Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Breakfast Sausage Corndogs

Who doesn't love a corndog in the summertime? Here in Pittsburgh, many of us can be found strolling around the midway of Kennywood with a mustard slathered golden, crunchy dog-on-a-stick in one hand and maybe even a paper boat of Potato Patch fries in the other. What a way to celebrate summer!

But what about breakfast? Where's the take charge breakfast-on-a-stick for the early morning person on the go? In my opinion, instead of a hot dog, morning requires a more breakfast appropriate sausage. Don't you think so, too? As far as the "corn" part of the corndog, why mess with a classic?! And instead of frying the handy a.m. treat, let's bake it to make it just a little healthier start to our day.

This recipe isn't just easy to grab and go, any leftovers heat in the microwave in a snap so that breakfast on the fly can happen day after day. And you KNOW the kids will love this one! 

See that peach in the pic? Just a suggestion...peel and chop it and mix it in with a little maple syrup for the perfect sweet-tart accompaniment. That's what I did (maybe with just a kiss of bourbon, too), but that's for eating on a plate. Could you imagine maple syrup dripping onto the car seats while driving to work? Just plain on a stick is the delicious way to go when you're not sitting at the table.

Hey, Kennywood! This one's for you.

Breakfast Sausage Corndogs

  • 8 cooked and browned breakfast sausages, cooled (you can even do this the night before to really make it easy in the morning - or buy the precooked kind!
  • 8 popsicle sticks or skewers
  • 1 1/4 C cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 C Bisquick - I used the gluten free kind to make this GF
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 2-3 T canola oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Insert sticks/skewers into each sausage BEFORE you wrap the dough around. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and spray it with cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, mix the cornmeal and Bisquick, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. It will make a dough.

Using approximately 1/4 cup of dough per sausage, wrap it completely around each one.

Dough-wrapped and ready for the oven!

Spray the tops of the corndogs with more cooking spray and bake for approximately 25 minutes. My finished product isn't browned because GF baked goods just don't brown. If you use regular Bisquick, browning shouldn't be a problem at all. Either way, they are wonderful!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hickory Smoked Brisket, Slaw & Avocado Spring Rolls - TexAsian Style

You all know I've been putting the new smoker through its paces since I fired that baby up for the first time. Proteins of all ilk have done a turn through various wood smokes - orange wood chips, maple chips, hickory and even peach chips have flavored the bounty my smoker has seen. Veggies - corn, red peppers, potatoes, onions -  and even eggs have soaked up delicious smelling smoke in my backyard lately. That's a good thing. 

The downside is that there ends up being a whole LOT of smoked meat leftover even after sharing with relatives, friends and neighbors (and maybe even random strangers who happen to wander by the house on occasion). Even after sharing with nearly everyone I can think of, there's still a hefty portion to use up. 

Sandwiches were made with orange smoked chicken - both hot and cold. My mojo smoked turkey turned into hash. With hickory and maple smoked brisket there were quesadillas and nachos to create, smoked eggs became chipotle kissed deviled eggs and smoked corn was cut from the cob, sauteed in butter with chile powder and sweet red peppers, then finally graced with a generous shredding of cheddar that melted into gooey goodness. 

We've all done most of the above, haven't we? New horizons for precious surplus smoky meats needed to be conquered. What new smoky deliciousness could delight both taste buds and a sense of adventure? How about an Asian spring roll with a Texas twist? And so, the hickory smoked brisket spring roll with pickled slaw, red pepper, purple onion, avocado and cilantro with a sweet tart orange and tamari dipping sauce was born.   

