Welcome to HowDoYouCook.com

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cashew Chili

Day #5 of Soup Month brings us an ultra-healthy chili with...No Meat!  I know, that will scare some people but give this chili a try and you will be pleasantly surprised how delicious a vegetarian-style meal can be.

This lean vegan chili is low in fat and calories and high in fiber and flavor.  Since this recipe makes a pretty large batch, make this on Sunday night and you will have several days of yummy, healthy and ready-to-eat chili fur lunch or dinner.  Better yet, share a bowl with a friend, co-worker or family member. They will be asking for more!  Enjoy!

16 oz Dried Small Red Beans (or use Red Kidney Beans)
5 cups Water
3 Bay Leaves
4 TB Olive Oil, divided
2 Medium Onions, 1/2-inch dice
4-6 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 Medium Green Peppers, 1/2-inch dice
2 cups Celery, 1/2-inch dice
2 TB Ground Cumin Seed
1 TB Ground Coriander
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
3 cans (14.5 oz each) Diced Tomatoes
1-1/2 cup (1/4 lb) Roasted Unsalted Cashews
1 TB Red Wine Vinegar

Sort and soak beans: Sort beans and discard warped/discolored beans. Place beans in a large stockpot and cover with water, allowing an extra 2 inches of water above beans. Soak 4-6 hours or overnight.

When ready to cook: Drain beans and discard soaking water. Add beans and 5 cups fresh water to a medium stockpot. Heat on high 10 min, uncovered, until boiling. Skim as much foam as possible from surface. Add bay leaves; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, tilted to vent steam. Cook 1 hour; and do not stir.

Heat 3 TB olive oil, onions, and garlic in large stockpot on medium-high for 2 min. Add peppers and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, about 8 min, until vegetables are tender.

Add remaining 1 TB oil, cumin, coriander, red pepper, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook about 1 min, stirring. Add tomatoes; reduce heat to medium. Simmer 10 min, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

Check beans for tenderness; they should be completely tender (if not tender, cover completely; cook additional 15 min or as needed). Most of the water will be absorbed at this point. Remove and discard bay leaves. 

Add beans to stockpot with veggie/tomato mixture; stir. Return to medium heat, add cashews and red wine vinegar and simmer. Cover, tilted to vent steam. Cook 15 min, stirring occasionally.

Makes about 14 1-cup servings.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Oriental Chicken Noodle Soup

Are you ready for day 4 of Soup Month?  With cold and flu season quickly approaching, this is a great recipe to help you feel better and we're adding a little twist to the traditional chicken noodle soup.

This chicken soup has a delicious blend of oriental flavors, with a spicy zing of Sriracha Sauce at the end.  Using precooked chicken also makes it a great time saver, which would make this perfect for any weeknight dinner.  The whole wheat noodles keep the soup healthy and add a little earthly flavor.

Time Saving Tip:  To save a bunch of time putting together weeknight dinners, try adding this project to your Sunday routine.  Buy a whole chicken, about 5 - 5 1/2 pounds in weight, remove the skin and boil the chicken in a pot of water with a few onion quarters and 1 chopped celery stalk.  Let cool and pull the meat off the carcass and divide into 2 bowls (or even 3 depending on the size of meals you will be preparing). Also strain the broth to use for soup.  Now you have your chicken and broth ready for soup night and a batch of chicken ready for Baked Chicken Chimichangas or fajitas.

3 cups  Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
4 cups  Water
1 tsp  Canola Oil
1 tsp  Sesame Oil
2 TB  Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 cup  White Mushrooms, quartered
1 8-oz can  Sliced Water Chestnuts, drained
3  Carrots, sliced into thin rounds
6 oz  Healthy Harvest Whole Grain Noodles
2 cups Precooked Chicken, shredded
1 cup  Snow Peas, trimmed
1 -2 tsp  Sriracha Hot Sauce (optional)
2  Green Onions, finely chopped

In a soup pot, heat canola and sesame oil until warm, then add soy sauce, mushrooms and carrot, saute over medium-high heat about 3 minutes. 

