Carnitas Feast

The photo above was snapped when we hosted our friends Gabe and Dory for dinner while we were in Florida this winter. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing and I was so glad I had some frozen carnitas meat in the freezer. In fact, I was able to throw this whole meal together with things I already had on hand.

Making carnitas is one of my most favorite ways to feed a crowd; the meat is so easy to make and all I need to do is put out some warm corn tortillas and savory accompaniments. I’ve cooked a lot of roasts over the years and this recipe is my favorite one for carnitas type meat. It doesn’t include orange juice – gasp – but the end result is a deep, rich flavor. A chuck roast could be substituted for the pork if beef is preferred.  Or, you could use a whole chicken if the switch beef broth is switched out for chicken broth and cut the cooking time in half.


Pulled Pork Carnitas – enough for at least 6 people


2 pound pork shoulder or picnic roast

1 (15 oz.) can beef broth

4 cloves garlic, put through a press

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika


Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or get out your crock pot and set it on high. Pour the beef broth into a deep baking pan or into the crock pot.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lime juice, olive oil, lemon pepper, chili powder and smoked paprika. Trim any excess fat and remove any string from the roast. Rub the garlic mixture into the roast.

Lower the spice rubbed roast into the baking pan or the crock pot. Cover the baking pan with foil or put the lid on the crock pot. Allow the roast to cook for 4 to 5 hours or until the meat is easily shredded with a fork.

Remove the roast from the pan or pot and place on serving platter. Scrape away any excess fat. Using two forks, shred the meat. Spoon some of the cooking liquid onto meat.

This is totally optional, but if you want to go an extra step, warm 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. In batches, put the shredded pork and some of the cooking liquid in the skillet. Allow the surface of the meat to crisp up. Remove from pan and serve.

Serve with salad below and plenty of warm corn tortillas.


Lettuce and Cabbage Salad to Dress the Carnitas – enough for at least 6 people


1/2 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup plain white vinegar

1/2 head of lettuce, washed, dried and shredded

1/4 green cabbage, washed, dried and shredded

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, washed, dried and chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder



Place the red onion slices in a shallow bowl and pour white vinegar over them. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large salad bowl, add lettuce, cabbage, avocado, tomatoes and cilantro.

Being careful to reserve the vinegar, lift the red onions out of the bowl and add to the lettuce mixture.

Add the oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder to the reserved vinegar and whisk together.

Pour the oil and vinegar mixture over the salad – enough to coat but not have the salad swimming in dressing – and gently toss.

Serve to stuff in tacos alongside the carnitas.


Fajitas Style Bell Peppers and Onions

Ingredients – enough for at least 6 people

Any color bell peppers of your choice, enough to total 2 peppers, sliced

1 yellow or white onion, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup plain white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon oregano



Place in a peppers and onions in a microwave safe dish. Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Pour olive oil mixture over peppers and onions.

Cook pepper mixture in microwave for 5 minutes.

Serve with the carnitas as something just a bit extra to put in the corn tortilla…


And just for fun…


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Cooking Up Some Fall Favorites

As a former teacher, I was thrilled when colleague gifted a couple of her friends with a cooking class with me. Instructing interested kitchen newbies is something I love to do. There was lots of fun and laughs as we took some of my fall favorite recipes for a spin. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to offer classes on a regular basis – in the meantime, please email me if you have any questions on the recipes offered during this little class at These dishes have been either on Yates Yummies or Oranges and Almonds in the past, and clicking on “Printable Recipe” for each will take you to a page that includes a link to the original blog post.

Sage Thyme Grilled Chicken or Pork – Serves Four to Six – Printable Recipe


4 to 6 chicken breasts or  1 to 2 pound pork tenderloin

2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press

1 sprig fresh sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Cut the sage leaves off their stem and chop them up.  Blend them with the rest of the ingredients to make a paste.  Rub the mixture on the front and the back of the meat.

Grill over medium low for about 7 minutes a side.  Or, bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Juices will run clear if the meat is done. Let rest about 5 minutes before you slice to put on the salad.

Autumn Sweet Potato Rice Salad – Serves Four


2 large sweet potatoes

1 cup uncooked wild rice

2 tart green apples, diced

2 stalks of celery diced

1/4 cup of finely diced purple onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes. Cook them over medium heat in salted water until tender/firm when pierced with a fork, but not overdone. Or, roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Put the sweet potato cubes, rice, apple, celery and onion in a salad bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder together. Pour the vinegar and oil mixture over the ingredients in the salad bowl and gently toss. This is refreshing chilled or equally as good at room temperature.

