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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!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Grilled Cuban Sandwich

I first came across this sandwich while in Tampa, Florida at a restaurant called Spanish Park.  The menu offered many Cuban foods, which are common in restaurants in Miami and South Florida, but the Cuban Sandwich was one I had to try.
Cuban sandwiches have layers of ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, dill pickle and mustard between a sliced length of crusty Cuban bread. The key to this yummy Sandwich lies in the grilling. Once assembled, the sandwich is grilled in a sandwich press (such as a panini press) until the ham, pork, and pickles are warm, and the bread is golden brown.  Cuban restaurants use a sandwich press, but you can substitute a large heated skillet, using a slightly smaller skillet to "press" down on top of the sandwiches. Enjoy!

1 loaf Cuban bread*
Prepared yellow mustard
1/2 pound Baked Ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound Roast Pork, thinly sliced
8 thin Dill Pickle Slices
1/2 pound Swiss Cheese, thinly sliced

* Italian or French bread may be substituted.

Slice the bread horizontally to open and cut to the desired lengths, making 4 sandwiches. Spread a thin layer of yellow mustard on the inside top and bottom halves of bread. Arrange ham, pork, pickle slices, and Swiss cheese evenly over the bread. Fold sandwiches together.

Lightly butter the top of each sandwich, and place buttered side down on a hot griddle or skillet. Place a piece of foil over the tops of sandwiches and, using a second skillet, press the top skillet onto the sandwiches and weight the skillet down using a slightly heavy pot. Grill about 4- 6 minutes. Remove top skillet and foil and butter the tops of the bread. Turn over carefully and grill about 4 - 6 minutes more or until cheese has begun to melt.

The idea is to press the sandwich down to create a grilled cheese effect. This will help the ham, pork and cheese to steam and melt together.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Red Pepper-Lime Chicken Kabobs

Ok, so we have back to back Kabob recipes this week, each with it's own distinct flavor.  There are several reasons these make a great summer dinner.  Prep time is only about 10 minutes, cooking time is another 10 minutes (or less), and it keeps the kitchen cool on a hot summer night!

Enjoy this simple and healthy dinner with a couple of basic sides like veggies and mashed sweet potatoes.

2 tsp  Olive Oil
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz  Lime Juice
4 Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1- 1/2-inch cubes

Combine olive oil, red pepper, garlic and lime juice in shallow bowl. Add chicken to marinade. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours.

Using metal skewers, place 6 - 8 cubes of chicken on each kabob.  Heat grill to medium, and grill until chicken is evenly browned, turning skewers several times.

** Note: This recipe is also great using flank steak. Slice into 1" cubes, cutting against the grain. Marinate beef and chicken in seperate bowls. Cook beef 4-5 minutes each side.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mango-Habanero Chicken Kabobs

The Habanero Chili Pepper is one of the most intense peppers on the Scoville Scale, with a rating of around 100,000 to 350,000 units.  If you compare this rating to that of a Bell Pepper with zero units, an Anaheim Chili around 500-700 units, and a Tabasco pepper around 30,000 units, the Habanero carries a huge punch of heat in a very small package.  The peppers are usually only about an inch long and are most often orange or red and can be found in most markets.  For the most flavor from this slightly citrus-flavored pepper, but a little less intense heat, use the outside of the pepper and discard the seeds. 

In this recipe, when you combine the spicy Habanero with the sweetness of a Mango, you get an amazing flavor combo that can be used on chicken, pork, shrimp or tuna steaks.

4  Large Mangoes
1  Habanero Pepper, fully ripe
1/2 cup  Lime Juice
3-inch Piece of Ginger, grated
1/4 - 1/2 cup  Sugar
1 - 2 cups  Water
4 Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
Salt and Pepper

Prepare Sauce in Advance:  Remove stem from the habanero and add the whole pepper to a food processor.  Remove the pit from each mango and add the flesh to the food processor. Blend until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, combine the lime juice, ginger, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water.  Continue to stir over low heat until completely blended.

Bring the mixture to a low boil and allow the sauce to thicken, about 30 minutes.  Taste the sauce and adjust the sweetness as needed.  The sauce should be a bit sweet but the pepper flavor should come thru also.  If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more water, just a teaspoon at a time, until the  desired thinkness is reached.

Refrigerate overnight and use as a marinade on chicken, pork or even shrimp or serve as a dipping sauce on the side.

