Labor Day Recipe-Simple BBQ Pork Ribs

Labor Day Recipe-Simple BBQ Pork Ribs

Here comes another holiday! That means another day off work (you need it!), another chance to spend some time with family and friends, and of course, another excuse to barbecue! We’ve gone over brisket; now let’s make a summer BBQ staple: RIBS!   While pork ribs are a bit messier than beef ribs, they are much more popular because they really are tastier .  Plus, it is likely your BBQ party will have other kinds of beef being prepared anyway. So we’ll be dealing with pork ribs today. When shopping for pork ribs keep in mind that there are two different kinds: Back Ribs (Baby Back Ribs if they came from a younger hog) and Spare Ribs.

Most folks agree, pork ribs are tastier than beef ribs!

Back Ribs, sometimes called Loin Ribs, are from the top of the hog between the spine and spare ribs. They are generally meatier than the spare ribs, but have a bit less fat. These are the more popular of the two.

Spare Ribs are found on the belly side of the hog. They are fattier and have more bone than actual meat. They are delicious, and often more tender because of the higher level of fat. St. Louis or Kansas City style pork ribs are spare ribs that have had part of the bone removed and have been trimmed.

Either kind will work for these instructions. It’s also a good idea to talk to your butcher; if they’re worth a darn they will love to help you choose the right cut and answer all of your questions. We’re going to cheat a bit, by using both the oven and the grill. Some BBQ nuts might cry foul but I think it’s better to take the easy option if it means you get to enjoy some nice homemade food rather than ordering out or wasting your time on something that has been pre-sauced and pre-cooked. If you have a spice rub that you love, by all means, use it!  I like to keep things relatively simple:

Spice Rub:

  • 1 TBS ground mustard powderpork rib spice rub
  • 1 TBS kosher or sea salt
  • 1 TBS black pepper
  • 1 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground chile (optional)

Scale this recipe up if you need to. I usually make a pretty big batch- it’s nice to have a jar lying around for when the mood strikes.

PREP
Sometimes there will be a tough, white membrane on the concave side of the pork ribs. You can ask your butcher to remove that or do it yourself. Simply pull the membrane up from the smaller end of the ribs, using a paper towel to get a better grip. With a strong pull toward the larger end, you should be able to easily peel it off.pork rib prep

Evenly coat both sides of the ribs with the spice rub. You don’t need a lot. You can do this a day or so in advance and the flavor will be stronger. Wrap the racks tightly in heavy duty plastic wrap, then wrap again in foil.

COOK
Arrange the pork ribs (still wrapped) on a sheet pan and place in a 250 degree oven. Cook for 4 hours.
Before they have finished, get your grill, smoker, or any other BBQ contraption you have access to fired up.  Pre-heat to 325 for this round. You can use charcoal or wood.
When the ribs are done in the oven, CAREFULLY remove them from the wrap. Pour all of the delicious juices into a bowl and set aside.

GRILL

pork ribs grill 300Back to the grill….We want to use indirect heat for this, so move the coals to one side and place the ribs on the other, meat-side up. Cover the grill and let the pork ribs smoke for a bit.

Sauce:
Get back to the kitchen! Mix together the following ingredients to make your basting sauce:

  • All of those juices
  • ¼ part ketchup
  • ¼ part honey or maple syrup

Use this sauce to baste the ribs every 30 minutes or so for about 2 hours, this will give them a nice sweet, sticky glaze. The longer you cook them the more tender they will be, so you can hang out in the back yard all day if you really want.

If you want to get the mess out of the way before the guests arrive just switch the cooking methods: start with the fire and smoke at 325, then wrap and throw the little piggies in the oven at 250. And make sure you have plenty of napkins!

When your ribs are done, remove to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Separate into manageable servings by slicing between the bones, every two-three ribs.
Chef J

chef j

Printer friendly recipe: Simple BBQ Pork Ribs

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Butcher Block Countertops Are An Affordable Option

Butcher Block Countertops Are An Affordable Option

If you are considering new countertops as part of  your kitchen remodel, you will find there are many countertop materials to choose from.  The internet is a great place to start researching, with helpful information, facts, trends and most of all, inspiring photos to help you make the right decision.

