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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!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Caribbean Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Kabobs

Jamaican Jerk Seasonings or Rubs are a simple blend of fairly common spices.  The main difference compared to American cuisine is the combination of savory spices such as garlic, onion and pepper with traditionally sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  The spice mixture can be used on chicken or pork, but also works well on shrimp or other shellfish.  I even used a bit of it in the Jamaican Beans and Rice that accompanied this dish and the results were delicious!

Even though the list of ingredients is a bit long, you should have enough of the spice mix to use for several batches of kabobs.  Enjoy!

Jerk Seasoning Mix

2 TB  Kosher Salt
2 tsp  Brown Sugar
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
2 tsp  Onion Powder
2 tsp  Allspice
1 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp  Dried Chives
1 tsp  Paprika
1 tsp  Black Pepper
1 tsp  Nutmeg
1 tsp  Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp  Ground Cloves
2 lb  Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp  Olive Oil
Veggies/fruit of your choice - Red Onion, Green Pepper, Jalapenos, Fresh Pineapple - cut into 1-inch pieces

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle about 2 TB Seasoning Mix onto chicken pieces along with the olive oil and toss to evenly coat.  Add a bit more of the rub, if needed, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for best flavor.

Thread chicken pieces onto kabob skewers alternating with the veggies and pineapple.  Grill over medium-high heat (about 450 degrees) for a total of 12 - 15 minutes, turning 1/4 turn every 3 - 4 minutes.  During the last few minutes of cooking time, drizzle or brush the kabobs with pineapple juice.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jamaican Beans and Rice

I've been trying to come up with a way to introduce my kids to black beans and this was a great start.  The rice is not spicy, but has a great blend of flavors, plus a healthy portion of black beans.

We served these Jamaican Beans and Rice with Caribbean Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Kabobs, with some extra grilled pineapple on the side as dessert.

1 TB  Olive Oil
1 TB  Butter
1 cup  Jasmati Rice
1 small  Onion, diced
2 cups  Water or Chicken Broth
1 can  Black Beans, drained and rinsed
2 TB  Ketchup
2 tsp  Frank's Hot Sauce
2 tsp  Caribbean Jerk Seasoning (same rub used on the Caribbean Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Kabobs)

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, butter and onion over medium heat until the butter melts.  Add the rice and sauté until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Baked Swai-Wrapped Asparagus with Tangerine Beurre Blanc

I'm always looking for another new way to cook this delicious fish. We've tried Swai Chowder and Baked Swai Tacos, but could we make this into an elegant dish suitable for guests? With a little research we found just the right recipe, it just needed a little tweeking!

This recipe was originally prepared using Sole fillets and lots of butter, but we found the Swai fillets are just as good if not better.  Another change was to reduce the amount of butter in the sauce by half, and use a little cornstarch and water to thicken, if needed.

The easy Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce can be used on many dishes.  For the citrus juice you can substitute orange, but the tangerine is a real treat.

1 1/2 TB  Unsalted Butter, melted
2 TB  Minced Shallots
4 - 6 Strips Lime or Tangerine Zest
1 lb  Fresh Asparagus Spears
4 - 5 Swai Fillets (or use Flounder) about 5 oz each
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 cup  Dry White Wine
1/2 cup  Fresh Tangerine Juice
1 TB  Finely Minced Shallot
3 TB  Cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 tsp  Salt
Pinch of Cayenne
1/2 tsp  Lime or Lemon Juice
** Optional: 1 TB Cornstarch blended with 1 tsp cold water can be used to thicken sauce, if needed

Place oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 450.

To prepare pan:  Using a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, brush bottom of pan with melted butter and sprinkle the minced shallots and the zest into the butter.

Trim asparagus to about 6 inches, cutting away the tough ends. Using a potato peeler, peel the spears from about 2 inches below the tip.  Using a large pot, heat about 2 inches of lightly salted water.  When the water boils, add asparagus and blanch for 3 - 5 minutes (depending on thickness) until spears are tender but not fully cooked.  Remove asparagus from the pan and quickly rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside to cool until needed.

