Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fresh salsa

I love fresh salsa, it's so much better than jarred, and summertime is the best time to make it because all the ingredients are fresh and readily available. In fact, most of these ingredients came from our own backyard!

Here's our first tomato of the season! He's a small little bugger. In fact, all the romas seem to be small little buggers, but the beefsteak and heirlooms seem to be growing quite nicely. Oh, and I'm happy to announce that I have not lost a single plant to gophers this year, hooray! The hubz helped me line the bottom of our raised bed with the chicken wire and that seems to have done the trick. I've also been setting out gopher traps and have had quite a few successes. Those efforts, combined with the fact that I have 10 thriving tomato plants means that we'll be eating lots of fresh tomatoes this year!

I know that homegrown tomatoes are sweeter than store bought, but ours were so sweet that they didn't make a good salsa at all. I had to put a TON of lime juice in before it tasted "normal". Luckily I just planted a lime tree in our last year and it's producing fruit too.

Letting them sit in the fridge overnight also helped tone down the sweetness, so we ended up with something pretty tasty.

- Tomaotes

- Red onion

- Jalapeno
- Cilantro
- Lime juice
- Salt
- Pepper

- Dice the tomaotes into small cubes.

- Finely dice the onions (I skipped these this time because I didn't have any and didn't feel like going to the store)

- Finely mince the jalapeno
- Mince the cilantro (also skipped because I was too lazy to go to the store and let the ones in my garden die on me)

- Mix the tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice and salt & pepper to taste.

- Put everything in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors mellow together.

- Serve with tortilla chips or on a taco or other your favorite Mexican dish.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuna Sashimi

And last but definitely not least, one of our friends went fishing the day before and caught some awesome fresh tuna and was kind enough to bring some to share with us. How amazing is that?

It was so fresh and delicious. Just a little soy and wasabi. It doesn't get any better than that...

Thanks Ryan!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Corn salad

In lieu of corn on the cob, I decided to make a corn salad for our 4th of July BBQ. It's very simple and quick to make. You can also make it ahead of time to save yourself a bit of stress when you're having over 30 people over :)

- 2 or 3 cans of sweet corn, drained

- 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

- 1/2 red onion finely diced

- 1 red bell pepper finely diced

- Basil leaves

- Olive oil
- Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper


- Mix all the ingredients together and serve or cover and keep it in the fridge until your guests arrive.

I told ya it was easy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Potato Salad

So I make my potato salad a little differently than how most people make it. I have no idea where I learned it from, maybe my mom? But honestly, I don't remember her ever making potato salad growing up.

Regardless of where I learned it from, it's the way I like it these days, and this is how I make it...

- Potatoes

- Eggs

- Bacon

- Ham (the real stuff, not sliced lunch meat)

- Peas

- Mayo

- Salt

- Pepper

- Cheddar cheese (optional)

- Peel and boil or steam the potatoes until they're cooked through but not falling apart (a knife should go through it smoothly but still meet a bit of resistance)

- Drain the potatoes and dunk them in an ice bath to cool them down if you're short on time, or just set them aside and let them cool down on their own.
- Hard boil a few eggs and set aside or dunk them in an ice bath to let them cool.
- Crisp up some bacon and set aside to let cool.
- Thaw the peas if using frozen or cook them if using fresh.

- Dice the ham into 1/2 inch cubes.

- Peel then dice the eggs into 1/2 inch cubes.

- Crumble the bacon.

- Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.

- If you're using cheddar cheese, either shred it or cut into 1/2 inch cubes, depending on your personal preference.
- Mix the potatoes, eggs, ham, bacon and peas (and cheese if you're using it) with enough mayo to coat everything.

- Season generously with salt and pepper.

- You can either serve it immediately or make it ahead of time, cover it, and store it in the fridge until chow time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I don't know about you, but I grew up detesting coleslaw. Then again, my only exposure to it was in the elementary school cafeteria, so who can blame me right?

But you can't have a pulled pork sandwich without coleslaw, and I don't mind coleslaw with a good pulled pork sandwich. In fact, I think it makes the sandwich that much better!

Here's my recipe for coleslaw and how to put it all together.

- 1 head of cabbage
- 1 carrot shredded
- Mayo
- Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, drained)
- Dijon mustard
- Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper

- Slice the cabbage into thin strips and place it in a colander. Sprinkle some salt every once in a while and let it sit for a few hours. This will allow a bunch of the excess water to drain out so that you don't end up with soggy coleslaw. This is a crucial step and makes a huge difference.

Here it is before...
And here it is after...
It really wilts down a lot.

- After the cabbage has wilted down, rinse off the salt and then squeeze out the water. A salad spinner will work too.
- Mix in the rest of the ingredients to taste. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few hours to let all the flavors meld together.
- Take a hamburger bun, pile on some pulled pork, smothered in homemade bbq sauce, topped with some crunchy coleslaw and try not to spill on yourself!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Broccoli Beef

Before I finish posting about our 4th of July BBQ, I wanted to post this so that I can participate in Regional Recipes this month. They're featuring China and it's being hosted by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok.

Broccoli beef is probably one of the most well-known Chinese stir fry dishes in America and it's also one of the easiest, though all stir fries are pretty easy. It's just a bit of oil, some aromatics, a protein, and vegetables with some sauce.

You can do almost any combo of:

  • aromatics - garlic, ginger, scallions, etc
  • protein - chicken, shrimp, beef, tofu, etc or even skip it altogether if you want
  • vegetables - brocolli, carrots, onions, cabbage, pretty much anything you want!
  • sauce - soy, oyster, hoisin, hot sauce, pretty much anything you can find in the sauce aisle of your local asian market.
Stir fries are great for cleaning out the fridge!