When choosing the ideal countertop material you should consider the following:

  • Function – Your lifestyle plays an important role in designing your kitchen.  If you are a Cooking Enthusiast you will want countertops that are suitable for chopping and food prep; Kitchen Central families who spend a lot of time in the kitchen doing more than cooking will want durable, stain resistant surfaces; and Entertainers will desire a high degree of style in their countertop and overall kitchen design.
  • Décor – Because the kitchen is the heart of the home, it should reflect your personal style, be that traditional, contemporary or eclectic.  Countertops are one of the more affordable and significant changes you can make to your kitchen that will convey your personal style.
  • Maintenance  – Often an afterthought, countertop maintenance is important to know prior to purchasing.  Be comfortable with the  maintenance required to keep your countertop looking new and protected.  Some maintenance is necessary for all countertops, however, certain materials are more needy.
  • Budget -Your budget can be the deal breaker.  Countertop materials range from very affordable to extremely expensive.  

A helpful resource for cost comparison can be found at www.countertopguides.com, where you can see Butcher Block Countertops are one of the most affordable countertop options available.

Butcher Block Countertops are an affordable option

Butcher Block Countertop an Affordable Choice.xlsx

So if you are looking for a food prep work surface that is beautiful, easy to maintain, and affordable, then butcher block is right for you!  At ButcherBlockCo.com you can choose from 4 different wood species, in 3 grain styles.  It’s easy to compare butcher block prices using our Step-by-Step Order Guide.  And you can get an instant quote or order butcher block countertops online with our Custom Countertop calculator.

Relative Cost Per Square Foot – Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher Block Countertop an Affordable Choice.xlsx

Need more information? Watch our YouTube video to learn more about Butcher Block Countertops.

ButcherBlockCo.com, The Experts In All Things Butcher Block

End of Summer Tradition – Fajitaladas

End of Summer Tradition – Fajitaladas

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to have a hard time readjusting when school starts back up. I’m not the most organized person in the world, so dealing with drop-off and pick-up, homework and school events, I tend to slip in the dinner-cooking department! Fortunately for me, I have an awesome end of summer tradition that helps get me through those first couple weeks of school. Every year before school starts, I get together with my sister (who is a teacher and understands this pain far better than I do!) and a few of our friends for a few hours and cook up a storm to stock our freezers.  Everyone brings the ingredients for her signature dish, and we all work together to make enough batches to take home one of everything. Every year I make the same dish, my signature “Fajitaladas,” which are a yummy, freezer-friendly combo of fajitas and enchiladas. By the end of our cooking party, we each have an eclectic mix of five or six dishes to choose from when we run into the inevitable question, “What’s for dinner?”

Besides making lots of awesome food, this end of summer tradition gives us a chance to get some much needed relaxation and socialization, before jumping into the chaos of the school year.

To successfully pull off one of these parties, it helps to have a friend with a big kitchen and lots of workspace. If that is not an option, split up the tasks so you can work in assembly-line style and utilize each area to the max. Those disposable foil pans from the grocery store work fine for freezer storage (make your life easier by getting the ones with the lids), or you can use your own bakeware.

Over the years I have brought home delicious lasagnas, casseroles, pulled pork, and lots of Fajitaladas! Here is the simple recipe for my end of summer tradition dish! This is just my basic recipe, but it can be easily customized to your liking if you have other options on hand.

Fajitaladas Recipe

Makes one batch, serves 6-8end of summer tradition

Ingredients:

  • 12 medium flour or 16 corn tortillas
  • 1-2 T olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. steak or chicken, cut into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • Fajita seasoning to taste
  • 1 16 oz. can enchilada sauce of your choice, or homemade
  • 2-3 cups Mexican style shredded cheese blend
  • Toppings of choice

If you will be eating right away, preheat your oven to 350 F.