Lay fillets on a cutting board and season with salt and pepper.  Next place 4 - 5 asparagus spears across each fillet and roll up to create a bundle. Place bundles in baking dish, add the water and wine to the bottom, cover tightly with foil and bake for about 20 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Make Beurre Blanc Sauce:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, boil the tangerine juice over medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low, then whisk in 1 TB butter.  Add the remaining butter, 1 TB at a time, whisking constantly, and occasionally pulling the pan off of the heat to cool the mixture slightly.  This will prevent the sauce from cracking. If sauce is a bit too thin, increase the heat and slowly add the cornstarch and water mixture while whisking.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in salt, cayenne and lime or lemon juice.

Transfer fish with a slotted spatula to a platter and reserve pan juices.  Cover fish with foil.  Discard the zest and pour the pan juices into a 10-inch skillet.  Bring the juices to a boil over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the Beurre Blanc and stir to the desired consistency.

Place one fish/asparagus bundle on each plate and top with a spoonful of the Beurre Blanc, plus extra sauce on the plate for dipping.  Serve with Jasmine Rice. Enjoy!

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!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Salt Crusted Whole Red Snapper

During our journey to the Gulf we picked up a beautiful Whole Red Snapper.  It's been years since I've cooked a whole fish and this was a bit of a science experiment, so I was a little nervous about the end result.  My main worry was the fish would be salty.  Alton Brown used this same method on Sea Bass so we thought it was worth a try.

When the fish is encased in salt, the mixture becomes a sort of hardened shell, like an adobe oven while it cooks.  This holds in all of the juices and flavors and delivers a moist and perfectly cooked fish, with no salty flavor.  I can't wait to try this with a larger fish.  The Sea Bass or even Salmon would be a great choice next time.

1 Whole Red Snapper, cleaned
1  Lemon, sliced
Lemon Pepper or other seasonings of your choice
Optional:  Fresh Herbs of Your Choice (dill, parsley, etc)
6 cups  Kosher Salt
3  Egg Whites
1/3 cup  Water

To prep the fish, sprinkle the inside cavity with lemon pepper and arrange the lemon slices and herbs so they fill the fish.  (We just used the lemon slices and the taste was amazing.)  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the salt, egg whites and water.  Blend by hand until you have a mixture that holds together well.  You want a consistency that sticks together like a snowball of salt.

Place a 1/2 inch layer of the salt mixture on the bottom of a foil-lined pan, forming a bed for the fish.  Place the fish on top of the salt bed and scoop the remaining mixture onto the fish, pressing lightly to encase the whole fish, but not packing it.  Smooth the top of the salt to make sure there are no spaces for air to get in.

Bake at 450 for about 25 - 30 minutes depending on size and thickness of the fish.  Check for an internal temp of about 130, remove the fish from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Using a large spoon, tap on the outside of the salt crust and crack the shell.  The shell came off easily in 2 pieces.  Discard as many large salt pieces as you can, then brush off the fish using a pastry brush.  The skin peeled back easily to reveal a moist and juicy fillet.  Using a spatula, remove the top fillet to a plate, then the center bones can be removed in 1 long piece, then the remaining fish can be transferred to the plate. 

Served with clam shells and fresh steamed asparagus, this was an awesome piece of fish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hendry Block 28 and Blocks 7 & 22 Wines

I always like to mention that I do not have any affiliation with this winery or any others.  But I do like to share a great find like this with my readers.

We recently purchased several bottles of Hendry 2007 Block 28 and 2007 Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel wine, and these have quickly become my favorites.  I'm not a wine expert by any means, but we do enjoy trying new varieties of wine, especially Old Vine Zinfandels.

