A few Saturday nights ago, Matt and I, armed with a Groupon, tried Iron Fish by Pescado's.  Pescado's owns a few seafood restaurants around the greater Richmond area, (Pescado means "fish" in Spanish).  Ironfish is sort of a spin-off, I suppose, and is brand new located near Glen Allen.  Anyway, Pescado's is rumored to be great, so I decided we needed to give Ironfish a try.

Be forewarned, this place does not take reservations.  I don't know about you, but my idea of a night out on the town does not include sitting on a bench in the cold, starving, waiting for food.  I loathe it.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, we always make reservations.  What's even more annoying is that when I called a week ahead to make reservations, I was told they accepted call ahead  seating, but when we "called ahead" they told us they stopped doing that...as of that night.  Bummer.  So we went early and avoided what would have been a heinous wait judging from the line that formed later on. 

Now on to the restaurant.  It was very cute.  I loved the decorations which were chic and sophisticated.  The lighting was nice and I also liked the booths and chalk boards that lined the restaurant.  We started off with a bottle of red wine and some bread with olive oil.  

I ordered  the "Mundi from Down Undi" which is barramundi, an Australian sea bass.  It came with curried roasted corn and kiwi salad, corn bechamel cream puree, tarragon roasted eggplant, and chili/basil mashed yukon gold potato.  Overall I thought it was tasty and I liked the texture of the fish.  I was especially interested in the basil mashed potatoes, which I thought would be ruined by the basil but were actually delicious.
Matt had the New York strip.  Yes, he got a steak at the seafood restaurant.  However, I didn't blame him because honestly, there really wasn't too much of a selection to choose from, even when you took the specials into account. But no matter, he enjoyed it although he said they overcooked it (he ordered it medium rare).   It was served with the same mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a grape tomato salad.  
Finally, we decided to split a dessert.  Again, there were only about three items to choose from, and what do you know, they had Kahlua tiramisu.  It was great - nice coffee and liqueur flavors with a rich, creamy texture.

Overall, I think it was a nice restaurant but they are still ironing out some kinks.  I'd like to see a bigger menu selection and any decent place really has to take reservations in my mind.  If you do decide to go, maybe opt for a week night or plan on being there before 6:30pm.  Bottom line: with so many other restaurants we haven't tried closer to home, we'll probably pass on going back.  

Ironfish by Pescados on Urbanspoon
My family affectionately refers to Alfredo sauce as "heart attack on a plate" and with good reason.  A single serving can set you back between 600-900 calories and 40-60 grams of fat!!!  But, if you're like me, you need a white pasta sauce...oh about once a year.  This recipe cuts out the heavy cream and eggs (and thus loads of fat and calories.)   It features Neufchatel cheese, a soft cheese that is naturally a bit lower in fat and calories. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of this so I substituted it with reduced fat cream cheese.  I promise this was just as rich and satisfying and I won't be needing any more until next January :-)

Source: Allrecipes.com

  • 12 ounces dry fettuccine pasta*
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat margarine
  • 8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water cook fettuccini until al dente. Drain.
  2. Combine milk, cubed Neufchatel cheese, butter or margarine, garlic powder, onion powder, minced garlic, and salt. Stir until smooth. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until blended.
  3. Toss pasta with Alfredo sauce and serve warm.

*I love this pasta from Trader Joe's because the noodles are nice and thick.  Delicious! 
Friday nights are for indulgence and there is nothing I love more than eating rich cheese and drinking wine snuggled up with my husband.  The dates are a new recipe for us that we loved.  I first had something similar to this at a Spanish restaurant in Charlottesville called Mas.  We've also had them at a few other Spanish tapas restaurants and this recipe really nailed it.  We loved these with the other cheeses and wine.  

Stilton-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto 
Source: Wine Bites by Barbara Scott-Goodman
12 dates, pitted
2-3 oz of Stilton cheese, crumbled 
6 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise 

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cut a lengthwise slit in each date.  Stuff each one with just enough cheese to fill the cavity but not spill out.  Pinch the stuffed dates closed.

Wrap each date in a piece of prosciutto and arrange them, seam-side down, on the prepared pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and using tongs, carefully turn the dates.  Return to the oven and bake until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes longer.  

Note: Working with prosciutto can be frustrating because it is so thin.  I kept the meat on the paper when handling it.  I cut it on the paper and placed the date on the end of each slice and just rolled it along the strip.  

We paired these dates with the rest of the Stilton (which also featured cranberries!), Emmental cheese (a hard Swiss), and Le Petite Creme (a soft cheese like a Brie but is almost liquid in the center, even fresh out of the refrigerator making it perfect for spreading).  

