New Year's Resolution: Show My Appreciation

Have you made any New Year's resolutions?  If not, that's okay.  But this year I've been pretty focused on what I need to do now to get where I want to be in the future, and goal setting (or resolution making, whatever you call it) has been a big part of it. 

Tim humored me by sitting down to a formal dinner on December 27 and creating a list of joint goals for our family.  Truthfully, most of them are things I thought of in advance, but some of them are things that Tim contributed.  One of his resolutions for our family is to create an emergency kit; it would give him peace of mind and help us tremendously should their ever be a natural disaster or terrorist attack.  One of my goals for our family was to learn to cut Tim's hair.  He needs it done every few weeks and it's a regular expense that we could cut back on.  I've already started fulfilling this goal: I gave him a hair cut last night (and did a pretty good job for a first timer). 

My personal goals are focused on work, relationships, and health, but I was careful to make them attainable.  An important one on my list--and something we all should constantly be working on--is to not take my family for granted.  This means sending thank you cards, phoning relatives to tell them I've been thinking of them, and making time to show my family that I appreciate them.

Recently, as a part of this personal goal, Tim and I have started planning ahead to spend time together doing something special.  Sometimes we go to a movie or out to dinner, but on occasion we plan in advance, like we did for our goal setting night, to have a nice dinner at home.  There is the same anticipation and similar planning that would occur if we were going out, but we get to be more relaxed in our own home.  Since I love to cook, this is one way I show Tim that I appreciate him.  

If you are thinking about instituting more date nights in your household or just want to make a nice dinner for a friend, I'd like to share a menu I made recently that was elegant and easy to pull together on a weeknight.  Most of the components can be made in advance, freeing up your time to spend with your date rather than standing in the kitchen.  When you're ready to eat, all you will need to do is cook the fish, toss together a quick salad, and re-heat the rest. 

Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Broccoli Puree
recipe slightly adapted from French Food at Home
serves 2-4, depending on how many filets you purchase

When picking out the fish for this dish, look for a filet that is of even thickness throughout.  That way it will cook evenly and you won't have to worry about it being over or under-cooked in sections.  If the price of seabass gives you sticker shock, you could substitute mahi mahi or salmon.

I made slight changes to the recipe to make it dairy free, but you could substitute butter for the Earth Balance.  I served this with a glass of dry white wine and a simple salad of mixed greens tossed with oil and vinegar.  If you need a wine recommendation, I'd suggest a Sauvignon Blanc from California or New Zealand to cut through the richness of the fish and broccoli puree.  And just a tip from this wine geek--cook with a wine you like to drink; it will make good food taste even better!

If you have leftover red pepper sauce, mix a few tablespoons into some hummus or stir it in with some mayonnaise for a fancy sandwich. 

Ingredients for the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 red bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot or small onion, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 tbsp chicken stock
Lemon juice, to taste
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes, until the flesh is soft and puckered.  Take the peppers out of the oven and place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the peppers to sweat for 10 minutes.  Remove the plastic wrap and peel and seed the peppers.  Discard skins and seeds.  Cut the flesh into pieces and set aside. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan.  Add the shallot and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly soft.  Turn heat up to medium-high and deglaze pan with white wine.  Cook 1 minute.  Add the chicken stock and red pepper.  Return heat to medium and cook 5 minutes.  Cool slightly, and then puree in a blender or food processor.  Pour sauce through a strainer to remove any solids and transfer to a small saucepan to reheat sauce when you need it.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

Reheat in saucepan before serving. 

Ingredients for the Broccoli Puree
1 head of broccoli,
1 leek, white and light green parts, trimmed, sliced into rings, and rinsed well
1 tbsp Earth Balance spread, soy-free
Zest of 1 lemon plus juice, to taste
salt & pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Cut the florets off the head of broccoli.  Peel the stem and thinly slice.  Add the leek, broccoli florets, and broccoli stem to the boiling water.  Cook until very tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  Add the Earth balance and puree with an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor.  Return to the pot and add lemon zest, salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Reheat in the microwave or slowly on the stove top (careful not to evaporate too much liquid) before serving. 

Ingredients for the Fish
2 filets of sea bass, 4 oz each
salt & pepper
1 tbsp Earth Balance spread, soy-free
1 tbsp olive oil

Season the filets with salt & pepper.  Heat the butter and oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Fry the fish about 4 minutes per side, until golden and fish is cooked through. 

Serve on a bed of the broccoli puree with red pepper sauce along side.


  1. This whole dish looks devine. I really like how simple the roasted red pepper sauce is, a complete opposite of the complex and multiple ingredient red pepper sauce we made at an old place of work. This will for sure be going on my "to make" list.

    Hope your 2012 started off great and best of luck with all of your goals and resolutions!

  2. Thank you so much Stephanie! I hope your 2012 is great too!

  3. Aw, I love this! I prefer "goal setting" 100x over "New Year's Resolutions". And yours are simple enough to actually put into place but they'll probably have a big impact on your life. Good luck, Jen!


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