The Block 28 is deep ruby red in color and will pair well with grilled beef, pork or lamb.  It was delicious with a grilled New York Strip steak and Grilled Tomatoes with Mozzarella.  It would also be great with a hearty winter stew. 

The Block 7 & 22, also a deep dark ruby shade, is slightly sweeter but has a great peppery spice that worked well with a roast pork loin. The flavor is so bright it would also be excellent with seafood.

The Hendry Winery is located in Napa Valley and they produce several red and white wines.  Be sure to check out their selections here.

How Do You Cook Swai Fillets?

Swai is the new fish in town. It has started to appear in markets throughout the country and is a great bargain at about $3 - $4 per pound. First, a little fishy info.

Swai (rhymes with "why") is also known by the names Basa, Panga, or iridescent shark, but it is not a shark at all. Swai is farm-raised catfish from Southeast Asia. It can be found as individually frozen boneless fillets in 2-pound packages, which makes it very convenient if you only need 1 or 2 fillets.

With a mild taste and texture, Swai can be cooked using similar methods used for Tilapia. It has no fishy smell and the fillets cook up solid, so it lends itself to many types of recipes. It can be pan-fried with blackened seasoning, oven-baked with panko crumbs for a healthier twist, or even grilled on a grill pan over a bed of fresh oregano. I'm also thinking it would be great in a chowder once the weather cools off.

The bonus to this yummy fish lies in the nutritional numbers. At just 90 calories for a 3 1/2 oz portion, it is low in cholesterol and high in protein at 13 grams.

So if you find this fish in your markets, buy some and experiment a little. The delicate flavor works great with stronger spices and seasonings, so use your imagination and enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce and Pasta

I love cooking with roasted red peppers! This brand of Piquillo peppers is packed in water and a bit of salt and no oil!  Low in calories and high in flavor, the pureed peppers are a nice change from regular tomato sauce and contain over 140% of your daily allowance of vitamin C.

2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, sliced horizontally into thin fillets
2 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper
1  Large Jar (33 oz) Roasted Whole Red Peppers, marinade reserved
1 1/2 tsp  Dried Italian Seasoning
4  oz  Cream Cheese (regular or low-fat)
16 oz  Whole Wheat Pasta, cooked and drained
Fresh Basil Leaves (optional)
Grated Parmesan-Romano Cheese Blend for Garnish

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and saute until golden. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, add to skillet and grill until cooked thru and juices run clear.

Using a blender, puree the roasted red peppers, along with 1/2 cup of the reserved marinade.  Blend until smooth, then add the Italian seasoning and cream cheese and blend again, adding more of the marinade if a thinner sauce is desired.

When chicken is cooked thru, pour the red pepper sauce over the chicken fillets and heat over a low to medium heat.  Tear basil leaves into small pieces and add to the sauce. Heat 3 - 5 minutes until basil has slightly wilted and sauce has warmed, but do not boil the sauce.

Place a serving of pasta on each plate, then slice a piece of chicken and place atop the pasta. Top with a generous ladle of sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan-romano cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.  Serve with a side salad and a glass of Chianti. Enjoy!

Serves about 6. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is quite versatile and can be made with regular or whole wheat pasta.  We have tried it many ways over the years and it's always a hit in the summertme. You can also mix and match the veggies with what you have on hand, such as adding blanched broccoli or asparagus.

1 lb Pasta (Use bow ties, penne, rotini, fusilli or shells;  regular or whole wheat)
1/2 lb Thick Cut Bacon, cut into small pieces
1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
6 - 8 Radishes, cleaned and thinly sliced
3  Hard-Boiled Eggs, chopped
1  16 oz bottle  Parmesan Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, chilled (or use caesar, buttermilk ranch, another favorite; vinaigrette flavors work great)
2 Green Onions, finely chopped

Cook pasta in a large pot according to package directions, cooking until just al dente.  You don't want the pasta fully cooked or mushy.

