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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, August 2, 2012

Roasted Red Potato Salad with Rosemary

As a side dish for the Oven Roasted Spice-Rubbed Chicken we served this yummy Roasted Red Potato Salad. With a combination of cider vinegar, a touch of Dijon mustard and fresh rosemary, the salad was the perfect addition to the zesty chicken.

This is a also great salad to take to a pitch-in or potluck dinner.  Since it contains no mayonnaise, it can easily be set out for a picnic without the need for refrigeration.  The salad can also be served slightly warm or can be chilled and served cold. We tried the salad both warm and cold and I think I preferred the warm version a bit more, while the kids preferred it cold. The salad had a nice vinegar taste that reminded me of a classic German Potato Salad. Either way the flavors were crisp, bold and delicious.

1 1/2 lbs  Red Potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite sized cubes
1 TB  Fresh Rosemary, chopped
2 TB  Olive Oil
1 1/2 TB  Apple cider Vinegar
4 tsp  Dijon or Spicy Brown Mustard
2 - 3 TB  Chopped Green Olives
1 TB  Capers, rinsed and drained (optional)

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, toss the cubed potatoes with the olive oil and rosemary, mixing well to evenly coat.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil and spread the potatoes onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake the potatoes for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring once, until potatoes are just beginning to brown on the edges and are almost fork-tender.  Do not overcook or the potatoes will crumble.

Allow the potatoes to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a large serving bowl, stirring to combine, then add the cooled potatoes and stir to coat the potatoes with the vinegar dressing.  The salad can be served immediately for a slightly warm salad or can be chilled and served cold.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

BLT, Fried Egg and Pepper Cheese Sandwich

Ok, envision for a moment what it would be like to work in a restaurant. While some of you may be familiar with the frantic pace, the long hours and the ever-changing schedules, others may have no idea what restaurant life is like.  Many people have asked me if it was "fun" to work in the food business and that question always makes me smile. While it is enjoyable to work with other foodies, sharing ideas and orchestrating the perfect dinner party, it is without a doubt, an incredibly demanding job.

Believe it or not, when working in a commercial kitchen, one of the most difficult things to do is to remember to eat!  Seeing so much food you sometimes simply forgot to eat.  Then you glance at the clock and it's 10 pm and the last time you ate was somewhere around 7 am.  Now you're starving and you want something that resembles comfort food, but is quick and easy to throw together.  This sandwich was very often a combination lunch-dinner-bedtime snack..and it is amazing!

The original recipe by Chef Thomas Keller was published years ago in Food and Wine magazine, but the sandwich idea itself has existed in the restaurant business for much longer.  It's a combination of a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich, a fried egg sandwich and a grilled cheese sandwich all put together into one delicious sandwich.  This makes a great dinner and you will absolutely love it!

Several Slices of Bacon, cooked and drained
Sliced Pepper Cheese or Provolone Cheese
2 Slices of Toasted Bread, I love using Italian Bread
Tomato Slices
Butter Lettuce Leaves
1 tsp  Butter
1  Large Egg

Place the toasted bread on a plate.  Place the pepper cheese on one side and spread mayonnaise on the other half and top with bacon, tomato and lettuce.

In a small skillet, melt the butter and fry the egg over medium heat, turning once so the egg is cooked around the edge but still runny inside.

Carefully place the sunny side up egg onto the lettuce side of the sandwich.  Place the other slice on top and slice the sandwich in half.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spiced Pork Chops with Rosemary

I've always leaned away from cooking pork chops because they seemed so ordinary.  Add a little seasoning, then grill them, fry them, bake them and the flavor was always about the same.  Because of those boring chops in the past I was excited to try this recipe for Spiced Pork Chops.  It also gave me a chance to use some of the fresh rosemary from my garden.

This dish is a slight variation from the original recipe found in the Weeknights with Giada cookbook and it is definitely going to be a repeat meal and a family favorite.  I'm really enjoying this cookbook and I can't wait to try more of the recipes.  If you are not familiar with Giada, this is definitely a great book to pick up.  Her cooking is kind of Italian food with a modern healthy twist.  Best of all, her recipes are family-friendly and easy to prepare.

I did a little adjusting to the original recipe by toning down the red pepper flakes and increasing the amount of garlic.  I'm not really sure the red pepper flakes added that much to the sauce and I might leave them out completely the next time I make this dish. 

