Baked Fish with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Baked FishHere in Northeast Wisconsin, the Friday fish fry is a common dinner option especially in Spring as we have many Catholics who give up meat for lent. I will admit that fried fish with fried potatoes is really tough to beat, but I wanted to come up with a healthier alternative that is still tasty without all the added fat. Getting a crispy and flavorful crust is key to the success of this dish, which panko breadcrumbs, seafood seasoning and fresh herbs do the trick. You can substitute haddock or halibut for the cod if you prefer.

  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, stripped from stem and chopped
  • 1 c. panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp. seafood seasoning
  • 8 grinds black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tbsp. plain Greek yogurt (or low fat mayonnaise)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 8 grinds black pepper
  • 4 (6 oz) skinless cod, washed and patted dry

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat up butter and olive oil in skillet and sauté shallot until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and sauté 1 minute. Add panko, seafood seasoning and black pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, transfer to dish and set aside to cool.

Fish Feast

In small glass bowl, whisk together yogurt (or mayo), egg yolk, lemon zest and black pepper. Coat tops of fish with yogurt mixture on one side and press coated side in breadcrumb mixture. Place fish coated side up on wire rack placed on flat baking sheet. Bake until opaque and just cooked through about 40 minutes, until coating is crunchy and brown. Serves 4.

FIsh Sides

Serve with traditional Wisconsin fish fry sides: fried potatoes, toasted bread, sliced onions, sliced dill pickles, lemon slices and homemade tartar sauce (recipe below).

Tartar Saiuce

Homemade Tartar Sauce

  • 1 c. low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 dill pickle, chopped fine
  • 1 sprig fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. onion, minced fine
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. seafood seasoning

Mix all together in small bowl and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cheers and happy cooking.

Ultimate Margarita


A margarita is a nice treat after a productive day at work. Making it with good tequila, orange liqueur and fresh lime juice is essential to a really good margarita. You can blend this if you prefer. I lalso love the fresh lime zest in the lime-salt-sugar rim. Make a batch of simple syrup and you can make margaritas from scratch for a month!


  • Ice cubes
  • 3 oz. blue agave tequila
  • 2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. orange liqueur (Cointreau preferred)
  • 1 oz. Simple Syrup (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp. Lime-Salt-Sugar (recipe below)
  • Lime slices

Simple Syrup:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water


  • Zest of one lime
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar


Fill a cocktail shaker or lidded glass jar with ice. Add tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur and Simple Syrup. Cover and shake until mixed and chilled, about 30 seconds. Place Lime-Salt-Sugar on small plate. Press rim of glass into the mixture to rim the edge. Pour shaken margarita into the glass. Add lime slice to glass rim and enjoy! Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Simple Syrup:

In small saucepan, mix sugar and water. Cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Will keep in refrigerator for up to one month.


Blend together lime, salt and sugar in mortar and pestle or mini food chopper.

Cheers and happy cooking (or drinking in this case)!

Seafood Chowder

fish chowder

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, a nice bowl of Seafood Chowder warms the soul. I use low sodium vegetable stock instead of fish stock to improve the flavor profile but keep the fishy taste to a minimum. Seafood medley is a great and inexpensive option for adding a mix of clams, squid, octopus, shrimp and mussels and is found in the frozen fish aisle in most grocery stores.


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. seafood seasoning (preferred brand:  Phillips)
  • 12 grinds freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 1 bottle (8 fl. oz.) clam juice
  • 6 c. low salt vegetable stock
  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and cut up into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can (6.5 oz.) chopped clams, with juice
  • 1 bag (1 lb.) seafood medley, thawed
  • 1 lb. haddock or cod, thawed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 large buttom mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or 2% milk)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Lemon slices


Heat olive oil and butter in the bottom of a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring constantly for one minute. Add bay leaf, thyme, seafood seasoning, black pepper and red pepper flakes if using. Add wine, clam juice, and vegetable stock and bring to a soft boil.

Add the potatoes and return to a soft boil, then lower heat to medium-low and cook, covered with lid cracked partly open, until the potatoes are almost done, about 5 minutes.

Add fish, mushrooms and cream and cook on low uncovered until fish is just cooked through about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and thyme stalks before serving. Add parsley and serve with lemon slices.  Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers and a dry white wine, such as Captain’s Walk Chardonnay.  Serves 8 to 10.

Note:  For a thicker chowder, add two tablespoons whole wheat flour at the same time as seasonings before you add wine, stock, and clam juice.

Cheers and happy cooking!

