I Need Help from Cooking Mamas!

Updated on July 29, 2011
J.S. asks from San Francisco, CA
18 answers

I am trying to loose weight and eat healthier, but my ideas in cooking are pretty boring. So I could use some ideas of good spices or recipes to make chicken taste less bland.

Also I have never cooked fish myself before, and could use some tips, recipes, recommendations on how to make fish that will taste good the next day (when I have to reheat it at work).

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answers from Dallas on

Put several chicken breasts in a ziploc with italian dressing. Marinate. Grill and after they cool, freeze in individual bags. Take one out the night before and put it in the fridge. Micro it at work and have a salad or some veggies on the side. Easy.

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answers from Chicago on

CHICKEN; cook in salsa. Green, red, whatever. Delicious.
Marinade it in garlic, salt, pepper, onions, etc.

Fish, always good with lemon. If you microwave it cooks very fast.
Lemon pepper is good, onions, there are also fish spices. If you go
to a dollar store you do not have to spend millions on spices sold in
standard stores. Just have fun with it. Start with a tiny amount til you
achieve a flavor you like.

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answers from Chicago on

We do fresh dill and lemon juice on salmon.....Garlic, butter, paprika, salt pepper on tilapia or cod baked in the oven....I also don't think the fish will taste good the next day unless you eat it cold which I have done with the left over salmon, I shredd the cold salmon and mix it with hidden valley light ranch dressing and some fresh diced red onion, you can either eat it as a sandwich or on crackers. As for spices I use the Montreal Chicken seasoning by McCormick and love it! Actually all the meat and chicken spices are awesome from McCormick! There are soo many options on learning to cook healthy foods, I just purchased Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet Cookbook and LOVE it! The recipes are easy and you really don't feel like your on a diet! Our kid's eat it too and they seem to enjoy it as well...I think it's more about how much you eat meaning you want to see alot of green's and veggies on your plate with very little butter if possible! Good Luck and Good For YOU!

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answers from Houston on

I dont eat meat but i do make fish on occasion for my husband and this is his favorite light recipe i put the frozen fish directly onto a casserole dish (doesnt matter how many) I brush it with a 50/50 mixture of dijon mustard and low fat mayo, on top i sprinkle it with crushed nuts of any kind or almond meal(sometimes i will put in thyme or rosemary if i have it), bake at 300 degrees until it flakes with a fork. squeeze lemon over it a viola!

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answers from Seattle on

Okay... I have to hit the fish part first... because NOTHING else (food wise) is worse than ill-cooked fish. Not even spoiled food. Because fish can be soooo fantastic, it's like having bad sex to eat ruined fish. I dated a fishing guide for 2.5 years, and ate fish 6 nights out of 7. There is a LOT one can do with fish... but the SECOND most important step is not making it inedible by cooking it badly.

FIRST: Picking your fish.

Ideally, buy your fish from a monger. Grocery stores in general are to be avoided like the plague (I swear, I think Albertsons stores their fish in old tires. Kroger has freezer issues. And I could go on. Ick. The only chain store I have ever come across which treats their fish with the respect it deserves is WholeFoods. But that is reflected in the cost. From the boat to the processing plant to shipping, treating fish the way it needs to be treated (to be good) is EXPENSIVE AND TIME CONSUMING. Fishmongers buy local more often than not (often caught that day), and they work on a small scale which keeps their costs down. So it's usually half as expensive to buy from them as opposed to WholeFoods. But I live 5 minutes away from wholefoods, and 30 from the fish market, so that's where I buy.

Once you're at a place that has good fish to start out with... the next tip/trick is purchasing it.

1) Ask what's good. This will change on a day to day basis. As you get used to seeing "good" fish, you'll notice the very subtle differences that tell you that the rock cod is phenom right now, or the salmon should be passed over this week but would still taste okay. You'll walk in and go "Ooooooh! The trout is *gorgeous* today!". It's just like picking red meat. You get used to what looks great, okay, iffy, and 'my god... they're actually SELLING that???" Number 1 BIG hint: "Fishy" is what fish smells like as it's starting to decay. Fish shouldn't smell like fish. It should smell like fresh water or salt water. AKA have almost no smell. If it smells fishy, acidic, or 'beachy', don't buy it to begin with, and if you mistakenly DO buy it (or it sits in your fridge for longer than 36 hours) toss the sucker to the cat. NO fish store or section should smell fishy or acidic. If you can smell their fish from 5 feet away... don't walk, but RUN out of the store. Gross. (Ahem! Albertsons!!! Take note!)