Steak Tips in Mushroom Wine Sauce – Serves Four – Printable Recipe


1 1/2 pound sirloin tip roast

1 carton of mushrooms

1 shallot

1 garlic clove

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup flour

2 cups beef broth

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash, rinse, and slice mushrooms. Cut meat into 2 inch wide strips and set it aside.

Peel and chop shallot. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in skillet and saute mushrooms and shallot until tender. Peel and mince garlic clove. Add to mushroom mixture and saute for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture into a baking dish, leaving the pan drippings still in the skillet.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the same pan. Allow butter to melt, then over medium heat, brown both sides of the meat pieces. It will have to be done in two batches so the pan isn’t too crowded and the meat strips have a chance to brown – about three to four minutes a side. When the meat is done, add to the mushrooms in the baking dish.

Put the skillet back on the heat and pour the 1/2 cup of wine in. Bring the wine up to a boil and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium.

Sprinkle the flour over the wine and whisk it in; it will be thick and pasty. Then, a bit at a time, gradually add the beef broth while whisking constantly until the liquid is smooth. Add in the salt, pepper, and thyme. Keeping it over medium heat and whisking often, cook until the mixture thickens up. This will take about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the meat and mushrooms in the baking dish and give it a stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, or wide noodles.

Hot Caramel Pears Delicious – Serves Six – Printable Recipe

1 can (1 lb. 13 0z.) pear halves

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup pear syrup (from can of pears)

1/4 cup (1/2 stic) butter

1 quart vanilla ice cream


Drain Pears, reserve syrup.  In sauce pan, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, and cinnamon; mix well.  Add in syrup.  Cook, stirring constantly until sugar boils, reduce heat and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Add butter and pears and heat to serving temperature.  For each serving, place pear half in dish with a large scoop of ice cream, spoon sauce over ice cream and top with additional cinnamon if desired.  Makes 8 servings.

The girls and I had fun assembling a Libby’s Cream Cheese Filled Pumpkin Roll, But I also gave them the recipe for a great variation below:

Cranberry Bliss Sponge Cake Roll – Serves 12 – Printable Recipe


6 eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries, roughly chopped and divided

1 (8 oz.) brick cream cheese

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Also needed:

Parchment paper and 1 teaspoon butter

1 clean dish towel and 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Small wire mesh strainer and 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar


Preheat the oven to 350. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Smear the parchment paper with the butter. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the brown sugar and the egg yolks and beat just until mixed in.

Now add the flour and beat that just until mixed.

Stir in 1/4 cup of the dried cranberries.

Pour the mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet and use a rubber spatula to smooth the batter out evenly from end to end. Bake for 12 minutes. The sponge cake is done when it will be just starting to brown and will spring back when touched.

Immediately evenly sprinkle the clean dish towel with 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar. Invert the baking sheet onto the the dish towel and remove it, leaving the parchment paper covered sponge cake behind. Gently peel the parchment paper away from the cake. Don’t worry if the edges tear a bit; it will be hidden when the cake is rolled up.

Starting from one end, roll the sponge cake up, towel and all.

Place the cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.

Cream all the ingredients with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Wait for the cake to completely cool, then gently unroll it. The surface of the cake may try to cling to the towel, but just carefully “peel” it away; any splits or tears won’t be noticeable once it’s rolled up again with filling. Gently spread the cream cheese mixture over the sponge cake, covering it from edge to edge.

Sprinkle the cranberries and white chocolate chips over the top.

Roll the sponge cake up again, this time without the towel 🙂 If it tries to stick to the towel, just carefully pry it away.

Place on a serving platter. Put one tablespoon confectioner’s sugar in the small mesh strainer. Shake over the top

Using a serrated knife, cut into one inch slices and serve.

Flour dusted but happy, the cooks of the mini-class call it a day! My colleague Liz on the left, has decided to launch a cooking blog of her own! Visit Nickel Plate Kitchen and check it out!

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And just for fun…




Food Is an Art Form: Feast of Fish and Veg for Eyes and Palate

A couple of weeks ago we visited our friend, Polly Castor, who lives in Connecticut. She is an artist in every sense of the word.

Polly has an abundance of energy; she blogs, paints, throws pottery, writes poems and boy does she cook! But that comes later in this post.

She currently has a huge one woman show with 80 paintings at the Community Arts Center in Southington, Connecticut. As you can see her paintings are full of movement and light and the show is open to the public until October 31. The works have wonderful names such as “July” (left bottom, above) and “Confidence” (right bottom, above). I honestly was intoxicated with the feast my eyes were devouring!