Italian Meatball Soup

Italian Meatball Soup

Soup is the ultimate comfort food for me. I always make a big batch of meatballs so I have extras in the freezer. This soup is quick and easy to put together and is very filling. For the Italian Meatball recipe, click here. You can make the meaballs a bit smaller so they fit on the spoon and they’re a perfect addition. Enjoy!

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped from stem
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano, stripped from stem
  • 10 grinds of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 8 c. chicken stock
  • 1 lb. frozen tortellini
  • 1 lb. small Italian meatballs, precooked
  • 1 pkg. (10 oz) fresh spinach, washed, stems removed and chopped
  • 3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onion, thyme, oregano, black pepper and bay leaf. Sauté until onion is softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add wine and chicken stock and bring to just a boil. Reduce soup to simmer and add pasta and meatballs. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, just until pasta is al dente. Stir in fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until spinach is wilted. Garnish with basil leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Serve with crusty bread and a dry white wine, such as Captain’s Walk Winery Chardonnay. Serves 8 to 12.

Cheers and happy cooking!

Tomato Florentine Bisque

tomato florentine bisque

Making tomato soup at home is easy and so good for you, and you control the ingredients. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and carotenoids, which are antioxidants that fight free radicals that cause cancer. Adding the spinach, zucchini and fresh herbs adds an extra punch and flavor. I used canned tomatoes that were from last years garden, but you can always use fresh or canned from the store. Do buy low or no sodium canned tomatoes so you can control the salt content. As a low-fat option, I use 2% milk and chicken stock to cut calories and fat instead of heavy cream.

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ c. onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. fresh spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 c. zucchini, diced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, stripped from stem
  • 3 basil leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley, stems removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour (optional)
  • 3 c. tomatoes, canned with juice
  • 1 c. chicken stock, low sodium
  • ½ c. organic 2% milk
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz. uncooked rotini pasta (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt, for garnish
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish


If adding pasta, cook according to directions, drain and set aside.

In large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt butter and heat up olive oil until sizzling. Add onion and zucchini and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic, fresh thyme, basil, parsley, bay leaf, sea salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted. Add flour and stir for one minute (for thinner bisque, omit flour). Add tomatoes, with juice, chicken stock, and milk and bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and discard.

Using a ladle, transfer soup into blender and blend until smooth. Do this in batches until soup is blended. Pour blended soup back into pot. Add pasta to soup and garnish with a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt and fresh basil. 4 to 6 servings.

Cheers and happy cooking.

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Nothing like a hearty pasta dish to warm your heart and fill that craving for comfort food. By coating and layering the pasta with meat sauce and cheese, you will not have a dry dish but instead gooey, cheesy and meaty ziti with every bite. To make it vegetarian, leave out the meat and add whatever veggies to the saute to add substance such as mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower or whatever you like.  Enjoy!


  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. ground sirloin, turkey or chicken
  • 2 c. whole canned tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 c. marinara sauce, glass jarred
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig rosemary, stripped from stem and chopped
  • 1 sprig thyme, stripped from stem and chopped
  • 1 sprig oregano, stripped from stem and chopped
  • 16 oz. package of ziti pasta
  • 1 (15 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 c. Fontina cheese, grated
  • ½ c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven to medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add Italian sausage and ground meat and cook until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring often and breaking up meat with wooden spoon.

Add tomatoes with juice, marinara sauce, sea salt, black pepper, rosemary, thyme and oregano and stir. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, heat large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, rinse in colander and allow to cool.

In large bowl, mix together ricotta, 1/2 cup each of grated cheese, Parmesan, egg and 2 tbsp. parsley. Stir together, add cooled pasta and toss lightly to combine. Add 1 cup of meat sauce and toss to combine.

With paper towel, oil large casserole dish with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add half coated pasta and spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half of remaining cheese. Repeat with another layer of coated pasta, meat sauce, and grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with 2 tbsp. fresh parsley and serve. Serves 12.

Cheers and happy cooking!

Get Your Signed Copy of “Cooking Cella Style” Cookbook!

Cooking Cella Style CookbookHope to see you this Saturday, December 21st from 1 to 3 pm at The Reader’s Loft independent book store to get your signed copy of my cookbook, “Cooking Cella Style” (Creative Publishing, 2013). This is the last Saturday before Christmas so get that foodie friend in your life a signed copy from a local author. My cookbook is full of recipes that feature whole ingredients and fresh herbs that will inspire you to have fun in the kitchen!

TRLad_r1 (1)The Reader’s Loft is located at 2069 Central Court, Suite 44, in London Alley, Green Bay, WI 54311.  More information about this event at The Reader’s Loft fan page on Facebook.

Cheers and happy cooking!