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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!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quiche Two Ways Makes a Great Dinner

A simple quiche can make a very satisfying meal and it can be customized to your own tastes with ingredients you already have on hand.  Usually when people hear the word "quiche" they think of Quiche Lorraine, which is an elegant dish made using Gruyere cheese, which can be a little pricey.  Although it is quite delicious, Gruyere is also not always a favorite with kids.  For this recipe we made the whole family happy by making 2 different varieties of quiche at once.



The first option was a Bacon/Red Onion/Mushroom quiche and the second was a Ham/Green Chili/Cheddar Cheese quiche that was a huge success with the kids.  (The picky eater didn't even mind the chilies..lol.) 

This recipe is a great way to use up leftovers and is very budget friendly.  You could easily serve this once a week and make a different variety each time.  Anything can be thrown in with the eggs.  Try any combination of leftovers like fresh tomato, white or red onions, scallions, leeks or broccoli.  If the veggies are fresh, just saute them lightly in a little butter just until softened, then add to the quiche. (You will want to keep the amount of liquid as low as possible so it does not dilute the egg custard.)

For protein you could try pepperoni, salami, leftover lunch meats like ham or turkey, and any variety of cheeses.  Just mix and match the ingredients until you find your favorite combination.

I did cheat a little on the crust for this batch.  Although homemade crust is so very light and flaky, (I  have a recipe for homemade crust somewhere and I'll post it later) when you're crunched for time the store-bought crust will work just fine. 

1  pkg  Pie Crust, 2 shells
8  Strips of Bacon, cooked and crumbled
8  Large Eggs
2 cups  Milk
1 cup  Half and Half
3 TB Sour Cream
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
1/4 tsp  Black Pepper
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 TB  Butter
1/2  Red Onion, thinly sliced
4-5 oz  Mushrooms, any variety, cleaned and cut into quarters
1 cup  Ham, diced
1  Small Can Diced Green Chilies
2 cups  Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Open pie crusts and cook according to package directions, with one crust in the bottom of each pie plate.  (I used 2 deep pie pans so the crust can be pulled high up on the sides.)  Be sure to pierce the crust lightly with a fork to allow the steam to escape.  If you have pie weights, these are used to keep the crust flat while cooking.  **No pie weights??  No problem.  Lay a large square of heavy duty foil on the counter and place 1 cup of dried beans in the center.  Fold the edges up tightly until the foil packet will fit inside the pie plates.  These can be reused many times!

While the crusts are cooking get your filling ingredients ready.  In a large bowl, scramble the eggs and add the milk, half and half, sour cream, salt and peppers.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat and saute the red onions and mushrooms.  Set aside to cool slightly.

When shells are cooked, place the filling ingredients in each pie plate.  For the first quiche, layer the bacon on the bottom, then spoon the red onion and mushroom mixture over the bacon.  Sprinkle with 1 cup cheddar cheese.

For the second quiche, place the ham, green chilies and cheddar cheese in the pie plate in layers.

Carefully add the scrambled egg mixture to the pie plates, making sure not to overfill the shells. If you have any egg mixture left over, it can be refrigerated and safely used the next day.

Bake the quiche at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until quiche filling is set and the top is lightly browned.  Serve with sliced tomato and avocado or a tossed salad.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Penne Pasta with Sauteed Chicken and Chorizo

This recipe is the result of the classic dilemma of all Moms, "What am I going to cook for dinner?"  Sometimes the answer comes to you quickly and other times you look in the freezer, fridge and pantry and not one idea comes to mind!  Another trip to the store? Really?  Not this time. Today I would improvise!

Upon freezer inspection I found a package of boneless and skinless chicken breast. That was a good start.  But what else?  Next I found a half pound of chorizo sausage. Hmm.  Chicken...chorizo and...pasta!  Right under the chorizo was a bag of frozen spinach, and there it was... dinner!

Mystery dinners are so much fun to make. It's kind of like a real life version of the show Chopped.  Pull all of these ingredients together and make something awesome out of them.  Surprisingly, this meal came together so easily I will surely make it again soon. I even got the "thumbs up" from the picky eater in the family, and she even asked for seconds!  THAT is the true sign of dinner success!

1 TB  Olive Oil
1-1/4 lb  Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1/2 lb  Portuguese Chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (you could also substitute a Mexican or Spanish variety)
1/2 cup  White Wine
1 tsp  Dried Thyme
1 cup  Half and Half
1 1/2 cups  Milk
1 cup  Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 1/2 cups  Cooked Chopped Spinach
13.25 oz box  Regular or Whole Wheat Penne Rigate

Boil the pasta according to package directions, cooking until al dente.  This can be done while the other ingredients are cooking, that way the pasta does not sit too long.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and the onion and brown 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chopped chorizo to the pan with the chicken, reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked thru.

Add the wine and thyme to the skillet and stir well.  When the wine has reduced down, add the spinach, half and half and milk to the pan, stirring to combine.  Next add the Parmesan cheese and stir.  If the sauce is a little thin, add another 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and stir.

When the sauce is warm and the cheese has melted, drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the chicken mixture.  Stir to combine and evenly coat all of the pasta.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and a glass of chardonnay.  Makes about 6 - 8 servings.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blackened Shrimp Po'Boy Sandwich

I can't believe Summer is nearly upon us.  Here in Florida the temperatures are already into the mid to upper 80's and I'm afraid we might be in store for a very hot summer.  So this is a great time to start experimenting with some new lighter fare for those days when it's too hot to bake anything and you just want a nice light sandwich.

With a just a few minutes of prep time and a handful of fresh ingredients, you can make this delicious Blackened Shrimp Po'Boy Sandwich for lunch or as part of a light dinner. 