Add broth and water and bring soup to a boil.  Add noodles and cook 5 minutes over medium-high heat.  Add snow peas, chicken and water chestnuts and continue to heat until noodles are al dente, stirring occasionally.  Add Sriracha sauce, if a spicy flavor is desired, and blend into soup.

Ladle into soup bowls and top with green onions before serving.  Serves 6-8.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Swai and Sweet Potato Chowder

On to day 3 of Soup Month!  I must say, this is an amazing bowl of soup!  I am always looking for new ways to cook Swai, and this was a great meal.  Since most people don't keep a supply of Saffron on hand, the price for this delicate spice will be a bit of a shocker. I paid just over $6 for a 1/2 gram, in a vial no bigger than a quarter!  I know it sounds expensive, but here are a few details to explain the high cost.

Saffron are the stigmas of the crocus sativus flower, which grows in Western Asia. Since each flower only has 3 stigmas, and these are all "hand-harvested", you need a lot of time to collect 13,000+ stigmas which equals just 1 ounce. A very labor-intensive spice!

Since Saffron can be used to add flavor and beautiful color to many soups, plus seafood paella, rice or risotto, it is a delicious spice to experiment with and try in various foods. You can crush the threads when using them, but in this dish, simply add the whole threads and the flavor and color will distribute into the soup more evenly.

The sweet potatoes and Andouille were a surprisingly good match for the Swai, and the crispy fried sweet potatoes on top finished the soup off nicely.

1 TB  Olive Oil
2 pieces  Andouille Sausages (6-8 oz total)
1 small  Onion, chopped
1/4 tsp  Saffron Threads (6-8 threads are plenty)
3 cups  Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 small  Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup  Whipping Cream (or Half and Half)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 pounds  Swai Fillets, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1-inch squares
1/2 cup  Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 TB  Cornstarch
1 small  Sweet Potato, julienned or cut into thin matchsticks
2 tsp  Olive Oil

In a large soup pot, heat 1 TB olive oil.  Add sausage slices and cook until lightly browned.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add chicken broth, sweet potatoes and saffron threads.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender.  Blend in whipping cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add pieces of fish to the top of the soup, pushing the fish into the soup slightly.  (The heat of the soup will gently poach the fish, allowing it to absorb all of the flavors.)  Cover the pot and cook until the fish is opaque and cooked thru, about 10 minutes.  (Choose the largest piece of fish to test for doneness, if needed.)

Sweet Potato Slivers:   Saute the julienned potatoes in a small skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tsp olive oil. Stir the potatoes and fry until crispy; keep warm.

Gently stir soup.  Mix 1/4 cup broth with 2 TB cornstarch in a small bowl.  Slowly add the mixture to the soup, a little at a time while stirring the soup, until the desired consistency is reached.  Ladle soup into bowls and top with toasted sweet potato slivers.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Golden Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp

On to day #2 of Soup Month, we have a silky smooth Golden Potato Soup with Sriracha Spiced  Shrimp on top.  This is a relatively easy soup to make, requiring just a few minutes of prep time.  The original recipe from Food & Wine magazine called for Turkish red-pepper paste as the base seasoning for the shrimp but, since I could not find any here in our small town, my husband decided to use his spice magic on the shrimp and they turned out great.  Just the right amount of spice to compliment the mild potato soup.

Why use 2 varieties of potatoes?  The Yukon Gold is a boiling potato which contains less starch and sugar and also gives this soup its beautiful color.  When you combine the 3 Yukon potatoes with 1 regular Russet potato, which is higher in starch and will add a little fluff to the recipe, you get the perfect combination of silkiness and just a bit of starch to thicken the soup.

This elegant soup would be perfect for the first course at any holiday dinner, and would be delicious served before a Beef Standing Rib RoastEnjoy!