In an oiled pan, sauté steak or chicken with fajita seasoning (taco seasoning works well, too) until browned on all sides. Add peppers and onions and sauté until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent. Set aside. If freezing, allow to cool completely before assembling. This can be done up to 3 days in advance.

Spread about ¼ cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of a 13” X 9” baking dish. This helps keep the tortillas from sticking to the pan. Lay out your tortillas on a flat surface and sprinkle a line of cheese down the middle of each. Divide veggie/meat mixture among tortillas on top of cheese. Roll each one up and place in baking dish, seam side down. Pour remaining enchilada sauce evenly over the top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

If baking immediately, loosely cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly. Uncover and place under the broiler for about two minutes to get that bubbly cheese nice and golden brown! Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, black olives, salsa, onions…whatever you like!

If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and top with foil or the lid to your dish. When you are ready to cook, allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap (don’t forget this part – melted plastic wrap does not go well with these flavors!), put lid back on or cover with foil and follow baking instructions above, but allow to bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

So if you don’t have an end of summer tradition, try this one.  If you have a fun end of summer tradition to share with us, we would love to hear from you!

Printer Friendly Recipe: Fajitaladas Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Recipe Update: To help reduce the moisture that comes from the zucchini, slice it thin, then grill it for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Let it cool for 10 minutes, then use it to build your layers.

July 29th is National Lasagna Day!  If you love home-made lasagna but find it to be a lot of work, try this wonderful shortcut.  It is called Ravioli Lasagna.  Not only is it easier, but it tastes better than traditional lasagna.  And my added twist….zucchini!

Ravioli Lasagna Ingredients:

  • 2lbs Ground Sweet Italian Pork SausageRavioli-lasagna-herb-board
  • 3lbs Frozen, Pre-cooked, Cheese Ravioli (Ricotta filled).  About  40 large Raviolis
  • 32 oz Swiss Cheese Slices
  • 2- 16oz containers of NonFat Cottage Cheese
  • 5 T chopped fresh Oregano. (Another reason to use my wonderful butcher block herb cutting board and mezzaluna knife!)
  • 5 Zucchini
  • 2 – 32oz Jars Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup of any Red Table Wine

Sauce:

  • Cook the ground pork sausage in large pot, breaking meat up into small pieces
  • Add marinara sauce.  Rinse out the jar with 1/2 cup Red Table Wine and pour into sauce.
  • Simmer.

Cheese:

  • Fold the chopped oregano into the cottage cheese until uniform.
  • Have sliced swiss cheese handy

Zucchini:

  • Wash and peel zucchini
  • Chop on your favorite chopping block into 1/8 ” round slices
  • Split into two piles

Building your 9 layer Ravioli Lasagna is easy and takes about 15 minutes

Choose a very large baking pan, preferably 15″L x 11″ W x 3.5″ deep:

  • Layer 1 – Sauce, just to cover bottom of pan
  • Layer 2 – Ravioli Noodles.  In my pan, it was 5 rows of 4 ravioli or 20 raviolis
  • Layer 3 – Spread all the cottage cheese/oregano onto the ravioli
  • Layer 4 – Place one layer of zucchini to cover entire layer (half of the total zucchini)
  • Layer 5 – Cover with single layer of sliced swiss cheese
  • Layer 6 – Add remaining sauce on this layer
  • Layer 7 – Add another ravioli layer, 20 raviolis
  • Layer 8 – Place a layer of zucchini to cover
  • Layer 9 – Cover with a single layer of sliced swiss cheese

National-Lasagna-Day-Layers

Cover with non-stick aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.  Uncover.  Then broil for 2 minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving to allow it to cool and set.  Serves 12 to 16.

Enjoy your easy Ravioli Lasagna!

Printer Friendly Recipe: Ravioli Lasagna

Meatless Monday Pizza Party

Meatless Monday Pizza Party

Chef J is at it again – this time sharing perfect pizza dough to satisfy any crowd!