Her home is filled with the gorgeous pottery she designs. I actually own the sister to the piece the carrot is resting on. She sells the pottery as well as the paintings.

After we viewed the show, we went back to Polly’s house and she cooked up an absolutely delicious meal. But not only did it taste good – it was beautiful to look at. It was like we were eating edible art! The main was fish in a luxurious aioli type sauce – Mustard Roasted Tilapia It was accompanied by  Caramelized Butternut Squash which was so good that Roy had a second helping. The  salad with Roasted Beets, blood oranges, carrots, radish, jicama, blueberries, oak leaf lettuce had a great Strawberry Basil Dressing. For dessert, which – gasp! – I had two pieces, was Ginger, Carrot, Hazelnut Cake with Molasses Frosting.

Click on the links above to get to the recipes on Polly’s blog.

And if you are anywhere near Southington, Connecticut get yourself over to Polly’s show and feast your eyes!


And just for fun…



Beans and Lentils over Cornbread with Spicy Gremolata Sauce

Last weekend Jennifer flew home from Southern California where it’s always in the 70s and sunny. Here in the Midwest, it had just begun to be on the cooler side of fall and the temperatures were hovering in the low 50s. She had come for a wedding but I was thrilled that her Friday was free and we could spend the whole day together. We started out by riding bikes on the Monon Trail through Carmel – in Indiana, it’s pronounced like the candy! We definitely weren’t dressed warm enough; although it was sunny, the wind tore through our sweatshirts but we enjoyed the ride anyway. Afterwards we hopped in the car with the idea of finding a place to warm up and grab lunch. We ended up at the Garden Table in Broad Ripple, an all day cafe type eatery that any Australian would be cured of homesickness in. We each ordered something with the idea of sharing and the vegan beans and cornbread was definitely the hit of the day. It was so good that I was driven to duplicate it. I’m pretty close, but while my version is vegetarian, it isn’t vegan. I imagine that the cornbread recipe could use coconut oil instead of butter as well as almond milk for the regular. At any rate, the subtle middle eastern flavors in the beans and lentils surprisingly are complimented by the rich sweetness of the cornbread. The real star is the gremolata sauce though – the hit of lemony heat really makes this dish delicious!

Sweet and Rich Skillet Cornbread – 12 Servings

Ingredients and Procedure

3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 cups milk

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 stick of butter (8 oz.), divided

4 eggs

2 tablespoons honey

Place skillet in the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs until they are golden and well combined.

Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter.

Add the milk, vegetable oil, butter, eggs and honey to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Carefully take the hot skillet out of the preheated oven and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Using a spatula, coat the sides of the skillet with the melted butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven.

Check after 25 minutes to see if a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If not, bake for 5 more minutes and check again. It’s important not to over bake the cornbread so it won’t be dry. It will be done when the middle bounces back when tapped and the edges are just starting to pull away from the sides.

Ingredients and Procedures for Beans and Lentils – 6 to 8 Servings

1 medium yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 cups lentils

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

2 (15.8 oz.) cans of Great Northern beans

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse the lentils in a colander and check them over for any debris such as a small pebble or twig.

Dice the onion. Add the onion and oil to a large sauce pan and saute the onions over medium heat until they are tender – about 5 minutes. Put the garlic clove through a press or finely mince. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and oregano to the onions. Saute the mixture for another 30 seconds.

Add the lentils,chicken broth and water and increase the heat so that it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and let the lentils simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the beans, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Taste and if needed add another 1/4 teaspoon salt. If by chance it is too salty, add additional water – 1/2 cup at a time – until the broth is adjusted. Continue to simmer the beans and lentils for another 10 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time the lentils should be tender and mixture should be thicker than soup, but still have a bit of broth left. If needed, more water could be added to thin it out. Likewise, if it”s too runny, cook it a bit longer so it gets thicker.

Spicy Gremolata Sauce – Yields 3/8 Cup

Ingredients and Procedure

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, put through a press or finely minced

1 Serrano pepper – seeds and membrane removed and roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

Add the cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and salt to a blender of food processor. Pulse to coarsely process. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times.

Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Assemble Beans and Lentils over Cornbread with Spicy Gremolata Sauce

For each serving cut a square of cornbread in half lengthwise and place in a bowl or plate. Ladle roughly 1/2 cup of the beans and lentil mixture over the cornbread. Spoon a tablespoon of the gremolata sauce across the top.