Drain the pasta in a colander and allow to cool; return the pot to the stove.  Add the bacon to the pot and cook until slightly crisp. Drain the bacon pieces on a paper towel and let cool.

Add the cooled pasta and bacon to a large bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Combine gently with a spatula, sprinkle with a handful of fresh chopped green onions and chill 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mid-Summer Garden Harvest

Found a few goodies waiting for us when we arrived home from vacation.  We weren't sure if anything would survive these crazy hot temperatures, so these were a pleasant surprise.  The tomato plant was labeled as a Big Boy, but these appear to be heirlooms.  They are meaty and creased more like an heirloom.  Either way, they are delicious.  The peppers are Tam (mild) Jalapeno peppers and at about 3" long, they do pack a punch.

I'm thinking maybe a small batch of salsa and some Grilled Tomatoes with Basil are in our future.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Would You Like for Your Birthday Dinner?

If you ask most kids this question, you would get a variety of answers from McDonald's to delivered pizza.  When I asked my daughter the same question, she replied "Let me go look at the website!".  At the ripe old age of 11, she is fortunate to have a "sophisticated palate".  She will gladly choose salads  or any type of seafood over burgers and pizza any day.  Which is exactly why her answer worried me.  I feared her answer might result in multiple trips around town to find ingredients that may or may not be available in our tiny town. So I silently hoped for something simple!


After a conference with her sisters, she announced her decision, Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy sandwiches.  YES!  Pretty simple and straightforward. But they didn't want the recipe on the website, they had something else in mind.  They wanted "Daddy's Shrimp" in the form of a Po' Boy, and with a guacamole-style sauce. Hmm.  Since my husband's shrimp recipe has been highly classified (until now), he was my co-chef for the night.

Shrimp and Marinade
1-1/2 lbs  Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Sriracha Sauce
1 tsp  Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp  Chopped Fresh Basil
1/4 tsp  Cayenne Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

After cleaning and deveining the shrimp they went into the marinade for about 20 minutes.  Then we skewered and grilled them to perfection. 

The Guacamole sauce was pretty simple:

1 Avocado
1/2 cup  Mayo
1/2 to 1 tsp Chipotle Pepper (start with a/2 tsp and adjust to taste)
Juice of 1 Lime
1/4 tsp  Kosher Salt

Puree the sauce in a blender until smooth.  This is a very versatile sauce and would be great on a grilled chicken sandwich.

The grilled shrimp went onto sliced French baguettes and were topped with sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce and a dollop of avocado sauce.  Truly yummy with a bit of spice, this will surely be a favorite for more birthdays to come.  Enjoy!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dry BBQ Rubs

A Rub is a mixture of herbs and spices that are rubbed onto a piece of meat before it is cooked or smoked.

Dry rubs add a wonderful flavor to meats or poultry and allow the spices to slowly blend with the meat.  These are perfect for slow-grilling or smoking meats.

Mesquite Rub

1 1/2 TB Chipotle Flavor Concentrate 
1 TB Light Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Celery Seed
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 TB Onion Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Salt
4 drops Mesquite Smoke Flavor

Combine all ingredients, blend well and store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Toss meats, vegetables or seafood with the rub, rubbing both sides before grilling or roasting.

Oriental Dry Rub

1 cup Chinese 5-Spice Seasoning
1/2 cup Mesquite Rub (recipe above)
1/3 cup Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Crushed Red Pepper

Blend all ingredients well. Great rub for chicken, pork or seafood.

Caribbean BBQ Dry Rub

1/2 cup Caribbean Seasoning Blend
1/2 Mesquite Rub (recipe above)
1 TB Thyme
1/3 cup Kosher Salt
1/3 cup Crushed Red Pepper

Blend well. Works very well with pork.

Southwestern BBQ Dry Rub

1 cup Mesquite Rub (recipe above)
1/2 cup Chili Powder
1/2 cup Dry Minced Onion
1/2 cup Dry Minced Garlic
1/2 cup Ground Cumin
1 TB Dry Mustard

Blend ingredients well. This rub works well on almost any meat and is delicious on veggies and salmon.

