Baked and Blackened Tilapia Sandwiches

I woke up last night to a shriek. At about 1:30 am.
Followed by an intense cry of terror.

“Daddy!!!!! Daddy!!!!! Daddyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!”

I could hear a quiver in her voice as she yelled and yelled and yelled.
I don’t know how long it took me to realize what was happening. But, I think I must of reacted rather quickly because I couldn’t get knucklehead next to me to rouse a bit from his slumber.

As I was running out the bedroom I yelled, “Warwick! She’s crying! Something is wrong! She’s yelling for YOU!!!!”

I hurdled the gate at the bottom of the stairs and ran to her room.
I flung the door open and she leaped into my arms. Heart pounding. Tears flowing.
She was shaking so hard. Her face was pale. She’s only two. She looked as if she had seen a ghost.

She buried her head into my shoulder. “Mama, mama, mama. . “she cried over and over again.

“Baby what’s wrong? What happened? Tell me what happened!” I pleaded.

“Mama. Mama.” Her chest heaving trying to control her fear. “I saw him. The Grinch Mama. He here. He here!” And she started convulsing again.

By then, Shelbi and Bella had come into the room. Worried for their baby sister, trying to comfort her. Still she’s shaking. Inconsolable.  I hand her off to Shelbi. “Let Shelbi hold you baby. Okay? Mommy is going to show you there is no Grinch.”

But the terror in her eyes was real. And I was frightened to check. I looked behind the rocker, under bed, under her blankets and in her closet. “See baby? No Grinch. No Grinch.”

She leaned over to me, grabbed my neck in a death grip and started to sob again.
“Oh baby, sweet girl. It’s okay. You can sleep with mommy tonight.”

And then she rested her head on my shoulder, hugged me a little tighter, and we walked down stairs to my room.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Oh my Lord. That had to have been some nightmare.
I was scared just looking at her.
She said the Grinch came to her room and then took her blanket and put it over her head.

She slept with me and Warwick last night, but every time I tried to turn over she just grabbed me tighter to make sure I wasn’t going to leave her.

I’m never going to leave her.
I hope she knows that.

But. . . . . . she has got to get back in HER bed. And today at nap time she was still scared.
So I slept next to her on the floor.
And hopefully tomorrow will be a little better.

I have to help her face her fears.

How can I tell a 2 year old that there will be boogey men, and scary things, but that she can weather them all.
That she is strong, and she is brave, and she can handle everything that life throws at her?

– – – – – – – – – – – –

That can be a scary thing.

But it can also be a really, really, good thing.
Like at night. The moon and the stars come out at night. Without darkness we couldn’t have light, some might say.

And blackness. . . the rich soil, a black pearl, and the sweetness of molasses.
All those things are jewels. Real treasures.

And blackened fish.

I’m not sure it gets any better.
Out of the darkness comes the light.
Now. . . .if I could only convince my 2 old that . . . . .

Blackened Tilapia Sandwiches
adapted from Paula Dean ( A few things that I changed. Paula used butter for the oil and used 1/2 cup of it. I did not. I only used 4 TB and. . . I  used smart balance. I have also substituted canola or olive oil in the place of butter. I’m crazy like that. And of course, I’m sure the Kaiser buns she suggested would be fab, but for everyday meals, we use 100% whole wheat buns, and save the white bread for special occasions. Oh! She fried hers yal. But I baked mine. )


1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (I used Cayenne)
2-4 TB smart balance (melted), canola oil, or olive plus more for brushing on your bread (amount of oil depends on the size of your fillets)
6 frozen tilapia fillets, thawed
6 whole wheat buns
cooking spray


1.Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

1. In a shallow bowl, large enough to fit the fish, combine the paprika, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and red pepper. Mix well.

2. Brush or drizzle oil over the fish and rub in. Coat both sides of the fish with the seasoning mixture.

3. Place fillets on the baking sheet and cook for 9-11 minutes or until fish comes out flaky.
Serve on toasted buns with ketchup, light mayonnaise, mustard and all the fixins’.

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8 thoughts on “Baked and Blackened Tilapia Sandwiches

  1. That poor, sweet baby girl!!!  It’s awful when your babies are scared…and even worse when they are so scared you get scared!  I hope she forgets about that terrible Grinch soon…so you both can get some sleep! 

  2. Poor baby! Bogeyman stories, I hated them as a child and remember being intensely scared by them afterwards! I always marvel at how you link the story to the recipe!!! You are a great writer and a great cook!

    1. Aaaah geez. Thanks for the pat on the back. It’s surprisingly easy how my life revolves around food, scary easy. Sometimes its all I think about:)

  3. Awwww!  The poor baby!  How awful!!!! I am sure she knows you will always be there, but seriously, hard to move on after a particularly realistic dream!  As for the fish??? YES! please!

  4. Poor wee thing!  You are a good mama and I have no doubts that you will soothe her fears and strengthen her courage.  

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