And just for fun…


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Northeast Coast Steamed Mussels

One of the best things about traveling is trying the food a region is known for. After spending the last two summers exploring the western U.S., where it’s all about beef and buffalo, this year Roy and I headed to the northeast. Above is Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada where fishing is still a common way of making a living. I sampled the first mussels of my trip here – they were part of a seafood chowder – and I was hooked.

Prospect, Nova Scotia where Roy’s grandma grew up is just down the road from Peggy’s Cove. Her father was a fisherman just like every other man that lived there. Today, it’s said there is only one fisherman left in the village.

Prince Edward Island, or PEI as the natives call it, is known for its blue mussels. Notice the dark colored buoys in the water? That’s a mussel farm. Baby mussels are put into a net that looks like a hanging sleeve and they happily eat and grow while being washed by the clear water. After a couple of years they are harvested. Living in their farm environment, they aren’t muddy or gritty and are very easy to cook and eat.

While in Canada, and then later in Maine and Massachusetts, we bought mussels at the grocery for two dollars and some cents a pound. Wow! Even in a motor home it was easy to cook up a mess of them. They are great as an appetizer or the main dish. The first time I made them, I used what I had on hand to add flavor to the broth. Traditionally, mussels are steamed with some white wine, but I found chicken broth was just as delicious – and I just kept making them that way! However, feel free to throw in 1/4 cup of white wine if you so desire!


For every 2 pounds of mussels:

2 tablespoons butter

6 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through a press

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 cups chicken broth (additional 1/4 cup white wine optional)

Rinse each mussel and check to make sure it is closed. If it closes up after you handle it, then it’s fine to use. But if it is cracked, open, or has an unpleasant odor, throw it out! In the several times I have made this dish, I always toss several.

If the mussel has a beard (a little string hang hanging out of the shell) gently tug it back and forth and pull it off.

Melt butter over medium low heat. Add onions and parsley and sauté until onions are just about to get tender. Add garlic and sauté 30 more seconds. Gently add mussels and carefully stir to cover them with the mixture. Turn heat up to high and pour in broth. Cover the pan and continue to cook on high for 5 minutes.

Take the cover off and give the mussels a stir. They should be open and look the the photo above. If some are still closed, put the cover back on and continue to cook on high for an additional two minutes. Throw out any mussels that are still closed after that.

Ladle the mussels and broth into serving bowls. Serve with melted butter to dip mussels in (honestly this broth is so good it isn’t needed!) and crusty bread to sop up the broth. Or serve the mussels and broth over cooked pasta. I’d love to hear if any one tries this. Feel free to email me at or make a comment below!


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It’s All About the Spice: Peruvian Food

I spent three months this winter down in southwestern Florida and while I was there, I fell in love with Peruvian food. It’s becoming increasingly more popular and restaurants that specialize in South American cuisine were plentiful. When I got home, I spent about a month trying to duplicate some of the dishes I enjoyed. Peru is thought of as the place the potato came from, and while it’s prevalent in many recipes the real star seems to be a yellow pepper called aji amarillo. It packs a lot of heat and has a distinctive taste. I had to order it in paste form online since I’ve never seen it here up north. Another interesting thing about Peruvian cooking is the strong Asian influence from Chinese immigrants that is evident in many of the dishes. Lomo Saltado, show in the bottom left of the photo above, is essentially a stir fry – complete with soy sauce – served on top of French fries. It is super easy to make; check out my post on YatesYummies to get the recipe.  The two recipes in this post are a little more involved. For the hearty Chupe De Camarones, I offer some substitutions that can be used if you don’t want to try to track down hard to find ingredients. But in the so, so delicious huacatay salsa, only hucatay – black mint – can be used. I had a lot of fun investigating these recipes and I hope if you attempt them you’ll enjoy the process too! Let me know how it goes!


Chupe De Camarones – Peruvian Shrimp Chowder –  Serves Four


Some Lessons Learned:

  1.  To make traditional chupe de camarones, shrimp broth made from simmering the shells in water is needed. During the several times I made this recipe while trying to perfect it, I couldn’t always find fresh shrimp still in their shells. So, I tried using bottled clam juice, and I didn’t notice too much difference. It was also a time saver!
  2. To get the spicy authentic flavor I needed, I realized I had use the real deal. So I ordered aji panca chili, aji panca chili, and huacatay pastes from These seemed to be the “holy trinity” in so many Peruvian dishes.
  3. In search of flavor, I tried using annatto oil to saute the onion for the chupe de camarones. I really didn’t discern any large taste boost, but I did notice the rosy glow it gave the dish.
  4. In the soup, using frozen vegetables worked just as well as fresh.
  5. I learned that at high heat, milk curdles but heavy cream doesn’t. Plus, it gave me that silky mouth feel I was looking for.
  6. I wasn’t always successful at keeping the poached egg together. If it breaks apart, no worries! The soup still tastes great!