I also changed the sauce preparation a bit by adding the rosemary and onions to the skillet for a quick saute.  It softened the rosemary and really brought out the flavor.  The rosemary, combined with honey and balsamic vinegar was what really caught my attention.  The flavors came together beautifully and the chops were moist and full of flavor.  Be really careful not to overcook the chops so they will come out nice and tender.

1 TB  Olive Oil + 2 tsp, divided
6  Boneless Pork chops, 1-inch thick
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (original recipe calls for 1 tsp)
1/2 cup  Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup  Honey
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1  Large Green Onion, white and light green parts only, minced
1 1/2 tsp  Fresh Rosemary, chopped
4 TB  Unsalted Butter

In a large skillet heat 1 TB olive oil over medium-high heat.  Season pork chops lightly with salt and pepper, place chops in the skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side until almost fully cooked through.  Remove the chops from the pan, cover and keep warm.  Keep the skillet handy for the final steps.

In a small saucepan add the red pepper flakes, vinegar, honey, and garlic, stir to combine and heat to a low boil.  Let simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until slightly reduced. 

Back to the skillet, over medium-high heat add 2 tsp olive oil to the pan, then add the green onions and rosemary.  Saute for 3-4 minutes until softened slightly.  Add the chops back to the skillet and reduce heat to low.

After the sauce has reduced, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter.  This will slightly thicken the sauce and give it a nice shiny glaze.  Pour the sauce over the chops in the skillet and heat 2 minutes longer.  Serve chops with garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and a nice cold chardonnay.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chicken Fajitas

This is a great way to serve spicy Mexican food while going a little lighter on fat, sodium and calories.  Through a little experimenting I came up with this fajita seasoning mix that adds a lot of flavor to the meal without all of the sodium that the store bought packages contain.  Just as an example, one national brand packet I read had 260 milligrams of sodium per serving, and the package stated it would serve 8.  It's kind of hard to believe you will get much flavor into your food if that little packet is to actually season enough food for 8 people.  It's almost all salt.
To make this recipe healthier we included lots of sliced veggies and mixed up a seasoning mixture that is light on salt and loaded with zesty flavors.

Fajita Seasoning Mixture

1 TB  Cornstarch
2 tsp  Chili Powder
1/2 tsp  Salt
1 tsp  Paprika
1 tsp  Sugar
1/4 tsp  Poultry Seasoning
1 tsp  Onion Powder
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp  Ground Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp  Ground Cumin

In a small glass bowl combine all ingredients and set aside while you prepare the chicken and vegetables.

1-1/2 - 2 lbs  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into thin strips
1  Large Red Onion, cut into thin slices
2  Large Green Peppers, cut into thin slices
2 TB  Canola Oil
Regular or Whole Wheat Soft Taco Sized Tortillas Shells
Queso Fresco Cheese, crumbled for garnish
Lime Wedges, for garnish
Avocado Slices, for garnish

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the chicken strips to the pan and stir to coat the chicken with the oil.  Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken, reserving 2 teaspoons.

Cook the chicken until the edges start to brown, about 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, but do not stir just yet, but cover the pan and allow the veggies to steam for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pan and sprinkle the veggies with the remaining fajita mixture and stir to combine the veggies and the chicken.  Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes until the chicken pieces are no longer pink.

Spoon the mixture onto tortilla shells and sprinkle with Queso Fresco cheese, if desired and serve with a few lime wedges and avocado slices for toppings.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

California Rolls

About 2 years ago I bought a sushi set with the intent of learning how to make California Rolls, also known as Inside Out Rolls, and other types of sushi.  As usual, I was hoping to find the time to make the rolls but never got around to it.  Well, this was the day to learn about sushi.

The sliced rolls always look so pretty when you order them at a Japanese restaurant, but dining on sushi can be quite expensive.  By making your own rolls you can change the ingredients to suit your own taste and also save a lot of money.  Even better, they are actually very simple to make and I was surprised at how much fun they were to assemble.

The California Rolls are made of fairly common ingredients like crab, avocado, cucumber and sushi rice, along with a few unique items like nori seaweed and sesame seeds or sesame oil.  We went with these standard ingredients for this first batch but in the future the possibilities are endless! I can't wait to try these with different types of fillings.

