Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Website!

Hi everyone!

From now on, my humble little blog will be located at The Spicy Spatula.

Please check it out! I have lots of yummy stuff to share!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Roasted Garlic White Chili

This week has been freaking CRAY. I’ve had so much to get done, and Mike has too. So when I walk through the door and dinner is literally already waiting for us, it’s a reason to smile. I love using my crock pot. It’s so easy, and you can combine basically anything and you know it’s going to turn out well. In this case, I loaded up my crock with white chili. This is the epitome of a "dump and go" recipe. But this isn't just any ordinary white chili. I bumped up the flavor with LOTS of roasted garlic. Ah yeah. You see where this is going!

Lately Mike and I have been on a healthy kick. What this has really meant, is that anything I’m making is going to have about twice the amount of garlic I’d normally use, or twice the amount of chili pepper. Mama needs her flavor! However, I really loved how this chili turned out. It’s healthy, cheap and tasted freaking bomb. And, it was even better the next day at work for lunch!

Roasted Garlic White Chili

Serves 4

1lb of chicken, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 head of garlic, roasted (recipe below!)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cans reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cans white beans (I used cannellini) drained and rinsed
1 can chopped green chilies
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tspn dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish

Add all of the ingredients except the salt and cilantro to your crock pot. Set on low for 8 hours. When the chili is done, season with salt to taste and ladle into bowls. Top with the cilantro. It’s also great with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, but you can omit that if you’re watching your calories/fat.

Roasted Garlic

Several years ago I roasted garlic for the first time. I was shocked at how simple it was, and have been doing it since. It really mellows the garlic out, and it gives your food such a wonderful flavor. Go home and roast garlic people!

1 head of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil

So I made an extra to keep in the fridge. Is this really a surprise to anyone??? =P

Drizzled with olive oil

Ready to smear on anything
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top of the garlic off. You just want to expose the bulbs. Place the garlic in a large sheet of aluminum foil, then drizzle the olive oil on top. Seal up the foil to create a packet. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour. When they are done and your house smells AMAZING, let them cool off for about 15 minutes. Then carefully open the packet. You will be able to squeeze the bulbs out with no problem. This garlicky goodness is even great on toast. Or just all by itself. Seriously, it’s SO GOOD! And it will keep in the fridge for about a week.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 7

WARNING! The recipe below contains a butter sauce... it is NOT HEALTHY. However, it was freaking delicious.

Week 7 of the challenge was themed “poaching”. I am not a huge fan of poached eggs, so I decided to focus more on the cooking technique here. Poaching is the act of gently cooking something in simmering liquid. Simmering, not boiling. It’s pretty simple too.

I approached this challenge like I have many other weeks, in wanting to try something new. So in the end, Mike and I made Butter Poached Shrimp. Oh man, they were delicious. Perfectly cooked, buttery, salty gems from the sea. I really liked how simple this was, but I have yet to repeat it. I think actually cooking in butter is seriously decadent. It’s not an every night of the week affair.

This would be a great dinner to pull together for company though. It looks impressive and fancy even though it’s done in less than 10 minutes. That’s a win.

Butter Poached Shrimp

Serves 2

10 medium sized peeled and deveined shrimp
1 cup butter/margarine
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the butter and the juice from half the lemon into a sauce pan. Slowly melt the better over medium-low heat. When the butter sauce begins to simmer, place the shrimp in the pan and poach them. This will only take a few minutes. The shrimp are done when they are pink. Keep a close watch, overcooked shrimp can be rubbery.

As you can see here, I served them up with some steamed broccoli and rice pilaf. Pretty simple stuff. I also used the 2 remaining lemon wedges to give the shrimp and broccoli a little extra zing.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Heaven

So about a month ago, I was thinking about Katie’s upcoming birthday. I knew I had to make something delicious for her. Katie is a Reese’s fiend, so with that in mind, I made this pie that is pure heaven. Chocolate. Reese’s. Oreo crust. Boom. Amazing. The recipe is directly from What the Flicka. I was thinking about adapting it, but it’s freaking perfect all on it’s own.

Seriously, just look at that.

Ok, so it doesn't slice perfectly. Time to eat out of the pan!
That's what a sugar high looks like.
The things I do for my friends!!

Check out the above link for the recipe. It’s pretty simple to put together. However, I would recommend those calorie counters out there to save this baby for a fucking cheat day. This is not a healthy/diet safe dessert. But damn it… It’s delicious. Definitely worth a try.