1 lb uncooked shrimp in shells (or use precooked frozen shrimp)

4 cups water (or 16 oz. clam broth and 2 cups water if shrimp shells are not available)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon annatto seeds (optional)

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

2 cloves garlic, put through a press

1 teaspoon ground zapote (or 1 teaspoon oregano)

1 teaspoon aji amarillo chili paste (or 1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno)

1 tablespoon aji panca chili paste (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)

pinch ancho chili powder (optional)

1/2 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup frozen green beans

1/4 cup long-grain white rice

1 medium white potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup cubed queso fresco

4 eggs

4 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh, raw shrimp still in their shells – peel them. Set the uncooked shrimp aside in the refrigerator and rinse the skins. Place the skins in a pan with four cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes. (Skip this step if shells are not available and you are using clam juice.)

While the shrimp shells are simmering, heat olive oil over medium heat in soup pot. When the oil shimmers, add the annatto seeds. Let them simmer for 5 minutes, then strain the oil to remove seeds and return it to the pan. Keeping the heat at medium, add the red onion and saute until soft – about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, aji amarillo chili paste, aji panca chili paste, zapote, and ancho chili powder and saute an additional 30 seconds.

Strain the shrimp mixture and discard the shells. Add water to the broth so the entire amount is four cups. Pour into the soup pot (or clam broth and water if that is what you are using) and add the corn, peas, beans, and rice. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, bring the heat up to a boil again, then turn the heat down and simmer about 10 minutes more or until the potatoes and rice are tender.

Add shrimp and simmer about 5 minutes or until they are totally pink and cooked through.

Stir in the cream and queso fresco. If needed, turn up the heat so that the mixture is very hot. One at a time, crack the eggs in a small bowl and add them to the soup. Cook three more minutes.

Divide the soup between four large bowls, getting an egg in each one. Sprinkle each serving with one tablespoon of cilantro leaves to garnish.


Huacatay Salsa


2 tablespoons huacatay paste

2 tablespoons aji amarillo

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon diced onion

2 cloves garlic, put through a press

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves



Put everything in a food processor and blend until well combined. This is great on vegetables and meats as well as served as a salsa with sliced bread or chips.





BBQ Guys Don’t Go Anywhere Without Their Knives and Other Tips for Barbecuing

In the introduction to the epic book Peace, Love, and Barbecue, food critic Jeffrey Steingarten shares this advice, “Tips, we learn, are so much more important than recipes…”  After taking a six hour class from BBQ champion Dana “Big Papa” Hillis of Naples, Florida – I realized that is exactly what my takeaways were. Yes, there are some recipes posted down below, but actually they are more like methods and procedures – with a lot of wiggle room.  Barbecuing via smokers is a process and everyone puts their own spin on it.  So enjoy these recipes and tips that were shared with me, and please comment below on how you do it!  *Spoiler alert – Hillis’ approach is all about BBQ competitions, or in other words, winning a judge over at first bite; he uses a lot of butter and sugar!

Hillis brought some of his BBQ buddies to help out with the class. The guy in the top right is the pit master at The Wood Pile BBQ Shack in Clawson, Michigan. Below are the legendary Wolfe brothers from Orlando, Florida. Here is some of the wisdom they imparted:

“BBQ guys don’t go anywhere without their knives.”

“Learn your cooker, learn your hot-spots.”

“Each time you barbecue, write down what you do, then if you ‘hit it’ right, you’ve got it down on paper.”

“Use apple juice in spray bottle to keep meat moist while cooking.”

“If you are serious about BBQ, you need an internal probe to measure temperature –  internal temperature is the most important thing to know to tell if meat is done, especially steaks.”

Serving amounts needed:

1 meat – 6 oz. per person.

2 meats – 5 oz. per person

3 meats – 4 oz. per person

“Clean grill while it is still warm” – use scraper or wad of aluminum foil.

“Hollywood Cut  is a trick from the barbecue competition circuit, they discard every other bone so each remaining bone has double the meat and even pile loose meat in between ribs.”


Procedure for Smoker Ribs

Types of Ribs:

Country Style Beef Ribs

Baby backs

Spare Ribs

St. Louis Cut Ribs

Choose your preference

Pull skin off back so rub gets in – “When you take a bite you get a taste of the bottom of the rib as well as the top.”

Use piece of paper towel –  some people use pliers.

