Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

Bay Scallop (or shrimp, or chicken, or…) Fried Rice February 12, 2011

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 9:13 am

Bay Scallop Fried Rice
I have been eyeing this recipe for fried rice for quite awhile.  I’ve made fried rice before, but it never seemed to come out right.  It always ended up kind of mushy and clumpy and not what I hoped for.  Then I came across a recipe on Steamy Kitchen that also included some helpful hints in making fried rice.  One of the tips was to make the rice a day or two in advance and let it dry out a bit in the fridge.  Then, the problem was I never remembering to make rice a day before I actually wanted to eat it.  Finally, the other day, while I was making fish tacos, I remembered to go ahead and make some rice, too.  Once it cooled, I put it in the fridge to use today.  The results were so much better than my previous tries.  I did make a few changes to the recipe and ran it through the weight watchers points calculator for you.  I calculated the points by dividing the total recipe by 4 servings, but it could easily feed 5 people, depending on how much you eat.

Total weight watchers points for 1/4 recipe is 11.  This is based on scallops.  Naturally, this will vary based on what you use for the protein.

Bay Scallop Fried Rice

adapted from Jaden Hair’s recipe at Steamy Kitchen


  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 10 ounces bay scallops, white muscle removed
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil, divided (I use grapeseed, because it has a higher smoke point than canola)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups white rice, grains well separated
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/3 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1/2  red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

In a medium bowl, toss the scallops, salt and cornstarch, let it sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature.  Heat a large wok over high heat.  Once the pan is hot enough for a bead of water to instantly sizzle and evaporate, add 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the scallops, quickly spreading them out around the pan so that they are not overlapping.  Let the scallops sear undisturbed for 30 seconds, then flip them to cook on the other side for another 30 seconds, or so.  Remove the scallops onto a plate and set aside, leaving as much of the oil as possible.  I use a large, round, flat, slotted spoon for this.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked all the way through, you’ll finish them up at the end.

Turn the heat down to medium and let the pan heat up again.  Pour in the eggs and stir to scramble.  When the eggs are almost cooked through (they should still be slightly runny in the middle), remove them from the pan onto the same plate as the scallops.

Clean out the wok with a paper towel (I had to wash it as bits of egg were stuck to the bottom) and heat up again over high heat with 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil, swirling it around the pan.  Sauté the sugar snap peas for about a minute until crisp and bright green, remove to plate.  Add remaining oil and let the wok heat up again, then add the rice, quickly spreading the grains around the wok’s surface, then leave them there, undisturbed until you hear the grains sizzle, about 1-2 minutes.  Use the spatula to toss the rice, again spreading the rice out over the surface of the wok.

Drizzle the soy sauce all around the rice and toss.  Add the red pepper and carrots and toss.  Let the rice sizzle again, then add the scallops, egg and peas back to the pan along with the sesame oil.  Toss to mix the rice with the other ingredients, then let everything sit and get hot again.  The rice grains should get so hot, they practically dance!  Taste and add additional soy sauce, if needed.  Enjoy!!

Note:  Additional tips for fried rice success from Steamy Kitchen

  1. Use previously chilled leftover rice
  2. High heat is essential in cooking fried rice
  3. Fry ingredients separately, or they will all taste the same
  4. In order to properly fry rice, you have to leave it alone and allow it to get hot enough.  Otherwise, the grains break and release more starch, resulting in clumpy, sticky rice.

Seared Tuna January 14, 2011

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 2:13 pm

Seared Tuna

One of my favorite pre-weight watchers foods, that is actually one of my favorite post weight watchers foods has to be seared tuna. I love Ahi tuna’s mild flavor and melt in your mouth tenderness. I even love Ahi completely raw where the flavor is even more mild and fresh and the texture is like that of a perfectly medium rare tenderloin – not mushy, just spoon tender. Yum! I occasionally buy sashimi grade tuna and either sear it or just chop it up with some Japanese spicy mayo and eat it on a cracker with some avocado, but today I decided to have seared tuna for lunch.

I poked around the internet looking for inspiration, all the while thinking about coating the tuna in sesame seeds, but feeling like it needed something more.  I came across this recipe from Steamy Kitchen and incorporated some of it into my version.  I didn’t have any wasabi lying around, but I did have some teriyaki marinade from Central Market.  I read the ingredients from the bottle of Asian sesame seeds I had and noticed that it contained some spices (garlic, sweet red pepper flakes, green chili flakes, turmeric, and ginger) along with the seeds.  The following is what I ended up with.  It is paired with 2/3 cup of sushi rice and a stir fried zucchini with 1/3 of a red bell pepper.  The tuna was definitely the star! Total WW points for the whole plate, 9 points. Yes, NINE, for the whole meal. Woohoooo!

