Grilling It Up 3 Ways

In an effort to keep on the healthier side of things I decided to do some grilling over this past weekend. When I grill I tend to go a little overboard and make enough food to last the week and still have enough to spread the love at work. Needless to say I am popular around grilling season. Well since I am cooking healthier now that means smaller portions and not as many leftovers. This time around I decided to do three different smaller items to give a little variety throughout the week and not a bunch of one thing left over.

I did Raspberry beef skirt steak, Lemon Cilantro Catfish and Greek grilled chicken.

These are all pretty simple but I will walk you through each one to make sure you can recreate them all easily.

 

Lets start with the Raspberry Skirt Steak.

Ingredients

1 small skirt steak (about 2 lbs)

1 bottle of raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing

salt

black pepper

Put the steak in a large Ziploc bag or bowl with a lid and cover it in raspberry vinaigrette dressing and let marinate for 3 to 4 hrs.

Remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. It is important to get your meat dry before adding it to the grill. This helps with cooking and not sticking.

You want to have the grill heated on medium high heat. Just before adding the meat to the grill give it a couple of good shakes of salt and pepper on each side. Place the steak on the grill and leave it alone for 4 minutes. After that turn it over and let it cook for another 3 to 4 minutes depending on how well you like it to be done. And that is all there is to making a nice raspberry skirt steak. This is great served in a nice garden salad or even as fajitas. It’s really up to you.

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Next we have the Lemon Cilantro Catfish

Ingredients

Two catfish filets

Lemon juice (2 cups)

Fresh garlic (chopped 2 tablespoons)

Cilantro (chopped 1 tablespoon)

Chili Powder (half a cup)

Salt

Black Pepper

 

Mix all of the ingredients except the catfish in a large Ziploc bag or medium sized bowl with a lid and then place the catfish in making sure it is covered. Let that marinate for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove catfish from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Again, It is important to get your meat dry before adding it to the grill. This helps with cooking and not sticking.

You want to have the grill heated on medium high heat. Just before adding the meat to the grill give it a couple of good shakes of salt and pepper on each side. Place the catfish on the grill and leave it alone for about 4 to 5 minutes. Now with fish it is best to not try and turn it over. Just let it cook on one side. If you try and flip it you will most likely end up with pieces breaking off and falling through the grates. Also with fish I like to close the lid and let it heat up in the grill to make sure it gets done. A good way to tell if it is done is to work your spatula a little ways between the separation in the filets and check and make sure it has turned white all the way through.

That is all there is to that one. This too is a very versatile meat that can be added to lots of different meals. You can ever have it for breakfast with a scrambled egg and a little Tabasco. Yes you read that right. Its wonderful.

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Last but not least we have the Greek Grilled Chicken

Ingredients

2 or three boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 bottle of Greek vinaigrette salad dressing

Fresh oregano (1 tablespoon finely chopped)

Salt

Black pepper

Greek seasoning

You will also need aluminum foil.

I saved this one for last because it is a little more involved to make.

Put the chicken in a large Ziploc bag or medium sized bowl and cover with the Greek dressing and add in the oregano making sure to shake it up a little and get it all covered. Let that marinate for 3 to 4 hrs.

After it is done marinading you will want to place the chicken on aluminum foil and wrap completely. You DO NOT pat this one dry. Once you have wrapped in a cocoon of foil you are ready to put it on the grill. You will want to place it on the grill and close the lid. Let it cook for about 15 minutes and then turn the packet over. I like to do this so that it does not burn on one side. Let it cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. At this point it is basically boiling in its own juices and becoming very tender. Now you will want to use your tongs and open the top of the foil and take each piece of chicken and place directly on the grill for a minute or two on each side just to get some good color and grill marks on it. While it is getting that nice color to it give it a few shakes of the Greek seasoning, salt and pepper.

Side note: Put a handful of cherry tomatoes in another cocoon of aluminum foil with a little garlic, feta cheese and some extra dressing and stick them on the back of the grill and just let them cook while the chicken is cooking. This will make a nice roasted tomato sauce to pour over the chicken when you serve it.

