Seafood. It’s What’s for [Thanksgiving] Dinner

Growing up, my family never had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.. or ham, or stuffing, or green bean casserole, or sweet potato pie. Man, you were deprived, you’re probably thinking. On the contrary, I think my family’s tradition of having seafood on Thanksgiving beat any turkey dinner by a long shot. You see, I grew up with parents that didn’t eat red meat or pork, therefore, we ate a lot of seafood, chicken, and you guessed it, turkey. Turkey wasn’t necessarily a “special” meal for us. Our Thanksgiving dinner instead included delicious lobsters steamed to perfection, colossal stone crab claws as fresh as you can get, and all the clams you could eat. Over the years, the meal morphed with new additions to the menu, like king crab claws, my mom and younger brother’s favorite.

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An actual picture my brother sent me one year I didn’t make it home for Thanksgiving <insert eye roll>

I’ve always said that my “last meal” would be stone crab. You know, like if I was ever on death row or something. This is a scenario you’ve thought about too, right? I can’t be sure if I love stone crab so much because it reminds me of childhood, the holidays, or if it’s just really that damn delicious that it brings such fond memories to my mind and drool to my lips. I also think my parents used it as a bribery technique to get me to come home for the holidays when I was in college.

To me, seafood says family, it says holidays, it says special. It doesn’t matter if you’re making it on a mundane Monday night or for Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating seafood into your meal gives it that extra touch of love. People often tell me that they’d like to eat more seafood, but they just don’t know where to start. It seems that most people realize that seafood has numerous health benefits, but might not know exactly what those benefits are. Let’s discuss:

Benefits of Eating Seafood

  • Contains:
    • Omega-3 fatty acids aka healthy fats
    • Protein
    • Calcium
    • Vitamin D
    • Iodine
  • Low in saturated fat
  • Adds variety to your diet
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Sea Scallops, seasoned with salt & pepper, searing in a pan with butter and garlic.

When Searching for Seafood in your Grocery Store, Choose:

Frozen Varieties: Whether you’re buying shrimp, a fish filet, or scallops, frozen varieties are usually a less expensive option than fresh, and just as delicious. You can also buy a larger quantity of frozen and keep it in your freezer at home, whereas fresh seafood should be cooked as soon as possible. I have frozen scallops, shrimp, and salmon in my freezer at all times. Not to mention they thaw super fast! Canned varieties of seafood are also a nutritious and budget-friendly option, like chunk light tuna or anchovies.

US Seafood: The United States has strict guidelines on raising fish including antibiotic use, which is why I would recommend US seafood over all others. International fish farms may not be held to the high standards that we would expect here. You can read Consumer Reports research on the contamination rates of foreign and domestic seafood and about certain labels that might help you make better choices of shrimp.

Wild Varieties: It’s a debatable topic on whether to choose wild or farm-raised seafood. Issues of cost, contamination, nutrition, and sustainability are at the forefront of this topic. If however, budget isn’t a concern for you or perhaps you eat seafood more than twice weekly, choose the wild varieties, like “Wild Alaskan Salmon.” Wild fish eat food that nature intended them to eat, while it can be a mystery as to what farm-raised fish are eating. There are, however, places like Whole Foods Market who pride themselves on sourcing only high quality farm-raised seafood, verified by a third-party.

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Wild Alaskan salmon topped with goat cheese & pumpkin seeds + roasted asparagus, beets, and sweet potato (drizzled with EVOO and freshly cracked black pepper) over a bed of mixed greens.

Low Mercury Varieties: It’s important to choose low-mercury seafood due to the damaging effects mercury has on the nervous system. This is especially important for children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. Some of the fish to avoid include: shark, tilefish, swordfish, Ahi and Albacore tuna, and king mackerel. High mercury fish tend to be large fish, which spend most of their lives eating smaller fish and accumulating mercury in the process. Low mercury options of seafood include: salmon, catfish, shrimp, tilapia, cod, light or skipjack tuna, oysters, sardines, crab, and trout.

Seafood for Children, Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women

These guidelines come from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) concurs:

  • Eat 2-3 servings a week (8 to 12 ounces in total) of a variety of fish.
  • Do not eat raw or under-cooked seafood.
  • Avoid high mercury fish.
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A pregnancy-safe salad topped with nutritious nuts, veggies, and avocado, finished with a protein-packed scoop of skipjack tuna.

Where To Start

Start with something easy, a piece of salmon. Already feeling intimidated? Don’t! The salmon I buy is Wild Alaskan, boned, frozen, individually-wrapped center-cut filets with the skin on. If you prefer to go to the fish counter and get it fresh, ask for a center cut filet. They’ll even remove the skin for you if you’d like. While I don’t eat the skin, I like to cook my salmon skin-side-down, as I find it keeps the salmon moist by locking in the juices, (and the skin is very easy to remove after it’s cooked anyways).

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Wild Alaskan salmon, skin-side-down, in a baking dish.

I’m about to share with you my absolute favorite way to eat salmon. This is a recipe you can make for your family time and time again throughout the year, or you can save it for special occasions. It’s both simple and fancy, perfect for kids and company alike.