Note: If you are afraid of eating raw/undercooked fish, just turn the heat down a little and cook it longer, but please try it a little rare someday.  It really is a completely different taste, less fishy,  and as long as you are eating sashimi grade, it is safe.  Twenty years of eating raw tuna and I’m still kicking!  The Japanese have been doing it for slightly longer.

Seared Tuna
Here’s what I used:

  • 1 95g piece of sashimi grade Ahi (yellow fin) tuna
  • 1/4 cup Central Market Teriyaki Sauce/Marinade
  • 1/4 cup Adams Reserve Asian Spice Rub (purchased at HEB)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet (or stainless steel) over medium to medium-high heat and add oil.  Meanwhile pat the tuna steak dry, then place it on a shallow dish with the teriyaki sauce to marinate briefly, turning to coat each side.  When I say briefly, I mean no more than 2 minutes per side.  On another shallow dish or plate, spread the Asian rub and place the tuna on the seeds, turning to coat all sides.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and pat, to adhere the seeds/seasonings to all sides.

Place the steak into the pre-warmed pan and cook for about 2 -3 minutes, then turn and cook the opposite side for 2-3 minutes.  I like to sear mine all the way around, so I also use tongs to hold the steak on its side and sear each side for about 1 minute each.  You don’t want your heat too high because you don’t want to burn your sesame seeds, causing them to taste bitter and burnt, so if you are cooking your steak until it is cooked through, turn your heat down a little.  Once the tuna is seared all the way around, you can tent it in some foil to keep it warm while you stir fry your veggies.  I cooked mine using 1 tsp olive oil and medium-high heat.  If you are making the sushi rice, you will need to start that well before you start the fish as it takes the longest to cook.  I hope you will try this slightly exotic dish, because I really think you will like it.

Seared Tuna

I know my tuna looks very raw in these pictures, but remember, I like it all the way raw, just cook yours a little longer to taste.


Spicy Fish Tacos January 13, 2011

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 12:46 pm

Fish Tacos
Okay, this might be one of my new favorites because it is tasty, low in WW points and easy to make.  I made fish tacos last night using mahi mahi and a recipe I found at epicurious.  The mahi mahi fillets are only two points each and I didn’t even eat a whole one!  One tricky aspect of calculating points on this one was the use of a marinade made of olive oil and spices.  I checked with the Weight Watchers web site and community boards and while most people said they don’t count the points for marinade, I opted to count some.

The tacos are a nice blend of spicy and sweet, crunchy and tender.  I hope you like them as much as I did!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1-2 mahi mahi fillets
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • corn tortillas
  • cabbage, sliced very thin
  • carrots, petite dice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp minced red onion (I omitted this)
  • 2 tsp minced jalapeños (I used canned diced jalapeños)
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • Asian sesame seeds
  • coarsely cracked black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • pico de gallo (I omitted this)

Combine the cabbage, 2 tsp lime juice, honey, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, sesame seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss to coat evenly.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

In another bowl combine the olive oil, lime juice and spices to form a medium thick paste.  Cut the fish into small, 1/2 inch strips and mix with marinade.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  You won’t need to add any oil, as the fish will have been coated in it.  Once hot, remove the fish from the marinade and place in the preheated skillet.  Cook, turning fish occasionally until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  You’ll see that the fish turns white and the segments begin to flake apart.  Heat corn tortillas in the microwave, or do like I do and heat them directly over a low flame on the stove.  Place 3-4 pieces of mahi mahi in a corn tortilla and top with a generous portion of slaw and pico.  Enjoy your low points dinner!

Total WW points for two tacos: 10 (it is really probably a little less, unless you eat all of the slaw.  I only counted 1 Tbsp of the oil, again probably over estimating)
Fish Tacos


Crispy Tender Salmon With Vegetables January 6, 2011

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 12:16 pm

Broiled Salmon with wilted spinach

Now you know, I am taking steps toward healthy living.  I had to start pulling things from my regular cooking repertoire that could be considered healthy.  One of my favorites is broiled salmon.  I love broiling almost anything.  It seems to lock in the juices and form a crisp, seared texture to the meat.  I think the fat content in salmon particularly lends itself to broiling.  The resulting dish is filling, quick and easy to prepare, high in good fat and cholesterol, vitamins and nutrients and has a relatively low points value for weight watchers like me.