Once that is done you can cut it into strips and serve on a plate with the tomatoes I mentioned above or put it in a salad. This is probably one of the best chicken recipes I have come up with and one I know I will be revisiting in the future.

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There you have it folks. 3 Relatively easy and versatile recipes to cook on the grill. They all came out wonderful and I am sure you will enjoy them.

Thanks for reading.

JMW

 

 

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Poppers that Pop

If you are just in the mood for a bite sized treat or making something for the big game jalapeno poppers are sure to please. These little spicy bites of heaven have been passed around parties for as long as I can remember and since there never seem to be any leftover the next day I will go out on a limb and say that people must really like them. I know I do. I have tried many different varieties over the years and everyone seems to have their own special way of doing them. Some swear by the type of bacon you need or the size of the jalapeno and even the brand of cream cheese for the perfect flavor. For some its a science and for others its just something you throw together to please the party goers. Either way they always seem to turn out great. For this recipe I have taken a couple of elements from several different poppers that I have tried and come up with what I will now call my “go to popper”.

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What you need. (This is for a small batch to serve 3 to 4 people)

12 large raw jalapenos (whole)

1 8oz container of Philadelphia fat free cream cheese

1 lb hickory smoked bacon

1 lb maple breakfast sausage

at least 24 toothpicks

Prep and cooking.

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First get the sausage started cooking in a pan on the stove over medium heat. You want to get it nice and brown and crunchy for texture.

Now while the sausage is cooking, cut the stem end off of the peppers and then cut them in half long ways so it looks like you have a fleet of little green boats. Be sure to remove all of the seeds and white membrane inside.

The sausage should now be done and ready to drain any fat off of. Just line a bowl with paper towels and poor the sausage in. The paper towels will absorb most of the fat. Now gently pull the paper towels out from under the sausage and out of the bowl. You will leave a little fat in there but it will be fine because you have gotten most of it out. Now mix in the cream cheese with the sausage until you get a nicely mixed paste.

Now for the fun part.

With a spoon go ahead and start filling each jalapeno half to the top. You don’t want it to overflow that much but make sure it is full.

Once you have all of the halves full open the bacon and cut the entire slab in half. Half a slice of bacon is perfect to wrap around the center of the jalapeno. You will hold the bacon in place by sliding a toothpick through from one side to the other.

Now it is time to cook them. You can do this a couple of different ways. My preferred method is on the grill. Turn it on medium high heat and let the grill heat up. If you have a top rack I like to sit them up there for a few minutes with the grill closed but it is not needed. Place the poppers on the grill and cook until the bacon looks done. You don’t want to get it too crisp but you do want it to be thoroughly cooked. You will most likely get a few black ends but don’t worry, they taste better that way.

You may want to keep a spray bottle of water on hand while cooking these. The bacon is going to drip and it will cause flare ups when the grease catches on fire.

That is how you make poppers that pop. They turned out great and that is why these will now be my “go to poppers”. If you are feeling a little adventurous try sprinkling just a little garlic powder on top before sticking them on the grill.

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I hope that you all enjoy these.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Simple Crockpot BBQ

To some people BBQ is a way of life. They have their grill and their smoker and know how to make their own sauce and rubs. I am one of those people and love coming up with new ways to make great BBQ. I also know there are a lot of people that don’t have the time or resources to go through all of that trouble but still love good BBQ. That reason is why I have come up with this little recipe. I wanted to make it easy for people that love great BBQ but may not have access to a smoker or grill to make their own at home with very little trouble. All you need is a crock pot a knife and a few ingredients from the grocery store.

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Here is how its done.

Ingredients:

1 beef brisket (2 to 4 lbs cut in half with fat trimmed off)

1 yellow onion (cut into thin slices)

3 jalapenos (diced)

1 bottle of BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)

2 tablespoons of Liquid Smoke

8 pieces of garlic toast (Texas toast)

Dill pickle Hamburger slices

Salt (2 tablespoons)

Black pepper (2 tablespoons)

Garlic powder (1 tablespoons)

Chili powder (3 tablespoons)

Cooking:

In the bottom of a large crock pot place the onion and jalapeno then lay the brisket on top. Now add all of the spices and cover with about half of the BBQ sauce and two tablespoons of the liquid smoke. You will now want to add just enough water to cover the top of the brisket. Then put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for about 5 to 6 hrs.

