Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

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


Resolving To Be Patient January 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 4:38 pm

Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions.  Looking back, I feel kind of ridiculous about the whole thing.  I went to the gym after working Sunday night to meet my gym buddy and fellow Weight Watcher, Eileen.  It was the big one week weigh-in.  I was pumped!  I just knew I had lost three pounds.  I’d been good all week, using only an average of 30.2 of my 40 allotted daily points, had only had one “skinny” Texas Martini at happy hour this week and had worked out six days out of seven!  I was walking tall and feeling good….until I stepped on the scale.  It turns out I lost 1.8 pounds.  I know, I should have been happy, right?  That’s what everyone told me, and I was…sort of.  Mostly I was disappointed and discouraged.  I mean, I was happy I lost, just not happy with the amount.

I don’t know how many of you know how Weight Watchers works, but basically, you are given a number of daily “points” along with a weekly allowance of flex points.  You can also earn activity points based on the type and duration of exercise you do.  These points are then traded for food.  Some foods are free (most fruits and veggies) and the rest have a points value based on the fat, protein, carbs and fiber content.  Choose wisely, young grasshopper, and you can stay full and satisfied while staying within your points.  This is exactly what I did.  I made conscious decisions to eat healthy foods and chose not to have the indulgences I usually allow myself.  I could have, for example, had a regular martini, or two at happy hour and definitely had the points accumulated for it, but chose to get the sugar-free option.  I could have stopped off at Starbucks before work and had a grande chai soy latte, but didn’t.  I only used my daily points and sometimes found myself well below them, albeit unintentionally.

My disappointment stemmed from a fear that if I ever did use all the points I’m allowed, that I would not lose, or worse yet, that I would gain!  I felt a little defeated and couldn’t seem to shake it.  The odd thing, is that where I might have given up and eaten something comforting (read bad for me), I instead ate almost nothing that day.  The nurse in me knows that any time you start a diet, or in my case a change in your normal way of eating, where you consume less calories, you convince your body to hold on to its stored fat.  I know this only lasts for a week or two before the ol’ body falls in line and realizes there’s a change in how it’s going to be managed.  I know this, and yet, I was devastated.

I am so thankful for my Facebook friends.  They, who have been cheering me on daily when I post about going to the gym or eating something healthy, were also there to pick me up yesterday and tell me to be strong and keep it up.  I’ll admit I whined excessively and I needed to have myself verbally bitch-slapped out of my mood.  So thank you to Eileen’s husband, David who told me I was done whining.  That I didn’t put the weight on overnight and I wasn’t going to get rid of it overnight.  Thank you to Frank, who reminded me what I already know about my body holding on to the calories that it thinks won’t be coming anymore (and they won’t, dear body, but we’re going to learn to live without as many of them).  Thank you to every “you can do it” and every “don’t give up” because, even though sometimes we think we stand alone, it’s nice to know that we don’t.


Modified Chicken Caprese January 7, 2011

Filed under: chicken,dinner — freerangenurse @ 1:12 pm

Chicken Caprese
The other day while surfing cooking blogs, I came across a recipe on Steamy Kitchen that intrigued me.  It was basically a Caprese salad on top of a chicken breast.  Unfortunately for me, the tomatoes at the grocery store were more orange than red and were probably not going to have the delicious, juicy sweetness of a ripe summer tomato.  I did pick up a carton of grape tomatoes and those are almost always tasty and sweet.

I modified the recipe a little by brining the chicken for a few hours.  For those of you who don’t have to watch your sodium intake, brining is a wonderful way to enrich the juiciness and flavor of a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  I have the details of how to do it here.  After brining, rinse the chicken in cold water to remove the excess brine.  If you don’t brine, that’s fine (I made a rhyme!) too, just omit that step.  I really should be watching my sodium, but for goodness sakes, I can only take so many changes at a time.

