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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Skillet Meatloaves

Well, it looks like another chilly week here in Florida and tonight we needed some warm comfort food.  Since we've been trying to eat a bit lighter the past few weeks, it was time for something a little more hearty. So when I found this old recipe tucked away in my files, it sounded like the perfect solution.

According to my scribble of notes, the last time I made this was somewhere around 2002, and even though my husband and I remember it was quite yummy, the kids didn't remember it at all.  So it was time to revisit the mini meatloaf.  Instead of making a large meatloaf and baking it in the oven, the mixture is divided into smaller mini meatloaves and cooked in a skillet.  The portions cook quickly and a smooth onion gravy is made in the same skillet. Super easy!

1 3/4 lbs  Extra Lean Ground Beef
1 slice  Wheat or White Bread, cubed
1/8 cup  Milk
1  Egg
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Allspice
3 TB  Tomato Paste
1/4 cup  Finely Chopped Onion

3 TB  Butter
1/4 cup  Chopped Onion
3 TB  Flour
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 1/4 cups  Beef Broth
1 1/2 TB  Ketchup
2 tsp  Spicy Brown Mustard
2 TB  Steak Sauce

Place meat in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center of the meat.  Add the bread to the center, then pour the milk over the bread to moisten.  Add the egg, salt, pepper, allspice, tomato paste and the onion to the bread and combine all of the ingredient, mixing by hand.

Form the mixture into 8 oval patties, about 3/4-inch thick, then place the patties in a large skillet and brown over medium-high heat for 6 - 7 minutes on each side.  While the patties are cooking, cover the pan with foil and leave the foil vented slightly to allow steam to escape. 

Remove the browned patties to a platter and return the skillet to the heat.  Reduce heat to medium and add butter and onion to the skillet, stirring to combine any browned bits.  Cook onion for 2 minutes or until softened, then sprinkle the flour and pepper over the onion.  Cook mixture for 1 minute, then whisk in the beef broth, stirring until smooth.  Bring sauce to a simmer, then add the ketchup, mustard and steak sauce, stirring to combine and adding additional broth if the mixture is too thick.

Pour gravy over the meatloaf patties and serve with garlic mashed potatoes and a steamed veggie.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chicken Piccata

Years ago, I used to make Chicken Piccata at least once a week for dinner.  It was my absolute favorite dish, partly because it was a super easy and fast meal to put together when I was short on time, and also because I just loved the flavor.  The lemon and white wine sauce combined with sauteed onions and garlic is a match made in culinary heaven.  The finishing touch was a spoonful of baby peas sprinkled around the edge of the dish.

The reason I say years ago is that this was the first meal I cooked for my then-future husband. But as it turned out, he didn't like it!  Crushed and offended, I wondered if I would be able to transform his beer and Molinari's-pizza-and-wings taste buds and bring him into the world of grown up foods.  Fortunately, for him and for me, he did like the next meal I prepared, and the ones after that were well received, too, so I decided to keep him anyway.  Even though he didn't like my Chicken Piccata...sigh.

So here we are, 17 years later and I finally decided it was time for Chicken Piccata to again make an appearance on the menu.  Not only did my husband approve, but the meal received a thumbs up from the kids, too.  It was well worth the wait!

2  Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts, butterflied into 4 thin fillets
3/4 cup  Flour
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
4 TB  Butter
2 TB  Olive Oil
1 TB  Minced Fresh Garlic
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup  Lemon Juice
1/2 cup  Chicken Stock
2 TB  Capers
Cooked Pasta

For this dish you will need thin slices of chicken breast.  To do this lie the chicken flat on a cutting board and use a very sharp knife to carefully slice horizontally through the middle of the chicken, so you have 4 thin fillets.

In a shallow plate combine the flour, salt and pepper and very lightly dredge the chicken fillets.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and saute for about 3 minutes or until tender.  Remove the onions to a platter and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan.  Once the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, add the chicken fillets to the skillet and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until lightly browned, then turn over and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the lemon juice, stock and capers to the pan, stirring to loosen any browned bits, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Test the sauce to see if you need a bit more salt.  (Usually I add about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt at this point.)