1 TB  Olive Oil
1 medium Shallot, sliced
Kosher Salt
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium Russet Potato, peeled and diced
2 cups  Chicken Broth
1/2 lb  Raw Shrimp, about 21-25 size, shelled, deveined and cut in half horizontally
1 tsp  Fresh Basil
1 TB  Minced Fresh Garlic
2 TB  Olive Oil
1/2 tsp  Sriracha Sauce
1 tsp  Balsamic Vinegar
Pinch of Ground Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp  Paprika
1  Green Onion, minced for garnish

In a large pot heat 1 TB olive oil.  Add the shallot and just a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced potatoes and cook 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the shrimp, basil, garlic, 2 TB olive oil, Sriracha sauce, balsamic, cayenne and paprika.  Set aside to marinate while the potatoes are cooking.

When the potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to scoop the shallots and potatoes into a blender.  Strain the remaining broth into a saucepan, and carefully add 1 cup of the broth to the blender.

Puree the soup until smooth, then add the puree to the saucepan with the broth.  Add just a pinch of salt, to taste and stir until the broth and puree are combined.

Using a small skillet, add the shrimp mixture, and cook shrimp over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink and slightly curled.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with several of the cooked shrimp and a sprinkle of green onions for garnish.  Serves about 3 as a main meal with a side salad, or serves 6 as an appetizer or first course.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Southwest Chicken Chili

This is a great recipe to start Soup Month 2011.  Just 30 more soups to go!!

The mild flavors of chicken and red and green peppers combined with the bold flavors of cumin, cayenne and black beans to deliver a wonderful Southwest taste to this chili.  Even better me, this soup is very colorful and the kids loved it, including the black beans! They loved the beans and the extra bit of spice was enjoyed by everyone. 

The best part of this recipe?  Start to finish, you can have this chili on the table in under 1 hour.

1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Chili Powder
1/8 tsp Cayenne Powder
1/2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Cumin Powder
1/4 tsp  Onion Powder
1-3/4 lbs  Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 TB Canola Oil
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1/2 cup  Red Pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup  Green Pepper, finely chopped
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1  14.5 oz can  Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup  Frozen Corn
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 TB  Cornstarch
1/4 cup  Water
Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine first 7 dry spices, salt, pepper, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin, and onion powder.  Sprinkle the spice mixture over the cubed chicken and stir to evenly coat all pieces.  Set chicken aside.

Heat canola oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add chicken pieces to the pot and lightly brown on all sides, stirring often.  Add garlic, red & green peppers and onion and saute until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add black beans and corn and stir to combine;  cook 2 minutes, add the chicken broth and simmer 5 minutes longer.  In a small bowl combine cornstarch and water, add mixture to pot while stirring and cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until thickened.

Serve in soup bowls with a garnish of monterey jack cheese.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blackened Swai Fillets

Mmm...another recipe for you tonight using Swai Fillets.  This has quickly become my favorite fish because of its versatility and the fact that you can buy it at such a reasonable price, right around $3.00 per pound.  The health benefits are also a plus, a medium-sized fillet of about 5 ounces is around 125 calories, with 25 grams of protein.  We added a side of Baked Corn Pudding and steamed mixed vegetables to complete the dinner.

This fish does contain some sodium due to the processing so if you are watching your sodium intake be sure to rinse the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel to keep the sodium as low as possible.  The seasoning mix is also very low in sodium.  Enjoy!!

4 1/2 tsp  Paprika
1 tsp  Onion Powder
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  White Pepper
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1/4 tsp  Ground Cayenne Pepper
6  Swai Fillets (about 2 pounds total)
Olive Oil

Combine all dry seasonings in a small bowl.

Rinse fillets and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place fish on a platter and sprinkle lightly with the seasoning mixture.