Hickory Smoked Brisket, Slaw & Avocado Spring Rolls - TexAsian Style

  • 12 rice paper spring roll wrappers 
  • 12 slices hickory smoked beef brisket (Don't have home smoked brisket? Buy some at the deli!)
  • 12 very thin slices raw red bell pepper
  • 12 very thin slices raw purple onion
  • 12 thin slices avocado
  • packaged coleslaw mix
  • pickle brine from a jar of your favorite sweet or dill pickles - I used Famous Dave's Spicy Pickles (nice sweet dill pickle with a KICK!) ALWAYS keep your pickle brine when you finish a jar of pickles to make quick pickles. Besides slaw mix, I pickle thinly sliced carrots, red peppers, cucumbers, tiny green beans, thin asparagus spears, onions...just about anything! Don't have pickle brine? Use the brine and keep the pickles in another container and when the slaw is done, put the brine and the reserved pickles right back in the jar!
  • fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1 C bottled hickory BBQ sauce 
  • 1/4 C tamari or soy sauce (I used wheat-free tamari to make this gluten-free)
  • 6 T fresh squeezed orange juice

Put 2 C coleslaw mix in a deep narrow bowl and drain the brine from a jar of pickles over top. Press the slaw down into the brine and let it sit while you proceed with the rest of the recipe. Don't throw away the pickles! Just put the brine back into the jar after "pickling" the slaw mix.

Next make the dipping sauce - BBQ sauce, tamari and oj. Set aside.

Now set up an assembly line. Find a shallow dish - a large pie plate or a 9X9 baking dish should work just fine - and fill it halfway with water. This is to soften the rice paper spring roll wrapper. Next line up the brisket and the rest of the filling ingredients for easy assembly. Also dampen a kitchen towel and lay it on your counter between the shallow dish and the rest of the assembly line. 

Starting with a rice paper wrapper, assemble the spring rolls one at a time. 

Take a wrapper and submerge it in the water, turning it until it begins to soften. Gently place it on the dampened towel. Lay the filling in the center of the wrapper starting with a slice of brisket, then red pepper next to the purple onion, the avocado slice on top of that, a pile of brined slaw that has been squeezed dry and 2 cilantro leaves. 

Gently fold the bottom of the wrapper up snugly over the filling, then fold the left side over, the right side next and finally roll the whole package up to the top. You know, just like you're making a burrito.

That's it! It's a keeping-the-kitchen-cool, using-up-the-leftovers appetizer, lunch or dinner that feels like you're dining in one of Pittsburgh's newest and trendiest restaurants. So good!

NOTE: Feel free to use any other veggies you like...spring onions, carrots, fennel, asparagus...let your imagination flow free. Just keep the veggies sliced thinly. Well except for nice thin spears of asparagus. And pickle those suckers, too, in pickle brine!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Smoked Citrus, Cumin & Garlic Turkey Breast

Here's a heads up for ya, folks. Think of this as one of those big yellow "Work Zone Ahead" signs on the turnpike. Only this one would say "BBQ Overload Ahead." Yep, that's what happens when you get a new smoker. Well, that and BIG silly sauce stained smiles on the faces of neighbors and family from all that smoky deliciousness!

One of the BEST things about smoking is how easy it is...I think of it almost as the crockpot of summer cooking. Really. Seriously!  A little simple prep, throw it in the smoker with soaked wood chips of choice, check the internal temp of the protein on occasion and pull it out when it registers what you're looking for. Boom! If you put some fresh ears of corn in there at the same time, maybe even some par-boiled potatoes, mushrooms and/or tomatoes, you have an entire meal at once. 

Although the ease is one reason for my smoking enthusiasm, the crazy BBQ flavor is the deal sealer for me. Don't have a smoker? You can use a smoker box in your gas or charcoal grill. Don't want to invest in an expensive smoker? Do what we did around here. For $40 we initially bought an electric column type smoker at Home Depot that we used for years! After that, the same type - only a charcoal model from Lowe's - was our baby for another few years. That one was a whopping $50! Bottom line here is that you can get in on the ground floor of smoking for almost peanuts.

Okay, enough talking about smoking. Let's get goin' and get on the road to the recipe!