However, sometimes the skin is already off.

Use the 3 – 2 – 1 Method.

Usually, this means 3 hours of smoking,unwrapped at 225 degrees, followed by 2 hours of cooking wrapped in foil (with a little liquid, such as apple cider), followed by 1 hour of cooking unwrapped at a higher temperature, with a generous basting of barbecue sauce.

But – this is the way Hillis does it:

Indirect heat for about 3 hours –  between 230 degrees and 240 degrees.  Hillis feels like 234 degrees is the optimal temperature and usually for him, this three hour part is more like 2 1/2 hours. “When you start seeing bones pull back, they are ready to be pulled off.”  Then he slathers the meat side with butter or margarine, honey, and brown sugar. He wraps the ribs in foil, meat side down, and puts them back in the smoker. By the way, Hillis says all honey is not alike, “Clover honey is bland and o.k. for sauces, but orange blossom type honey seems to overpower the sauce flavor.” After a couple hours, take the ribs out, unwrap and let the internal temperature cool down to 140 degrees. Then wrap the ribs back up again and let them sit for an hour before serving.




1 (10 pound) bag jumbo chicken wings

16 oz. Italian Dressing -“Vinegar opens pores – definitely better if they are marinated”

1 cup BBQ rub

Put all ingredients in a zip lock bag(s) and marinade overnight.

Cook at 350 degrees indirect heat, turning them over once after 45 minutes and cook until they get to 195 internal temperature.

Hillis’s sauce for wings is Franks hot sauce mixed with honey and brown sugar – a departure from the usual Franks & butter.


Clean out the Refrigerator Stuffed Pork Loin

Trim the fat off of the pork loin, leaving about 1/2″ of fat on.  Filet it by slicing it open lengthwise being careful not to cut all the way through, so it opens up butterfly fashion.

Sprinkle w/rub – a generous amount – on both sides

On one side,  layer any or all of below:



Provolone cheese


Red bell peppers



Sun dried tomatoes


Season, close it, and tie it with butcher string using a mattress stitch – insert needle on side where just exited, then take to other side and insert again on that side, taking it to other side and repeat.  Sprinkle with more rub.

Cook fat side down in 300 degrees indirect heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Let internal temperature get to between 130 to 140 degrees. Hillis says 135 best, but don’t let it go past 145.


Eight Minute Grilled Rib Eye Steak

Meat is graded as prime, choice, or select.

Hillis uses choice and cuts the steaks 1″ thick.

Give the steaks a “salt bath” – salt very heavy with coarse sea salt, leave on for 15 minutes, then wash the salt off. This opens the pores of the meat and allows seasoning in.

Spray grate with Pam spray.

Heat grill up as high as it can go, cook 2 minutes, turn 90 degrees and cook 2 minutes, flip over and cook 2 minutes, turn 90 degrees and cook 2 more minutes. (Close the lid each time you turn or flip the steak.)

Each time you turn or flip steak, move to the other side of the grill, quickly “cleaning” the now empty part of the grate with balled up aluminum foil, before closing lid. This ensures those really nice cross hatch grill marks.

If you wish to grill a 1 inch pork chops, Hillis  sprinkles them with with McCormick Brown Sugar Bourbon Grill Mates Seasoning and Montreal Steak Seasoning, then uses this method to cook to internal temperature of 135 – pink in the middle.


Smoked Beef Brisket

When buying a brisket, look for piece of meat with lots of white streaks.

Cut fat off to ¼ inch on bottom.

Put rub on, and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours.


3 parts ground black pepper

3 parts diamond crystal salt

1 part garlic powder

Then, place in smoker -fat side down at 230 degrees. Leave it in there until the internal temperature reaches 170. This could take up to 9 hours. There is a period, called the “stall”, where the temperature seems to hover somewhere between 145 and 160 degrees. Just be patient, keep the temperature constant, and wait.

Once it reaches 170 (a lot of websites say 165) take it out – it will look almost black on the outside – spray it with a bit of apple juice and double wrap it in butcher paper.

Place it back in the smoker at 275 (again – a lot of websites have a different take – like temperature still at 230 degrees) and allow the internal temperature to come up to 198 degrees.

Then take it out. The temperature will raise up 10 degrees after you pull it out of the smoker. Let it rest for an hour and allow the temperature comes down to 202 degrees. Then hold it until ready to serve by keeping it in the butcher paper, wrapping it in a towel and placing it in a cooler. (Restaurants usually bring the temperature down to 170 degrees and then hold it in a warming oven or hot box.)