2 cups  Rice Select Sushi Rice
2 1/2 cups  Water
2 TB  Rice Vinegar
2 TB  Sugar
1 TB  Kosher salt
1 cup of Water
1 TB  Rice Vinegar
1 package Nori Seaweed
1  8 oz pkg  Crab Meat or Imitation Crab Sticks
1  Avocado, thinly sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning
1  Cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
Sesame Oil  (or Sesame Seeds, optional)

Place the rice in a mixing bowl and cover with water.  Swirl the rice in the bowl and pour off the water when the water becomes milky-white.  Add more water and repeat the process until the rice water is clear. This will take 3 or 4 rinses.

After the final rinse, place the rice in a medium saucepan with 2-1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook 18-20 minutes, until water is absorbed, remove from heat and let rest covered for 5 minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a glass bowl and microwave mixture for 40 seconds.  Stir mixture until salt and sugar are fully dissolved and set aside.  Place the rice in a large non-metallic bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir the vinegar mixture into the rice, carefully stirring to coat all of the rice.  Allow the rice to continue to cool to room temperature.

Now you are ready to roll.  For quick preparation, place the bowls of ingredients in a row in front of you and place a bamboo mat on the counter, covering the mat with plastic wrap.  Combine the 1 cup of water with 1 TB of rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set this nearby.  This will be used to keep your hands moist while making the rolls.

Using a sharp knife, slice 1 sheet of nori in half and place it on the covered mat.  Dip your hands in the water/vinegar mix and then spread a layer of rice over the nori, pressing the rice all the way to the edges. The rice will be about a 1/2-inch thick. Now carefully turn the rice-covered nori over so the nori side is now facing up.

Spread a thin smear of sesame oil across the center of the nori from left to right. Now place a layer of crab, again working left to right, followed by a layer of cucumber and a layer of avocado.

Start rolling the mat up and over the ingredients, pressing the filling inwards, and roll almost one complete turn, stopping to press and firm the roll and the ends.  Complete the roll, making sure the plastic wrap doesn't get rolled inside.  Remove the wrap and carefully move the roll to a cutting board.  Slice in half and then cut each half into 3 slices, for a total of 6.

Place the slices on a plate with a serving of pickled ginger, a small dollop of wasabi and a dish of soy sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wine Poached Swai Fillets with Pasta

Tonight we decided to take Swai Fillets to a more sophisticated level.  If you are not familiar with Swai, it is a type of catfish with a mild flavor and is a great bargain at just $3 - $4 per pound.

To start this dish, we quickly seared the fish for just a few minutes in olive oil, butter and garlic, then finished the cooking process by poaching the fish in white wine with a little lemon juice.  Poaching is a great way to infuse lots of flavor into the fish.

I removed the fish from the pan long enough for the sauce to reduce, then added a few spoons of cream cheese to create a slightly thickened garlic, wine and cream sauce.  Yum!  I added the pasta to the sauce then added the fish back to the pot, just long enough to bring the temperature back up.  The pasta will also help thicken the sauce and all of those flavors with blend together.

The fish was light and flaky, and you could taste the distinctive flavors of the wine, lemon and even the thyme. Adding a sprinkle of Parmesan-Romano cheese added a finishing touch of flavor to this dish.  Even better, start to finish, the dish was ready to serve in about 30 minutes.  Enjoy!!

2 TB  Olive Oil
2 TB  Butter
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Dried Thyme
1 8-oz Bottle Clam Juice
3/4 cup  White Wine
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 lb  Dry Penne Rigate Pasta **
4 -5  Swai Fish Fillets, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 - 3 TB  Cream Cheese
Grated Parmesan-Romano Cheese for Garnish

In a large pot, add 2 quarts of water and add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.  Bring water to a boil and cook pasta just until al dente.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil, butter and garlic, stirring until the garlic begins to brown slightly.  Add the fish to the skillet and quickly sear one side of the fish until the edges are opaque.

Add the thyme, clam juice, white wine, salt and pepper and bring mixture to a low boil, gently stirring the fish, then turn the fillets over.

Cook the fish 2 minutes longer, then use a slotted spoon to remove the fish to a platter.  Cover and keep warm.

Turn the heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a boil, continuing to boil until the sauce is reduced by half.  Add cream cheese 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Add the pasta to the skillet, stir to combine and allow the cream cheese to fully melt.