There is a common belief that you can’t please everyone. This is correct about 99.99% of the time, and can be especially hard if you practice the growing trend of Meatless Mondays. But there is one delicious exception: Pizza! Pizza might be the pinnacle of cuisine. I doubt that there will be anything anytime soon that can knock that marvelous, cheesy circle off the throne. And though you can have it delivered in under an hour, there is a better way!

Pizza is incredibly easy to make for Meatless Monday – anyone can do it!

Doing it yourself is not only rewarding (you’ll love bragging to your friends about it!), it tastes better, it’s healthier, and it’s something that the whole group can get involved in. Everyone at the party can build their own and it’s perfect for the kids! We’ll go step by step through the process; from dough to done.

The trickiest part is the dough.

People new to the world of home-made pizza are always nervous when it comes to making the glutenous foundation of their next great meal. Fret not; here are a few simple steps that will guide you to your new pie.

The Sponge:meatless-monday-sponge
The sponge will start the process of activating the gluten- giving the dough a nice chew. It also develops the flavor by allowing the yeast to bubble and play.

Mix together in the largest bowl you have:
2 cups water
1 pound high gluten bread flour
1 TBS yeast

Don’t mix it up too much- it should look like lumpy pancake batter. Loosely cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours.

The Dough:meatless-monday-mix
This is the part that people tend to get a little scared about. It’s not going to work if you follow a recipe to the letter; you have to go with your gut on this one (it’s all going to your gut anyway!).

Pour the sponge into a mixer with a dough hook. Add:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 TBS yeast
Flour…

While your mixer is on low, slowly add more flour, about ½ a cup at a time, letting each addition incorporate. Continue until it starts pulling away from the sides of the mixer. It should be a little sticky. If you are not sure, err on the side of being too wet. Keep kneading it for another 10 minutes.

Put the whole mess back into that giant bowl and loosely cover again. The dough needs to rise now to allow the new flour to absorb the liquid, the new yeast to bubble up, and all the gluten that was just worked up to relax. This will take a few hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. If you really like a yeasty dough then let it hang out in the fridge.

 meatless-monday-pizza-dough

After a while you will see your dough double, triple, or quadruple in size – so keep an eye on it! Punch it down when it starts to crawl out of the bowl. Do this twice. After the second beat-down, when the dough regains its strength and has risen again, it is ready to be formed.

Heat your oven to its hottest setting, 450-500 on convection, with a pizza stone or cast iron pan.
Generously flour your work surface and move some or all of your dough there.

Form the dough into a round lump. Starting from the middle, gently flatten and stretch the dough while rotating it to keep it round. Add flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Don’t beat yourself up if it looks more like a puzzle piece than a circle; it takes a bit of practice (it will still taste good!).

If you are using a pizza peel to shovel the pie onto your stone or pan, it is important to move the dough onto that before you start topping it, and make sure you have a healthy spattering of cornmeal between peel and dough. If you are hosting a party, have everyone put their dough on a piece of parchment paper before they start adding all of the goodies; this will make it a lot easier and cleaner to get them into the oven.

Spread on a bit of sauce and top with veggies, cheese, whatever you want! Since we’re talking Meatless Monday, some of my favorite veggie toppings are corn, olives and squash.

Throw the pizza into the oven and give it about five minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Depending on the size of the pie and how much deliciousness you have piled onto it, the cooking time will vary. Limiting toppings will help the pizza cook evenly and quickly. When it’s done make sure to let it cool a bit before digging in – we’ve all burned the roof of our mouth due to pizza impatience!

The best part is you don’t even need to tip! How’s that for Meatless Monday?!
Printer Friendly Recipe: Perfect Pizza Dough
More from Chef J: BBQ Beef Brisket, Hibiscus Margaritas, Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops

 

No-Cook Meals for Summer

No-Cook Meals for Summer

I don’t know about you, but turning on my oven or stove when it is 115 degrees out is not my idea of a good time. During these hot summer months I like to eat cool dishes and minimize the amount of time I spend in my kitchen with that hot afternoon sun pouring in. I try to get as much cooking and prep work done as possible on Sunday mornings. This means I’ll spend an hour or so washing and chopping veggies and boiling up a couple batches of pasta to use later in the week. I could eat pasta salad pretty much every day without getting bored, but my family doesn’t share that love (this Greek one is my favorite, in case you’re wondering).