Friday, August 8, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 6

Today is my best friend Katie’s birthday. This girl and I have been through so much together, and she’s just the coolest, funniest, most laid back chick out there. She's the one I call when shit hits the fan. HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOMAN! LOVE YOU!

Week 6 of the cooking challenge gave us the theme Jamaican. I was really excited for this one and spent a lot of time digging around the interwebs for something new to try. After several hours of searching, I landed on the recipe for Curried Beef Patties. I was immediately intrigued.

Curry? Check.

Beef? Check.

Empanada-like? Check!

I don’t have much experience with making doughs from scratch, so I thought this would be a good way to get some under my belt. In the end, the dough was actually a snap to make. The filling is delicious, meaty and aromatic. And then you combine the two into a happy marriage of beefy-curried goodness.

Curried Beef Patties

Makes about 12

For the Dough:
2 cups of flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp curry powder
¼ cup shortening
½ stick margarine/butter
⅓ cup cold water

For the Filling:
1 medium onion, diced small
1lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup beef stock
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

To make your dough: Sift the dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening and margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the water until the dough starts to come together and becomes slightly stiff. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with flour. Roll the dough out until its about ⅛ inch thick. Cut into 8 inch circles. Cover the dough circles with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.

To make your filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, saute your onion until it’s translucent (about 4-5 minutes) and then cook down your ground beef. Once your meat is cooked, drain off any fat. I used 85/15 meat, so draining was definitely necessary. Place the drained meat back in the skillet, and add the curry powder and thyme and stir well. Add the breadcrumbs and stock and mix well. Cover the skillet and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When all the liquid has been absorbed, you’re ready to rock and roll. Take the skillet off the heat, and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

To make the patties: Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the filling onto the middle of each dough circle. Moisten the edges of the dough, and fold over the meat, creating a little pocket of goodness. Pinch the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat until you’re out of dough, meat, or both. Brush the tops of the patties with an egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops of the patties are beautifully browned.

Not perfect looking, but perfect tastin'!
There's a lot of yum happening there
Serve these with a cold beer… and enjoy!

Be prepared for Monday people! I am making Katie a birthday dessert that will knock your peanut-butter loving socks off!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday Inspiration

I know what I’m about to say might sound a little weird. Maybe even a little crazy. But I’m going to ask that you reserve your judgement until the end of this post.

*Deep breath.

Sometimes…..I shop for produce….at the Dollar Store. DUN DUN DUN!!!!!

OKAY. There. I said it.

I can feel you judging me through your computer screens!!!! But hold on. There is a point here.

Have you ever heard the saying, “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a must be a duck?” I propose the same theory here. If I happen to be at the dollar store getting party supplies or whatever, and see produce that looks pretty much the same as produce at a more traditional grocery store…..well, is it the same? I’m going to go ahead and say yes. Just like I would at any other produce department, I give my selected veggies a good once over for discoloration, bruising or other unsightliness. And then I pay $1 for each of them. Which is almost always going to be a better deal than a grocery store.

In fact, I did a quick cost comparison. At Stater Bro’s you can get zucchini and yellow squash for anywhere between $2 and $4 per pound. At the dollar store, pre packaged bundles are $1. You do the math. And as long as there is some kind of dollar store type retailer near your home, you are saving both time AND money. That’s what I’m talking about!

Also, since most of you lovely readers out there live in Southern California like I do, I know most of you have Mexican grocers near you! In a 5 mile span from our house we have a Cardenas, Superior, Super King and an El Super. You want to talk about cheap produce? How does 5lbs of onions sound for .99???? Yes really. That’s an actual thing.

So get out there. Get to know your neighborhood grocery options better, and save some money in the process!


Monday, August 4, 2014

Veggie Tacos

In my entire life, I do not think I have come across a single person who doesn’t like tacos. Seriously. Think about it….Who wouldn't like a protein and some fat wrapped up in a carb? That’s good eatin’ if you ask me. It doesn't even really matter what the filling is. Beef? Yum. Chicken? Yum. Pork? Yum. Even the humble ole’ veggie can make a tasty little taco.

Even better, you can almost use any type of veggie for tacos. This is a great way to clear out your veggie bin in your fridge and use things before they spoil. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why I started making these years back. It was probably a weeknight, I had no idea what dinner was going to be, so I scavenged through the fridge and came out with vegetables. Then we realized we had tortillas, and this little baby was born. Mike and I love these. We have them a couple times a month minimum.