Grilled Tomatoes with Basil

These are a favorite with my family.  Thick sliced tomatoes with a few leaves of fresh basil are topped with mozzarella cheese and grilled until browned and bubbly.  Dried basil may be substituted, but fresh is sooo much better.  Enjoy!
1 Large Firm Tomato
3 -4 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped or whole
Mozzarella Cheese, grated or thinly sliced
Olive Oil

Using a 16" - 18" piece of foil, fold foil in half to create a "tray" for tomatoes. Fold up the sides and crimp corners and place foil on a cookie sheet. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into tray to coat evenly, and place tomatoes in olive oil. Place basil leaves on tomato slices and top with cheese. 

Slide foil tray off of cookie sheet and onto the upper grill shelf. Grill 8 - 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Buffalo-Style Baked Swai Fish and Chips

This is a spicy new twist to use with Swai, regular Catfish or it's even tasty on grilled salmon.  This is the same sauce we use for Buffalo Chicken Wings.
To Make the Buffalo Sauce
3/4 stick Salted Butter
3/4 cup Franks Red Hot Original Sauce
1 TB Red Pepper Flakes
3 TB Garlic Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Salt
1 TB White Vinegar

Melt butter in saucepan then add red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat and stir until you get a roux consistency. Add Franks Red Hot sauce and vinegar and heat to a low simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes on low heat.

To Prepare the Fish Fillets
1 1/2 pounds Catfish Fillets
1 cup Buttermilk
1 cup Flour
3/4 cup Cornmeal
2 tsp Seasoned Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
Canola Oil, for frying

Place catfish fillets on a plate, pat dry with a paper towel and set aside.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour onto a large plate.

In a deep skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil until hot.

Using 2 shallow bowls, place the buttermilk in one bowl and the flour mixture in the other. Dip the pieces of catfish in the buttermilk then in the flour/cornmeal mixture and toss to coat. Gently place the fillets into the heated oil and fry the fish, in batches, about 3 - 4 minutes per side until evenly cooked through, turning only once. Transfer the catfish to a paper-towel lined plate and let drain briefly.

Place a fillet on the serving plate and use a pastry brush to apply a layer of the Buffalo Sauce to the top. If you prefer, use a thin layer of sauce and serve with a small dish of sauce on the side.

Serve with waffle-cut fries or cole claw and celery sticks.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Easy Irish Soda Bread

Baking a loaf of Irish Soda Bread is total culinary therapy!  The smell of fresh bread baking and the texture of that first bite are heavenly.  This recipe is a great way to teach kids about their Irish heritage and their ancestors, while also teaching them the art of breadmaking.  If you like raisins or caraway seeds in your Soda Bread add them to the dough along with the buttermilk.

4 cups All-Purpose Flour
4 TB White Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 TB Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Margarine, softened
1 cup Buttermilk
1 Egg
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1/4 cup Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly.

Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk and brush lightly onto loaf. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If desired, continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes for a golden top crust.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pizza Crust

The next time you want a delicious pizza with toppings just the way you like them, make pizza at home. This recipe makes a large crust (15" x 10") plus about 6 breadsticks, or 2 large round crusts.

Top the crusts with your favorite toppings, your choice of spices and cheeses and enjoy pizza night at home.

1 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3 TB Olive Oil
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
4 1/2 cups Bread Machine Flour
3 tsp  Bread Machine Yeast
1 8 oz can Tomato Sauce or you choice of sauce
Garlic Powder for the Crust

Optional Spices - Oregano, Basil, Chili Flakes
Meats - Pepperoni, Ham, Cooked Sausage, etc
Vegetables - Onions, Green Peppers, Black Olives, Sliced Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes, etc

Combine ingredients in your bread machine as outlined in your manual, using a french dough or regular dough setting.