Enter Pinterest, the busy mom’s lifesaver! I have been hesitant to try a lot of recipes found on Pinterest because I constantly hear about (and see pictures of) the failures that come from these untested concoctions. With no-cook meals, though, it’s pretty easy to tell when something isn’t going to work, and no-cook meals are usually simpler to prepare, meaning they are easier to tweak to your liking. After a couple weeks of the kids complaining about turkey sandwiches for dinner AGAIN, do yourself a favor and peruse the internet for some ideas to spice up your routine.

There is an unlimited supply of inspiration for no-cook meals like wraps, salads, and frozen treats on Pinterest!

Here are a few ideas to get you going for your no-cook meals summer:

  • Wash and prep your produce at the beginning of the week so it is ready to use when you need it. Here’s a handy chart we put together for storing summer fruits and veggies.
  • Don’t discount those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at the grocery store – they add some tasty protein to countless dishes with almost no work. When I get one home I like to pull all the meat off and toss the bones – this way it is ready to use at a moment’s notice!
  • Get creative with the old standbys! Sure a turkey sandwich is boring, but what if you added goat cheese and cranberries and wrapped it up in a basil tortilla instead of sandwich bread?! Yum!
  • Have the kids use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes out of watermelon or other fruits, slide a popsicle stick in, freeze for a couple hours, and you have  delicious and healthy frozen pops for the whole family.
  • Go buffet-style at the end of the week to use up your leftover produce, deli meats, cheeses, and breads. Just pull everything out and let each member of the family come up with his or her own meal. You might surprise yourself and come up with a new favorite combo!
  • Check out our No-Cook Meals Recipes board on Pinterest for some great ideas!

Do you have any favorite no-cook meals or some more tips to help us get through the summer? Let us know below in “Speak Your Mind”!

Our Annual Theme Party!

Our Annual Theme Party!

July 4th, 2003 is when it all began.  The family reunion that year was loosely themed a Hawaiian party. You know, wear your Hawaiian shirt and call it good.  All of our kids were playing outside enjoying the warm, balmy July day, when they came running in the house to show us their “costumes.”  They had raided the neighbors garden, pulling out every green leafy flower in their flower beds, and had pieced together hula skirts for all of the kids…The Annual July 4th Family Reunion Theme Party was born!

This year will be our 10th anniversary, having enjoyed a different theme party each year, without fail. It has brought our extended family closer, with  brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, cousins and neighbors all looking forward to the annual theme party. (Needless to say, the neighbors are forever honorary guests having sacrificed their flower garden year one).  Each year it seems the party gets more extravagant, as we have become pretty efficient at planning, organizing and partying.  What all the theme parties have in common is:

  1. They are held during the July 4th holiday weekend
  2. Awards are given for best costumes in a variety of categories
  3. The house is decorated in theme, inside and out
  4. And best of all, the food must match the theme party!

My brother reveals the “theme” for the party two months in advance, giving the competitive members of the family (namely me) enough time to research, craft or purchase their unique costumes.  Menu planning starts a few weeks in advance as we collaborate, via email, on the various dishes and accompanying delights that fit our theme party.  Decorations are purchased a week in advance. Finally, on the day of the event, we pull it all together including decorating and cooking for up to 45 people!

One of my favorite theme parties was our Bug Party.

If you think about it, you can just imagine how creative the food choices could be.

My sister-n-law created a Caterpillar Cake from two chocolate bunt cakes sliced in half, then pieced together to make an s-shape.  She used frosting to glue it together, alternating chocolate and vanilla frosting for each segment of the caterpillar.  Then we had a blast decorating with dots, candy corn legs, and Oreo eyes (see feature photo above). The buffet table was draped with a table cloth made from red and white picnic pattern with ants on it.  Our centerpiece for the dinner table was a bowl of gummy worm apples.  And finally the hot dog and hamburger buns where garnished with some plastic beetles, spiders and flies.

theme-party-meal

The most visually interesting dish, and the yummiest of all, was the Dirt Cake, complete with gummy worms!