This is also a very inexpensive meal.  Considering a fast food cheeseburger meal probably runs $5 per person (or more) and is far from healthy, the half pound of shrimp will only cost $3 - $4 and will make at least 2 sandwiches.  On top of that you have a fresh and healthy sandwich full of bright flavors that will taste SO much better than a processed burger.

1/2 lb  50-60 ct Shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tsp  Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Butter
1 tsp  Olive Oil
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
2  Hoagie Rolls
Provolone Cheese
Romaine Leaves

Once the shrimp are cleaned, place them on a small plate in a single layer and sprinkle with the Old Bay and garlic powder.  Turn if needed to evenly coat the shrimp and set aside.

Prepare the hoagie rolls, lining each roll with romaine and provolone cheese; set aside.

Using a small skillet, add the butter, olive oil and garlic, browning the garlic over medium-high heat.  Once the garlic is slightly browned, add the shrimp to the skillet in a single layer.  Do not turn the shrimp and allow to cook about 3 minutes over medium-high heat.  This will allow the shrimp to sear.  Turn the shrimp and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until cooked thru.

Scoop the shrimp into the 2 hoagie rolls and serve with sliced pickles or a light salad.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crunchy Swai Po'Boy Sandwich with Sweet Pickle Remoulade

The Old Bay spiked coating is what gives these sandwiches a little zesty Louisiana flavor and to top it off is a simple sweet pickle dressing.  Swai fillets, which are a variety of catfish, make great sandwiches and I'm always looking for new delicious ways to prepare this tasty fish.  This recipe turned out to be one of our favorites.  For more ways to use Swai Fillets be sure to check out Beer Battered Swai Po'Boys, Swai and Sweet Potato Chowder, Baked Swai Tacos, and Swai Chowder.

Look for Swai fillets in your local market, usually in the freezer section.  It is still one of the least expensive choices of fish, it's light and healthy with a delicate slightly sweet flavor and the uses are endless.  The fillets are individually flash frozen, so you can use just a few pieces if you are serving a small group and nothing will go to waste. 

Sweet Pickle Remoulade
1/2 cup  Mayonnaise
1/4 cup  Celery, finely minced
1/2 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 TB  Creole Mustard
1 TB  Sweet Pickle Relish
3/4 tsp  Smoked Sweet Paprika

Po'Boy Sandwiches
1 cup  Cornmeal
1 cup  Panko Japanese Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup  Flour,  plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsp  Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
3  Large Eggs, beaten
6  Swai Fillets, about 5 oz each (you can also use catfish in place of Swai)
6  Hoagie Rolls, split
Shredded Romaine Lettuce and Sliced Avocado for toppings, optional

Combine the remoulade ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Set up a 2 step assembly line for the Swai Po'Boys.  In a shallow pie plate, combine the cornmeal, panko crumbs, flour and remaining seasonings.

In another shallow dish beat the eggs.

Make sure the Swai fillets are patted dry using a paper towel, if needed.  Dust the fillets lightly with flour, then dip into the egg mixture and then dip into the cornmeal/panko mixture.  Place the fillets on a cookie sheet and continue coating the rest of the fillets.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4-inch of canola oil.  Fry the fillets over medium-high heat, working in batches if needed and turning once, until the fish is golden and crunchy.  The fish will cook quickly and only needs about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remove the fillets to a paper towel lined platter to drain.

Spread each of the hoagie rolls with remoulade and 1 piece of fish, then top with avocado slices or shredded romaine lettuce.  Serve extra remoulade on the side along with a few fries and some sliced cucumbers. Enjoy!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ultimate Chicken Fajitas

This recipe was inspired by a Food and Wine recipe for Chicken Alambre, which actually seems to be misnamed.  Since alambre in Spanish means "wire", I'm still not sure where the name came from but we added a few twists to the ingredient proportions and the results were surprisingly good.

This dish reminds me so much of a restaurant in Phoenix that served southern Mexico cuisine, which is actually quite different than the food served in the northern regions of Mexico.  Many of the meals served in northern Mexico use grilled meat, and primarily beef as the main protein, while in the southern regions chicken, seafood and vegetable dishes are more common. The northern dishes also seem to favor heavier sauces, while the southern style concentrates on bold clean flavors from the foods themselves like in this dish.

Many Mexican dishes have also been "Americanized" by adding heavy cheeses to foods such as tacos or tostados, while in most regions of Mexico cheese, especially cheddar, is rarely used.  Adding a light queso fresco to this fajita allowed all of the flavors to pop and a squeeze of lime juice over the top brings all of these flavors together.

This is a delicious twist on the traditional fajita and we will surely make these again soon.  Included in the mix are sauteed red onion and red peppers, a little bacon and chorizo for extra flavor, and a topping of avocado and Mexican queso fresco cheese. 

8 oz  Thick Cut Bacon, diced into small pieces
8 oz  Fresh Chorizo, casings removed and meat crumbled
2 lbs  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into narrow strips
2 tsp  Salt
1 tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1  Large Red Bell Peppers, cut into strips
1  Large Red Onion, sliced

For Toppings
Queso Fresco or Shredded Mexican Cheese
Avocado, sliced
Fresh Lime Wedges

In a large skillet, fry the bacon until slightly softened, then add the crumbled chorizo.  Continue to cook about 5 minutes until the bacon and chorizo are nearly cooked thru and the bacon is a little browned.  Drain the excess grease.

Add the chicken strips to the pan, stirring to combine and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 5 minutes until the chicken is almost fully cooked.  Add the peppers and onions to the pan, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened.

Spoon the mixture into soft flour tortillas, add a few avocado slices, some crumbled queso fresco and a generous squeeze of lime and serve. Enjoy!!