When ready to grill kabobs, skewer 6 - 8 pieces of chicken onto metal skewers.  Lightly coat each kabob with mango sauce and grill over medium heat.  Turn several times adding a light coating of sauce with each turn. Serve with sweet potato fries and a side of extra sauce.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

This is one of my favorite Mexican dishes.  Traditional Chimichangas are deep-fried which takes healthy chicken and turns it into a not so healthy dinner.  With this recipe you can use flour, whole wheat or even a low carb tortilla as an even healthier choice.

Serve these crispy chimichangas with Spicy Guacamole, salsa and sour cream and a side of refried beans and Spanish rice. Enjoy!

2 tsp Olive Oil
1 TB Garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked and shredded Chicken  
1 1/2 cups Salsa
1 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Garlic Powder
2 16 oz cans Refried Beans
1 4-1/2 oz can Green Chilies, chopped
8 Burrito-size Flour Tortilla Shells or Whole Wheat Shells
Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 TB melted Butter

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, saute garlic in oil until lightly browned. Add chicken, salsa, cumin, chili powder, salt and garlic powder. Stir until heated through. Add 1 cup refried beans and 1/2 of the green chilies (saving the remaining chilies and add to refried beans). Stir well.

Take 1 tortilla shell and spoon about 1/2 cup of chicken mixture down center of tortilla. Fold tortilla up from the bottom, fold in each side, then fold over gently. Place each chimichanga, seam side down, on a foil covered cookie sheet.

Brush melted butter over tops of chimichangas.

Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven, generously sprinkle with grated cheese, and bake 5 minutes longer until cheese is melted and browned.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole and refried beans topped with cheese.

Refried Beans - In a medium saucepan, heat remaining beans, adding 3-4 TB chili powder or taco seasoning, 1/2 can chopped green chilies and 1/4 cup milk (1/3 cup milk can be used for a thinner consistency). Stir until creamy and heated thru. Serve topped with grated cheddar cheese.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Piccata-Style Fish

I was looking for a new way to cook pollock fillets and came across this Rachael Ray recipe. The fish is cooked in a lemon, butter and wine sauce similar to chicken piccata and the flavors are delicate and amazing.  Pollock, whitefish, flounder or even trout may be used for this recipe with great results.
8 Fillets of Your Choice of Fish (pollock, whitefish, flounder, etc.)
1 1/2 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1 cup  Flour
1/2 cup  Cornstarch
3 TB  Olive Oil
4 TB  Butter
4  cloves of Garlic, minced
1/2 cup White Wine
2  Lemons
1/4 cup  Capers, drained
2 tsp  Dried Parsley (or 1 TB fresh chopped parsley if available)

Pat the fish dry using paper towels. **  This is a really important step. By drying the fish, it allows the coating to create a nice crust this will hold onto the fillets.

Season the fillets with salt and pepper. On a plate, mix the flour, cornstarch and Old Bay. Coat the fish in the flour mixture.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil, over medium-high heat. Add 2 TB butter and let it foam up, then add the fish fillets and cook, turning once, until golden-brown and firm, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the fillets to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Wipe out the pan and return to the heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil,  and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to melt. Stir in the garlic and saute for 1 minute, then stir in the wine for another minute. Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel and the juice of 1 lemon. Thinly slice the remaining lemon and stir the slices into the sauce, along with the capers and parsley. Heat for 2 minutes, then serve with angel hair pasta and spinach.  Spoon the sliced lemons and the butter sauce over the fish and a little sauce over the pasta and spinach also.  This is a really simple and quick dinner.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baked Corn Pudding

For those occasions when you need a last minute potluck dish or an easy side dish for dinner, this will be your Go To recipe.  Simple, delish comfort food that can be served hot or cold;  this dish can also be easily doubled. 

Thank you to my nephew John and his wife Alicia for this yummy recipe and for inviting us over to their visit farm in paradise. Good food, good company and a beautiful day at John's farm/zoo.

1 can  Whole Kernel Corn, undrained
1 can  Creamed Corn
1 box  Corn Muffin Mix (Jiffy)
1 cup  Sour Cream
1  Egg, beaten

Spray bottom of a 9 x 9 casserole dish for a single batch, (or 13x9 for double batch)  with nonstick spray or coat the bottom of pan with butter.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to blend.  Add the beaten egg and stir.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 60-65min.

**Note:  I want to try this with diced green chilies or even jalapenos for an added zing, although the original recipe is tough to beat.  The possibilities for this one are endless!