In a large skillet, heat 1 - 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Place fillets into skillet, spice side down, and cook 4-5 minutes.  Sprinkle top side with seasoning and turn fillets, cooking an additional 4-5 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Makes 6 servings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Braised Pork Chops with Sauteed Granny Smith Apples

My quest for low-sodium recipes has taken a tasty turn towards fall tonight and brings us the yummy  combination of pork and green Granny Smith apples.  These flavors always taste great together and this recipe offers great flavor with very little sodium.

6  Boneless Thick-Cut Pork Loin Chops, about 5-6 oz each
2 tsp  Olive Oil
1/3 cup  White Wine
3  Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
3 TB  Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup  +  3 TB  Apple Juice , divided
1/4 cup  Honey
1/2 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
2 TB  Cornstarch

In a large nonstick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat and brown pork chops until seared on both sides, but not cooked completely thru.  Remove chops from pan and place in an 11 x 7 baking dish.  Add the white wine to the skillet and stir to loosen any browned bits, simmer for about 1 minute.  Pour mixture over chops, cover pan with foil and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

While the chops are baking, use the same skillet, melt butter then add apples, and sautee for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add 3/4 cup apple juice, honey and cinnamon; cook 1 - 2 minutes longer; reduce heat to low. 

Remove chops from oven and spoon apples over chops.  Bake uncovered for 10 minutes. 

Now remove chops and apples from the baking dish to a serving platter; cover and keep warm.  Pour reserved pan juices into a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cornstarch and 3 TB apple juice in a small bowl, then add mixture to the pan juices.  Bring mixture to a boil and continue to stir about 2 minutes until sauce is thickened.  Pour sauce over chops and apples and serve.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mushroom, Green Pepper & Feta Casserole

If you have not tried growing your own green peppers, you are really missing out. Peppers are very easy to grow and they taste so sweet and fresh when used directly from your own garden.  You can even grow a single pepper plant in a large pot.

This breakfast casserole also makes a quick and healthy dinner, and can be on the table in less than 1 hour. Serve this on a Monday night and you will have a quick-to-reheat-breakfast for the rest of the week.

8 oz. Sliced Portobello Mushrooms
1 large Green Bell Pepper, chopped into 3/4 inch squares
1-2 tsp  Olive Oil
3 Green Onions, white and green parts, minced
1 cup crumbled Feta Cheese (or more, to taste)
18 Large Eggs
1/2 tsp Fresh Tarragon (optional, but recommended)
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 10 X 14 glass casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Heat non-stick skillet, add 1 tsp olive oil, and saute mushrooms and peppers 2-3 minutes, until softened. Spread mushrooms-pepper mixture in bottom of casserole dish.  Crumble feta cheese over top of mushroom-pepper mixture.

Beat eggs with the tarragon and black pepper. (Avoid adding salt as Feta cheese contains a fair amount of salt). Bake about 45 minutes, or until casserole is firmly set and top is slightly browned. Serve hot. Serve with a little bit of low-fat sour cream and salsa on top.

Note:  Breakfast casseroles like this reheat very well in the microwave. It can be frozen, but for best results, allow to thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Apple Crumble Muffins

This is a perfect recipe for the upcoming fall apple season. These muffins are tasty for breakfast but are also great for your kids lunchbox or as an after school snack.

With one apple and a few minutes of prep time, you can make delicious Apple Muffins that taste just like Apple Pie!

Cinnamon Crumble Topping
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
2 TB Melted Butter
1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Muffin Batter
3/4 cup Brown Sugar, Packed
1/4 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil (you can also substitute applesauce for lower fat content)
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Milk
1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 large Apple, such as Red Delicious or Granny Smith

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the crumble topping ingredients together and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the milk, egg, vanilla, oil and sugar. In another bowl combine the dry ingredients, then add the dry ingredients to the milk/egg mixture, and blend together gently.

Next, dice the apples into very fine pieces. This will allow the apples to cook into the batter. Add the apples to the batter and stir gently until combined. Spoon into paper-lined or well-greased muffin cups, top each muffin with a teaspoonful of the cinnamon crumble mixture and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.   Makes about 12 muffins.

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!!