The Weight Watchers point count is 10, but that can vary depending on your chicken size.  The chicken breasts I bought were huge, with one almost weighing in at a pound!  I took a puny one and cut it down to 7 ounces and that was plenty.

What you’ll need:

  • A chicken breast, brined if you can afford the sodium intake
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 ounce fresh mozzarella
  • sliced tomato or grape/cherry tomatoes sliced
  • basil, but in my case, I used sauteed spinach and red pepper
  • minced garlic
  • pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.  Rinse brined chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season chicken with pepper, it shouldn’t need any more salt.  In an oven safe skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium high heat until it shimmers.  Place chicken breast smooth side down and leave it alone for 3 minutes, once it gets nice and brown, turn it over and sear the other side.  Rub the smooth side of the chicken with minced garlic, then cover the skillet and place in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes to finish cooking.  My chicken took the full 20 minutes (there were two 13 ounce breasts along with mine).  Remove the chicken from the oven and uncover.  Pour out juices and reserve for other use, if you like.  Top the chicken with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella slice and place under a broiler for a minute or so until the cheese melts slightly.  You can then drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the top, if you like.  Serve with the vegetable of your choice or a small salad.  Thanks for visiting!


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.


Resolutions January 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 9:13 pm

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Time to make resolutions to lose weight, improve health, exercise more. I am among those trying to set out on a new journey to a better, healthier tomorrow.  My 40th birthday is coming up in a little over six months and it’s time for me to start taking care of the body that has been taking care of me.  I have joined Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym for the new year and together with some dear friends of mine, I am determined to learn what, really, I have known all along – how to make and eat healthy food and incorporate physical activity in my everyday life.

Will this affect this blog?  Well, of course.  I blog foods that I cook, so if I am making healthier foods, they will be reflected here.  I will probably still do some desserts because I take those treats up to work.  I hope you’ll stick around and try some of the new things posted here.  I promise to make food that is tasty, even if it isn’t loaded with cream and cheese.  I may occasionally cook up something decadent, because part of re-learning healthy eating is knowing that the occasional rich dish is not forbidden, but can be enjoyed in moderation.

Cheers to all of you and to a healthy new year!


Delia, the Free Range Nurse


Chicken Pot Pie January 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 10:38 am

Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie!  I mean, what’s not to love (other than the quality cellulite you’ll have after eating it)?  Creamy sauce, tender veggies, pastry…during dinner!  Sign me up!  As much as I love a good chicken pot pie, I really only make them once a year and before this year, I always used Campbell’s cream of chicken and mushroom soup for the sauce.  Now that I try to make things from scratch, even if only to see how it’s done, I don’t know that I’ll go back to the old way.  Home cooking from scratch really does taste better, in my opinion.  Now, sometimes I don’t have time for “from scratch” cooking, and I’ll bet you don’t either.  In that case, certainly you could use cream of chicken, or cream of chicken and mushroom soup, add vegetables and cooked chicken and use a store bought pie crust.  Just promise me that at some point you’ll try it this way.

Chicken Pot Pie

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, diced (2 medium onions)
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, washed
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced thick

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg beated with 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or water), for egg wash
  • flaked sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Remove the meat from the bone and cut into large cubes.  You should have about 4-6 cups.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.  In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions and carrots over medium-low heat, until the onions are translucent.  Add the flour and cook over low heat for 1 minute more, stirring until thick.  Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and heavy cream.  Add the cubed chicken and the rest of the vegetables.  Mix well.  Turn off heat and set aside.