Here is our tried and true Dirt Cake Recipe:

theme-party-dessert2

1 package Oreo cookies

1/3  cup butter or margarine

1- 8 oz container softened Cream Cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

3.5  cups milk

2 – 3.5 oz packages French Vanilla Pudding

1- 12 oz container Cool Whip

 

 

Smash Oreo cookies until very fine.  We use a zip-top bag and a rolling pin to smash.
Mix butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl combine milk, pudding and Cool Whip and mix together.
Combine pudding mixture and cream cheese mixture.
Layer in glass baking dish starting with cookies, then cream mixture. Repeat layers.
Garnish with gummy worms.
Chill until ready to serve.

I am heading off to our 10th Annual Family Reunion Theme Party now.  The theme this year is “Heroes and Villains.” Stay tuned for more stories.  And enjoy your fourth of July!

Printer Friendly: Dirt Cake

Need some more inspiration for your get-together? Check out these fabulous recipes: Grilled Scallops, Amaretto Spice Cupcakes, Smoked Brisket

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Our own Chef J shares with us his favorite Grilled Scallop recipe for summer!

Good, fresh seafood in Arizona isn’t always easy to come by. But once summer comes around, our back yard get-togethers seem empty without some shrimp skewers or fish tacos. Luckily we have a few frozen options and some rare, fresh finds. Grilled scallops are one of my favorite things to bring to the summer table; scallops can be found frozen or canned, and both can be quite good. Light, but rich and buttery, grilled scallops can be a delightful addition to fajitas, tacos, on their own, or as the surf to your favorite turf. There is always room for these delicious mollusks; even those folks who say “I don’t like fish” will like them. Who invites those people, anyway? Grilled scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. It is simple and easy, but oh so tasty! Play around with this recipe, use whatever citrus you have growing in your (or your neighbor’s) yard.

Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops Recipe

2 pounds of large scallops

Ginger Citrus Salsa:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TBS chopped, fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup finely diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients (except scallops) and mix well. Let this sit for a while- it’s better the next day.
Bring your grill up to medium-high, around 600 degrees or so. Make sure that the grill is clean, and once hot, give it a rub down with vegetable oil.
Season your scallops with salt & pepper, and arrange flat side down on the grill. Give them about 2 minutes and flip. Grill about another 90 seconds or so and remove from heat.

Top your Grilled Scallops with the Ginger Citrus Salsa and enjoy!

Other recipes from Chef J: BBQ Beef Brisket and Hibiscus Margaritas 

Printer Friendly: Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

Everyone seems to be familiar with the TV show “Chopped” on The Food Network and the concept of a Chopped Challenge. But not everyone gets all excited about actually participating in a Chopped Challenge party.  My husband is a total foodie.  He watches all of the cooking shows on TV, including “Chopped”.  And he loves to cook.  I, on the other hand, don’t watch and don’t cook!  Instead, I am the person who loves to organize, decorate, entertain and socialize.  Oh yes, and eat too!
So when our friends Tom and Cathy invited us to a Chopped Challenge Party, my first reaction was yikes!  I don’t DO cooking.  Maybe I can just drink and watch my husband prepare the entrée!  Fortunately, our friends had a clever twist, a Potluck Chopped Challenge.

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party appeals to so many more people.

It is a perfect idea, especially if you are like me:
  • You love food, but don’t like to cook
  • You have limited space in your kitchen
  • Or  limited time to sit around and wait for courses to be prepared
  • You have some awesome neighborhood “chefs” you want to recognize
  • And you enjoy socializing
So here are the “twists” to throwing a Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party:

Twist 1: Instead of cooking at the hosts home, you are assigned your course and  your “mystery ingredients” in advance.