2) Cut. Cut is as important with fish as it is with meat. Avoid steaks in general. "Steaks" have bones, bloodvein on BOTH sides, and skin. Restaurants go to EXTREME effort to serve steaks (worked in a 4star in highschool as a cook/apprentice). Rather like a wedding dress they completely and totally deconstruct the steak (to remove skin, bloodvein, and 2/3s of the bones... cook fish seperately, sear the skin, and then put it all back together. "Steaks" sounds good to red meat eaters, but it's part of the reason red meat people tend to not be fish people. With everything EXCEPT Tuna, you want FILLETS, and you want them to skin it for you (unless you have a wicked fillet knife and the time to learn how to do it in less than 10 minutes... and that's just practice). On TUNA (which I don't like cooked in general, but we'll skip over my prejudices) you want a WEDGE. Tuna is a weird fish. It has these long triangular wedges... kind of like a pork loin. You buy however many inches/pounds of wedge you want, and then you cut it into 1/2-3 inch triangles, either before cooking or after (like for seared tuna.. you sear the outside of the wedge, and then slice it into thin triangles).

3) When you buy a fillet... look for the dark stipe. Every fish has it. It's usually a darker colored stripe than the meat itself, sometimes a light greyish brown, sometimes it's bright red (on some white fish). This is the fish's "blood vein". It's not a vein. It's a channel that runs THROUGH the muscle and it filters their poop and rancid oils. Yeah. POOP AND RANCID OILS. Yum. :P cough gag cough :P. Good fish mongers will have cut their fillets to avoid the blood vein whenever possible, and then will have cut any that is on it OFF. Even good chain stores, like WF, cut 'normal' fillets, with the stupid strip right down the middle of the fillet. Why? Because it adds weight to your purchase. You end up with a lot more "scraps" as well cutting fish into vein free fillets. Mongers use those scraps, stores toss them. Meaning even less profit. BUT each and every single filet is going to have more or less blood vein than other fillets. PICK YOUR FILLET. The seller will know you for a fish person when you say "I want that one, and this one over here, and can I see that one? (hidden under others), Okay, not that one. That one? Yeah... lets do that one."

3) Okay. You've gotten your fillets home. Now it's time to cook them. Because you want to cook them the same day you've bought them. Period. If you bought 'caught that day' fish, you can cook it tomorrow. Never the day after. If you bought regular fish, you need to cook it within a few hours. Trust me. MAJOR taste difference.

3.5) If you have a GOOD seller... They'll remove the blood vein for you before you came home. Most don't. As in they're not allowed to.

4) Time to remove the bloodvein. Ideally, before cooking. It's much EASIER to remove it after cooking (and I'll do that when I'm short on time)... but the fillet will be steamed in some of the fish oils and poo... so you really don't want to. If you HAVE to cook it with the blood vein in... make sure it's on the top... so the evaporating poop and oils go upward into the air, instead of upward through the flesh of your fish. The halfway cheat is to sear it for about 30 seconds ON the bloodvein side, grab a spoon, and scrape that grey nastiness off and throw it away. Like I said, FAR easier when cooked to remove it. Comes off with a spoon scraped gently down it. To remove it ahead of time take a VERY sharp knife and cut it out (if you don't have a bendy fillet knife... just fold the fillet so that the bloodvein is the buldgy part and cut it off that way OR just cut on either side of the bloodvein. This wastes a lot of fish. I only recommend it if you have a cat.

5) COOKING TIME :) :) :)

a) Fish, of all types, cooks very very quickly. To be "done" it only needs to be opaque and flaking. The ONLY reason any fillet should take longer than 5 minutes (and most only take 2 minutes) is if you're braising it in a sauce (like a ginger garlic cream sauce, or a coconut curry... neither are low calorie dishes). Cook it on HIGH temps (sautee or Broil or BBQ... never, never, EVER bake fish. It's like baking a steak. And remember, if it takes longer than 5 minutes, you've overcooked it. On high heat a 2 inch thick fillet takes about 2.5 minutes per side max. Most people don't buy 2 inch thick fillets, becuase very few fish have muscle that thick.

b) GOOD fish, with no bloodvein and no skin, needs almost no seasoning. People put lemon on fish because it breaks apart some of the rancid oils so they don't cling to your tongue. Gross. Right? Or to cover up the decaying fishy flavor (the oils start decaying first, so the acids in citrus really help the taste of decaying fish) The only thing you "need" for good fish is salt, pepper, and a little bit of oil... and you will have melt in your mouth restaurant quality fish.

c) from that restaurant quality melt in your mouth base you can PLAY. Sauces, oils, herbs, garlic, curries... the list is never ending. But trust me, trust me, trust me... cook it 'plain' first... take a bite and then add whatever you want. Drizzle it over, sprinkle it over, have FUN. Three of my current favorites are halibut drizled with chimichurri sauce (an Argentine green sauce made with parsley, cillantro, garlic, and a dash of lime... it's actually BEST on red meat, but I've been on a binge lately, and just love it on halibut), snapper with a creamy avacado sauce (in a taco), and salmon with a miso/soy/aji mirin sauce. But SERIOUSLY... PLAY. Herbs de Provance, Watercress, teriyaki, pick an herb or herb blend... pick a sauce, and just PLAY.