Add the fish back to the skillet and stir gently, spooning the sauce over the fish.  Cook over low heat 3-4 minutes, just until the fish is heated through and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan-Romano cheese. Serves 6.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Citrus Pork Kabobs

We are having so much fun creating new kabob recipes and this recipe was a complete and delicious success.  I've been trying to come up with a pork kabob recipe and decided to combine several recipe ideas into one.  When cooking pork you will want to make sure the pork is cooked thru, but try not to overcook the meat or it will be tough and chewy.  The pork can be juicy and still be cooked thru, just aim for an internal temp of about 145 degrees.  A handy meat thermometer makes this easy to check.

The combination of sweet, "citrusy-sour" and spicy flavors come together to create a really great tasting glaze on the pork.  The sweetness of the pineapple is followed by a zing of Serrano pepper and, when combined with a creamy coconut infused rice, all of those distinct flavors create an amazing meal.  If you have never tried to make your own kabobs, this is the recipe to try first!

1/2 cup  Pineapple Preserves
1 Whole Serrano Pepper, finely minced (use a jalapeno if more intense heat is desired)
1 TB  Lime Juice

1/2 cup  Orange Juice
1/2 cup  Lime Juice
2/3 cup  Olive Oil
3 cloves  Minced Garlic
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

1  Fresh Pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 3-inch chunks
1 large  Red Onion, cut into chunks
1 large  Green Pepper, cut into large chunks
1-1/2 lbs  Lean Pork Tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

Coconut Rice
2 cups  Long Grain Rice
2 cups  Canned Coconut Milk
2 cups  Water
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 can  Black Beans, drained and rinsed
Lime and Orange Wedges for Garnish

Using a large zip lock bag, combine the orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add the pork pieces to the mixture and zip bag closed, turning bag over to coat the pork.  Refrigerate and allow to marinate 2 - 4 hours.

In a small glass bowl, combine the pineapple preserves, Serrano pepper and 1 tablespoon lime juice.  Stir to fully combine and set aside at room temp for about 1 hour until ready to use.  (** Prepare the glaze in advance so the flavors have time to blend.)

Combine the rice, coconut milk, water, salt and pepper in a large saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 15-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Let rice stand 5 minutes and fluff with a fork, then add the black beans and stir.

Drain the pork and discard the marinade. Thread the pieces of pork onto metal skewers alternating with pieces of pineapple, green pepper and red onion.

Grill the pork kabobs over medium-high heat for 8 - 10 minutes or until no longer pink inside, brushing with the glaze after each turn.

Serve each kabob with a scoop of coconut rice and orange and lime wedges for garnish.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Marinated Strawberry Shortcakes

What could be more traditional than Strawberry Shortcakes on the 4th of July?  Strawberries are at the peak of the season right now and the ones we picked up are sweet, juicy and HUGE!  I couldn't wait to serve these on a simple pound cake, but I wanted to add just a little oomph.  Just a little something to make the strawberries shine.  The answer..was rum!

This is a short and simple recipe and can be pulled together quickly.  Since I was a little short on time, I used a pound cake mix and baked it in 2 8" x 4" loaf pans.  This way the cake cooks in just 30 minutes and you have 2 short cakes that slice up perfectly.

For the strawberries

3 Cups  Strawberries, divide in half, cut 1/2 into small pieces, the other 1/2 into larger pieces
3 TB  Sugar
1 1/2 TB  Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1 1/2 TB  Dark Rum

Combine the strawberries, sugar and rums in a glass dish and stir.  Allow to marinate at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.  If you only have one type of rum that works fine also, just use 3 TB.

To serve, cut 2 slices of pound cake and place one on a plate.  Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of berries onto the cake, top with the second slice of cake and add 2-3 additional tablespoons of berries.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar and serve.

So simple, so quick and a great dessert for a hot summer night.  Enjoy!!

My Liebster Blog Award Nomination!!

Thank you to Ormond Dinners/Eating Dinner With My Family for nominating my blog for the Liebster Award.  I am so excited and honored to receive this award.

The Liebster Blog Award is awarded to blogs with less than 200 followers, and is a great way to introduce others to some of the wonderful, lesser known blogs out there, especially food blogs.  It's also a great way to connect with other foodies.

