Saturday, April 30, 2011

Festival of Smoke

This morning I had the great opportunity to visit the Second Annual Festival of Smoke hosted by The Culinary Center of Kansas City. The amazing thing about my visit was that I had no idea that it was going on or that there was even such neat place in my city until two days before the event was set to occur, and I owe a huge thanks to twitter and Jason Day of BBQ Addicts. The event was sponsored by the center's Midwest BBQ Institute and consisted of live cooking demonstrations, a pork butt competition, BBQ tasting, and whole list of other events designed to be both educational as well as entertaining.
The Culinary Center of Kansas City host's a whole slew of cooking classes for every age and every level of expertise or in some cases no expertise. After looking through their website I found a whole bunch of classes I want to take to help further my cooking abilities.

While I was down there I had the great opportunity to meet with Jason Day of BBQ Addicts, who are well known for their mouth watering creation "The Bacon Explosion". Which has been featured on practically every major network and is quite possible known the world over. Jason was at the event to demonstrate just what goes into making "The Bacon Explosion" as well as helping to spread the word about their new cookbook BBQ Makes Everything Better, which it does! Just look around the next time your tailgating or at a BBQ competition, every one just seems so much more open and receptive when there's plenty of good BBQ and ice cold beverages to go around.

I have to say, after seeing him whip together one of these delicious treats I can't wait to try my hand making one.

I would like to say a huge thank you and nice job to The Culinary Institute of Kansas City and the Midwest BBQ institute for hosting this truly exciting event. I hope the event continues to grow as it shows great promise in bringing more people to the joy of cooking with live fire and giving us more reason to huddle up around a BBQ grill.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

"The Works" Baked Potato Salad

Well here it is, the potato salad I tweeted about a few weeks ago. I first tasted this dish when I was doing chicken thighs for the guys at work, and I really liked it. It's not the traditional creamy mustard potato salad and was a great change up to the normal potato salad. In fact there were several guys on duty that night that really don't like traditional potato salad and the loved this. So I decided to make it home for the family and they really enjoyed it, our little girl ate some of it but wasn't crazy about it because she's not into baked potatoes. I mean what 2 year old is?

Recipe form The Pampered Chef website
6 medium baking potatoes (about 2 pounds)
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked, drained and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Thinly sliced green onions with tops (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Scrub potatoes thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Spray potatoes with vegetable oil using kitchen spritzer. Prick potatoes with Hold'N Slice. Bake 50-60 minutes or until tender.
2. Meanwhile, combine sour cream and mayonnaise in small colander Bowl. Chop bacon, red onion and celery using Food Chopper; add to sour cream mixture. Stir in salt and black pepper; cove with small lid. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Remove potatoes from oven; cool completely. If you don't like the skins simply scrape them off with a fork. Coarsely cop potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in large Colander Bowl; fold in sour cream mixture. Cover with large Lid. Refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight. Garnish with sliced green onions and cheddar cheese, if desired.
Yields 12 servings.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chicken Thighs

The other night at the firehouse I barbecued some chicken thighs for the guys. I marinated them in some Herb and Garlic, seasoned them with some John's BBQ Sauce Dry Rub, and smoked them with chunks of hickory. Now I've never heard of the Dry Rub before, but I found it at one of the local grocery stores and it's actually pretty good.
The thighs cooked for about an hour and half at about 350ºF, sadly though the skin came out pretty tough. I sauced them with KC Masterpiece and honey, then gave them a very light dusting with the rub. I liked the flavor, but I'm going to have to do a lot more practice to get that bite through skin that I'm after.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weekend BBQ!

I got the itch to make some BBQ this past weekend and was in the mood for some pulled pork sandwiches and some smoked Italian Sausage also known as a Fatty.
A Fatty is simply a pound of breakfast sausage that is sprinkled with what ever seasonings you like and placed on the smoker to cook. Now if your feeling really adventurous you can flatten the sausage out and place what ever you like on top, such as bell peppers or cheese, then simply roll it back into a log being sure to cover everything you put in it. What you wind up with is an incredibly delicious treat that is best described as an orgy of flavor. It always makes a great snack while your waiting on the larger cuts of meat to finish cooking.

The pulled pork was about a 5 lb. butt that I put on the smoker at around 10 am. It cooked till 6pm at which point it finally hit an internal temp of 195ºF, which needed some helping because I was able to hold the smoker at 225ºF all day long. The problem was that at around 5pm the internal temperature was 160º, at which point I wrapped it in foil. This helps to hold the heat in and seems to steam it a little bit. The end product was a very juicy and tender pulled pork with a nice subtle smoke flavor. I was pretty happy with the over all cook because it was an incredibly windy day, which always make for an interesting day barbecuing.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken Capri Pasta

This recipe comes straight out of the Kraft Foods Magazine, which is always loaded with some really delicious seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, which is a must for any busy family. To top it off it's even approved my little girl! She loves noodles and bell peppers, so I knew I was in good shape there, but she ate every bit of it with out a fight. The Philadelphia Cooking Creme's I believe is a new product as I've never heard of them, or simply never took notice of them, either way I'm so happy I got to try them. Their creamy with a nice garlic flavor and they really help make this dish. I served it up with a little whole wheat garlic toast, which is a little healthier and was a wonderful side to this dish.