I’ve made a bunch of different variations of this dish, and it’s always filling, nutritious and delicious. Here is my go to veggie taco recipe. Keep in mind, you can omit the potatoes for a less carby taco, this just happens to be a super awesome way to get rid of those last few potatoes in the 10lb bag you bought weeks ago and promised yourself you would finish!!

Veggie Tacos

Makes 6-8 tacos

1 medium onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, diced (whatever color pepper floats your boat)
2 medium zucchini, diced (yellow squash works too, like in the picture!)
4 small potatoes, scrubbed and diced (can omit if you want less carbs)
6-8 small corn tortillas
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tspn ground paprika
1 tspn oregano
¼ tspn ground cayenne
2 tspn seasoned salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, prep all your veggies and throw them in a large bowl. Add all of the spices and olive oil. Toss well to coat. Roast the veggies for 45 minutes to an hour, or until they are starting to brown.

Turn your stove on to medium low heat and warm up the tortillas. Flip them once or twice with tongs so they don’t burn!! When the veggies are done, scoop a heap onto each of the tortillas. They also go really well with some non-fat refried beans. And of course you can top them with a sprinkle of cheese….our favorite with these is feta!! Gives it a nice little tang.

And these go really great with a glass of Sangria. Try it out, and just like with the tacos, use whatever fruit you have hanging out in your house. Easy peasy.


Friday, July 25, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 5

The fifth week of the Reddit cooking challenge gave us the theme of Vanilla. Mike and I talked it over, and decided to do a more savory application for this challenge. Instead of doing cookies or some other type of dessert, we made a fancy ass salad with a delicious vanilla-pear vinaigrette.

I took the recipe from here for the dressing. It was super simple and the flavor was fantastic.

Not much of a recipe with this one, but here you go!

Fancy Salad w/Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette

Makes 2 big salads or 4 small ones

1 bag spring mix lettuce
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts
1 roma tomato, diced
½ red onion, sliced
Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette

In a saute pan, toast the walnuts until they are really aromatic and golden brown. Keep a close eye on them, one second they are toasted, the next they are burnt and completely inedible. I speak from experience!

Combine the spring mix, cranberries, walnuts, tomato, onion and dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Save the leftover dressing. The recipe makes a pretty fair amount and is just as good on a fresh salad the next day!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Smoked London Broil

Growing up in my mom’s kitchen, we ate a lot of pasta. And I’m 100% ok with that. My Italian heritage has made it possible for me to eat pasta all day, every day and be perfectly content. However, there were times when my mom would make some more meaty dishes. One that I remember in particular was her london broil, which was tender and delicious every single time. 

Now that I’m a grown up with my own husband to feed, I have a much better appreciation for my mom’s london broil. This is a piece of meat that is seriously easy to ruin. In fact, this cut of meat is actually flank steak or top round, depending on your butcher. Although it is commonly referred to as “london broil” the name really refers to the cooking method.

When you buy a london broil, you are typically buying a nice thick slab of beef. This type of meat deserves to be treated like a lady. Meaning, show her some respect and at the very least, give her a nice rubdown before the main event. Marinating london broil really helps boost the delicious meaty flavor. Also, when you cook it, you’re going to want to get your sear on. At least to begin with.

As with a lot of my culinary endeavors this summer, I ended up throwing this lovely lady on the smoker. However, the recipe is very similar for a normal grill. I also slightly adapted a recipe from Traeger Grills. They sent out this recipe in a weekly newsletter type deal and I could not resist giving it a try. And I am SO glad I did. It was a winner.

Smoked London Broil w/Bleu Cheese Butter

Serves 4-5

For the Marinade:

2-3lb london broil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp freshly ground black peppper
1 tsp sugar

For the Bleu Cheese Butter:

¼ cup bleu cheese crumbles
4 tbsp (½ stick) of butter at room temperature
1 tsp granulated garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the bleu-butter together in a bowl, then cover it and put it in the fridge. This can be kept in your fridge for about a week. So it’s an easy make ahead.

Place all of the marinade ingredients except the meat in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Make sure everything is mixed together. Then place the meat into the bag and make sure the marinade is all over the place. Put the bag in the fridge, and marinate for at least 8 hours. I prepped this before work and then smoked it that night, but you could even marinate it overnight if you wanted to.