After 5 to 6 hrs reduce heat to low and let cook another 2 to 3 hrs. What you want is for the brisket to get tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

After the brisket is done cooking move the pieces to a large bowl and start shredding it apart. Use a slotted spoon and add a couple of spoonfuls of the onion and jalapeno pieces from the crock pot and then add the rest of the BBQ sauce and mix it all together. While that is cooling heat up the oven and cook your garlic toast according to the directions on the box.

Once the garlic toast is done you are ready to assemble your sandwich. Place a big spoonful of the BBQ beef on a slice of garlic bread then add about 3 to 4 pickle slices to the top and place another piece of garlic toast on top to finish it off. You may also want to take it a step farther by adding some pickled red onions which really give it a nice zing.

I know some of you may think using the garlic toast as the sandwich bread is a little odd but trust me on this. It is a way of life to eat BBQ this way on the east coast and there is nothing quite like it.

All that is left to do is sit back and enjoy some great tasting BBQ.

Thanks for reading

JMW

BBQ Country Style Ribs

When setting out to grill or BBQ there is always the question of what to cook and how to do it. Do you want to slow cook on low heat? Do you want something quick and easy? Do you sauce first or after  or even at all? Depending on what part of the country you are from will also greatly determine if you choose to cook pork or beef. Since I grew up on the east coast I tend to lead more toward pork BBQ which goes against everything you hear out in Texas where I live now. Everyone has their own way of doing things on the grill and I am no different, I just happen to think mine tastes a little better than most. I have spent a lot of time over the years developing a specific taste to my BBQ. I have taken tips from the way my Dad does his BBQ as well as taking things from several other places I have tried over the years and have come up with my own unique flavor that is not to sweet, not to spicy and doesn’t have that over powering vinegar taste to it either. My BBQ has just the right amount of all of that. Its kind of like an amalgam of all of the best tastes around the US.

I was doing some grocery shopping over the weekend and came across a great deal on country style boneless pork ribs and knew exactly what I was going to do with them as soon as I saw them.  Boneless country style ribs are a great thing to BBQ. They don’t take that long to cook and just have a great flavor. They have a great meat to fat ratio which is important when grilling. You want something that has a little fat in it to keep from drying out when cooking. But enough about that. Lets get down to cooking these bad boys up.

You can use off the shelf sauces for this but I tend to use my own homemade sauces.

What you need:

1 large pack of boneless country style pork ribs

1 bottle of mustard based BBQ sauce (you want a really tangy sauce for this one)

(My mustard sauce consists of the right amount of yellow mustard, white vinegar, sugar, black pepper and margarine)

1 bottle of tomato based BBQ sauce (you can use your favorite but a good sweet and spicy one is the best to counter the tang of the mustard sauce)

Salt

Black pepper

Prep and cooking

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Rinse the ribs under cold water and pat dry. Then salt and pepper them all around. Place them in a large bowl and cover with the mustard sauce. Let them marinate for at least two hrs.

Whether you use gas or charcoal is up to you. Either way you will need medium to medium high heat. Something that will give a good sear to the outside while not drying them out when cooking. I know a lot of people complain if they see even a hint of black on their meat but to me it just doesn’t taste right unless you get a little char on the outside. That’s what BBQ is and why people like “burnt end sandwiches” so much (if you’ve never had a burn end sandwich, stop reading and go find one now). It tastes good so trust me. You want to cook these covered for about 7 to 9 minutes on either side depending on how thick they are. Then remove the lid and turn the heat up just a little. With a BBQ brush you now want to coat the ribs with the more traditional BBQ Sauce. You always want to wait until the end to put on most tomato (and brown sugar) based sauces due to them burning easier. Turn the ribs over a couple of times with that sauce on them until it starts to thicken up and get darker. It will create a nice messy,gooey coating that screams BBQ.