d) exceptions that prove the rule are braising or wrapping or smoking or steaming options. These are the LONG cook time fish that you really want to absorb the flavors of what you're cooking it on. Like Alder Planked Halibut, Ginger Garlic Cream Sauce BBQ salmon (you make the sauce, let it cool, pour it over the raw fish in a homemade tinfoil container, and bbq on low heat for 30+ minutes), or potato wrapped chilean sea bass. NOT curries, however, because with curries, you cook the fish and then add it to the curry.

6) REHEATING = DON'T. Well, you can, but probably not at work. Because to reheat fish, the only way to do it without ruining it is to use a stove and either quick sear, quick broil, or reheat the sauce/ curry/ etc. and pour it over the fish. UPSIDE: Nearly all good fish is good COLD or at room temp. If you're using a sauce or curry, reheat the sauce in the microwave to way too hot to eat (and any side) and add THAT to the cool fish. Let it sit for a few minutes and both will come out warm. But far better (imho) is to just eat the cold fish. Try mixing it up from dinner the last night by having a DIFFERENT sauce. Like a tempura dipping sauce, or toss it in a flour tortilla with some pico de gallo or avacado cream sauce and some veggies.

AND for some absolutely PHENOM/ easy easy easy recipes... check out Italy's Bible. It used to sell for over $100. It's now $30 from Amazon. The Silver Spoon.

Molto Bene!


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answers from Dallas on

Bigoven.com is awesome! I have it as an app on my phone and if I am stuck in the grocery store I go to it and type in chicken (or whatever else) and it brings up tons of ideas. My favorite to do with chiken is spray alluminum foil with non stick spray and add in chicken,veggies,seasonings,even lemon juice or whatever else I have and make "dinner packets"...the foil seals in flavor and makes it juicy and you also have your side in there with the veggies. HTH!!

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answers from San Francisco on

allrecipes.com is my favorite, lots of great ideas there!

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answers from Atlanta on

Honestly Tilapia with some lemon juice and lemon pepper is good to me. Also salmon and pour honey on top with chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc is really good too just to give a few.....

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answers from Atlanta on

Go to eatingwell.com - I think their recipes are simpler and better than Cooking Light although Cooking Light is a good source, too. I especially love Eating Well's cookbooks.

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answers from Albany on

Go to foodnetwork.com and check out Ellie Krieger, healthy food, BIG flavor, and she's cute as a button!


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answers from Minneapolis on

Check www.allrecipes.com for new ideas.

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answers from Phoenix on

I don't recommend taking fish for lunch to work. It really has a strong smell.

I go to www.foodnetwork.com for my cooking inspirations, recipes, ideas. My favorites Chefs are, Guy Fieri, Giada, Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, Pat and Gina Neely, Bobby Flay, and a few others as well. If you have the FoodNetwork channel, watch a few episodes on there. It's a great way to spice up your cooking! :-)

Have a great week!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

For one - fish doesn't taste good the next day. For sure not microwaved. In the toaster oven it's tolerable. But there's something about the microwave that makes it taste too fishy. That being said -- I recommend you bake the fish. You could put a crust on it (breadcrumbs or crutons that you've wizzed in the food processor). Then the next day, put it in the toaster oven and re-bake it till it's hot.

Two - chicken - we bake one whole chicken in the oven, then use the leftover meat to make tacos or put on a salad or make chicken salad or make fried rice ........ I just rinse the chicken, coat the skin with olive oil, sprinkle salt and garlic salt and paprika all over the bird and inside the cavity, then cook it upside down (breast down). Often, the fat in the chicken will keep the breasts moist w/o over drying them. -OR- get the Reynold's Oven Bags. Cook the chicken right-side up or up-side-down, whichever way. Those bags keep the meat moist.

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answers from San Francisco on

My ideas are pretty boring too.

My usual go to is garlic salt and pepper for chicken. Bake, broil, even microwave with no bones. If you eat dark meat, broil is our favorite. It is easy basic flavor. You can add cold chicken to salad with almost any kind of dressing, salsa for tacos, etc.
I also cook chicken with olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary, and garlic.
These are the only two ways everyone in my house will eat it.

I don't cook fish that often cause my husband wont eat it. But I think the basic salt and pepper is the best, then add what you want as you eat it. When I do cook it, I broil. Since I am the only one eating it, I always have left over. I put it on a salad or tacos. I don't usually try anything fancy or creamy cause to me the point of eating fish is to eat healthy. I admit I don't know how to pick it out. Usually, when I cook it at home it is because it has been given to us. And if you have ever eaten fresh caught salmon that day or maybe it was the next day...you will never want it from the store again.

