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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, May 31, 2012

Anguillan Beef and Chicken Kabobs

Summer is a great time to experiment with the cuisines of the Caribbean.  The foods from this region are light and full of bright flavors and main courses are served with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, often grilled and served with light sauces.  All of this comes together as a quick and healthy summertime dinner.

Serving a "mixed grill" of beef, chicken and/or pork is something we love to serve and is a great way to use meat from the freezer when you don't have quite enough of just one meat to serve the whole family.  By serving a little of each,  everyone can pick and choose what they like and you can can use up all of the spare items from the freezer that might have gotten lost in the shuffle.  A couple of chicken breasts, a few pork chops and a steak or two and you have the beginnings of a delicious dinner.  Cooking these meats on kabobs and using a single marinade makes it even easier.

Tonight we sampled the cuisine from the island of Anguilla.  Located in the northern Leeward Islands, Anguilla has a a unique blend of residents and cuisines.  The foods enjoyed in Anguilla are influenced by African, French, Spanish and Caribbean flavors and the results are delicious.

This recipe is a staple marinade for beef but it works equally well with chicken or pork.

3/4 cup  Pineapple Juice
1/3 cup  White Wine Vinegar
2 1/2 TB  Molasses
2 TB  Orange Juice
1 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

1 lb  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb  Beef Sirloin or Tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

In a medium glass bowl combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and stir to combine.

Place the cubes of chicken in one bowl and the beef cubes in a second bowl, and divide the marinade into thirds, pouring 1/3 over the chicken, 1/3 over the beef, and reserving the last 1/3 portion.  Cover the bowls and the extra marinade and refrigerate for 2 - 4 hours.

Heat the grill to medium.  Using metal skewers, thread the chicken onto 2 skewers and the beef onto 2 skewers.  (You may need an additional 1 or 2 skewers here, but remember to keep the chicken and beef separate.)

The kabobs will cook quickly, only needing about 10 - 12 minutes for the chicken, turning once halfway thru and about 8 minutes for the beef, also turning once while cooking.  Drizzle the kabobs with the reserved marinade while they are grilling.

For a quick side dish, thread an assortment of veggies onto skewers (we used portobello mushrooms, onion chunks and green pepper chunks).  Spray the veggie kabobs lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  These can be grilled along with the chicken and beef for about 5 minutes, turning once.  Enjoy!!

Mexican Layer Dip

Different variations of this recipe have been around for years and it is still a favorite for summer get-togethers.  If you like foods on the spicy side, use refried beans with jalapenos or add a layer of sliced jalapenos.  This dish can be made several hours ahead of time and chilled to allow the flavors to blend.  As an added bonus, if you have any leftover (although that doesn't happen very often..lol) a scoop of this next to scrambled eggs is delicious!

1 16 oz can  Fat Free Refried Beans (or the spicy version with jalapenos)
1 TB  Taco Seasoning Mix
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Garlic Salt
8 oz  Light Sour Cream
12 oz  Spicy Guacamole (or use store bought)
1 cup  Pace Salsa
1 cup  Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1  4 oz can  Sliced Black Olives

Using a 9 X 9 inch pan, combine the refried beans, taco seasoning mix, garlic powder and garlic salt, stirring with a fork and then smooth the mixture into the corners of the pan.

Now you will start to layer the dish.  Smooth the sour cream onto the bean mixture, reaching all the way to the edges of the pan.

Next smooth the guacamole over the sour cream, and follow with the layer of salsa.

Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the dish and top with the sliced black olives.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lime Chicken Kabobs with Coconut Dipping Sauce

Kabobs are one of the easiest dinners to prepare in the summertime, and most of the prep work can be done long before it's time to light the grill. Just toss the chicken pieces into a zip lock bag and marinate for an hour or 2. When you're ready to grill, thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and you're ready to go.

