Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ancho Marmalade Butter Glazed Wild Alaskan Salmon & Fresh Berry Caprese Salad (Cordova Inspired)

This evening I was in the mood for salmon again (imagine that). Both our Sprouts Farmers Market and Publix still have fresh wild Alaskan sockeye salmon available for a few more days but said this will probably be the last of it. So, I picked up a large fillet (about 1-1/4 lbs). I wanted to make a glaze to change it up a bit. It was so very simple to put together. I mixed 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 rounded tablespoon organic no sugar added marmalade, 1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder, dash of garlic powder and about 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. I heated it together in the microwave for about 30 seconds and blended it until nice, thick and sticky. I first brushed the fillet with olive oil and placed it on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes; pulled it out and brushed it with about half of the glaze, then baked it an additional 5 minutes. I added another very light layer of glaze and ran it under the broiler for a few minutes until it began bubbling and very lightly browning. I removed it from the oven and allowed it to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. If you plan to use any glaze when serving the salmon, do not dip your brush into the bowl of glaze and cross contaminate it; simply pour some on and then brush over the fillet.

While the salmon was baking, I put together an easy peasy Fresh Berry Caprese Salad that was inspired by my recent visit to Cordova, Alaska. In Cordova, they are blessed with an abundance of wild blueberries, strawberries and salmonberries (salmonberries look like raspberries but are not as sweet and can be either yellow or reddish colored). Click here to see what a salmonberry looks like: Salmonberry. Unfortunately I don't have access to wild berries like they do in Alaska, but I did happen to have fresh strawberries and blueberries in the fridge along with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil; so I decided to make a Cordova inspired Fresh Berry Caprese Salad. I tossed the berries in a bit of white balsamic vinegar (similar to many strawberry and balsamic recipes that are out there) and then right before serving, tossed in fresh mozzarella and torn fresh basil. I included the easy peasy recipe below as well as a couple of photos. Enjoy!

Here is a red salmonberry growing outside the Orca Adventure Lodge
Here's a yellow salmonberry growing right outside my window at the lodge
Fresh Berry Caprese Salad (Cordova Inspired)

Fresh Berry Caprese Salad (Cordova Inspired)


1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 to 3 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
3 to 4 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
2 fresh basil leaves, torn


In a medium bowl, toss strawberries and blueberries with balsamic vinegar and set aside. Add mozzarella and fresh basil; toss together with berries immediately before serving.

*Note: If a slightly sweeter salad is desired, add sweetener, to taste (I added 1 teaspoon Swerve sweetener).


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chicken Salad Burgers - Two Low Carb Summer Favorites Rolled Into One

This evening I had leftover cooked chicken that needed to be used. I finely chopped it and then made chicken salad with it by adding celery, spring onions, red bell pepper, pickles, cheese, salt and pepper. I kept it on the dry side adding minimal mayo just to barely moisten because I made burgers with it. Yes, BURGERS! I pressed the mixture together into patties and sauteed in a skillet until a golden brown crust formed and then flipped them (carefully) and cooked the other side until golden. The little bit of cheese that melts in them helps bind them together. One word of advice...let them sit for at least 5 to 7 minutes before moving them to your plate so the cheese can set up so they don't fall apart. I should have snapped a photo of the first one I transferred to my plate...whatta mess! LOL The cheese was still oozy and it broke as I moved it over with a spatula. I waited 5 or 6 minutes and then transferred the 2nd one with success. I served it with roasted fresh asparagus (roasted for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees after drizzling with avocado oil and seasoning with salt and pepper). I cooked them at a lower temp because these were super thin stalks...thinner than a pencil. I sliced a garden fresh ripe tomato gifted from our dear neighbor Helen...and "voila"...dinner was on the table! We enjoyed chicken salad and burgers all in one. I snapped a couple photos below as well as the easy peasy recipe. Enjoy!

I saw more seagulls in Cordova than I've seen at any beach I've ever been to

Chicken Salad Burgers


3 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced pickle (I used sugar free bread and butter pickles)
2 ounces finely diced or shredded cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, etc.)
1/4 cup olive oil based mayonnaise or homemade
Salt and pepper, to taste
Smoked paprika, optional
1 to 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil (for cooking)


Combine chicken, celery, onion, bell pepper, pickle, cheese, mayonnaise and salt and pepper until lightly moistened. Divide equally and shape into 4 patties, pressing firmly to hold together. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place patties in pan and cook until golden brown and crusted; carefully flip and repeat on other side. Lightly dust with smoked paprika, if desired. Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes until slightly cooled before transferring to a plate. 

*Note: If necessary, add a tablespoon of finely grated (powdery style) Parmesan cheese if patties are too moist when forming to help bind.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stuffed Eggplant Boats w/ Beef, Spinach, Feta & Tomatoes

This evening I made mini Stuffed Eggplant Boats. For the filling, I used ingredients found in two of my favorite Greek/Middle Eastern dishes; Spanakopita and Moussaka. I had 4 beautiful small eggplants that I picked up at Costco this past weekend. I halved them, brushed them with olive oil, seasoned with a pinch of salt and roasted them until tender and then scooped out the pulp and set it aside.