Good for you to reach out for new ideas to continue eating healthy.



answers from San Francisco on

this is something new i've been doing with my chicken but i get skinless. http://www.zumaorganic.com/2011/06/14/bonnies-tasty-herb-...

usually i roast a whole chicken rubbed with olive oil, chopped garlic, S&P and stuff the bird with lemons after you squeeze the juice on the bird and stuff with any fresh herbs you have on hand. leftovers are easy to cube and add to a salad for lunch the next day.

i don't like reheated fish so no options for you on that but i do ake a salad and add canned tuna for work.

with the warm summer weather, we eat salads for dinner often, even our 3 year old does. garden salad with everything in it, shrimp louie, cob salads etc. just eat what you have and what you like. i use a homemade italian dressing i got online at allrecipe.com but modify to my liking (way less salt and oil olive instead of vegi).



answers from San Francisco on

First of all, thank you to Riley for the wonderful fish information!

I do a few different fish dishes that I think are healthy, quick & easy.

1. Fish tacos. These aren't your battered & fried tacos!!! Use a firm white fish. Halibut is my favorite, but can be pricey, so I will also use a fresh cod or snapper. I place the fish in a shallow dish & zest some lime rind over the fish, then squeeze the lime juice over the fish, a little olive oil (to keep it from sticking) and then a generous sprinkling of ground cumin. I cook it on the gas grill (i try to do all my fish cooking outdoors.)

Break the fish into chunks, serve in corn tortillas with sliced avocado, sliced mango, sliced sweet onion, chopped cilantro, crumbled cotijo or feta cheese (strong flavors, so a little goes a long way = less fat than other cheeses), then add a squeeze of lime juice, maybe some Tapatio.

I serve this with whole black beans sprinkled with cumin and white rice that i season with lime zest, lime juice & cilantro.

As an alternative to the mango, sometimes I will make a salsa with roasted pineapple, jalepeno, sweet onion & avocado - Place large chunks of everything on the grill - then when it cools a bit, chop it all up & toss together. Yum!!

2. Salmon in packet. Use salmon fillets. Put a large square of foil on the counter for each packet. I put a layer of sliced onions on the bottom, then the salmon, then lemon slices, tomato slices, a couple basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil, white wine or lemon juice, salt & pepper. fold up the foil to make tight packets then cook on the grill about 15 minutes. the fish & veggies essentially steam in the packets and you can do this in the oven as well.

3. Baby shrimp or scallops over pasta. Rough chop as much garlic as you like (we like a lot!) and saute over low heat in a generous amount of olive oil till soft. This is your base. Remove from heat and add in either baby (bay) shrimp or seared scallops (i definitely do these outside b/c i cannot stand the smell of scallops cooking, weird, i know), salt & pepper to taste, a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of white wine, and a chopped fresh herb - basil, parsley or cilantro work, depending on your preference. We also add steamed broccoli. Serve over your favorite pasta. My husband eats like this with parmesan sprinkled over. I like to add steamed zucchini and chopped tomato & i prefer feta over parmesan. Really, after the base of the olive oil & garlic, you can add pretty much whatever you want. We eat this probably every other week, if not every week. Super fast, quick & healthy.

For chicken, I love Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce. We add lots of veggies - broccoli, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes or butternut squash, cauliflower, really whatever you want. Oh & onions. Dump it all in a big pot with a tight fitting lid, add chopped chix breast, pour the sauce over, add about half a jar of water ... I add an extrra tablespoon or so of tomato paste & a cinnamon stick & then bring to a simmer & cover till veggies soft & chicken cooked. I serve over jasmine rice (use light coconut milk instead of water for extra yumminess) I like to sprinkle raisins or chopped prunes over mine & add a dallop of plain Greek style yogurt.

Last night we sauteed chopped chix breast in pesto till the chicken was cooked & served over gnocchi. doesn't get any faster or easierr than that!!

Good luck!!



answers from Sacramento on

One of our favorite seasonings is Tony Chacheries. You can get it in several types, including a no salt variety that we use. Whatever is in it, you wouldn't guess that the food was prepared without added salt.



answers from San Francisco on

I'm not much of a cook but I saw a recipe for chinese chicken salad that looked really good. It was chicken, cabbage, shredded carrots, sliced almonds, green onions, and a dressing. I used chicken, iceburg lettuce, sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, green onions and sliced almonds. It called for a little peanut oil which I didn't see in the store. I'm sure it's easy to find but I was in a rush. I got a bottled Asian sesame dressing, which was a little strong. I added a little lemon, peanut butter, and soy sauce (I'm not sure it there was anything else). It was really good!
If you want the real recipe let me know and I'll dig it up.

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