The "rules" for this award are as follows:

1. Send thanks to the blogger who gave you the award.
2. Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
3. Copy and paste the Liebster Blog Award on your blog.
4. Nominate 5 of your favorite blogs to receive the award.
5. Let those bloggers know you have nominated them by leaving a comment on their blog.

Although it's very difficult to choose just 5 favorites, following are my nominations for the Liebster Blog Award:

1. With  A Glass - Sissi's site introduces the reader to delicious Korean and Japanese recipes and the photos are wonderful.

2. Baker Bettie - When you see the ooey, gooey cookie recipe on this site, you will definitely go back for more sweet treat recipes.

3. Home Cooking Memories - Comfort foods are brought up to a new level on this site. Lots of yummy entrees, desserts and more.

4. She Makes and Bakes - This site provides a variety of delicious recipes.  The Key Lime Cupcakes are amazing!!

5. Jeff's Plate - A great variety of sweet and savory recipes.  Be sure to check out the Apple Nachos..yum.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Broiled Salmon with Fresh Rosemary, Lemon and Garlic

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish to cook.  It has such a wonderful flavor on its own and it can be seasoned in so many ways.  I'm a bit partial to blackened salmon but I'm always looking for new ways to serve this delicate fish and this dish was a pleasant surprise.

Today's recipe was inspired by this beautiful rosemary plant I have growing in my yard.  I could smell the aroma of this little plant even before I spotted it at Home Depot.  The smell was so fresh and crisp I immediately started to think of all the dishes I could cook with rosemary.  Of course you can't have summer without fresh basil, then I spotted Greek oregano and it looked great, too.  I went to Home Depot for a light bulb and came home with an assortment of herbs...and I forgot the light bulb.  Oh well, time to cook with some herbs!!

This recipe is super simple and only uses a handful of ingredients.  I wasn't sure if the rosemary flavor would absorb into the fish, but with just a few minutes in the marinade the rosemary taste was there without overpowering the fish. The end result, a most tasty summer night meal.  Enjoy!!

2 TB  Lemon Juice
2 tsp  Fresh Rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 tsp  Fresh Minced Garlic
1/8 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp  Kosher Salt

2  6 oz Salmon Fillets, skin removed

Combine all ingredients except salmon in a small dish.  Place salmon fillets into the lemon juice mixture and let marinate for about 5 minutes, turning once.

Place a piece of foil on a baking sheet and place a wire rack on top of the foil.  Place the fillets on the rack, press some of the rosemary and garlic onto the top of the fish and broil on HIGH for 5 minutes.  Lower broiler heat to LOW and heat and additional 4-5 minutes or until the fish is cooked thru.  

The fillets I used were about 1" thick, so add a few more minutes if your fillets are thicker.  (By broiling on high heat during the first stage of cooking, the salmon will sear on the outside. Then lowering the temp will finish the cooking process.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

NuWave Oven Roast Beef

For his Father's Day dinner this year my husband requested French Dip Sandwiches.  This is a delicious sandwich, but heating the house up in the summertime just to cook a roast is not my favorite thing to do. So I decided to try Plan B.

I pulled out my NuWave Oven and decided to use it to make the roast beef.  I've only used the oven for whole chickens and chicken drumsticks, and I've been wanting to try it for other foods, so today was the day.

I bought a bottom round roast that weighed in at 3-1/2 pounds and seasoned it generously with seasoned salt, lots of ground black pepper and a little mist of olive oil from a spray bottle, just to keep it from sticking to the roasting grid.  I gave the grid itself a quick spray too and lined the bottom drip pan with heavy duty foil. (Zero cleanup on the pan..yay!!)

I placed the roast on the 1-inch rack with the fat side up, inserted an oven-proof thermometer in the side of the roast and set the timer for 20 minutes on HI.  **Make sure the thermometer does not touch the metal edges of the oven.

After 20 minutes the timer beeped and I flipped the roast over.  (It was already smelling amazing!!)  I set the timer for another 20 minutes and started the oven again.  I kept a close eye on the roast for this second half of cook time.  The roast was browning nicely but the thermometer was not quite high enough, reaching about 115 degrees.  I wanted to get to the 120-125 range before turning off the heat, so I added another 10 minutes to the timer.  This extra cook time brought the temp up to 123 degrees, which was good with me.  I turned the oven off and let the roast rest in the oven for 10 minutes longer, which brought the internal temp up to a juicy 133 degrees.  By the time I was slicing the meat it had a nice crust of salt and pepper on the outside and the inside was a perfect medium-rare.  So yummy.