When you’re ready to get going, prep your smoker, and then lay the london broil on and smoke for an hour. When the hour is up, take the meat off the grill, and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Place the meat back on the grill, leave for 7-10 minutes, then flip and repeat. In total, you’re going to grill for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your meat. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130 degrees, pull it off the grill, put half of the bleu cheese butter on top and cover it with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Awww yeah baby.
Transfer the meat to a cutting board, and cut it against the grain into thin slices. Cutting against the grain ensures that your meat will be tender to the bite. When you cut with the grain, you end up with stringy, chewy pieces... Not great. Place the slices onto a serving dish and crumble some extra bleu cheese on top. Serve it with the additional bleu-butter. Watch as your friends and loved ones inhale it. Voila.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Guinness BBQ Sauce

Today I have a special treat for you guys! My mom wrote up a guest post for us! She's sharing her recipe for BBQ sauce which I have been putting on everything. It's a real winner, and I have a big mason jar in my fridge just waiting to get some action. Enjoy this recipe, care of my mama, Rene!

Friends and family have been enjoying the bounty of delicious BBQ that Marga has been making in her Traeger Smoker this summer. To accompany these delicious meals, I have a great BBQ sauce recipe that I found on the internet a few years ago and adapted to our taste. This sauce has the right amount of smoke, heat, spice and the full body of the stout. It is not too sweet and is easy to put together, one pot, simple ingredients and in no time you have created a BBQ sauce that will have you grilling, smoking and putting it on all your summer favorites. So enjoy!


Guinness Stout BBQ Sauce

2 bottles Guinness Stout or  Extra Stout
4-6 tbsp brown sugar, to taste
2 tspn Salt
 ½ to 1 tspn cayenne pepper
2-3 tbsp chili powder
2-4 minced cloves of garlic
½ cup worcestershire sauce
4 cups ketchup
2 tspn liquid smoke

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Store in refrigerator and enjoy with beef, pork and chicken.

Marga (and Rene!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 4

I have a very vivid memory from my childhood of sitting at my parent’s kitchen table...There is plate in front of me. And my dad is sitting across the table staring me down like the gatekeeper. He was trying to get me to eat brussel sprouts.

Long story short, I may have appeased him by eating one of the little cabbage bastards….but from then on, brussel sprouts and I have traveled different roads. Even seeing them on a menu at a restaurant bothered me to a certain extent. However….people get older and wiser. Even where foods they hated as a kid are concerned.

A year or so ago, Mike and I were spending the weekend with my Aunt Deb & Uncle Mitch in Nevada. They made us dinner...and *GASP*.......the side dish was brussel sprouts. After my momentary freak out, I decided to give them a try. It had been over a decade since I had them and thought maybe it was time to give them another chance. It was a good decision. They were great. My grown up taste buds could actually appreciate the flavor. So when the theme for the week was, “Ingredient You Hated As A Kid” I knew it was time to cook some up myself. For anyone out there who avoided brussels as vehemently as I….I would gently encourage you to give these a shot. And if you still abhor them afterwards...then all right. At least you tried!!!

Roasty Toasty Brussel Sprouts

Makes 4 servings

16oz of fresh brussel sprouts (the pre-washed bag from TJ’s is so easy)
¼-½ cup Spicy Brown Mustard
¼ cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the brussels in the olive oil and mustard to coat them. Use as much mustard as you feel necessary. You want them generously coated in the mix. Season the lot with salt and pepper, toss again, and then pour the mix into a 8x5 pan that has been sprayed with Pam.

Put the pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Gently mix the brussels at this point and then cook them another 45 minutes to an hour. The goal here is to get the outsides SUPER crispy, almost to the point of burning them. What you end up with is a fantastic crisp on the outside with a tender inside.

I hope you enjoy these...and I definitely thank my Aunt Deb & Uncle Mitch for showing me that brussel sprouts can actually taste good!!!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 3

The third week of 52 Weeks of Cooking brought us the One Pot theme. I was already a BIG fan of easy dinners where you only have one pot to clean (hello time saver!) but I fell even deeper in love with the concept during this weeks' challenge.

I looked up one pot dinners and one of the first hits was from a blog called Budget Bytes. This blog has become one of my go-to sites to check for delicious, homemade and inexpensive recipes. Really great stuff. I highly recommend checking it out.

So, on to the challenge. I used the Italian Wonderpot recipe with no adaptations from Budget Bytes.

It came together fantastically well, and we have enjoyed it about once a month since. It’s a big hit for a crowd as well. I usually use chicken broth instead of veggie broth because I always have it on hand. It tastes about the same, and is a good substitution if you aren’t looking for a 100% vegetarian dish. One more brag about this dish, it’s a pantry lover. Pretty much all the ingredients are things you probably already have in your house!!! So it’s cheap, easy, DELICIOUS, and you don’t need fancy one-time use ingredients. Win. Win. WIN!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekend Sangria

Alcohol and fruit. What a perfect marriage.