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 cup halved red pepper strips
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 tub (10oz) Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme
2 cups hot cooked angel hair pasta
1/4 cup Kraft Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Cook and stir chicken and peppers in large nonstick skillet on medium heat 5to 7 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in broccoli; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
Add cooking creme; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
Serve over pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Carrot Muffins

My little girl has been going through a little slump on some of her breakfast foods, so I went on the search to find another muffin with hidden vegetables. In my search I came across these over at and decided I would give them a try. The recipe was easy enough to follow and was completed in 45 minutes, just like the recipe said. The end product was tasty and the carrots were good and soft, so you really don't notice them. Now the sad news is that they were not well received by my soon to be 2 year old. When we would give her one to eat we were lucky to get her to eat even half a muffin, which I have no idea why, as I kind of liked them. They have a sort of light bran muffin flavor with a nice sweetness from the raisins and carrots, warm up in the oven with a little butter and they are delicious. I'm looking forward to having these in the freezer as a quick snack or maybe for breakfast on the go for me.

1 cup raisins
2 cups warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups shredded carrots

1. Combine raisins and water in a small bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain raisins, discard water and set raisins aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil and brown sugar; beat well. Combine egg mixture and flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Fold in carrots and drained raisins. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before frosting.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The other day my daughter was desperately wanting to help me bake some cookies, well she wanted chocolate chip and I didn't have the things to be able to fix those, but I did have stuff for brownies. So after a lot of back and forth about having to go and get stuff or fixing the brownies she finally caved for brownies. Here's where the real fun began, after hunting down a recipe and getting everything ready for her to help she decides to help to "do the dishes", which only means to play in the water. It's at this point where I wound up making the brownies on my own while she played in the water. We both had a good time and made a huge mess of the kitchen, which she managed to find a toy to play with while I cleaned up; I better get used to that I have a feeling. 

The brownies came out delicious! They were nice and fluffy, more cake like than fudge like, with a nice light flavor making them a joy to eat.

1 cup shortening (I substituted in 1 cup of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Baking Sticks with good results)
8 tablespoons cocoa or 4 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Melt 1 cup shortening and cocoa or chocolate squares in a pan over low heat.

Mix eggs, vanilla, baking powder, sugar, salt, and flour in a bowl until well combined. Next add the chocolate mixture and mix well. Pour the batter into a greased 9x13 inch pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350º.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More New Tools!

I've had my eyes on these tools for some time now and their finally in my kitchen. The pastry cutter is from OXO Good Grips and it has taking the place of a Pampered Chef, which has mysteriously found it's way into the bowels of my kitchen or where ever lost tools go. Now it never fails that you realize a tool has gone missing until you need it, so I've begun taking steps to make sure my kitchen has some since of organization.

The tongs are from Kitchen Aide and they are a much needed addition to my utensil drawer. The best part is I can now get rid of the cheap scissor action tongs that I despised because they were always so awkward and difficult to use.

And finally my new set of wooden mixing spoons! I am so excited to add these to my already overloaded utensil colander. I've been using some plastic spoons and they always seem to stain very easily, and while wood spoons will darken, I always took this as a sign of well earned use. The down side is they tend to take a little bit more care, as in hand washing and being sure to oil them from time to time, but they have been a joy to cook with.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jerk Pork Chops with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

I've had this recipe marked for a long time and man was I missing out. This recipe is packed with flavor and the grill always adds a dimension of flavor to food that in my opinion is hard to beat. When you grill pineapple it practically turns to candy, throw in a little brown sugar on it and I'm pretty sure it now qualifies as candy. Now add in grilled bell peppers, candied ginger, and lime juice and you have a wonderful mix.

For the pork I took the easy way since I put so much time into the salsa. I used a bottle of Jerk Marinade off the store shelf and put it to work an hour before it was time to grill. I have to say it was very delicious with only a very small hint of some heat. The wonderful thing about grilling now is that most grocery store shelves are loaded with all kinds of commercial products for grilling, and many of them have been created by award winning BBQ teams. So I see no shame in using their products if it will save me some time on a weeknight and get the food to the table sooner, which simply means you will have a lot happier home.
Pork Chops
4 pork chops
1 bottle of Jerk Marinade with Papaya

Place pork chops in a seal-able zip-lock bag and pour in enough marinade to cover, seal the bag and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until ready to grill.

To grill heat the grill to high and cook for 4-5 minutes each side or until done.

1 ripe pineapple
1 medium-size red bell pepper
1 medium-size yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced candied ginger
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or more as needed

1. peel the pineapple, cut it in half lengthwise, and remove the core. Cut each pineapple half lengthwise into quarters. Yous should have 8 pieces.
2. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
3. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the pineapple pieces and bell peppers on the hot grate and gill, turning with tongs, until nicely charred on all sides, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pineapple and bell peppers to a bowl and let cool.
4. Cut the cooled pineapple into 1-inch chunks. Core and seed the bell peppers and cut them into 1 inch dice. Combine the pineapple, bell peppers, candied ginger, cilantro, lime juice, and brown sugar in a serving bowl and toss gently to mix. Taste fore seasoning, adding more lime juice and/or brown sugar as necessary; the pineapple salsa should be highly seasoned. Serve the salsa within 3 hours.

If you like a little heat with your salsa you can always add a Scotch bonnet chile or other hot chile of your liking.
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