This recipe brings together the bold flavors that Caribbean food is known for.  Cubes of chicken are marinated in lime juice then grilled for a quick 6-8 minutes for a fast and tasty dinner.  An additional burst of flavor comes from the coconut dipping sauce which combines coconut milk with cream, fresh ginger and crushed red pepper flakes.  The sauce is is so full of flavor and as good as it tasted on the chicken, it was even better poured over the couscous.

I would have liked the dipping sauce to have a little thicker consistency so this recipe will probably be reworked a time or two until we get it just right.  It is definitely going on the menu for this summer!

Serve this healthy, quick and easy dish with a side of couscous and some steamed edamame.  Enjoy!!

1 1/2 lbs  Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup  Lime Juice
2 TB  Olive Oil
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1  15-oz can  Light Coconut Milk
1/3 cup  Lime Juice
1/2 cup  Heavy Cream or Half and Half
1 tsp  Lime Zest
1 TB  Fresh Ginger, minced or zested
1 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Chopped Fresh Cilantro for Garnish (optional)

Place the chicken pieces and 1/3 cup lime juice in a zip lock bag.  Seal and marinate for 1 - 2 hours.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, lime juice, cream or half and half, lime zest, ginger, salt, pepper and red pepper.  Heat mixture, stirring often until sauce comes almost to a boil.  Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.  Sauce will thicken slightly as it rests.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and grill or broil 6 - 8 minutes turning once.  (Grilling Tip:  Spraying the grill grates lightly with olive oil will prevent the chicken from sticking.)

Reheat the sauce on low heat, if needed, but do not boil.  Transfer chicken to serving plates and spoon the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle chicken with chopped cilantro, if desired, and serve with a small dish of sauce for dipping.  Enjoy!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grilled Cuban-Style Burgers

Ahhh...grilling season is finally upon us!  Cooking dinner on the grill saves so much time and it doesn't  heat up the house on these hot summer nights, so I'm all for finding new recipes for grillable meals.

This burger is a tasty twist on the Classic Cuban Sandwich.  A Cuban sandwich consists of sliced pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles, and is grilled to perfection on a panini-style grill. 

For this burger, we used ground sirloin and kept the ham, Swiss and pickle from the traditional sandwich.  The results were delicious!  The melty Swiss cheese paired well with the ham and sirloin and it was a nice change from our usual burgers.  We will definitely be making these again.  Enjoy!!

1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Seasoned Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
8 thin slices Cooked Ham (about 3 oz)
8 slices Swiss Cheese
4 Rolls or Buns, split and toasted
Sliced Dill Pickles

In a bowl, combine beef, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Shape into 4 - 3/4 inch thick patties. On a charcoal grill, place patties on rack of uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 14 - 18 minutes or until meat is cooked to 160 degrees, turning once halfway through grilling. Top each with a slice of ham and cheese and allow the cheese to melt.

Prepare the rolls with one slice of cheese on the bottom bun and 1 slice of ham.  Place burger on top of ham and top with sliced pickles. Serves 4.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Citrus Cod Taco

Fish tacos are so much fun to make and they have become a favorite quick and easy meal for our weeknight dinners.  The flavor combinations are endless and you can have lots of fun creating new varieties.  Choose a variety of fish like cod, swai, catfish, haddock or even salmon, then choose a cooking method.  Most of these types of fish can be baked, fried or even poached as the centerpiece of your taco.  Cod works really well for tacos because it is a dense/solid type of fish and therefore it doesn't fall apart while cooking.  It also has a very mild taste and a flaky texture.

Next you need some delicious toppings.  I love to use different kinds of cole slaw on tacos because it makes the taco a meal in itself.  If you don't have the extra time to make homemade cole slaw, just pick up a container at the store and it will work great.  Even shredded cabbage will add a nice crunch to your taco.

But don't stop at just cole slaw for a topping.  Put your imagination to work and find a combination that you really enjoy.  Try using sliced avocado or Spicy Guacamole, diced tomato, finely shredded red cabbage, or even thinly sliced onion would work.