For the pastry, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.  Cut in cold butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is about the size of small peas.  Add ice water, starting with 1/2 cup and using your hands, bring the dough together, trying to handle it as little as possible, so the butter stays cold.  If necessary, add more water, a little at a time, just until the dough comes mostly together.  Dump the dough onto a clean, floured counter and knead, quickly, into a ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling among 6 ovenproof bowls (I used soup tureens, but you could use large ramekins or any oven-safe bowl).  Ina says this recipe makes 4 servings, but we very easily made 6 large servings.  Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll each piece into a circle large enough to cover your bowl.  Brush the outside edge of the bowl with egg wash, then place the dough on top.  Trim the circle to 1/2 inch larger than the top of the bowl.  Press the dough onto the edges to make it stick, then cut three slits into the dough to allow steam to vent.  Brush egg wash over the dough and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  You could also sprinkle some parsley flakes for color, if you want to get a little fancy.  Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.  Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!


Confit Byaldi a.k.a. Ratatouille October 29, 2010

Filed under: dinner,lunch,side dishes — freerangenurse @ 9:49 am

Confit Byaldi

I’ll admit, before I saw the movie, Ratatouille, I had heard of ratatouille, but never had much desire to know what it was.  As Linguine would say, “It sounds like rat…patootie.”  Not very appetizing, but when Remy makes it at the end of the movie, it looks delicious.  Yes, I realize it was a cartoon, but I still wanted a cartoon bite!  I did some research and found out that the chef-spiration for Remy’s cooking came from Thomas Keller.  Mr. Keller is already a favorite of mine because of this recipe, and because I have loved all of the recipes I’ve tried from his Ad Hoc cookbook.  Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to his French Laundry restaurant, until I saw this!  Well, actually, I still want to go, but I guess I’ll have to wait until someone else wants to foot the bill.

While researching Keller and Remy, I found a link to the recipe for Ratatouille’s ratatouille by the man himself.  I made a couple of modifications, but it is still pretty true to the original.  It pairs amazingly well with goat cheese (an idea I gleaned from Smitten Kitchen).  It was hearty enough to be dinner and good enough to be lunch the following day.  I only wish I had made more so it could have been dinner again.  It was that good!

Don’t let all the steps and prep work scare you away.  If you have a mandolin (which doesn’t have to be expensive – mine is from Pampered Chef), it makes pretty quick work of the veggie prep.  My daughter did all the arranging and she is very proud of it.  Sadly, I did not bother to take an after picture, so all I have is an in progress photo.

Confit Byaldi
Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi

adapted slightly

For Piperade:

  • 1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1/2 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 3 San Marzano tomatoes (from can), seeded and coarsely diced, juices reserved
  • 1 sprig of thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 sprig flat leaf parsley, or 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf, his recipe called for half a bayleaf, but seriously?
  • kosher salt

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place pepper halves on a foil-lined baking sheet, cut side down.  Roast until the skin loosens, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

Combine oil, garlic, and onion in a medium skillet over low heat until very soft, but not browned, about 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes, their juices, and herbs.  Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them.  Season to taste with salt, and discard bay leaf.  Reserve a tablespoon of mixture and spread the remainder in the bottom of a pie plate.  Set aside.

For Vegetables

  • 1 zucchini (4-5 ounces), sliced into 1/16th inch rounds
  • 1 Japanese eggplant (4-5 ounces), sliced into 1/16 inch rounds
  • 1 yellow squash (4-5 ounces), sliced into 1/16 inch rounds
  • 4 roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16th inch rounds
  • 2 red bell peppers (long, skinny ones), sliced into 1/16th inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon thyme
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Starting in the center of the pie plate, arrange vegetable slices, in an alternating pattern, over piperade so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed.  Once you reach the outside of the pie pan, start working in concentric circles back in, until you fill the dish.  Combine remaining ingredients and drizzle over vegetables.  Set aside.

For Sauce:

  • 1 box Pomi tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp herbs de Provence (or a combination of herbs such as thyme, chervil, basil, etc)

Mix herbs into tomato sauce and pour over prepared vegetables until just covered.  Cover dish with parchment paper (not just aluminum foil – it reacts negatively to tomatoes), then aluminum foil and place in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife.

Using a spatula, remove a desired amount of the confit byaldi to a plate, top with a dollop of fresh goat cheese and swoon!  I really need to make this again!