Bottom line – the above is a suggested procedure – make it your own and keep data on your trials.



Stuffed Peppers

Use the sweet small “snacking” peppers and/or jalapeños.

While wearing gloves, cut in half, leaving stem on, and scoop out seeds and membranes.

Place the peppers in a foil pan, place in indirect heat, and allow them to cook until softened.

Then mix together:

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese

1 pound sausage – browned and oil drained off

A bit of BBQ rub seasoning


Stuff each pepper with the cream cheese mixture and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Return to the indirect heat and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly.


Tater Tot Bombs


Tater tots

bacon – cut each slice into thirds

american cheese – cut each slice into thirds


Wrap each tot with a piece of cheese, then a piece of bacon, and secure with tooth pick.

Place each tot in foil pan.

Cover with brown sugar.

Cook 250 or above, until bacon gets crispy.

Drizzle with BBQ sauce before serving.


Grilled Veggies

“Vegetarian is an old Native American term for ‘Poor Hunter’ ”

In a foil pan, place slower cooking vegetables on bottom and top, faster cooking in the middle.

Use any or all of the following:

Green beans






Yellow squash

Add butter through out.


Cook about 3 hours at 300 degrees.


Baked Corn


1 package Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

1 (15 oz.) can creamed corn

1 (15 oz.) can regular corn, drained

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Mix all ingredients together and place in foil pan.

In regular oven bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes

In smoker  – done when firm



Use Dutch baker pots (can buy liners – otherwise cleanup is so hard) or use foil pans in indirect heat.


Cherry Dump Cake


1 can cherry pie filling

1 can crushed pineapple

1 package white cake mix

1 stick melted butter


Dump pie filling and pineapple in pot. Sprinkle cake mix on top and drizzle melted butter on top.

Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes in oven or in dutch oven with coals on bottom, coals on top.


Peach Cobbler


1 stick butter, melted

1 cup sugar

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup buttermilk

1 (29 oz.)  can peaches ( or any canned or fresh fruit)


Put the melted butter in the bottom of a pan.

In a bowl, mix together sugar, self-rising flour and butter milk.  Put the flour mixture on top of melted butter.

Then put canned peaches on top with a little bit of the juice.

The “crust” will rise to the top as it cooks.

Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes in oven or in dutch oven with coals on bottom, coals on top.


San Francisco Salmon Salad

As part of our three and a half month motor home trip this summer, Roy and I took about four weeks to travel the western side of California from top to bottom. We loved it all -from the giant redwood trees to the southern beaches- but found San Francisco an especially fun experience. We actually stayed about an hour north, in Santa Rosa and used the Jeep we tow to explore the area. On the first full day, we went to Muir Woods and then decided to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.  After the trill of arriving on the other side, we just kept on going. We ended up on the corner of Franklin and Oak where we saw a paid parking lot. We definitely weren’t in the touristy part; some of the buildings didn’t look too well kept, but there were plenty of people walking around and lots of cute looking restaurants. The parking lot attendant told us we had until 7 pm – that’s when he left – and he warned us that if he wasn’t around, when we returned to the car, the bikes we had attached to the back wouldn’t be around either. So we ducked into a place called RT Rotisserie, thinking it would be quick and easy enough to grab a bite to eat. It turned out the place was a spin off of another, fancier eatery called Rich Table – the kind of establishment where one must have a reservation. We lucked out because Roy had an absolutely delicious pork sandwich and I had one of the best salads of my life – and we made it back to the car on time!  I began duplicating the salad again and again; it’s lemony, crunchy and filled with colorful greens and herbs. RT Rotisserie only serves pork and chicken but topping this salad with a piece of salmon baked with a smear of the salad dressing makes it a meal. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If you would like a printable recipe, click on the recipe archive button at the bottom of the post.

Ingredients and Directions for Four Servings:

Suggestions for the greens:

5 oz. spring mix

5 oz. spinach leaves

1 cup washed,torn radicchio leaves

1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint roughly chopped

1 cucumber, sliced


Place all ingredients in a large bowl.


Suggestions for the crunch:

1/4 cup raw pepitas

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons  black sesame seeds

12 radishes, washed and sliced


Set aside the crunchy things until time to assemble the salad.


Quick “pickled” red onion:

1 red onion

1 cup vinegar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar


Mix the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together. Peel and thinly slice the onion. Pour vinegar mixture over the onion slices and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Set aside until time to assemble the salad.


For the dressing:

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or put through a press

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

1 teaspoon soy sauce (regular, low sodium, Tamari, or Maggi – your choice)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Place 1/2 cup of dressing in a separate container to brush on the salmon. Set the rest aside for the salad.