Return the chicken pieces and onion to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the chicken and onions to a platter and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter is melted and combined, then pour the sauce over the chicken.  Top with a sprinkle of parsley and serve over cooked pasta with a side of baby peas.  Enjoy!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bourbon Chicken

Bourbon Chicken is a common dish served in many Chinese take-out restaurants.  Even though the dish contains no bourbon whatsoever, that's the name they gave it.  And it's always been one of my favorites.

This recipe is very similar to General Tso's Chicken, but it has the healthy advantage of sauteing the chicken instead of frying. 

I was surprised how well the sauce came together using just a few simple ingredients and the flavor was delicious.  The apple juice and brown sugar add just a hint of sweetness, while the cider vinegar adds a little bite.  A perfect combination.

If you're thinking about ordering Chinese take-out tonight, save yourself some money, skip the heavy dose of MSG and cook this for dinner.  It can be ready to serve in about 40 minutes.

2 lbs  Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 TB  Olive Oil
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
1/4 tsp  Ground Ginger
3/4 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 cup  Apple Juice
1/3 cup  Light Brown Sugar
2 TB  Ketchup
1 TB  Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup  Water
1/3 cup  Soy Sauce
1-1/2 TB  Cornstarch
Cooked Brown Rice and Steamed Edamame

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.  Set aside.

Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and increase heat to medium-high.  Stir until combined and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Add the chicken pieces back to the skillet and bring mixture to a low boil as it begins to thicken.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve over hot brown rice, with a side dish of steamed edamame.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin in Mustard Sauce

Keeping with our light dinners this week we started with one of my favorite cuts of pork, a boneless pork tenderloin.  This cut of meat can be simply dressed with salt and pepper and roasted to create a delicious meal.  But tonight we decided to get a little fancy.  Using a rustic combination of sauteed fresh spinach, mushrooms and garlic as a filling, and the final touch was a mustard and white wine sauce.

This recipe does call for a little fancy knife work, but don't worry, once you get the hang of it, it's very simple.  For this dish we used a 1-1/2 pound tenderloin, and trimmed off any excess fat, then butterflied the tenderloin by making a horizontal slice lengthwise into the tenderloin, about 1 inch into the meat, but not all of the way through.  Unfold the meat to the right, then cut another lengthwise slice, and unfold again.  Repeat these steps until the tenderloin is opened out like a book and is about a 1/2-inch thick.

After that, all you have to do is apply a few layers of ingredients to create the filling and you're ready to cook. Serve with a small scoop of mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and dinner is complete. Enjoy!!

1-1/2 lb  Pork Tenderloin, butterflied
2 TB  Olive Oil
1 TB  Minced Garlic
6 large  Mushrooms, button or portobello work fine
3 cups  Fresh Spinach
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
2 - 3 TB  Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 - 3 TB  Italian Style Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup  College Inn White Wine Chicken Broth (or use plain chicken broth)
1 TB  Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
3 TB  White Wine
3 TB  Half and Half
1 tsp  Cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  When the olive oil is shimmering, add the garlic and saute 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms to the skillet, stir and saute for 3 minutes until tender, then add the spinach to the skillet.  Saute the spinach until wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground black pepper.

Spoon the spinach and mushroom mixture into a bowl to cool and set aside.  Reserve skillet.

Unfold the pork tenderloin on a cutting board and drizzle with olive oil.  Next, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the pork, followed by a layer of breadcrumbs.  Spread the spinach and mushroom mixture over the pork, staying 1-inch away from the edges. (This will keep the filling from leaking out.)

Now it's time to roll the tenderloin back together.  Start with the original interior of the loin, and carefully roll the pork back into a roast shape, pressing slightly to compact the filling.  Once rolled, you can use cooking string to secure the roast or just use a few metal skewers or toothpicks to secure the seam.