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Now they are ready to go. Pull them off the grill and let them cool for a few minutes. You are now ready to enjoy some of the best BBQ you have ever tasted. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Let’s Talk Burgers

Let’s face it, everyone loves burgers and have come up with many many ways to make them and even make them with a lot of different types of meat including Buffalo, Elk, Turkey, Chicken, Bison and of course good ole beef.  Even if you are a vegetarian you still try and find a way to make something like tofu into a burger. Why do you think that is? Well it’s because burgers are great, plain and simple. For most of us you have a big patty of meat tucked neatly (or not so neatly) between to halves of a bun and piled high with all of your favorite toppings and condiments. You can add just about anything to a burger to change it up and give it a different taste. I have been known to add many different things to mine over the years such as bacon, avocado, and yes even a fried egg. Burgers are versatile and delicious. If people didn’t love burgers they wouldn’t be sold in mass quantities just about everywhere you go.

That brings me to this past weekend. I wanted to make burgers at home and also wanted to come up with something for you fine folks to try out that is a little different than your normal burger. So I started searching the fridge and wracking my brain to come up with something that turned out to be one of the best burgers I have ever made.

I now give you the salsa burger.

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Ingredients

2 lbs lean ground beef

1/2 cup salsa fresca (finely chopped)

Tip: I used salsa fresca in this because it has a unique mix of ingredients and is usually more finely chopped than regular salsa. Ingredients usually include tomato, cilantro, lime, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar and chile pepper. This mix of flavors gives the meat a great taste.

chili powder

black pepper

salt

Sliced Colby jack cheese

Onion Rolls (cut in half to make a bun)

And whatever your favorite toppings may be. I used Lettuce, tomato, dill pickle slices, onion and Mayo

Prep

Put the ground beef into a mixing bowl and then add the salsa. Using both hands get in there and really mix it all together until everything is nicely blended. Now pat out your patties. I like to do nice thin patties with about 4 or 5 ounces of meat each.  Make sure to flatten them out good because they will shrink a little when cooking. Once you have the patties all made and laid out on a plate you want to salt and pepper them and also sprinkle a little chili powder across the top. Let those sit so they get close to room temp. Meat always cooks better and more evenly throughout if it is room temp and not cold straight out of the fridge.

Cooking

You can cook the burgers a couple of different ways. I usually go for the grill but I ran out of propane so this go round I went old school with the frying pan. Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat. You want it to be hot when they go in but not super hot or they will burn on the outside and be raw in the middle.

Drop your patties in a nice even layer in the pan and let them cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Then turn them over let them cook for another 3 to 4 minutes on the other side depending on how rare or done you like your burgers. I prefer mine to be medium to medium well.

If you like cheese on your burger like I do you will want to place a slice on top of the burger with about 30 seconds left to cook. This will get it started  melting evenly across the top.

With the burgers now done and the pan still hot place your cut onion rolls (cut side down) in the pan for about 30 seconds to get a nice lite crunch on them. (or use regular buns if you aren’t feeling adventurous).

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Assembly

Now its time to assemble the burger. Place a patty on your bun and add whatever condiments you prefer and then pile it high with your favorite toppings. To recreate the one I made you will want to add mayo to both halves of the bun, place the patty on the bottom and add thin sliced white onion, fresh Romain lettuce, sliced dill pickle, and thin sliced Roma tomato. I highly recommend trying it this way first.  You are now ready to embark on a truly unique burger experience.

Enjoy and thanks for reading

JMW

Red Wine Braised Beef

I ran across a good deal on flank steak at my local grocery store the other day and since I haven’t done anything with that type of meat in a while I picked some up. Now the thing is, I did not want to prepare it my usual way which is to season it, grill it and then thinly slice it for fajitas, I wanted to do something different. So I started looking around the internet for recipes that sounded good to me like I do every now and again. I actually came across several that sounded really good and decided to take a couple of ideas from each and then add a little of my own special touch to come up with a recipe of my own. Once prepared  the beef is good on its own or as a filler for a killer sandwich, which is what I did.

What you need:

Flank steak (2 to 2 ½ lbs cut into 2 even pieces).

Olive oil

Fresh Garlic (3 or 4 cloves)

2 medium red onions (halved and sliced)

1 bottle red wine.