Stilton is an English Blue cheese, the official type made only in 6 dairies.  There is a blue vein that runs throughout the cheese representing the penicillin mold.  It is paired best with a port or sherry but by that token, a sweet white wine as well. (Source: Cheese & Wine by Janet Fletcher).  
We eat our cheese on bread and crackers and pair it with apples or pears, honey, apple jelly, apricot preserves, and usually chopped dates or figs.  We love to play around with the different combinations you can make to see how the taste of the cheese changes.  We finished it all off with a petite Shriaz and a "Sweet Red."
It's Thursday.  I'm dead - can't keep my eyes open.  Ready for the weekend!  I whipped this up in 20 minutes and paired it with big baked potatoes with sour cream and chives.  All of the carbs probably aren't helping me to stay awake!

Broccoli Soup
Source: Everyday With Rachel Ray

10 oz bag of frozen, chopped broccoli (thawed)
1 potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 oz goat cheese

1. Combine the broccoli and potato with four cups of water and boil for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer to a blender and puree with the goat cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

3 ingredients but so so good and creamy!  Great with bread for dipping!

Mom's Cornbread
Source: Another one from my mom!

1 cup of flour
1 cup of cornmeal (I love to use whole grain)
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of skim milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup of oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together.  Then, slowly incorporate the remaining ingredients.
3. Pour into an 8 inch square baking dish or muffin pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
4. Bake 20-30 minutes in a baking dish or 15 minutes in the muffin pan. 
This is a recipe of my mother's - she made this for my family when I was child.  I made this the night before and stored it in the fridge.  In the morning, I just placed the crock into the cooker and turned it on for 9 hours (then my cooker automatically switches to the "keep warm" setting.  My husband said the whole house smelled great when he came home :-) 

1 lb of lean ground beef or turkey
2 cans of dark kidney beans
2 cans of pinto beans 
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
1 can of a chili starter (or a chili starter pouch)
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced

1. Brown the beef with the onion and pepper until cooked through.  If there is excess fat, be sure to drain it off.
2. Add the beef mixture to the slow cooker along with the tomatoes and chili starter and stir thoroughly.  
3. Cook this mixture on low for 7-10 hours.
4. Rinse the beans thoroughly to remove excess salt.  Add them to the slow cooker in the last 60-30 minutes of your cooking time.  You can even add them when they are on the "keep warm" setting.
5. If you choose to cook for a shorter period, you may cook the beef mixture along with the beans for 4 hours on high.

See my earlier post for slow cooker tips: http://bonappetitrichmond.weebly.com/1/post/2012/01/spiced-braised-beef-with-sweet-potatoes.html 

This recipe is bursting with flavor and nutrients.  It was also quick and easy - perfect for Monday night.  I served this with organic brown rice and drizzled a fat free Asian sesame dressing over the arugula.  Since I was cooking for two, I just halved the ingredients for the salsa and had a little left over - just made it easier than dividing everything by three.  I took it easy on the jalapeno and red onion since we aren't big into spice.  I had not made this before tonight, but this is definitely a keeper.
Source: Everyday Food 

  • 2 avocados, diced small
  • 2 cups finely diced pineapple
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 skin-on halibut fillets (4 to 6 ounces each) (I used tilapia since I couldn't find any halibut) 
  • Arugula, for serving
  1. Heat broiler, with rack in upper third. In a medium bowl, stir together avocados, pineapple, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt.

  2. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and place fish, skin side down, on sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil until fish is opaque throughout, about 8 minutes. Top fish with salsa and serve with arugula.
On Friday night, Matt and I decided to have a date night so we headed out to Carytown to Mezzanine.  The restaurant was small with only a few tables downstairs.  However, we didn't head upstairs because there was a function going on so I didn't get a full tour.  We decided to sit out on the patio which was enclosed for the winter.  I sat directly under a heater which was actually pretty toasty. They also had blankets set out for you to wrap up with.  If you've met me, you know I got over using a public blanket and threw it over my legs.
Surprisingly, they had one of Matt's favorite wines: Barboursville's Cabernet Franc.  Barboursville is one of our favorite local wineries and this is one of their best wines.  It is a full bodied red with spicy overtones and has less of a tannin taste.  We were using a gift certificate (thanks, Lauren!) so we decided to spring for the bottle.  It was actually a pretty fair price as well.  