For these tacos we used a Jalapeno-Garlic Slaw and a sprinkle of Queso Fresco cheese with just a touch of the Spicy Guacamole.  These offered the zing of the jalapeno and the cheese balanced out the spice.  Tacos make a fun family dinner so I hope you give them a try.  Enjoy!!

Slaw - **Make this a few hours ahead for best the flavor
4 cups  Finely Shredded Cabbage
1  Jalapeno Pepper, very finely minced
1/4 cup  Sour Cream
1/4 cup  Hellman's Light Mayonnaise
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
2 TB  Lime Juice
2 TB  Cider Vinegar
Zest of 1 Lime
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparing the Fish
1-1/2 cups  Flour, divided
1 tsp  Baking Powder
1 TB  Cornstarch
3/4 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Sugar
1  Egg, beaten
2/3 cup  Water
1/3 cup  Lemon Juice

1/3 cup  Lime Juice
2 lbs  Cod Fillets, cut into 1-inch x 3-inch pieces
Canola Oil for frying

Garnishes of Your Choice: Avocado Slices, Chopped Tomato, Queso Fresco Cheese, etc

In a large mixing bowl combine the slaw ingredients and stir to combine.  Chill for at least 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to blend.

In a shallow bowl combine 1 cup flour, baking powder, cornstarch, salt and sugar; set aside.  Combine the egg, water and 1/3 cup lemon juice.  Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of canola oil over medium-high heat. 

In separate bowls place the lime juice and the remaining flour.  Dip fish into lime juice, then into the flour, then dip the fish into the prepared batter.

Carefully add the fish to the oil and fry 2-3 minutes on each side or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.  Drain fillets on paper towels.

Serve fish in warm tortillas.  Garnish with the slaw, guacamole, Queso Fresco cheese and a squeeze of lime juice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Summer Ham Salad

When you have a food blog, sometimes life just gets in the way of being creative.  During the past several weeks our yard has been "under construction" while we had an old patio and retaining wall replaced, then followed it up with laying new sod.  What a huge project this turned out to be!  But on the brighter side, we have a nice new patio and since we can use our grill a bit easier now, we'll be adding lots of new grilling recipes to the web site very soon.

Once that project was finished, I made a quick trip to Tallahassee and reacquainted myself with restaurant food.  Ya know what??  I really don't like restaurant food.  The service received at restaurants seems to have really fallen off over the past few years.  Servers are slow and inattentive, the food is under seasoned and sloppy, and the prices?? Yikes!  I knew it had been a while since I'd  been out to dinner but really, the prices being charged for mediocre food are shocking.  I could not wait to get back home so I could cook something...anything, just so I could add some seasoning!

So, after a couple of crazy-busy weeks, it's time to get back to posting some new recipes. Well, kind of new recipes.  Ham Salad is a dish I learned to make when I was in high school while I was working at a country club.  Ham Salad finger sandwiches were commonly served there for wedding receptions and I probably made several thousand of these over my years there. 

It's been so long since I made this dish I had to really think about the measurements because I've always prepared it by memory.  The ingredients are very flexible and can be changed according to your own tastes. The original recipe used German garlic bologna instead of ham but we still called it "ham" salad...lol.  It's also very good made with smoked ham or honey ham for a slightly sweeter batch.

This salad is great on crackers or on a nice soft dinner roll and makes a great lunch or light dinner.  It's perfect for hot summer days (like today!) when you want something quick and cool and easy.  Just add a small salad and dinner is ready.  Enjoy!

2 lb  Smoked Ham  (or German Beef Bologna or Honey Ham)
3  Hard Boiled Eggs, chopped**
1 cup  Shredded Cheddar Cheese**
1 cup  Mayonnaise**
1/2 cup  Sweet Pickle Relish**
3 TB  Sugar

Using a food grinder, grind the ham into a large bowl. (A food processor works great, too.) Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  For the best flavor, prepare the salad one day in advance.

**  The amounts for eggs, cheese, mayo and pickle relish can be adjusted to suit your own preferences.  If you like more mayo, just add an extra tablespoon at a time and mix it into the salad  until you get the consistency you prefer.