I kept the filling easy and fresh. I browned ground beef, onions and garlic and then added fresh baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, crumbled feta and the roasted eggplant flesh I scooped out of the eggplant shells. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and a touch of cinnamon. I filled the little boats with the meat and veggie mixture and nestled them in a baking dish and then topped each boat with my "grain free bechamel sauce", then popped them in the oven to bake. They turned out delicious...sort of a blend between Moussaka (because of the eggplant, beef, tomato and bechamel) and Spanakopita (because of the spinach and feta). I love eggplant and love stuffing them with other things that I like, too. Hubby and I both enjoyed them. If there are any ingredients that you don't like, just omit them or swap them use cheddar cheese instead of feta, etc. I snapped a few photos below (as well as a couple more from my visit to Cordova). Enjoy!

Topped with bechamel and ready for the oven
If you live in Cordova, your groceries arrive weekly by barge (those that you don't gather, fish or hunt yourself, that is)...I snapped this photo from a bowpicker

Stuffed Eggplant Boats with Beef, Spinach, Feta & Tomatoes


4 or 5 small Italian style eggplants (halved lengthwise)
Olive oil (as needed)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)

Grain Free Bechamel Cheese Sauce
15-ounce container of ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
Dash nutmeg


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush bottom of a 9" x 13” baking dish or similar sized casserole dish with olive oil and set aside. Place halved eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up; brush cut side with olive oil and season with salt to taste. Roast for 20 minutes or until flesh is fork tender. Let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Using a spoon, scoop out eggplant flesh, leaving a thin wall of flesh against the eggplant's skin so they maintain their shape and can be stuffed. Chop the eggplant flesh and set aside (it will be added to the cooked meat mixture later). Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

While the eggplants are baking, brown beef in a large skillet; add onions and cook until beef is no longer pink and onions are soft and translucent; add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Turn heat up to medium-high and cook off any juices that have accumulated in pan; add fresh spinach to beef mixture and cook just until wilted. Add tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in cinnamon and season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

To prepare bechamel sauce, whisk ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and dash of nutmeg together in a medium bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper, to taste (Parmesan cheese is salty, so be careful not to over salt).  

Stir the feta cheese and chopped eggplant flesh into cooled meat mixture. Using a large spoon, divide the filling evenly between the eggplant shells and fill until slightly mounded. Place filled shells in prepared baking dish, nestling close together. Spoon bechamel sauce on top of each eggplant half; lightly spread to cover meat filling. If desired, top with additional Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes. If desired, run under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Pan Seared Wild Alaskan Salmon - Quick, Easy & Delicious

This evening we enjoyed a quick, delicious and easy meal of pan seared wild Alaskan salmon (yes...I made it again). It's hard to believe that I returned home from Cordova only 1 week ago today. Since our Publix is still carrying fresh wild salmon from Alaska's Prince William Sound, I took advantage of the remaining short season of being able to buy it fresh locally (I'm not too worried though since I now have a stash of Copper River Salmon in my freezer from SenaSea Seafoods).

I pulled out my cast iron skillet and lightly seasoned the salmon fillets with some "Slammin Salmon" seasoning that I brought back from Cordova. I heated my lightly oiled skillet over medium high heat until it was nice and hot and then placed the salmon fillets in the skillet skin side down first and cooked them for about 4 minutes until the skin was crispy. I flipped them over and then seared them flesh side down for another 3 minutes or so. It literally took me less than 10 minutes to cook them. I served it with burrata and sliced tomatoes and green beans with almonds. The entire meal took less than 20 minutes to prepare which gave me time to get a head start on tomorrow night's dinner. I snapped a quick photo of my delicious and easy low carb meal below. Enjoy!

For all you "Deadliest Catch" fans...this was the 2nd time I passed this vessel!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Visit to Cordova, Alaska - Home of Copper River Salmon

This month I had the honor and pleasure to visit Cordova, Alaska, home of my favorite wild salmon, Copper River Salmon (king, sockeye and coho). I've been eating and posting about Copper River Salmon for years now, so imagine how excited I was to be invited to visit Cordova as a guest of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association to learn all about how it is caught, handled and processed and to get to see first hand all that is involved at getting my beloved Copper River Salmon from Cordova to my dinner table here in Atlanta. There's so much more involved than I could have ever imagined.

Now, a little bit about Cordova. Cordova is a quaint small fishing port town located on the southeastern shores of Prince William Sound. It boasts a year round population of 2,200. This number swells to approximately 3,500 residents from May through September when fishermen that live in other places (Washington, Oregon, etc.) leave their hometowns to fish for Copper River Salmon. There are only 531 permits/licenses available to fish for Copper River Salmon and they aren't cheap. The current cost for a permit to fish is $231,000; and that doesn't include the cost of your boat, equipment, insurance, etc. It can cost upwards of $400,000 just to have the privilege to fish for Copper River Salmon! Quite mind boggling, isn't it? As a commercial fisherman, you have to love to fish because it's not an easy job. The fishermen go out for weeks at a time over the almost 5-month long fishing season from May through September. They are away from their families and children for long periods of time. Many have been fishing for more than 40 years and are 3rd and 4th generation fishermen. They love what they do; it's in their blood.