You prepare your course ahead of time and bring it to the Potluck, ready-to-eat.

Twist 2:  Two couples compete against each other in the same course category with the same mystery ingredients.

For example the courses/ingredients could be:

  • Vegetable  – Cheetos, Black Bean Garlic Sauce, Green Beans
  • Soup  – Ginger, Walnuts, Egg
  • Salad – Pomegranate,  Mandarin Oranges, Mint
  • Dessert – Strawberries, White Chocolate, Bacon Bits
  • Cocktail – Coconut Milk, Kiwi, Tuaca

Twist 3:  As you are eating the course, everyone tries to guess the mystery ingredients that are common in the course.

You can make the guessing formal, but we enjoyed just shouting out our answers!

Twist 4:  All of the attendees get to vote a “Winner by Course” and the “Overall Chopped Challenge” Winner.

Criteria is based on Presentation, Taste, and Creativity!

Twist 5:  The Host couple prepares the main course.

As it turned out, my husband and I won the Vegetable category and were the Overall Chopped Challenge Winner that night.  Actually, he won,( real men cook) I just got to steal some credit!  I think my husband’s aoli with black bean garlic sauce, olive oil and mayo really was the key.  Oh, and one more thing I did learn…if you want to win, include BACON!

So try the Chopped Challenge – Potluck Edition, and create your own twist!  Let us know how it goes.

chopped-challenge-potluck-dinner-party

Green Beans, Cheetos and cheese, wrapped in Bacon. Served with Black Bean Garlic Aoli!

Yes, Real Men Cook!

Yes, Real Men Cook!

real-men-cook

Do Real Men Cook?

My dad is skilled at a great many things, but cooking is not among them. Sure, he’s fairly expert on the outdoor grill, but that’s not the same, nor is it unusual. Truth be told, this acorn didn’t fall far from the tree. With so many of my male friends seriously into cooking, it feels as though Dad and I are exceptions to the rule. With Father’s Day upon us, I figured this was the perfect time to finally answer the question: Do real men cook? Here’s what I learned. According to the Pew Research Center,

Men are nearly as likely as women to say they enjoy cooking a great deal: 32% of men compared to 35% of women.

Compared to 20 years ago, more men enjoy cooking today (up from 25%), and fewer women (down from 40%). The theory is that cooking has become more acceptable and appealing to men with the advent of such cooking shows as Iron Chef and Top Chef, and thanks to the growing popularity of such chefs as Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay.

Ok, color me surprised. About one-third of both sexes say they really like cooking, but are there differences in their respective approaches? The faucet manufacturer, Moen, conducted research that identified four distinct types of cooks: Family Cooks (42%), Adventurous Cooks (31%), Carryout Cooks (18%) and Cautious Cooks (9%). No big surprise here:

Women are more likely to be Family Cooks, and more men Adventurous Cooks.

You go, Guys!

Next, I wondered what each sex likes to cook. Definitely no surprises here. The website AllRecipes.com reports that women like pasta and men prefer steak. In addition:

  • Men describe their perfect dish as “spicy” and “meaty,” whereas,
  • Women use the adjectives “healthy” and “savory” to describe theirs.

Further reinforcing some tired stereotypes:

  • Men prefer the grill over the oven (46% vs. 17%), whereas,
  • Women’s preferences are the reverse (16% vs. 42%).

Hence the well-deserved moniker: “the opposite sex.”

And finally, a surprise. Men report (and that might be the operative word here) being willing to spend more time preparing meals.

So where do guys go for cooking tips and ideas? Well, AllRecipes says that men account for 36% of unique visits to food-oriented, social sites. That’s what spurred the launch of ManTestedRecipes.com – a social site for male cooks (as if you couldn’t figure that out). Finally, a website where real men can share recipes with one another. But guys, before you get your hopes up, I must point out that it’s too late to submit your fav recipe and win big bucks. The deadline for submissions for their “Dude Food” contest was April 30. But there’s always next year.

Until then, remember, real men cook!

And Happy Father’s Day, dads!real-men-cook-too