Smoked Citrus Cumin Garlic Turkey Breast

  • a 2-3 lb boneless, skinless fresh turkey breast
  • a quart bowl of smoker wood chips, soaked in water for at least an hour before putting the turkey in the smoker - I used a combo of apple and hickory chips

Citrus, Cumin & Garlic Butter:

  • zest of 1 lime, 1 Meyer (or regular) lemon, 1/2 an orange (zest the orange BEFORE cutting in half)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced finely
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 3 T soft butter
  • 1/2 T kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • juice of 1/2 the lime, 1/2 the Meyer lemon and the WHOLE orange
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T olive oil

A few hours before you start smoking (or the day before), butterfly the turkey breast. 

Laying the breast longitudinally in front of you on a cutting board, make a shallow cut down the center being sure not to cut through to the bottom. Next place your knife inside that cut and cut horizontally towards the left of the breast being careful not to cut all the way through. Do the same on the right side and open the breast up, laying it flat. 

Spread or pat the prepared butter in the center, leaving plenty of butter-less space around the edges. You want to keep the butter inside the breast as it cooks. Roll the buttered turkey breast from one side to the other and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the turkey breast 1-2 hours (or even overnight) and take out an hour before you want to put it in the smoker.

Turkey breast butterflied open and spread with Citrus Cumin Garlic Butter

Prepare your smoker and bring it up to 225 degrees. Once it's at temp, place the turkey breast in the smoker, inserting a cooking thermometer into the center of the breast (my smoker came with a probe built in - convenient!). Smoke to an internal temp of 165 degrees basting occasionally with the basting liquid throughout the smoking time. When the probe registers 165, remove and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing thinly. And enjoy!

NOTE: Once you start smoking, you may never have to buy expensive lunch meats again. Leftovers make fantastic sandwiches and salads! In fact, my next post will feature a recipe for leftover smoked brisket...stay tuned.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

A week ago or so I made up a batch of these lovlies for breakfast and have been craving them ever since. Sweet and savory Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles are kind of a mashup of a hearty German potato pancake and a sweet apple pancake baked on a waffle iron for extra crispiness and crunch. A little bacon is thrown in for a salty, smoky contrast to the sweet apple and for balance.

Why I waited to make them again is a puzzle to me, because they're so easy to put together...especially if you use precooked real bacon bits. Making dinner (or breakfast if you're more of a traditionalist) is simpler still when you start with frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes and just a little Bisquick. Who doesn't like a quick and easy breakfast-for-dinner recipe in their arsenal?!

Ready to make an easy "brinner" for the fam? Gentlemen (and ladies), start your waffle irons!

Potato, Apple and Bacon Waffles

Makes 8 waffles

  • 4 C frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into dice, fried crisp (or 1/2-2/3 C REAL bacon bits
  • 2 apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 T Bisquick (I use gluten-free Bisquick to make these GF)
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 t salt and extra for sprinkling on the finished waffles to really make the flavor pop!

Preheat your waffle iron while you toss the batter together.

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and sprinkle with Bisquick. Add bacon, apples, egg, milk and salt. Mix all together well.

My waffle iron uses no oil; if yours needs to be oiled, prepare your iron as needed.

Use half the batter for the first batch of waffles, if your waffle iron makes 4 at a time like mine. I like to press down firmly on the waffle iron handle for 30 seconds or so to get good initial contact on both sides of the waffle - I think it produces a crisper waffle in the end.

Carefully remove the first batch of waffles and do the second. 

Serve with real maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt. Yes, I said salt. It makes a BIG difference!

NOTE: Leftover waffles? Put thinly sliced cheddar between two waffles and grill on both sides in a buttered skillet until the cheese is melted and the waffles crisp. Delish!

NOTE 2: Although I haven't tried it, I can't help but think these would make a kickass base for sausage gravy! Hmmmmmm......

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

Oh, the excitement of a new smoker! Since our beloved stack type charcoal smoker bit the dust (ash?), I've had my eye on a Masterbuilt chest-type electric smoker. Amazon put the one I've lusted after on BIG sale (one day only) the Saturday before Father's Day...coincidence? I think not. 