No really, mixing these two items make me feel super fancy, but it’s so simple and so delicious. This is a really great recipe for entertaining as well. All you have to do is dump and enjoy. In the words of Ina Garten, “How easy is that?”

You can whip this up in a matter of minutes and be ready to party. That’s my type of cocktail!


Makes a large pitcher

1 bottle red wine
½ cup rum
½ orange juice
1 large apple, cored and sliced
1 lime, sliced in rounds
1 orange, sliced in rounds
6 oz. blueberries
ginger ale

Combine wine, rum and orange juice in your pitcher. Mix to combine. Prep all your fruit, and add to the wine mixture. Let this sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. When you are ready to serve, top with 2-4 cups of ginger ale, depending on how sweet you want your sangria. Fill glasses of your choice (we went with red wine glasses) with ice and then pour the sangria over it.

Summer in a glass
Side note… we also had about a half a cup of cubed pineapple in our fridge, so I added that as well. Gave it a slight tropical taste. Really tasty. I also had about 2 glasses of it left the next day, and while the fruit was mushy and not really appealing anymore, the liquid was great, so don't feel like you have to kill the entire pitcher in one sitting. Or do. No judgement from me :)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday FU

Happy Friday everyone!

Interestingly enough.. I recently discovered that you should NOT marinate meat in an alcohol based marinade for more than a couple of hours.

I accidently left my Tequila Lime chicken marinating for more than 24-hours. When we finally cooked it, it was like pure tequila chicken. Not so good. In fact, most of it ended up in the trash. Bummer.

So there’s your lesson for today, booze is either for drinking or doing quick marinades. Don't be a dumb ass like me and leave poultry marinating for 26 hours....when the recipe said to go 4-6 hours. Sigh.

For reference, here is the attempted recipe via Allrecipes that I completely fucked up: Smokey Tequila Lime Marinade

Can't hit a home run every time, right???



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Inspiration

In my never ending quest for culinary greatness, I have stumbled across some really cool finds on the internet. My latest obsession is Alton Brown. 

I guess the dog's pretty cute too =)

You may know him from Good Eats, The Next Food Network Star, Iron Chef America or Cutthroat Kitchen. Or you may not know him at all. If that’s the case...HOW DARE YOU???!?!?!?!?!

A.B. is a pretty cool guy. He’s a smart chef. What I mean by that, is he knows the why and how of cooking. He’s not just throwing a bunch of shit in a pot and seeing what happens. There IS a method to his madness. And he likes to wear bow ties. Who does that? Alton Brown does that, and it makes him a badass MOFO in my humble opinion. He is also my go to guy when I am looking for recipes. If I am looking for a particular food, it's his recipe that I'm going to look at first and probably end up using or adapting. For example, he helped me perfect the technique of double fried french fries...but that's a story for another post.

Beyond his Food Network appearances, A.B. has been making smart videos on Youtube for our viewing pleasure. They are short, smart, funny little gems all aimed at teaching us one particular thing….how to do things in a smart way. He just wrapped up this "season", so I thought it was appropriate to feature this as my first inspiration post. If you have a couple of minutes, watch everything he has posted so far. There is even one dedicated to his beloved bow tie. Check out Alton Brown’s Youtube channel and get inspired, just like I did! Mike and I will be trying out his skirt steak on lump charcoal soon!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Smoked Spareribs

I have the coolest family. For my graduation, my parents and brother and sis-in-law teamed up and bought me a smoker. Now, this is no ordinary smoker. This baby is an electric, pellet fed smoker. You get the traditional smokey taste, without having to mess with gas or charcoal. It is so easy to use, and turns out fantastic food every single time.

As we are officially in summer now, this is my new favorite toy. I’ve put a lot of different types of food on the smoker. It basically functions like a convection oven, so anything you’d bake, you can smoke. How friggin cool is that? Oh BBQ. How I love thee.

Isn’t there just something about smokey, meaty, saucey goodness coming off a grill? MMM!

I wish I had unlimited time and funds. I would be on my deck smoking some kind of meat with a margarita in one of my hands every damn day. Sigh...the realities of life prohibit this. But in a way...I think that makes the times I do get to put a slab of meat on the smoker even sweeter. It’s something to look forward to, and something to savor.