What you’ll need:

  • 5 ounce fillet of salmon, pin bones removed
  • 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of baby spinach, washed thoroughly, excess water removed
  • 1/4 cup of red sweet pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp McCormick vegetable supreme seasoning

Turn oven on to broil.  Place salmon on a broiler safe pan and brush lightly with olive oil (you should still have the majority of the oil left over).  Sprinkle generously with Old Bay seasoning and a grind or two of pepper.  Place under the broiler with the oven rack as close to the heating element as it will go (the fish should be nearly touching the heating element).  Keep the door of the oven slightly ajar (most ovens have a built in stop for this), or you will have a house full of smoke.  Meanwhile, add the remaining olive oil to the saute pan and heat over medium high heat until the oil starts to ripple.  Saute the diced red pepper first for about 1 – 2 minutes, then add the garlic slices, vegetable seasoning and spinach.  Using tongs, turn and move the vegetables frequently until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat and sprinkle a little sea salt on it.  Next, check your salmon.  It should have a nice crisp exterior, but be moist on the inside.  It only takes about 6 or 7 minutes in my oven, so watch it closely.  Enjoy your delicious lunch or dinner and if you are a weight watcher, this entire meal is 11 points.


Viva Mexico May 23, 2010

Filed under: appetizers,seafood — freerangenurse @ 3:37 pm

A new shipment of cookbooks arrived from Amazon a couple of weeks ago.  One of the new books I was eagerly awaiting was Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art.  The first time I went to Fonda San Miguel restaurant was back in 1981 (I think) when I was a flower girl in a wedding.  The rehearsal dinner was held there and I remember thinking the food was really good, but I don’t remember much else.  Several years later, I went back as an adult and this time I took in the vibrant surroundings, the art on the walls, the intricately cut papel picado (or cut paper banners) hanging from the ceiling, the peaceful entry courtyard area, and of course, the food.

The food at FSM is not typical TexMex, but rather interior Mexican food full of flavor and texture.  There is a variety of seafood selections such as ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) and enchiladas suizas de jaiba (crab enchiladas) as well as regional delicacies such as quesadillas de huitlacoche (corn fungus – which is just starting to gain following as Mexican truffles), which has a nutty, earthy flavor.  The queso is not a liquid mixture to be scooped up with tortilla chips, but rather a thick, gooey serving of melted cheese served with warm tortillas.  Mmmm, delicioso y sabroso (delicious and flavorful)! (more…)


Conquering Your Fears and Following Your Instincts April 25, 2010

Filed under: appetizers,dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 2:30 pm

I have a confession.  Artichokes have always intimidated me.  These big thistles are covered with spike tipped leaves, have a center choke that will make you do just that if you eat it, and have always seemed like a lot of effort to basically serve as scoops for mayonnaise or butter sauce.  Yet, with all these obstacles, I do enjoy artichokes and their tender hearts, so when I saw this recipe for shrimp stuffed artichoke bottoms, I couldn’t resist getting over my fear of artichokes.  Another fantastic reason to conquer my fears were the beautifully photographed step by step instructions in Fine Cooking Magazine for preparing artichokes in a number of different ways.



Seared Scallops with Apple Brandy Cream Sauce April 7, 2010

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 1:12 am

It’s spring here in central Texas…of course it’s spring everywhere, but I mean if feels like spring here.  The weather is absolutely beautiful.  Warm temperatures, lots of sunshine, low (for Austin) humidity and the perfect time for finding the freshest spring berries and vegetables, firing up the grill and spending time outside.  Is that what I’m doing?  Nope.  I had a craving for some decidedly fall ingredients.  Seared sea scallops with apple brandy cream sauce, wilted spinach with garlic and butternut squash risotto.  Sometimes you want what you want.  If I had to pick a favorite of the three, I would have to say the risotto was the winner.  I’ll post that recipe, too. (more…)


You say Gra-TAN, I say GRATn, either way it’s delicious! March 27, 2010

Filed under: dinner,lunch,seafood — freerangenurse @ 8:32 am

The first time I tried this, I wanted to drink the butter broth right out of the dish.  The flavor is so amazing.  This dish is when I discovered shallots, which might be my favorite thing in the world.  Another winner from Ina Garten.  I have made a couple of modifications, but it is hard to mess with perfection.  The other great thing about this dish is that it is so easy and fast to put together.  It can be used with bay scallops or shrimp.  I’ve done both with tasty results and in under 30 minutes.