Here are some pictures of the whole process.  For those of you who own a NuWave, drag that thing out and give it a try this summer and you might find you can save yourself some money.  By cooking the beef in the NuWave I had the chance to season the meat the way we liked and since the roast was on sale ($3.99 per pound) I saved about $18 over the price of roast beef from the deli ($9.99 per pound).  A delicious money-saving meal and I didn't even have to heat up the house.

We served the sandwiches with sliced swiss cheese and horseradish-mayo and a little bowl of french onion soup to dip the sandwich into.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Crispy Swai Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo

Mmm..crispy fish sandwiches on a Friday night.  I know, I know...frying is not the healthiest way to prepare fish, but sometimes you just get in the mood for some delicious fried fish.

Growing up, as far back as I can remember, we would have fish for dinner on Friday nights. There were several reasons for this, the first being Lent. During the 6 weeks or so before Lent, Catholics are not supposed to eat meat, and for us fish was the protein of choice.  The second reason was because my Mom hated fish, and my Dad loved it!

Since my Mom worked most Fridays, my Dad would take my sister and me out for a fish dinner.  Sometimes it was McDonald's (this was back when McD's was a once-in-a-while "treat" not a daily visit like it is for many people today), sometimes it was to Arthur Treacher's Fish-N-Chips (melt in your mouth, lightly beer-battered fish that was just heavenly!!) or even Red Lobster if we were really lucky ("so fancy", we thought!).  There were also the local church Fish Fry events every Friday night during Lent or the Anchor Inn, a favorite local restaurant where I first learned how to eat catfish without getting a forkful of bones!  Lots of fun nights and many great memories.

This recipe uses Swai Fillets, which is a type of catfish.  The fish was golden and crispy-crunchy on the outside while the inside was sweet, moist and delicious.  The spicy chipotle mayo on top added a nice touch of flavor to the fish and any leftover sauce is great on grilled chicken sandwiches, too.

I think my Dad would have loved this sandwich just as much as we did.  Happy Father's Day Dad, we miss you.

3/4 cup  Flour
1/2 cup  Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 cup  White Cornmeal
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup  Flour
2  Large Eggs, beaten
2/3 cup  Milk
4  Large Swai or Catfish Fillets, cut in half (about 1-3/4 lbs)
1 cup  Mayonnaise
2  Canned Chipotle Chilies in Adobo
2 tsp  Adobo Sauce
2 TB  Honey
2 TB  Lemon Juice
1 cup  Oil for Frying
8  Kaiser Rolls or Buns
Boston Lettuce Leaves
Tomatoes, thinly sliced

Make Ahead:  In a small food processor, combine the mayo, chipotles, honey and lemon juice and process until smooth.  Place sauce in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

You will need 3 bowls for this assembly process.  Pour 3/4 cup flour into the first bowl.  In the second bowl combine the eggs with the milk and beat until blended.  In the third bowl, combine the yellow and white cornmeal, salt, pepper, Old Bay and 1/4 cup flour.

Dredge the fillets in the flour, then the egg mixture, followed by the cornmeal mixture, then place on the baking sheet.  Make sure the fillets are well coating the the cornmeal as this will ensure a crispy-crunchy texture.  Let the fillets rest about 15-20 minutes, or you can cover the baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour, if needed.

Pour oil into a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Place 4 fillets into the pan and fry over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Carefully turn fillets, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes longer.  When fillets are golden, remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined platter to drain.  Keep fillets warm while cooking the remaining 4 fillets.

Place the fillets atop the kaiser rolls and spread with a generous dollop of the Chipotle Sauce, a few leaves of lettuce and a juicy slice of tomato.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chipotle Pork Roast

Thanks to a sudden storm, what started out to be a grilled dinner ended up with us cooking indoors.  The last minute change of plans turned out surprisingly well.

We started off with a lean piece of pork tenderloin and coated it with a chipotle pepper and cumin-based dry rub.  Next, we seered the outside until golden brown, but not fully cooked, and followed it up with a quick 20 minutes of roasting time in the oven.  The results were delicious with a nice kick of flavor from the chipotle powder, and the meat was "fork tender", meaning you could cut it easily with a fork.  The next day we sliced up the leftovers for cold pork sandwiches that made a pretty impressive lunch.