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Pistachio & Goat Cheese Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 4 salmon filets, about 4-6 ounces each
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped pistachios, plus more as desired
  • 1- 5oz package of goat cheese
  • Pinch of fresh or dried dill
  • Drizzle (about 1 Tbsp) of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Thaw salmon, if frozen, under running room temperature water or in the fridge overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over salmon to coat evenly, on all sides.
  4. Season salmon generously with salt and pepper, as well as any other seasonings you like, such as garlic powder, paprika, etc.
  5. In a bowl, add goat cheese and dill then use a fork to combine.
  6. Add half of the pistachios to goat cheese mixture and stir (save the other half for later).
  7. Place your salmon filets, skin-side-down in a baking dish, with at least 1/2 inch space between pieces.
  8. Evenly distribute goat cheese mixture to the top of each salmon filet.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios on top. (Don’t worry if some pistachios fall onto the edges of the dish, these will roast and become crispy and delicious).
  10. Bake salmon for about 15-18 minutes, until fish flakes with fork. (If you did not thaw salmon and are cooking frozen, cook for 28-32 minutes).

Are you a seafood newbie or a pro?

What’s YOUR favorite seafood dish?!

Here’s Why Chia Seed Pudding is an Ideal Breakfast for the non-Breakfast Eater

When I discovered chia seed pudding, I think my life changed. Okay maybe I’m being a little dramatic. The fact that I can easily prep something at night and enjoy it in the morning with the only effort being unscrewing the lid to a mason jar makes me giddy. I’m also a huge “texture person” (is that a thing?) so I drool over its creamy texture. I love adding crunchy toppings to play off the creaminess of the pudding. By now, I’ve probably made chia seed pudding 50 different ways, all of which were delicious and kid friendly!

I’ve counseled numerous people that tell me they skip breakfast for various reasons. The most common reason I hear is that they are often rushed in the morning, trying to get to work on time. Also very common is that many people don’t feel hungry in the morning – sometimes even the thought of food makes them nauseous. I’m here to tell you that if you’re one of these people, I would encourage you to start eating breakfast. You might have to force it at first, but eventually you will start to wake up hungry. Also consider eating dinner earlier in the evening. Eating late at night or right before bed could impede your morning hunger.

Eating breakfast is beneficial in so many ways, both physically and mentally. While you’re sleeping and not eating, your body has systems in place to keep your blood sugar stable, thank you liver. When you wake up, you want to tell your body that you can control your blood sugar now, instead of keeping yourself on autopilot. You do this by eating, preferably within an hour of waking up. Your blood sugar affects everything, including your mood, energy, alertness, and appetite. You’ve probably heard the term “hangry” (hungry+angry), right? If you’re someone who typically gets hangry before meals, it’s likely your blood sugar speaking to you. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can make it hard for some people to lose weight, especially those with insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or diabetes.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal, hence this recipe. The important thing is that your breakfast includes both carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates are what stabilize your blood sugar, while the protein helps keep it stable for longer. The reason chia seeds fit the bill for a well-rounded breakfast is because they contain both carbohydrates and protein, with 11 grams of fiber per serving to boot!

Chia seeds also contain calcium, iron, and essential fatty acids. Due to their fat content, its best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer so they don’t turn rancid. You’ll know your seeds are rancid if they smell “off” or slightly fishy. The soluble fiber in chia seeds give them the unique ability to “gel” when added to liquid. This type of fiber also helps to lower cholesterol and, wouldn’t you know it, stabilize blood sugar.

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The chia seed is a nutritional powerhouse!

The reason I use cow’s milk in this recipe is to bump up the protein a bit. Keep in mind if you use a milk like almond milk with little protein, you could pair your pudding with some eggs, or perhaps a scoop of peanut butter, or even nuts to help keep you satiated longer. You can easily make this recipe vegan by using any plant-based milk you like.

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4 ingredients for chia seed pudding

Making this recipe in a jar with a lid makes prep a breeze. You literally just add your ingredients, screw on the lid, and shake. A jar is also portable, which means you can take this with you to work or school without worrying about spilling. I usually just eat the pudding straight out of the jar so I don’t have a separate bowl to wash. High five!

I think the pure maple syrup is crucial for taste in this recipe. I’ve tried it with “pancake syrup” and it wasn’t the same. Vanilla is added for obvious reasons, but optional if you don’t like it. If you’re interested in making a chocolate version, add 1-2 tsp cacao powder before you shake your jar. I use Navita cacao powder. I prefer cacao powder to traditional cocoa powder due to its naturally high magnesium and potassium content. If you have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll appreciate cacao’s chocolate flavor without the added sugar.

A jar of chia seed pudding. A jar with a lid is essential for shaking your ingredients and storing overnight.
A jar with a lid is essential for shaking your ingredients and storing overnight.

The topping options are endless with chia seed pudding. I’ve topped mine with mango, strawberries, coconut flakes, banana, and cinnamon, but not all at the same time. Come to think of it, that might actually be delicious. What toppings will you try?! Let me know in the comments section if you’ve found a delicious new combination!

Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk (I use whole cow’s milk)
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Tip: for a chocolate version, add 1-2 tsp cacao powder

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a large jar with a lid. Shake jar and hips vigorously for 5-10 seconds.
  2. If possible, in about 30 minutes, shake jar vigorously again for 5-10 seconds. This step is not critical, but it helps prevent lumps from forming.
  3. Let sit in fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning with your favorite toppings!

My favorite toppings include: coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, and/or berries.

Adapted from: Oh She Glows