This is the second preparation of spareribs I have done. The first time was in the crock pot, and they turned out tender and delicious. This time, on the smoker, they were even BETTER. I used the 3-2-1 method from Traeger and it worked out really well with several small adaptations.
When I first put them on the grill
After 6 hours...ready to eat!
That smoke ring. Yum!
Now I realize not everyone has a smoker. But here is the recipe I used for the ribs, and if anyone wants the crock pot version I’ll be happy to post that as well.

Serves about 6 people

2 racks of spareribs, trimmed and rinsed*
About a cup of your favorite BBQ rub (I used a mix of brown sugar, paprika, s&p and garlic)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup yellow mustard
Your favorite BBQ sauce (My mom made a batch using Guinness and it's killer)

*Quick note on the rib prep. You might need to remove a thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs. The easiest way to do this is to get a butter knife or kitchen scissors, get underneath the membrane, then grip it and pull. Get as much of it off as you can. It's not that great to eat. Some ribs will come with it already removed.

After the ribs are trimmed and rinsed, dry them with a paper towel (or 3) and then lightly coat them in the mustard. Basically, the mustard serves as glue here to hold your rub on. Sprinkle the rub onto the ribs and then rub it in. I like a nice coat of rub, because this is where you get your chewy bark from.
Start your smoker to get the fire going, and then smoke the ribs for 3 hours with the lid closed. After 3 hours, take the ribs off, and increase the heat to 225 degrees. Take the ribs inside.
Place one rack onto a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Drizzle half the honey and brown sugar onto the ribs and spread it around. Fold the foil around the ribs to create a pouch. Pour half of the apple juice into the pouch and then seal it up. Repeat this with the second rack. Place the 2 pouches back onto the grill and steam them for 2 hours.
When the 2 hours is up, remove the pouches, open them, and mop the ribs with the BBQ sauce. Place the ribs directly on the grill, and leave them for an additional 30 minutes to an hour. When they are nice and tender, take them off the grill, cover them and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. Then dig it!

We served these to my parents on the 4th of July last week and they were fantastic!!! I hope you and your families will enjoy them as much as we did!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July

It is that time of the year again folks... time for BBQs, watermelons, and unsafe firework handling! For this post, I thought I’d give you a quick list of sure to please favorites that can be made in an hour or less. I myself will be smoking a bunch of stuff on the Traeger, but more on that later.

Here’s the round-up!

Appetizer: Caprese Salad
Main:Burgers: Bison Burgers

Now if that menu doesn’t make you want to light a sparkler up and hang out with your friends, I don’t know what will. Be safe tonight, no one likes the smell of burnt flesh or burn cream! As a sidenote… I made the Bison Burgers a couple of weeks ago at “Fancy Dinner Party” with some friends. They were absolutely delightful, and I was even able to hit a homerun with them after drinking 3 or 4 glasses of wine. That’s definitely MY test of a good recipe!!! Or maybe I've just gotten really good at semi-drunken cooking. I guess we'll never know...

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July everybody!!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 2

What comes to your mind when I say the word "Polish?"

If you are anything like me, then your first thoughts were probably polka and sausages? Right??? 

Well, fair enough. Of course there is a lot more to Polish culture and cuisine than those two items, and in fact I did a decent amount of research on this one. I was not familiar with this culture at all. It just so happened that I had just started a new schedule at work and a brand new quarter of classes at school, so I opted for something easy. I considered a lot of different dishes for this one but ultimately cooked up Kielbasa and served in on a bed of rice. Easy peasy.

In this case, I headed to my local Trader Joe’s and got their Turkey Kielbasa, which is lower in fat and sodium that the traditional variety. I sliced that baby on the diagonal, browned them in a skillet, and served it with rice pilaf. Super simple. Super quick. Super delicious. It's perfect for a midweek meal.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Smoked Mac and Cheese & Big Bear Recap

Oh lawwwwwd. Comfort food. Do I really need to say anything else? There is something so divine about macaroni and cheese. And I do not give a shit if it’s out a box with the neon cheese mix, or made from scratch. I do not discriminate against mac and cheese. Cheesy noodles? I’m there. Mike and I share this sentiment. That is why there is pretty much always mac and cheese in our pantry. However, my mother-in-law Barb recently gave me her homemade recipe and I absolutely love it. It’s a really solid recipe that is perfect for a crowd. Or...perfect for my husband and I to eat straight out of the pan and not share with anyone else without feeling an ounce of shame...But I digress.