We will surely try this updated version of pork roast on the grill, but the oven cooked method was so yummy, this is definitely on the list of repeat recipes.

1 1/2 - 2 pound Lean Pork Roast, trimmed of all fat and silver
1 TB  Olive Oil

Dry Rub Mix
1 tsp  Cumin
2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Chipotle Powder
1 tsp  Paprika
1 tsp  Onion Powder

In a small bowl combine all of the dry rub ingredients and stir. 

Place the pork on a platter and coat evenly with the dry rub mix, making sure to coat all sides of the meat and into any folds.  Cover the roast with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.  Carefully place the roast in the skillet and seer on all sides, turning about 1/4 turn each time.  When the roast is evenly browned on the outside, but not fully cooked inside, (on the ends the center will still be pink) transfer the roast to a baking pan and place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.  You can use an oven-safe thermometer for this roast and it works great.

We served this with Grilled Polenta Cakes, Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms and a light chardonnay.  I hope you enjoy this dinner as much as we did!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Swai and Couscous Poached in Foil Pouches

This dish is sure to remind many of you of campfire dinners when you were kids.  Cooking a meal in foil packets was popular years ago but the one problem with this method was getting the food cooked without ending up with a burned dinner.  Foil pouches can also be a fun dinner for kids to help prepare and you only have to follow these 3 simple steps.

First you have to have the right protein and Swai Fish Fillets worked great in this dish.  The steam and broth in the packets cook the fish from all sides and the fillets were perfectly done.  (Cooking chicken using this method is difficult because you need to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.  Rare chicken is not good!)

Second, you need a quick cooking base for under the fish, so we tried Golden Couscous.  I'm still new to cooking with couscous and so far I'm loving the results.  Any flavors you use will cook into the grain, so cooking the fish and couscous in the same herb/wine mixture created a perfect balance.

Third, you need the right amount of moisture that will steam/poach the fish while also cooking the couscous. For the broth we combined chicken broth and white wine with a little lemon juice.  By mixing a portion of the liquid with the couscous the flavors are absorbed into the grain.  The remaining liquid will provide the main flavor for the fish and is added just before sealing the packets.

This dinner was very quick and easy with only 10 minutes of prep time and a quick 10 minutes of grill time.  Add a bag or two of steamed edamame as a side and you have a healthy dinner with very easy cleanup!

5  Sheets of Heavy Duty Foil, about 12 x 14 inches
1 cup  Bob's Red Mill Golden Couscous, uncooked
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
3/4 tsp  Paprika
1 TB  Dried or Fresh Chives or Chopped Green Onions
1 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1  10-1/2 oz can  Chicken Broth, divided in half
5 TB Lemon Juice
1 cup  White Wine
5  Swai Fillets, thawed
5 TB  Cold Butter

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine couscous, salt, pepper, paprika, chives and old bay and stir in 5 ounces of the chicken broth.  Stir to blend and set aside.  The couscous will absorb most of the liquid.

Divide the couscous mixture between the 5 sheets of foil, placing the mixture in the center of the sheets.  (Drain off any extra liquid as you spoon the mixture onto the foil.) Place one piece of fish atop each portion of couscous and slice 3 very thin slices of butter on top of each of the fillets.

Double fold up both sides of the foil on each packets, leaving the front edge open.  Use a towel to prop up the front edge of the packets.

In a small cup combine the remaining chicken broth, lemon juice and white wine.  Pour 1/5 of the broth mixture into each of the foil pouches, then double fold the edge to form a square sealed packet.

Place the packets onto the grill and close the lid.  Pouches will "poof" slightly while cooking.  Cook the packets undisturbed for 10 minutes, then remove from grill.  Cut the foil open using scissors and fold back the sides.  Serve in the foil (your kids will love this!)  or use a spatula to transfer the fish and couscous to a plate.  Serve with a side of steamed edamame and Enjoy!!

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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quiche Two Ways Makes a Great Dinner

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Penne Pasta with Sauteed Chicken and Chorizo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blackened Shrimp Po'Boy Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crunchy Swai Po'Boy Sandwich with Sweet Pickle Remoulade

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

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

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

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

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

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

In another shallow dish beat the eggs.

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

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

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ultimate Chicken Fajitas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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