Bay Scallop Gratins

adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook



Miso Salmon, me love you long time! March 12, 2010

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 11:27 am
Tags: , , ,

What the crap is going on with the universe when I post two healthy posts in a row?  The name of this one always makes me think of the song Me So Horny by 2 Live Crew, that controversial tune that added fuel to the fire of Tipper Gore’s fight to have parental warning stickers on CDs.  I can’t help but sing, Uh, miso salmon, uh uh miso salmon, uh miso salmon, me love you long time.  I’m showing my age, aren’t I.  Anyway, this recipe has also become a favorite and I would even say the second time around was better than the first.  It is a Bobby Flay recipe and is easy to put together and gives a slightly sweet flavor to the fish. (more…)


Fettuccine Alfredo with Lobster December 3, 2009

Filed under: dinner,pasta,seafood — freerangenurse @ 10:15 am

If I were featured in an episode of MTV Cribs, and you were to take a peek into my refrigerator, you wouldn’t see bottles of Cristal or perfectly arranged cans of Monster energy drink, you would find cartons of cream and butter.  Pounds and pounds of butter.  It seems I am going through 3-5 pounds of butter per month!  It reminds me a little of the movie, Julie and Julia.  One of the best uses of cream and butter, in my opinion is alfredo sauce.

If you’re going to clog your arteries, you might as well enjoy the experience, right?

Today’s recipe is from the Rao’s Recipes From the Neighborhood cookbook.  There’s that name again!  Rao’s.  I guess it’s time I finally tell you the story, right?

I was first introduced to Rao’s while watching Martha Stewart.  Not the current incarnation of her show, but the old one taped without a studio audience.  She took a field trip to the kitchen of Rao’s restaurant in East Harlem, NYC to learn how to make one of their signature dishes.  While cooking, she and Frank Pellegrino (the owner) were discussing the history of the restaurant and its exclusivity.  This, apparently, is not a restaurant  mere mortals can get into, no matter how far in advance you try to book.  All the reservations are already owned.  Yes, owned.  The restaurant only has 10 tables and only has one seating per night.  The regulars have standing reservations, for example one person may have every Monday night, another might have every other Tuesday.  They will have this reservation until they don’t want it anymore (never happens).  They can bring whatever guests they like, or even loan the reservation out, but unless you know someone who has a reservation, you aren’t gonna get in. Dick Schaap, who writes the forward to Rao’s cookbook mentions the few exceptions to the rules.  You can get in if you are the pope, or higher, if you happen to turn up on a night in which the regular table holder doesn’t show (this has only happened twice in the 40 years Dick has had his table), or if you are in Las Vegas and head over to their second location at Caesar’s Palace.

There are two rooms with 10 tables, but those can be difficult to get or you can sit in the outer dining area and enjoy some of the best meatballs on the planet!  Meatballs so good, my friend and I pushed our dinner plates out of the way to feast on our side dish of meatballs (which we only ordered because the waitperson told us we should).  Don’t get me wrong, the dinners we ordered were fabulous, but the meatballs!  Wow!

When I got home, I looked up the recipe online and discovered that Rao’s has its own cookbook and they actually share their delicious recipes for some of their best dishes.  I am slowly working through it and its sister cookbook, Recipes From the Neighborhood.

This recipe is not a Rao’s menu item, but is delicious anyway.  If you are not adding seafood to it, add a little salt to the sauce.

Fettuccine Alfredo

Adapted from Rao’s Recipes From the Neighborhood

  • 3 – 6oz lobster tails, steamed, shelled and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pound dried (or fresh) fettuccine
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish (I have also used Pecorino Romano with good results)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • (pinch of salt, if not using shellfish)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes for dried fettuccine.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 2/3 cup of cream and the grated cheese and bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup of cream and set aside.  When the pasta is cooked, drain and place on a heated serving platter.  Pour the cream sauce over it, and toss.  Add the egg yolk mixture and toss again.  Add lobster and garnish with freshly grated cheese and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Sadly, alfredo sauce does not hold up well for leftovers.  The sauce separates and forms butter oil and curds.  If you are making this for 2-3 people, make a half recipe (what I did for the pictures above).  You’ll have to approximate a half egg yolk by breaking it and discarding half.  To test the doneness of the noodles, I usually take one out and cut it in half, if there is still a dry looking core (see picture), it isn’t finished cooking.  I prefer my noodles cooked a little past al dente, so just keep testing until the “bite” of the pasta feels right to you.