Oven safe skillet

sea salt

black pepper

Prep

In a large oven safe skillet add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium high heat until it can move around and cover the bottom of the pan. Then take both pieces of flank steak and brown them on either side, adding salt and pepper to both sides as you turn them. Do not worry about cooking all the way through at this time. Once they are browned on either side remove from skillet and add in onions and garlic. Saute the onions and garlic until they start to turn clear. Now add the steak back in the pan on top of the veggies and pour in enough red wine to cover about ¾ of the way. Place the pan in the over (preheated to 350). Let it cook uncovered for about and hour. When you start to notice that the wine is almost gone remove the pan flip the steaks and add more wine (cover about ¾ of the way again). Now put the pan back in the oven for around another hour. When the wine has almost cooked away (leaving just a little) remove from the oven and let it cool. Once it has cooled enough to handle you will want to shred the beef and then stir it and the onions all together in the pan.

Now for the sandwich part if you would like to recreate what I did.

You will need:

Bohio rolls (or small sandwich rolls)

Blue cheese crumbles

Cut the bohio rolls in half long ways. Scoop on a nice helping of the beef on to the bottom half of the roll and then cover it with the blue cheese crumbles. Place the top on to make a sandwich and wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil. Place it in the oven (preheated to 450) and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove and take out of the foil.

And for the final step…Enjoy.

 

Thanks for reading

JMW

Firebowl Cafe

Great

Pretty Good ***

OK

No Thanks

If you are like me then you love Asian cuisine of all types but while you would still like to pick your own ingredients you don’t always want to cook it yourself. This is where restaurants like HuHot, Genghis Grill and Firebowl Cafe come in to play. They allow you to go in and select all of the ingredients that you want and have someone else cook it for you. Being a fan of this type of restaurant I decided to give Firebowl Cafe a try to see how it stacked up against the other big players out there. Firebowl Cafe is similar to Genghis Grill in regards to being able to build your own meal and have them cook it for you but does not have the same level of selection. You can choose to order right off the menu from quite a few different meal types and add noodles or a couple different types of rice and choose what you would like added to it such as sauces and meats or you can create it yourself. The create it yourself method is the most appealing and fun since you basically get to create something unique and different each time. Unfortunately Firebowl is more of a simplified version of what you get at the other guys. Here you can select all the veggies and tell them what sauce you want added and choose what meat you would like them to use from Chicken, Beef, Shrimp or Tofu for the vegetarians out there but you don’t get to choose how much of it you want like you can at the other guys. On the plus side you get a few more choices that places like Genghis Grill don’t offer like Orange Chicken, Pepper Steak, Sweet & Sour chicken and several other Asian favorites.

Inside Firebowl Cafe is set up more like Chipotle Grill and is basically an upscale fast food restaurant. As a matter of fact when you walk in the door and start looking around at the menu and dinning room layout it is set up almost exactly like a Chipotle Grill.

For this visit I was feeling especially lazy and decided to go with one of the standard menu items instead of building it myself so I ordered the Fire Noodles. This is a Chow Fun type of flat rice noodle with green onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, snap peas, Thai basil, cilantro and jalapenos although now that I think about it I am pretty sure they forgot the Jalapenos and cilantro in mine. I also chose the beef for mine and I added a couple of egg rolls.

The egg rolls came out almost as soon as I sat down and I will go on record saying that these were some of the best egg rolls that I have ever eaten. They were hot, crispy and had a nice mixture of ingredients unlike a lot of egg rolls that can be filled with mostly cabbage. With only a couple of bites of egg roll left my meal came out in a pretty decent sized bowl. I gave it a good stir to mix everything up and tried my first bite which was pretty good but a little on the bland side of things so since I am a soy sauce junkie I had to add quite a bit to get it up to my flavor standards. I also added a bit of their spicy Thai sauce (a little goes a long way) to give it the kick that I like in my food. After that it was a pretty good meal all in all. I would definitely go back when I get one of those lazy day feelings where I don’t want to cook but would like Asian food. I would put Firebowl somewhere between Panda Express (on the low end) and Genghis Grill (on the high end). Decent food overall with a great egg roll at an affordable price and a fair amount of freedom to customize your own dish. So if you are in the mood for a quick but good Asian meal go out and give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Thanks for reading,

JMW