out in that picture above.  I realize it’s not cooked to Top Chef perfection, but it was good enough for us).  If you’re looking for a quick, flavorful and relatively healthy meal, this is a a good one.

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A Celebration, a Goal, and a Gift For You

As I sat down to write this post, I realized that it has been exactly two years since I first started this blog.  Two years.  I can’t really believe I’ve stuck with it for that long.  I’m notorious for starting things and then giving them up before I’ve gotten very far.

Speaking of sticking with things (or not), I have a confession to make.  I started 2011 with a goal to eat healthier and to exercise more.  In January of 2011, I was about 10 lbs. heavier than I wanted to be. I blamed it on “baby weight” that I’d never lost (the “baby” was a year old at that time).  I thought if I introduced more whole foods, cut back on the meat and dairy, and introduced some moderate exercise I would easily drop that 10 lbs. in no time.

Now we’re in January of 2012

(2012!!)

and instead of having lost that extra 10 lbs. I’ve put on 20 more.  There, I said it.  I’m 30 lbs. overweight, and I hate it.  I guess those 2011 goals didn’t really work out so well.

This year, I’m bound and determined to stick with it.  I know – everyone is setting goals and making resolutions right now.  It’s the thing to do. My most popular posts over the last few days have had to do with kale and greens and whole grains.  People are looking to eat better and get healthy in the new year.

I’m doing a couple of things to help me along on my goals.  First, I joined the Couch to 5k training program.  I’ve never been a runner.  In fact, I’ve kind of always hated running.  In high school I would do whatever was necessary to avoid running in PE.  I’m now almost done with week two of the nine week training program, and I can honestly say that I still hate running.  BUT, I’m sticking with it.  I suck at it, but I’m doing it.  And I can tell I’m getting better at it, in teeny-tiny minute increments.  So that’s something.

The second thing I’m doing is partnering with my local Harry’s Farmers Market to give my pantry a healthy makeover.  Whole Foods, in their Whole Story blog, issued a $50 pantry makeover challenge.  Their claim is that you can buy a list of pantry staples at Whole Foods (which I realize some people refer to as “whole paycheck”) for about $50.  The items on the list are:

  • 1 lb black beans
  • 1 lb lentils
  • 1 lb quinoa
  • 2 lbs brown rice
  • 3 (32-oz) boxes vegetable broth
  • 1 (32-oz) box chicken broth
  • 1 lb rolled oats
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 1 lb orechiette pasta
  • 1 lb pasta, your favorite kind
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 jar unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 (32-oz) box unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 (32-oz) box unsweetened almondmilk
  • 1 (5-oz) can tuna
  • 3 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 package no-oil sundried tomatoes
  • 1 jar pasta sauce

Whole Foods is running a contest through the end of January to give away five grand-prize packages of a year’s worth of pantry staples and a pantry makeover.  They’re also giving away 31 pantry stock-ups valued at $50 each.  All you have to do is leave a comment on the post on the blog.

Harry’s contacted me to see if I wanted to participate in the challenge.  They offered to either provide me with a $50 gift card that I could personally use for the challenge, or that I could give away to one of my readers.  I decided to take the challenge on my own, just to see if I could really buy everything on the list for around $50, and to save the gift card for one of you.

Today I went to Harry’s armed with my list and a few coupons that I’d printed off of their website.  My shopping trip took a little over an hour (mostly because I had a hard time finding canned-tuna and sundried tomatoes), but in the end I wound up spending less than $45 for the items on the list.

I had four coupons for $1 off various items, and I got two $.10 bag credits.  Even if I hadn’t had the coupons and the bags, my total would have been right around $50.  I did make a couple of substitutions: I got two cartons of almond milk instead of one almond and one soy (I don’t do soy milk), and I purchased two 28-oz. cans of tomatoes instead of three 15-oz. cans. I also accidentally got an extra bag of rice that added $1.99 to my total.

That’s a lot of food.  I’m not sure it will last us the whole month, but we’ll certainly try.  I plan to keep you all updated on our progress here on the blog, and to include recipes for things that we make with these ingredients.  I figure that all of these pantry staples paired with the produce I get from the Rockin’ S Farms CSA I recently joined and the meat I get from Riverview Farms should get us pretty far.

For lunch today, I made this recipe for Tuscan Tuna Salad from the Whole Foods website.  I served mine on a bed of mixed greens that I got in this week’s CSA bag (spicy mustard greens were a very nice addition) with some whole-grain crackers on the side.  I highly recommend it.

For dinner, I chose this recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Sundried Tomatoes and White Beans.  I subbed broccoli from our garden for the broccoli rabe, but otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter.  Even my kids liked it.  My husband and I ate ours with a mixed-green salad on the side and there was plenty left over for lunch tomorrow. The key (in my opinion) is adding the water from the reconstituted tomatoes along with the pasta water at the end.  So good.

Okay, here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for.  Because the blog is two, because I’m determined to stick with my goals this year, and mostly just because I appreciate you all so much, I’m teaming up with Harry’s Farmers Market to give one of you a $50 Whole Foods Gift card that you can use to make over your own pantry (the gift card can be used at any Whole Foods store).  Here’s how you can enter to win:

Tell me in the comments what your New Years resolution was this year.  Are you going to stick to a budget for the first time ever? Are you going to get a pedicure every two weeks? Is your goal to read the Harry Potter series from start to finish before 2013?  Whatever the goal, let me know and you’ll be entered to win.

You can also tweet the following: I want to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift card from @HFM_Alpharetta and @lifeinrecipes: http://bit.ly/AsEio7.

Do either of those things between now and 12:00 PM Eastern time on January 30, 2012 and you’ll be entered to win.  Do both to be entered twice.  Limited to two entries (one here, one on twitter) per person, please.  I’ll announce a winner on January 31.