- Beef
- Broccoli
- Carrots (I added it for color and to sneak in extra veggies, but it's totally optional and not really "traditional")

- Garlic

- Soy Sauce

- Oyster Sauce
- Corn starch


- Slice the beef into thin bite-size pieces. Flank steak is great for this, but any beef will do really, as long as you slice it against the grain to keep it tender. If you have trouble slicing it thinly, either use a sharper knife or put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
- Marinate the beef in a few teaspoons of corn starch and soy sauce while you prep the other ingredients. This will keep the beef tender and help thicken the sauce.

- Cut the broccoli florets off into bite-size pieces. You can also peel off the tough skin of the stem, slice it, and add them to the florets.

- Peel and slice the carrots at a bias (if you're using them)

- Finely mince the garlic.

Heat a pan or wok until smoking hot.

- Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom and let that heat up too.

- Add the garlic and stir it quickly for only a few seconds so that they don't burn.

- Add the beef with a bit of extra soy sauce.

When the beef if about 80% cooked, you can take it out and set it aside. If you're being lazy like me, don't bother with this step :)
- If you're using carrots, add them to the pan. You can also add more oil at any time if things start sticking.

- Add the broccoli to the pan and oyster sauce to taste. If you don't have oyster sauce, more soy is fine too. If you like more sauce, feel free to add a bit of water or chicken stock.

- If you took the beef out earlier, add it back in now. Don't let the broccoli cook too long or it will get mushy. You want it to keep a bit of crispness.

- If you want to thicken the sauce more, mix a bit of corn starch in a bowl with a bit of water until fully dissolved and add the slurry to the pan. It should thicken even more as it cools.

- Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Smokey Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Since the hubz was waking up at 4am to smoke brisket anyway, we thought we should toss a few more things onto the smoker to maximize his efforts. After debating between a second brisket and a few other meaty goodies, we decided on pulled pork sandwiches.

The hubz took 2 honkin' pieces of pork butt and covered them in the same rub that he used for the brisket and let them sit in the fridge overnight. That's a lotta meat!

At 4am, he put them on the top rack of the smoker so that the juices would drip down onto the brisket and baste it while keeping it moist.

After hours of slow cooking in the smoker, a beautiful bark developed and it was ready for pulling!

When I went to go "pull" the pork, it was so tender that it literally fell apart! You can also see how deep the smoke penetrated the meat. Yum!

And just like last time, I'll let this website give you directions on how to pull off the meat for this amazing sandwich. We added my husband's homemade bbq sauce like we did for the brisket and some homemade cole slaw that I'll blog about next.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Smoked Brisket

Ok, I think it's about time I posted a new food post, don't you think?

So the hubz and I got a Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker as a wedding gift but never got around to using it because honestly, it seemed like such a hassle. Every time he considered using it (he's the grill master in this house), he opted to use our gas grill instead because it was just so much easier. In addition to our indoor grill, we've got 3 outdoor ones. Yes, probably a little overboard, but we like it :)

Well, he finally broke out the smoker over the 4th of July weekend. We were having 30+ people over for a bbq and didn't want to do burgers and dogs. It was the perfect opportunity to test out the smoker. And you know what? Smoking isn't nearly as difficult or scary as it seems. Sure, it's more work than using the gas grill or your oven or even a normal charcoal grill, but it's definitely worth it for some things, such as smoked brisket. In fact, 2 weeks later, we took out again to smoke a few racks of ribs. And while we both thought the ribs were way too smokey and probably best cooked using other methods, but I'll get around to blogging about that some other time, we both felt that the brisket and the pulled pork were well worth the effort.

I'm not going to post a how-to here because this website is all you need and does a way better job than I ever could. It's a fantastic resource that goes in-depth into everything there is to know about smoking a fabulous hunk o' meat. I will share a couple highlights though...

The hubz bought a big ol' brisket, trimmed the fat cap, and put a homemade rub on overnight. Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe for you because the hubz doesn't really follow recipes, but it always turns out fantastic! He's just talented that way :) What I do know is that it consisted of lots of brown sugar, cayenne, paprika, cumin, salt and freshly ground black pepper and probably some garlic powder and onion powder too.

For the cooking method, he opted to go for the Smoked & Oven Finished method. This yields great smokey flavor and tender juicy meat. But in order to get it done in time, the poor boy had to wake up at 4am to get things started - that's dedication!

Look it's still dark out! It's also a lotta smoke!

The result was fantastic in my opinion. Look at that perfect smoke ring.

And the gorgeous, flavorful bark.
A few tips that he says he's going to use next time is to trim off more of the fat cap as the smoke doesn't penetrate through that thick layer of fat very well. He also put 2 fatty pork butts on the rack above it so that the drippings would "baste" the brisket and keep it from drying out. If you don't want to do that, you can cover it in a layer of bacon instead.

The hubz also highly recommends making your own bbq sauce. It's so much better than anything store bought and you can tailor it to your personal preferences (we like it spicy). For our bbq, he made 2 sauces for a little variety, a sweet bourbon bbq sauce, and a tangy spicy bbq sauce. The base of both were canned tomatoes, fresh onions, brown sugar, vinegar, maple syrup, a touch of ketchup, all cooked down for several hours and then blended smooth. The sweet bourbon sauce had a very healthy dose of jim beam and extra brown sugar while the spicy one had a boatload of cayenne and chili powder for a nice kick and additional vinegar for tang and brightness.

Here it is all cut up and ready to enjoy!