Baby steps and pesto salmon ring in the new year

Baby steps and pesto salmon ring in the new year

Abigail Sipe of Rochester

It’s 2024, which means we’ve finally run out of excuses.

For the month of December, I can only say that we celebrate the holidays. Before that, it was Thanksgiving and before that, it was Halloween. Before that it was October, and the sun would set before 5pm anyway. Who has the energy to cook when it’s dark outside?

Basically, I’ve spent the last three months cooking and eating things based on my low energy and high desire to hibernate. And boy, were they delicious. I love foods full of butter, fat, and carbs.

But as we start the new year, one of my resolutions is to cook more healthy meals for my husband and I to enjoy. Not just cooking healthy meals, just more of them. I want us to have a wider range of options. Repeatable options Convenient options.

After all, New Year’s resolutions aren’t about willpower (cue people with more willpower than me complaining that I’m wrong). In reality, decisions are all about tricking your mind.

I’m 100% serious about this. Every year, around the beginning of January, I hear lofty goal after lofty goal from my friends and family. And every year, I ask myself: “How will any of us achieve this?” Most of these goals collapse within three weeks.

Every lifestyle change I’ve ever achieved has come from tricking my mind. Essentially, I classically condition myself so that it seems natural to do the “good” thing, and make the “bad” thing more uncomfortable. We repeat this until it sticks.

So, my goal this week was to find healthy food that is much easier to cook than any unhealthy foods I make. I wanted to find a recipe so easy that it would be silly to make something greasy when a healthier option is available.

That’s when I found this Pesto Salmon recipe from Eating Well. Careful readers will know that salmon is one of my favorite proteins (and I prefer it to red meat, too), which means I’m much more likely to come up with a salmon recipe than one containing chicken or steak. This recipe also doesn’t take long and requires minimal work.

I modified the recipe slightly, based on ingredients I could find at my local grocery store, to make sticking to the resolution easier. Instead of leeks, I used yellow onions, and instead of multicolored cherry tomatoes, I used regular cherry tomatoes.

Next, I really needed a hunk of salmon and a jar of pesto to make what my husband described as the best thing I’ve ever made.

It was really delicious. I mean, 12 minutes in the oven, and the fish was butterier than butter, with bright fresh flavor from the tomatoes and basil. It was really cool. Plus, it makes great leftovers, as it was easy to serve with a little pasta later in the week.

It has me excited to try new recipes again in the new year. I’m excited to branch out more in terms of flavor combinations. I’m excited to try different ingredients that I wouldn’t normally have access to.

For now, baby steps. Convenient, repeatable prescriptions must come first, if I have any hope of sticking to my resolution. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I love to try and share new healthy recipes.

But if three weeks from now you see me baking cookies in the sheet again, keep it to yourself. We’re all allowed to step back, every now and then.

Salmon pesto

4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 (5 oz) salmon fillets with skin
6 tablespoons cooled basil pesto
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

■ Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine tomatoes, onions, oil, and salt in a large bowl. Stir until well coated.
■ Place salmon fillets on the prepared baking sheet, skin side down. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle the tomato mixture evenly around the salmon. Bake until tomatoes begin to soften and burst and salmon is cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes. Arrange the salmon and tomato mixture on 4 plates. Top evenly with Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

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