Since I have been having so much fun with my smoker this summer, I decided to kick this mac and cheese up a notch and toss it on the smoker. And let me tell you. It’s fantastic. Smokey, cheesy, ooey-gooey goodness. But definitely perfect for the oven as well. And it’s really versatile. You could add bacon, or jalapenos, or whatever really. The options are endless. I'd usually post a picture to prove the deliciousness...but we ate outside and it was dark so the pictures look terrible. You'll just have to take my word for it!

Smoked Mac and Cheese (care of Barb!)
Makes 6-8 servings (depending on how big of a fatty you are)

4 cups large elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded melting cheese*
1/4 cup flour
2 sticks of butter sliced into small cubes
2 cups of milk
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
Salt & Pepper

Cook macaroni until ALMOST al dente. Because it is going in the smoker (or oven) you want it to have some bite to it still. Drain the macaroni in a colander. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter or Pam. Put a layer of macaroni across the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle flour over it and season with salt and pepper. Put a handful of the butter cubes on top, and then a layer of the cheese. Repeat this until you have 3 layers, or are out of macaroni. Pour the milk evenly over the layered macaroni and sprinkle whatever cheese you have left on top. Crush the saltine crackers in a baggie and then spread them evenly over the top. They will crisp up in the smoker/oven.

Now here is where is gets epic. Start your smoker, and then preheat it to 350 degrees. Smoke the mac and cheese for an hour, or until the top is browned nicely and the milk has been absorbed. It will take the same amount of time at the same temperature in an oven. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes if you can wait that long and dig in!

* Just a note on the cheese for this recipe. Barb likes to use Tillamook cheddar, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, I love that cheese, it’s delicious.. However, any yummy melty cheese would work here. You could do smoked gouda, white cheddar, or even a combination. Have fun with it!! We had a white cheddar/gruyere blend in the fridge from TJ's, so that’s what we went with! Holy crap it was FANTASTIC. We even had friends over for dinner, one of whom does not like mac and cheese...and he had 2 servings. It's THAT good.

Talking about something being good, great and fantastic....Big Bear Lake. Mike set up a little getaway as a graduation present so we went this past weekend. I had never been up there, and I absolutely loved it. It's the perfect day (plus some) trip. It's only about an hour and a half away, so it's an easy drive, and there is a TON to do up there, regardless of the season. We arrived around 10:30am on Saturday and totally scored by being able to check into our cabin at Big Bear Frontier a full four hours early! The cabin was adorable too. Literally a 1 minute walk from the shore of the lake, 5 minutes from the marina, and 10 to the village, where a bunch of restaurants and shops are. The location cannot be beat.

So we checked in, and then decided to walk to the village for lunch. We found a new brewery that just opened 2ish months ago called the Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. Cute little place, beer brewed on site, and tasty food. We had spicy edamame with shishito peppers and we split their BBQ burger. And of course we had a couple of their beers. Yum yum yum.
Pomegranate Wheat and Hefewiezen
Afterwards we walked back to the cabin, changed into swim gear, and headed to the marina. We rented a tandem kayak for an hour....and used it for about 45 minutes. It was a load of fun, paddling around like we had a clue what we were doing. At the end of our time, we went back to the cabin, cleaned up and cycled through the HBO movies. We decided to get take out dinner from this Nepalese-Indian food place called the Himalayan. We had chicken and paneer tikka masala with naan and samosas. All super flavorful and delicious. We were smart enough to pack a couple of beers, so we sat out on the deck connected to the cabin and ate. It was lovely.
My handsome hubby and I
As the sun started going down, we walked to the shore and sat and watched the sunset. It was gorgeous over the water.

The next morning we got up, checked out, and strolled through village for about an hour before having lunch at Jasper's Smokehouse. Mike and I shared pulled pork and pulled brisket sandwiches. Good stuff. We bought one little knick knack to bring home....a ceramic bear that holds a wine bottle. So us.
The newest member of the family
It was the perfect quick getaway. We both had a blast, and will definitely be going back in the winter!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Cherry Cobbler is definitely summertime. I spent 15 minutes this morning trying to wrangle my birds nest of hair only to find it basically pointless. If it weren't for the coffee I am currently swigging, there would no redeeming qualities to this morning. wonderfully sweet and thoughtful hubby Mike is taking me to BIG BEAR (Woo!) this weekend as a graduation present. He and I have been so busy these last few months, we are really looking forward to, well, not knowing anyone around and just being with each other. Should be a lot of fun...there may even be jet skis involved. I'll definitely give you all the run down next week. Going to be a fantastic weekend, just me and my man.

