Back to Running and Panko Breaded Fish Sticks

Formerly tennis courts, now impromptu skating rink.

Formerly tennis courts, now impromptu skating rink.

This weekend I went out for my first run of the year on the lakefront trail. My biggest obstacle is getting my head back in the game and believing that I can run at least three miles without stopping. 3.09 miles in 31:16 isn’t too bad of a restart, though. At least this time I only stopped for icy patches and when the wind was literally trying to push me in the opposite direction. That’s a whole other obstacle I have to relearn to deal with.

In NYG news, I’ve signed up for three races so far – the Warm Your Heart 5K (indoors! no wind!), the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, and the Ravenswood Run 5K (after which there will be pancakes!). I have my eye on a few more. I’m also happy to report that I’ve conquered the neutral grip pull-up! Neutral grip pull-ups with their palms facing each other grip are, in terms of difficulty, midway between the chin-up and the pull-up, so it’s a good stepping stone to being able to do a full pull-up. Next step: tackle the pull-up negative.

This past week was Free Fitness Week at all of the park district fieldhouses and I took the opportunity to check out the one closest to me. I’ve avoided treadmills in the past, but I’ve come to the realization that I need to use one if I’d like to keep up my running ability. We’ve still got at least three good months of winter left and I’m not stupid hardcore enough to go running outside when the threat of my eyeballs freezing becomes very real.

I was considering joining Fitness 19, the new low-cost gym in my neighborhood, but they made a fatal error in attempting to win my business. After filling out a form online inquiring about a trial pass, I got a phone call in which the salesperson informed me that I needed to sign up right away because prices were going up the next day. “How much are they going up?” I asked. “Umm…I’m not sure,” she responded. “Will the $12 plan still be available?” “I’m not sure, but prices are definitely going up tomorrow so you should stop by and sign up.” No mention of the trial pass, just a phone call to scare me into parting with my money immediately. Sorry, Fitness 19 – that may work on some people, but all it did was make me mad. You lost my potential business in the span of five minutes – do not push me to spend money without giving me a concrete reason why I should. (As of this writing, prices are exactly the same as they were before, so this was just a ridiculous, shameful scare tactic.)

So, I went to the park district instead. At $17 a month, their price is more than reasonable. You can buy passes for classes or to use the pool for an additional charge, which is preferable to a regular gym where you pay for all of that regardless of whether you take advantage of it. The only issue is that the fitness center is a bit modest. With just three treadmills, I foresee having to wait for one after work, which I imagine is a peak time, but I suppose that is a small price to pay for, well, a small price to pay.

I’m happy to report that after my very first treadmill run, you will not see a video of me on YouTube flying off the back. No joke, I was really afraid of that happening. The run went just fine, the locker room was decent, and the guys at the front desk were incredibly nice. Hello park district – you have a new member.

On Sunday I made these banana pancakes, but added pecans this time because, mmm…pecans:

Banana Pancakes

I also tried out this recipe for Baked Panko Fish Sticks from Love & Olive Oil:

Panko Fish Sticks

Admittedly, I don’t have the fondest memories of fish sticks. They’re kind of gross. The idea of making my own, however, was appealing as I was sure they would taste so much better. Indeed, they did. No overly breaded, fried thing, no horrible fishy taste, and one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. The lemon and capers cut through the richness of the mayo beautifully and take what is usually a gag-inducing product to a new level. (I like a small layer of mayo on my BLTs, but beyond that I find the stuff to be pretty offensive.) So good was the sauce that I made it again for some egg-salad sandwiches. (Oh yeah, I like egg salad. And potato salad. I just pretend mayo isn’t in them.)

Although the recipe suggests that cod may be too flaky for this sort of thing, I used cod anyway because I like it. Except for a few spots that stuck to the baking rack, I didn’t have too much of a problem.

In the background you’ll see some chipotle spiced sweet potato fries that I attempted to make but, rather unfortunately, burned the crap out of because I had the oven on too high. But, they’re still there because, hey, this ain’t no tv show – this is real cooking and burn happens. I still ate them.


Baked Panko Fish Sticks with Lemon Caper Mayo
For the fish:
¾ pound firm white fish
1 large egg
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and black pepper

For the sauce:
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
black pepper

Preheat oven to 450° and place an oven-proof baking rack on a baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray or wipe with canola oil.

First, get your breading station all ready to go. Put the flour on one plate or shallow bowl, whisk the egg in another, and put the panko in a third along with salt and pepper to taste (¼-½ teaspoon each). Cut the fish into 1-inch wide strips and commence breading.

Decide which hand is going to be your flour and egg hand which hand is going to be your panko hand. Keeping them separate will prevent you from breading your fingers along with the fish. Dip the strips into the flour and shake off any excess and, with the same hand, dredge the strips in the egg and plop it down into the panko. With the other hand, roll the fish in the panko until covered and place it on the baking rack. Easy, simple, and while you do end up with some buildup on the flour and egg hand, it beats having two thoroughly breaded fists.

For maximum browning, make sure none of the strips are touching each other. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the breadcrumbs are browned and the fish is opaque and cooked through.

For the sauce, mix together the above ingredients in a bowl. That’s it. Commence dipping your highly improved fish sticks in the sauce. Perhaps run your finger around the bowl so you can enjoy every little bit of it. Make more to use with something else. (It’s really that good.)

Makes 2 servings.

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