I found the people of Cordova to be warm, friendly and welcoming as well as extremely passionate about what they do (please see special thanks at the end of this post). They are independent people that hunt and fish to feed their own families. While most of us simply run to the grocery store to purchase food to feed our families; Cordovans generally hunt, fish and gather their own, such as deer, moose, elk, salmon, halibut, cod or wild berries and mushrooms of all varieties that grow wild in abundance. I was very impressed that given their extremely remote location which can only be reached by plane or ferry, how self reliant they are. Their other groceries and supplies are sent over each week by barge. This town lives to fish and fishes to live. It is their livelihood. If you live there, you either fish or support those that fish in one way or another, whether it be as a fishwife (or some cases, fishhusband) or through your work that's in some way connected to sustaining fishing such as a hatchery, processing plant, cannery, watershed management, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, etc. They are fiercely protective about their pristine environment and work very hard to make sure it stays that way and that it doesn't become overfished. There is an exceptionally strong sense of community and pride in Cordova where everyone works together towards a common goal to preserve their heritage and livelihood.

I could go on and on because I learned so much during my visit to Cordova, things that I will never forget, but I'll stop for now and share some photos from my trip. I never really knew what wilderness was until I saw Alaska. It is such a vast area of unspoiled beauty and nature not yet destroyed by us humans. I will never forget Cordova and am glad I took so many photos while there (over 1,100). Don't worry, I won't share all of them...but here are some of my favorites. Since this is a food blog, I will start with one of my favorite meals while there, Copper River Salmon w/ Citrus Salsa served at the Reluctant Fisherman Inn. It was delicious!  Enjoy!

This is where I stayed in Cordova, the Orca Adventure Lodge (converted to a lodge from its former life as Orca Cannery)

View of the lodge from the fishing boat that we were on
View of the inlet from my room

Most of the original buildings still exist on the property, here's one with the "Orca Cannery" sign
For perspective, this is where I stayed; look at how it's tucked on the edge of these huge mountains (I took this photo from our fishing boat trip) you know why I didn't have much phone or internet service!
Even though it rained a good bit of the time there, I was still able to get some beautiful photos of the views across the inlet at the lodge.

Here are some photos from a long walk my daughter and I took from the lodge towards town on a sunny day

The buildings dotting the shore are canneries.
Recognize this boat? It's the Northwestern from Discovery's Deadliest Catch. We passed it walking and again later on while out on another fishing boat.
We also passed this "here comes the bride boat"...there was a wedding held at the lodge while we were there and this is how the wedding party arrived...via the family's fishing boat!

We had a day long Glacier Tour with a long drive and airboat ride to the Copper River Delta to see Child's Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge

Million Dollar Bridge

Child's Glacier

While at Child's Glacier, we had the opportunity to enjoy a freshly caught Copper River Salmon that was cleaned, filleted, and grilled as we was delicious!

A Few Photos of our Ride with a Commercial Fisherman On His Bowpicker (we saw sea lions, sea otter and bald eagles)

John Bocci, Commercial Fisherman took us out on his bowpicker

4 sea lions sunning themselves
Cute little sea otter

Bald Eagle sitting on top of the tree
Our ride to go salmon fishing on another outing (4 women, 2 men and a baby)
A glimpse of the river we were salmon fishing at

We toured the Ocean Beauty Seafood plant where Copper River Salmon is processed
We hiked Heney Ridge Trail in the Chugach National Forest (w/ Michelle Dockins)
Copper River Wild Salmon Festival

One of the beautiful salmon dishes we judged at the Taste of Cordova

We drove out to Power Creek Hydroelectric Plant to see Copper River Salmon spawning
Notice the beautiful blue-green color of the glacial water

Copper River Salmon spawning
*SPECIAL THANKS to the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association (particularly Christa, Erica and ladies are the best); Jeff Bailey, Rich Wheeler (and son Hugh), RJ & Barclay K., John Bocci, Curly H., Michelle Dockins, Korey Vargo, Ray Coffey, Kristin (Watershed Project), Elena (Alaska Fish & Game), Michael Clutter (Ocean Beauty Seafoods), James W. (Solstice), Kate (narrator on our Child's Glacier trip), the staff at Orca Adventure Lodge and the scores of other folks in Cordova that made our trip there so special. In closing I will paraphrase a quote from Maya Angelou..."People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." made us feel VERY special by graciously opening up your lives and beautiful world to us! Lastly, to the blogger girls I had the privilege of accompanying...Gina (Running to the Kitchen), Michelle & baby Cullen (The Runner's Plate) and Savannah (Primal Revolutions) as well as my daughter Jennifer; I enjoyed every moment we spent together learning about Cordova and hope our paths will cross again some day. Final thanks to Michelle's husband Craig for making our 9 hour layover in Anchorage an opportunity to see well as a MOOSE! Big thanks to ALL!

#copperriverwild, #copperriversalmon, #knowyourfisherman, #100daysofsalmon, #soundsalmon