Speaking of fantastic things....have you seen the cherries in season right now? Holy crap, they are gorgeous. Big, plump, tart morsels of summer time. Cherries being in season coincided with my 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge this week, Stone Fruit (Week 25). I could not wait to share this with you guys. Since you can get your hands on cherries now, there is no reason you shouldn't do just that and enjoy them.

For this challenge, Mike and I spent time pitting cherries....not the most fun activity in the world, but when I was bitching about it he looked over and me and said "It's family bonding time!" I couldn't help but laugh and enjoy it.  Now on to the recipe. Such a simple preparation, and the results were killer. Really good stuff. I hope you try it and enjoy it!
Freshly pitted

With the crumble, ready for the oven

Ready to dig in!!!
Cherry Cobbler
Serves 6

4 cups of cherries, pitted
1 heaping cup of sugar
1 heaping cup of all purpose flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. After you have spent precious minutes of your life pitting the cherries and covering yourself in cherry juice, place them in a small baking dish. I used my 5x8 Le Creuset, which is nice and shallow, and perfect for something like this. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Mix in the beaten egg with a fork. You want to achieve a crumbly texture here. It's not going to look like a normal dough. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the cherries, covering as much as possible. Then drizzle the melted butter on top. Bake the cobbler for 35-45 minutes. I went 42 minutes and the crumble was light golden brown. There is something that happens when you bake it. The cherries release their juices but retain their sweetness and it is just magical. Enjoy it plain, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Have a great weekend everyone!!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 1

For the first cooking challenge this year, the theme was eggs. Now I don’t know about you, but I pretty much always have eggs in the house. My hubby doesn't love them as a breakfast food, but they have been incorporated into every other meal of the day. For this challenge, I wanted to use the humble little egg in a way that I previously had not.

Enter Katie, my best friend, the maid of honor at our wedding and an all around awesome, smart and funny chick. As soon as I told her about my new adventure in cooking, she asked if I had ever made Idaho Sunrises before. I think I replied with an ultra graceful, “what the fuck is that??” and once she explained it I was sold on the idea. It’s a really cheap, quick and yummy use of an egg. I would definitely encourage you to try these out. They are a really great way to use up those last few potatoes in the bag too!

Idaho Sunrise
Makes 1

1 medium russet potato
1 egg
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the potato until done, or nuke about four minutes in a microwave if you’re in a rush. Cut the upper ⅓ of the potato off, and then gently scoop out most of the potato, leaving a potato-shell of sorts. Season the inside of the potato with salt and pepper. Crack the egg into a clean bowl, then pour it into the potato. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top of the egg. Bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on how you like your egg. 15 will produce a creamy, melting yolk, and 25 will produce a firm egg white and yolk. Enjoy.
Sorry for the crappy picture. But you get the idea.
This was a super simple way to cook an egg, and Mike even liked it, which is rare for him where eggs are concerned. Good stuff. Mike is whisking me away this weekend for a little getaway as a graduation present….woo! Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Caprese Salad

I have said it before, and I will say it again….I am in LOVE with fresh, simple flavors. Food doesn’t have to be complicated and include 40 ingredients to be scrumptious. One of my favorite recipes of all time demonstrates just how wonderful simply prepared food can be. It’s also an Italian classic, which brings me back to my Italiano heritage. I’m talking about Caprese salad. Mike and I are always so happy when I make this. It's practically lick-the-bowl good.

This dish can be done any number of ways.However, this is my go-to preparation, that is fast, easy, crowd-pleasing, and 100% delicious. It is also perfect for summertime, as it is cool, fresh and bursting with flavor. It’s an excellent addition to any meal, or can serve as a meal itself with a couple slices of crusty french bread. MMMM!

My usual suspects, minus the crusty baguette. Oh and you know that leftover basil is going to turn into pesto baby!

One of my favorite sights. Come on, doesn't that look so beautiful???!!!

Ahhh yeah....Just waiting to be demolished.

Caprese Salad

Makes 8 small servings or 4 big ones

1 container pearl tomatoes (or heirloom, or whatever tomatoes make you happy...go to TJ’s!)
1 container small mozzarella balls
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Balsamic Vinegar (the good stuff, don’t be cheap here!!)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Prep the tomatoes. If you are using the pearl tomatoes cut them in half. For larger tomatoes, cut them down to bite sized pieces. Cut the mozzarella balls in half as well. Chiffonade the basil. Put all three ingredients in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the salad. How much you use is a personal decision. I use it here, because the acidity really brings out all the other flavors. Typically I use around ⅓ of a cup. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat by itself or with the aforementioned crusty french bread. Weep with joy at the simplicity while stuffing your face.