Before I could give it a test run, Michigan beckoned. As I pulled out of the driveway, I glanced longingly behind at my yet-to-be-named smoky cutie and ahead at the prospect of time with those I love in Lansing. And hit the gas.

Not being the only family member with a yen for good BBQ, we all went to a favorite Q spot of Matt's called Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine. What a find! We started with Pickle Fries that are long shoestrings of dill pickles, breaded and fried and served with a side of homemade remoulade for dipping. Not content with just ONE appetizer from Meat's oh-so-tempting menu, we shared a basket of nachos mounded high with pulled pork, house-smoked bacon and chopped brisket, then topped with cheese, one of their own BBQ sauces, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and avocado. Transcendent. The nachos alone could have been a satisfying dinner and we only had a half order! 

Thank goodness we didn't stop with appetizers. The Meat platters came laden with perfectly moist, smoky brisket...sliced for me, chopped for Matt and Matthew's choice was the sweet n' smoky pulled pork. Mieke went with her favorite chopped brisket sandwich. Meat platters came with cornbread and 2 sides. And THAT is where I swooned. 

Nothing fancy at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine...that's a GOOD thing!           BBQ beans on the left, succulent brisket and Spicy Cream Corn on the top. 

Now, it's been a while since I've recreated a dish I was particularly taken with, but the Spicy Cream Corn left me wanting MORE! Note that it's not called "creamed" corn. No, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the loose, pale yellow, lumpy stuff from a can. This was CREAM corn. It had substance. It had heat. It. Was. Remarkable. So I came up with my very own version as soon as I got home.

What would go best with my version of Spicy Cream Corn? BBQ, of course. I loaded up the brand spanking new smoker with chicken...specifically 8 thighs, 3 breasts, 6 whole wings, 4 eggs (recommended by a BBQ'ing friend from Georgia - I'll be making deviled eggs with those!), and 5 ears of corn in the husk. Wouldn't smoked corn make the cream corn even better? It did!

Starting with smoky corn really made a difference in the finished dish. I decided to make the dish into a casserole (small individual cast iron skillets would make a wonderful presentation). For the heat (and creaminess) I used jalapeno cream cheese and a bit of chipotle powder; for color and flavor, sliced green onion and roasted red pepper; and for more smokiness, a "healthy" sprinkle of bacon crumbles across the surface. Nothing like reinforcing the smoke, right? 

Here you go...the recipe!

Spicy Smoked Corn Casserole

  • 4 ears smoked corn, approx 2 C of kernels (you don't have to use smoked corn...you can use fresh, frozen or canned corn if you wish!)
  • 4 oz. jalapeno cream cheese (1/2 of a tub) - if you want less heat, just use 2 oz. jalapeno and 2 oz. plain cream cheese. Don't want heat at all? Use all plain cream cheese.
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 green onion, sliced well into the green for color
  • 1/4 C roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 t salt
  • a hefty grinding of black pepper
  • 1/4 t chipotle powder (this makes it smokier and hotter - use less if you don't like HEAT, more if you like the heat sweats)
  • 2-3 T crisp, crumbled bacon
  • softened butter - enough to grease the inside of your casserole dish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 1 quart casserole dish (I used a cast iron oval casserole).

In a medium saucepan, add the cream cheese(s) and milk. Stir over low heat until smooth. Add the corn, green onions and red peppers, stir well. Add salt and pepper, chipotle powder and stir well again. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, top with bacon crumbles and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until bubbling. Serve with damned good BBQ!

NOTE: Next time I'm smoking some jalapenos to go into the mix!

One last thing....

Well, it wasn't actually "last." A Meat Bloody Mary WITH BBQ sauce is what I started with!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crowd Pleasing Caponata

It's Thursday. Appropriately, today's post and recipe is a throwback. It brings back memories of our years in Maryland and to time spent catering art show openings at a little art gallery in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. In those days, my Caponata was a favorite of exhibiting artists and gallery gawkers alike. These days, it's still a favorite of friends and family.