Mezzanine does not keep it's menu online because, according to the maitre d', the menu changes almost daily.  For an appetizer, we had a flat bread pizza with sliced sausage.  It was great and we ate every bite.  It was perfectly sized for 2 very hungry people or could be split between four.  
We both had a special for our entrees: winter vegetable gratin topped with three cheeses paired with grilled ciabatta bread.  For the most part, I liked it but it didn't blow me away.  I probably wouldn't order it again.  I did love the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and bread, but I think there was an herb included that gave it taste I didn't quite care for.  Matt loved it, though, especially the cheese blend baked on top.
We shared a dessert - a custard with bananna slices and a vanilla wafer.  It was light, sweet, and delicious.  Definitely hit the spot.
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Mezzanine and would definitely go back.  The service was on par, and the ambiance was great.  It's also interesting that the menu changes so frequently.  I love eating seasonal foods so I am sure they utilize the freshest produce they can find - another plus for me!  Finally, there is just something about being in Carytown on a cold, winter night wrapped up outside under blankets.  So beautiful. So romantic.  So Richmond.
Mezzanine Restaurant on Urbanspoon
A meal in a hurry this took about 30 minutes from start to finish and was full of flavor!

Tangy Lime Shrimp
Source: Everyday with Rachel Ray
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, patted dry
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus 1 tsp. grated zest
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Season shrimp. Heat large skillet over medium-high; add 1/2 tbsp. butter and shrimp. Cook shrimp through, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to plate. Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tbsp. butter; add shallots, lime juice and crushed pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add remaining butter, zest, shrimp and cilantro; toss.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Source: Everyday Food 
  • 5 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet; fold foil around sweet potatoes to form a packet. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. (I was in a hurry and I was only cooking for two people, so I just put two potatoes in the microwave for about 13 minutes on high.  I eyeballed the adjustments for the other ingredients).

  2. When cool enough to handle, halve sweet potatoes lengthwise. Scoop out all but 1/4-inch flesh from inside skins. Arrange 8 skins in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (discard remaining 2 skins). Place flesh in a food processor, along with 2 tablespoons butter and goat cheese; season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth, 2 minutes. Add chives and pulse to combine; spoon into skins.

  3. In a small bowl, stir together pecans, panko, and 2 tablespoons butter until combined; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle panko mixture over sweet potatoes. Bake until topping is golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

This is one of my favorite recipes.  It always hits the spot!  Making your own sauce is also rewarding - it's often cheaper and better for you as many pre-made sauces are very high in sugar and salt.  I make this dish with whole grain spaghetti to make it healthier.  

Source: Everyday Food (with changes)Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion, grated (1 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  1. Heat broiler with rack 4 inches from heat source. In a medium bowl, mix 1/4 cup onion, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, egg, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until combined. Add beef; mix gently until combined. With moistened hands, form beef mixture into 16 balls (each equal to 2 level tablespoons). Place on a rimmed baking sheet, and broil until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. 
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add carrot, remaining 3/4 cup onion, and remaining 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. 
  3. While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta to boiling water; cook for about six minutes and drain.   
  4. Reduce sauce to a simmer, and add meatballs.  When the pasta has finished, add it to the sauce too.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 20 to 25 minutes.  The pasta should go into the sauce during the last five minutes or so.
  5. Toss the pasta, sauce, and meatballs.  Serve with additional Parmesan if desired.  
Did you know avocados are in season in January? I love their mild taste and creamy texture.  They are high in fat, but they have "good fat" and have been shown to actually reduce cholesterol.  This menu also features other seasonal vegetables and fruits.  We paired this with grilled salmon drizzled with mustard and honey and finished it off with a spicy Malbec.    

Avocado Citrus Salad
Source: Everyday Food (with changes) Ingredients
  • 1 grapefruit, peel and pith removed
  • 1 large navel orange, peel and pith removed
  • 3 ounces baby arugula (3 cups) - (I used baby spinach because I had it on hand)
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (I omitted  this - I can't stand them!)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 scallions (white and light-green parts only), thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. Working over a medium bowl, cut out grapefruit and orange segments, then squeeze juice from membranes.  (I didn't quite understand the reason at first but I think it's because the fruit would be too juicy if you don't do this.  I just squeezed most of the juice out with my hands into a bowl).  

  2. Place arugula on a platter and top with avocados, radishes, and citrus segments with juices. Drizzle with oil, top with scallions, and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Acorn Squash
Source: Everyday Food Ingredients
  • 1 large acorn squash, seeded, cut into 8 wedges (I just cut mine in half) 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme) 
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss squash with olive oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Roast until squash is browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Add raisins to a small pot with vinegar. Bring to a boil, then drain and sprinkle over squash along with almonds.