Using the same skillet as before, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil shimmers, place the pork in the skillet and sear the meat on all sides, about 8 minutes total, being careful not to loosen the seam.

Place the skillet into the oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the interior temperature reaches 140 degrees.  Remove the roast from the oven, and cover with foil for 10 minutes to rest.

In a small skillet, combine chicken broth, Dijon mustard, pepper, and white wine and stir until simmering.  In a small cup, combine the half and half and cornstarch, then add the mixture to the mustard sauce, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Slice the pork into 3/4-inch slices, spoon the sauce over the pork and serve.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Salmon BLT Sandwich

Salmon is one of my favorite varieties of fish.  You can prepare salmon in so many ways and the fish will always taste amazing. And that's just the case with this Salmon BLT Sandwich, a twist on the classic BLT.  This is a delicious way to serve a healthy portion of salmon as a sandwich with the added treat of a little bacon, fresh tomato and spinach.


Another surprise to this sandwich is the simple caper and dill dressing.  If you aren't familiar with capers, or have never cooked with them, they are a great item to keep on hand.  You only need a single teaspoon for this recipe and they add a bright zing of flavor to the dressing.  I'm sure we will be using this same dressing with many others dishes in the future.  Enjoy!!

1/2 tsp  Dried Dill
1 tsp  Capers, very finely chopped
1/4 cup  Light Mayonnaise
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

1 lb  Salmon Fillets, skinless, cut into 4 portions
Salt and Pepper
8  slices  Bacon
1  large  Tomato, sliced
1 cup  Fresh Spinach, washed and patted dry
Sliced Sourdough Bread, toasted

In a small bowl combine the dill, capers, mayo and pepper.  Stir to combine and chill until ready to serve.

Place the salmon on a serving platter and lightly season both sides with salt and ground black pepper.  Wrap each salmon fillet with 2 slices of bacon, wrapping the bacon around, then overlap with the second slice, until the salmon is wrapped snug with the bacon.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of salmon.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat until hot.  Place the salmon in the pan and cook for about 4 - 5 minutes until the bacon is browned, then turn the salmon over and cook 4 minutes longer.

Serve the cooked salmon on toasted sourdough bread, with sliced tomatoes, fresh spinach and a dollop of the caper and dill dressing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year.  Lots of great meals to share with friends and family, yummy Christmas cookies everywhere, not to mention parties with a generous spread of brie cheeses, chocolate truffles and more than our share of wine. It's no surprise that most of us are left with a bit of a snug waistline come January 1st.

So now that the holidays are behind us, we've been enjoying a few weeks of light, simple dinners and tonight was a tasty example.  Cooking dinner at home is a great way to cut back on calories because you can control all of the ingredients.  For this recipe, we used lean deli ham and a good grainy mustard and stuffed the ham inside of the chicken breasts, kind of Cordon Bleu-style.  In place of a rich sauce, we coated the outside of the chicken with crushed pretzels which added a touch of salt and a great crunch.  Lots of flavor, lots of crunch, easy on the calories.

This is a super easy dinner to prepare and can be ready in about an hour and can be prepared with ingredients that most people will have on hand.  It's also a favorite with kids.  Serve with a steamed vegetable or a simple salad and dinner is ready. Enjoy!!

4  Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breasts, about 2 lbs
8  Thin Slices of Deli Ham, (smoked ham works great)
1 1/2 TB  Your Choice of Course Grain Mustard  or  Dijon Mustard  or  Honey Mustard
1 cup  Crushed Pretzel Crumbs
1 TB  Melted Butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Slice the chicken breasts horizontally, cutting about 3/4 through the chicken, to create a pocket.  Spread a generous coating of mustard on the inside of each chicken breast, then roll 2 slices of ham and stuff into the chicken.  Press down slightly to level the chicken.

Brush the top of the chicken with melted butter, then press the pretzel crumbs firmly onto the chicken.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top and the chicken juices run clear.