This eggplant, onion, olive appetizer is rich and velvety with a little celery crunch to offset the smoothness and it packs a little pizzazz via a hint of red pepper flake heat...and then there's this zippy sweet/sour vibe going on, too. Caponata is a hearty dish that somehow satisfies vegetarians and meat eaters alike which means it's a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

A traditional Italian appetizer, Caponata is nicely versatile, too. I like to serve it on toasted baguette slices or in lettuce cups, but it also makes the transition to dinner as a lovely topping for plain grilled chicken or even on a New Orleans-style muffaletta. My guess is that it works on a muffaletta because my version is more olive-y than the traditional ones...almost a cross between a tapenade and caponata. I use a lot less olive oil than the usual, too. Not that less olive oil makes my Caponata a diet dish, but all those veggies are good for you!

Give this delightful little dish a spin the next time you entertain. You might just find Caponata becomes a crowd pleaser in your recipe repertoire...and eventually earns a spot on your very own throwback list of favorite recipes.   


  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, caps and bottoms cut off, half of the peel cut off (half left on for the beautiful color) and cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 C petite diced canned tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 C pimiento stuffed green olives, diced
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried hot pepper flakes
  • (optional) a jar of marinated artichokes, drained and diced

I use a large electric skillet.

Heat the oil in the skillet and cook eggplant until soft, but not browned. Remove the eggplant and set aside.

Add onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft, but the celery still has crunch.

Add tomatoes, olives and the eggplant; combine well. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. If you're using marinated artichokes, add them in here.

Simmer for 15 minutes or so until nicely melded. Let the mixture come to room temperature before serving.

Serve in a bowl and let your guests top toasted baguette slices or Romaine lettuce leaves. It's really good just as a salad or even as a topping for grilled chicken or on a (not so) traditional New Orleans-style Muffaletta. 

Caponata diced sort of uniformly and simmering in the skillet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato..The BBLTP

Here's a super simple take on a lunch classic transformed into a brunch treat....a BBLTP....brunch-time bacon lettuce tomato potato. So simple, it's almost a Quickie. Truthfully, if you have a baked potato on hand, it IS a quickie because it's a simple dish that's quick and easy to make.

Besides mimicking the flavors of my favorite in-season-tomato summertime treat, this hearty breakfast is a real stick-to-your-ribs meal. 

Take a baked Russet potato, scoop out enough flesh to hold one or two eggs (depending on the size of the potato and the size of your appetite), break an egg (or two) into the hole and bake until set. Sprinkle with pre-cooked crumbled bacon (store bought to keep with the easy theme here), a little chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and (not shown in the pic) a side of a little mayo blended with a smidge of lemon juice. What's a BLT or BBLTP without mayo?!

The perfect accompaniment? Well, a Bloody Mary, of course. Isn't that the answer to any brunch question?

(Brunch-Time Bacon Lettuce Tomato Potato)

  • 1 baked potato, cooled - take a thin slice off the top and discard (or butter and eat...bonus for the cook!), scoop out enough flesh to hold 1 or 2 eggs - Make these the night before to this step and brunch will come together in no time
  • 1 or 2 eggs per potato, depending on the size of the potato AND your appetite
  • a handful of pre-cooked and crumbled bacon, warmed in the microwave - I get mine at Costco
  • shredded Romaine lettuce
  • finely diced fresh tomato
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • kosher salt
  • butter
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

First season the inside of the potato well with fresh ground black pepper, a little kosher salt, a pat of butter and a sprinkle of crumbled bacon. 

Break the egg(s) into the hollow of the potato and bake until the eggs are set. I like mine runny - makes a nice extra bit of sauce - but, if you like yours hard, go ahead, it's YOUR breakfast! Usually takes my oven about 30 minutes, yours may take more or less time. Remember, it's how YOU like it.

Remove from the oven, plate and garnish with bacon, tomato and lettuce.

And don't forget the mayo!