Country Cook News – January 24, 2014

Hi Everyone!


We ate salmon often when I was a kid growing up but I didn’t wake up to how really good this distinctive, pink-fleshed fish is until I worked for a Japanese fishing company in Seattle. The company brought freshly netted salmon down from Kotzebue, Alaska, which they sold mostly at Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Because the Kotzebue water is so cold, the salmon is especially delicious so when the company offered their employees terrific prices on the “fresh as it’s gonna get” fish, I stocked up and have been eating a steady diet of salmon ever since.

That was many years ago and in the meantime we’ve all learned the value of omega-3 fatty acids, which I feel is all the more reason to continue incorporating salmon into my diet. I’ve eaten salmon nearly every way known, but recently, while thumbing through some old cookbooks, I was inspired to create a recipe for Salmon Rice Casserole that’s a welcome wintertime change. This recipe is a great way to get your kids hooked on eating fish…yes, it’s that yummy.



Holly Hanks from Utah, “the people of the mountains” state and owner of PheMOMenon food blog, kick-started 2014 by giving credit to other food bloggers with a post titled My Favorite 10 Recipes from Other Bloggers-2013 Edition. There’s no doubt that these bloggers have a lot to offer with dishes like Baked Chocolate Doughnuts from Use Real Butter, Huckleberry BBQ Pulled Pork from Culinary Concoctions and  Chocolate and Butterscotch Mousse Cake from Bakers Royale.

This was a generous gesture on Holly’s part but let’s ensure that we take note of PheMOMenon, which is filled with mouthwatering fare. How about some 4-Layer Deep Dish Pizza Dip with Flatbread as an appetizer, maybe Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas for lunch, or Glazed Pan-seared Salmon for dinner? Desserts also abound on the PheMOMenon site with done-to-perfection, old-fashioned Raised Donuts, Chocolate Cheesecake Hearts and Roses Cake Swirled with Whipped Chocolate Frosting and Holly’s Blood Orange Tea Cakes. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you’ll find literally hundreds of recipes on PheMOMenon, varied dishes that will have your kitchen calling your name. Holly is @PheMom on Twitter.



On February 1, is kicking off a 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge, which is hosted by jounaling guru Mari L. McCarthy. Mari asked me to write an aticle for the opening of the challenge so I chose a story about my husband and I joining a structured weight loss group. Ed lost 56 pounds and I lost 18 (that’s not a typo) and much credit goes to our commitment to journaling. Here’s the story, which is titled, Winning the Battle of the Bulge.



Just received another shipment of Just Us Girls. My story in the book is Making Lemonade, which is about finding new friends who helped me cope after my divorce back in 1987. Purchase Just Us Girls through me for $15, each are signed and personalized, and price includes shipping in the U.S. Contact me at to arrange for purchasing your copies.


No More Butter Blasts: Place small bowl of water in microwave beside dish of butter to prevent butter splattering. This is the best tip of the year-it works like magic. No more messy grease splatters in the microwave.

Separating Eggs: Drop egg into small funnel that’s been placed in a beaker. White will run through, yolk will remain above.

Rubber Gloves & Jalapenos: If you forgot to use rubber gloves when seeding hot peppers, simply rub hands with a water and baking soda paste to remove irritation.



My dad, Bob Belles, was a carpenter by trade who lived for the weekends, holidays and vacations when he could pursue the elusive salmon in Puget Sound waters. I remember two boats my parents owned, Fanny Thumper and Bob~Bett, both of which had salmon gear mounted to their gunnels before their christening. I wrote a story about my dad’s Salmon Fever you might enjoy reading along with more recipes for cooking salmon.



In a recent Harvard University study, people with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were 35 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, versus those with the lowest omega-3 levels. In fact, subjects in the high-omega-3 group lived 2.2 years longer. Hit the healthy target by eating two 4 to 6-ounce servings of oily fish, which is rich in omega-3s, weekly. Try wild Alaskan salmon, freshwater Coho salmon (U.S. farmed), wild Pacific sardines and Atlantic mackerel-these varieties are all sustainably harvested and low in toxic mercury, according to Seafood Watch, a nonprofit program that’s run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Of course, fish prep is important: Stick with baking and broiling, since research shows frying fish can diminish heart-helping properties. Weight Watchers Magazine, January/February 2014



I have stories in the Summer and Autumn volumes of the Seasons of Our Lives series to be unveiled February 1, 2014. Here’s a peek at the covers: Seasons of our Lives: Spring, Seasons of our Lives: Summer, Seasons of our Lives: Autumn and Seasons of our Lives: Winter

They go on sale Feb. 1 through 3 for .99 per volume. Regular retail price is $3.99.


ASK CYNTHIA A QUESTION – January 24, 2014

Don asked: What’s your favorite way to cook and/or season salmon? How can I tell if fish is fresh when I’m buying it at the market?

My answer: I like salmon cooked all different ways. I always season it unless of course it is steamed or poached. When I’m broiling, grilling or frying fish I use a seasoning called Cajun’s Choice Blackened Seasoning (Original) because it has loads of flavor with much less sodium compared to other seasonings. When I blacken salmon I use a lot more of the same seasoning and then I blacken it in a cast iron pan over heat as high as the grill will give us. I order Cajun’s Choice at I season the fish even when I make dishes like the Recipe of the Week. It make the fish flavor pop!

How to know when fish is fresh: 1) Fish should look moist, never dry. 2) To check fish for freshness I always give it the smell test; fresh fish doesn’t have a fishy odor. It will smell more like fresh water. 3) When buying a whole fish, look at its eyes. They should not be sunken or dry looking, the eyes should look fresh, like when the fish first comes out of the water. has more comprehensive information on how to select fresh fish and shellfish. Thanks for your question, Don, and good luck with your fish cooking endeavors.



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Until next time…


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