Using a 15" x 10" cookie sheet (or 2 round pizza pans), coat the baking pan lightly with olive oil, coating the pan all the way to the edges.

When dough is finished, place 2/3 of the dough onto the coated cookie sheet and spread dough evenly on the baking pan. (The remaining 1/3 can be shaped into breadsticks and cooked on a separate sheet.) For 2 round pizzas split the dough in half.

Dust the edges of the pizza dough with garlic powder and lightly over the surface of the crust.

Bake at the crusts at 425 degrees for about 8 - 10 minutes until crust is lightly browned, but not completely cooked. Remove from oven and evenly coat surface with tomato sauce. Add seasonings to taste. Next add any meat or vegetable toppings, followed by grated cheese **.  Return pizza to oven and bake for 7 - 10 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

** For a delicious flavor, use grated Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses plus a little grated Cheddar.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

For a last minute dinner, our Chicken Pesto Pizza turned out really good.  We used store-bought (gasp!) Publix Pizza Dough, and I was totally impressed with the flavor and texture.  We will definitely use this again!

After smoothing out the dough with a little olive oil under the crust, we dusted the crust with garlic powder and baked for about 8 minutes, then removed from the oven.

Next added Buitoni Pesto with Basil, another store-bought find that saved a lot of time since my Basil is growing so slow this year. I followed that with a layer of grilled garlic chicken and grated Parmesan cheese, grated Mozzerella cheese and just a sprinkle of cheddar and baked for another 8 - 10 minutes, until the crust was brown and the bottom of the crust was crispy.

I would have loved to add some sun-dried tomatoes to this pizza, but in our gourmet-food-deprived college town, there were none to be found. Boo. Next time for sure!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Swai Chowder

This new soup creation was so yummy!  The clam juice and milk broth base are complimented by a seared fillet of Swai, then served over and around a scoop of creamy mashed potatoes. Delicious!


1 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Minced Onion
2 TB  Butter
4  Swai or Catfish fillets, cut in half (so you have 8 square pieces)
2  Bottles Clam Juice
6 - 7  Potatoes
1  can Minced Clams, undrained
6  Thick Cut Bacon Slices, cut into 1" pieces
2 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
2 tsp  Salt
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 cups  Milk

In a large deep pot, heat oil and add the minced garlic and onion. Heat until slightly browned, then add the butter and melt over medium heat.  When the mixture begins to sizzle, add the fillets in a single layer. Brown for 3 minutes, turn and cook about 3 minutes longer or until both sides are seared. This will allow the fish to have a slightly crisp texture and it will absorb some of the garlic flavor.

In a second skillet, brown the bacon then drain the bacon pieces on a paper towel. Set aside.

Slice the potatoes and boil in a pot of water until slices are fork tender.  Drain the potatoes and mash, adding buter, milk and seasonings, if desired.

Now that the fish is slightly browned, add the clam juice, clams, milk, bacon pieces and seasonings to the pot.  The fish will gently poach in this liquid.  Do not boil!  When the soup begins to steam (but NOT boil), gently move the fish until it is opaque and flakes slightly with a fork.

Next, add about 1 cup of the mashed potatoes to the soup and stir gently as it becomes a more chowder-like thickness.  Lower the heat and keep warm.

Using medium sized soup bowls, add about 1/2 cup mashed potatoes to the center of each bowl.  Ladle the chowder around the potatoes and include 1 or 2 pieces of fish.  Top with a sprinkle of green onions and serve.

Serves about 6.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sarah's Super Bowl Nachos

Dinner for Super Bowl Sunday was all about building the perfect nachos.  It's so much fun to watch kids decorate and construct the perfect blend of toppings and then they get to eat it!  After heating some nacho cheese in the crock pot, and making a quick batch of taco ground beef, we had bowls of guacamole, green onions, black olives, tomatoes and sour cream ready to go.