Start the New Year off Right with This Delicious and Healthy Meal: Harissa Salmon with Avocado Salsa Cruda and Lime Sweet Potato Mash

After the holiday indulgences, I always find my jeans are on the verge of giving me both camel toe and muffin top.  Not a great way to present oneself in public.  The last thing I need is to look like Brittany Spears off her meds.

For the past few years, I have rung in the New Year by reminding myself to be mindful of food and focus on healthy eating.  This WebMD portion plate tool is really helpful. With all the excess that naturally comes from restaurant-sized portions, buffets and generous family members, it’s good to be reminded of what one’s plate should look like. A portion of red meat is 3 ounces, the size of a deck of playing cards.  When was the last time you went out and got a piece of meat approaching anything that size?

I also focus on veggie-laden meals balanced with lean protein or whole grains.  The harissa and citrus give this light meal tons of flavor and make it as satisfying as fried chicken and waffles.

Serves 4 with plenty of sweet potato for a meal later in the week

Lime Sweet Potato Mash

2 lbs. sweet potatoes

zest of one lime

juice of a lime

1 T cream cheese

1/4 – 1/3 cup milk

salt and pepper, to taste

Harissa Rubbed Salmon

1 ½ lbs. salmon (just over a ¼ lb. per person, fish shrinks a lot when cooked down)

2-3 T harissa

salt and pepper, to taste

Avocado Salsa Cruda

¼ of a diced red pepper (if you are looking for heat, try dicing a jalepeño and start off with half of the seeds, tasting to make sure it isn’t too hot before adding the other half)

3 green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup corn

¼ cup either diced tomato or cucumber

1 diced avocado

zest of one lime

juice of a lime

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat an oven to 400ºF.  Rinse the sweet potatoes, pierce them several times with a knife or fork and roast them whole.  Small sweet potatoes should take about 30 minutes, larger ones may take an hour or more (I got a monster one the other week and it took and hour and 20 minutes).  The sweet potato is done when you can easily pierce all the way through the sweet potato with a knife.

2. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, dice the vegetables for the avocado salsa cruda.  Add the lime zest and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper and toss.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel.  Season both sides with salt (even if there is skin on one side).  Season the top with harissa and pepper.  Do not start cooking the fish until the sweet potatoes are roasted.

Scoop and Mash

4. When the sweet potatoes are roasted, let them cool about 5 minutes.  Cut in half and scoop out the skin.  Add the lime juice, zest, cream cheese and milk and mash.  Season with salt and pepper.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little olive oil to the pan, about one turn around the pan.  Cook the salmon.  I usually cook the skin side first for about 5 minutes then flip and cook another 4-5 minutes on the other side.  This will vary depending on thickness.  Look at the sides of the salmon to see how far through it has cooked.

6. Plate and enjoy.

Cooking the salmon and the finished meal

For a light dessert, try chopping some strawberries and sprinkle lightly with sugar and drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar.  Let stand for about 20 minutes and enjoy!

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