For the Salmon:

4 salmon fillets, each about 4 to 6 oz.

1/2 cup of lemon tahini dressing from above recipe

2 teaspoons  sesame seeds

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

2 teaspoons dried dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Mix sesame seeds, dill, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Liberally brush the salmon fillets with the dressing to coat well. Discard any unused dressing that has come into contact with the brush. Sprinkle the seed mixture evenly over the salmon. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until fish flakes up with a fork and looks a solid, lighter pink – not a gelatinous red.


When the salmon is done, toss the greens with enough dressing to coat well. Divide the dressed salad onto four serving plates or one huge platter. Place drained pickled red onions, sliced radishes and seeds on top of the greens. Nestle the salmon fillets on top the salad and dig in.


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Big Plate Super Salad

Summer is the time for salads and with all the options of fresh seasonal vegetables at hand, the combinations are endless. But – what’s the secret to building one that satisfies me until dinner instead of feeling like snacking at 3 pm? I think the answer is a combination of textures, flavors, protein and a tiny bit of fat. If each ingredient is seasoned enough to stand on its own, then every bite is an explosion of deliciousness.

This post is sort of blueprint for a salad that satiates. I love spinach, hard boiled eggs and red wine vinegrette together. Of course any item can be switched out to whatever is at hand or individual tastes; just make sure to use a nice big plate!

Steps to a Big Plate Super Salad

The Base:

Greens- about two cups – pick just one variety such as spinach as I did here or mix it up with a combination of several.

Dressing – to drizzle on the greens – choose the vinaigrette I used or go for a flavored oil with an acid such as lemon or any kind of vinegar.

Simple Red Wine Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic clove, minced or put through a press

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together.

Layer of Density:

Roasted or grilled vegetables – try broccoli, cauliflower, even cherry tomatoes. It’s easy to oven roast any veggie at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes but here I used eggplant and zucchini cooked on the grill to acquire a wonderful smokiness.

Grill Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

1 medium sized eggplant

1 medium sized zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Wash off and dry the eggplant and zucchini. Cut off the ends and slice into 1/2 inch rounds.

Place cut vegetables on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Crimp up the edges. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables.

Put salt, thyme, marjoram, garlic, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.  Sprinkle over the vegetables and with clean hands, gently toss to distribute seasoning.

Heat up grill to medium high heat and place the vegetables on their foil sheet on the grids. Close the grill cover and cook for 20 minutes, turning the vegetables over at the 10 minute mark.

Allow to cool before placing on top of salad greens.

Flavor Punch:

A legume spread – I used 1/4 cup hummus here, but any rinsed and drained bean such as black or great northern beans could be processed into something yummy.

Hummus from True Food by Andrew Weil, MD:

2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 large garlic clove, put through a press

1 small jalapeno chile, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons tahini

1/4 cup lemon juice

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the beans, garlic, jalapeno, chili, tahini, lemon juice, lime juice, agave nectar, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, and salt in a food processor and blend well. Slowly pour in the olive oil as the mixture is processing until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

A little something extra – pour a little good olive oil over the hummus and then sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

A Delicious Swoosh:

A great sauce – 1/4 cup of savory yogurt- optimizes the chance that a salad will satisfy. People with a dairy intolerance could substitute something wonderful like the jarred artichoke red pepper bruscetta that at Trader Joe’s.

Savory Yogurt Sauce- yields 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon za’tar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash or two turmeric powder

Blend all ingredients except turmeric in small bowl.  After spooning on serving platter, sprinkle a dusting of turmeric powder on top.

Important Ingredient:

Protein – any choice – keeps hunger away. I love the combination of spinach, eggs, and red wine vinegar but shredded chicken, beef, or pork would work as well. Shrimp would be amazing too.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Gently place large eggs in a pan of enough cool water to cover them. Place on burner set to high and immediately set timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, run cook water over the eggs. Peel when the eggs have cooled down enough to touch.

The Finale:

Pickled vegetables – The cheating way- are so quick and easy to make. Since they crown the salad plate and are the last layer to be put on, they have plenty of time to soak up tangy vinegar.

Pickled Vegetable Cheat

1 cup sliced vegetables such as cucumber, beet, carrots, bell pepper, red onion, etc.

1/2 cup vinegar, plain or any kind

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Place vegetables in a small bowl. If using, mix the salt and sugar into the vinegar. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables and allow to sit at least five minutes before using.


So I’m curious- what other great combinations are there out there? Please tell – I’d love to try them!