Smoked Pork Ribs on the Kamado Joe.

Our BBQ has been on its last legs for a while now. Parts started disintegrating, rusting, or just falling off altogether. My husband replaced some of them and some parts we couldn’t find a match with which to replace.

I did a little informal poll on Facebook to ask how long people’s grills normally last – the range was pretty much 5-8 years with a few outliers on either side (3 years and 14 years). Ours had lasted about 7 years.

My friend Lena suggested that I look into a Big Green Egg. I did, and discovered that it was totally out of my price range once we factored in the various accessories we’d want for it. From there, however, I learnt about kamados and, from there, I discovered Kamado Joes. After a bit of research, we hopped in the car and picked one of the Classics up. I will spare you the big sales pitch, but I think they’re a good deal.

The first thing cooked on the new grill was.. frozen burgers. Easy, inexpensive, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they didn’t turn out beautifully – but they turned out well and we happily ate them.

Today I smoked pork ribs – a much, much, much longer process. But oh, man, the results were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I love to eat meat – but I am generally not fond of cooking it (because I’m always convinced that I’m going to kill everyone by undercooking it, so I compensate by burning the shit out of it).

But these ribs.. my goddess, they were heavenly. Just amazing.

The ribs that I bought were labelled “pork ribs” which, after some online research, I determined were St Louis cut. This was good because it meant that I didn’t have to do much clean-up on them to get them ready.

First, I took the ribs and removed the excess fat and the weird membrane. Then I brushed the ribs all over with a very light coating of cheap-o yellow mustard.

I whipped up a batch of this dry rub and coated the mustardy ribs in the rub. They then looked like this:

 

Dry rub on!

Dry rub on!

I left them to sit while I started up the Kamado Joe. I’m still learning (obviously) how to regulate the temperature, but I knew that I needed to do them “low and slow” – though various recipes called from temperatures ranging from 225 to 275. I went with 250F to keep it simple.

The 3-2-1 method that I found here seemed easy enough for me to follow – nothing complicated.

So, I tossed the ribs onto the pre-heated grill and set the timer for 3 hours… only to discover that I could not keep the temperature of the grill from going up and up and up. It didn’t help that the wireless digital thermometer I was using kept crapping out on me (and telling me that the temperature in the grill was about 40 degrees higher than what the thermometer on my grill said!)

I spent a lot of time running in and out of the house.

At the end of the 3 hours, however, things looked pretty good:

 

3 hours down, 3 to go?

3 hours down, 3 to go?

 

I took each chunk of ribs off of the grill and coated both sides liberally in honey and brown sugar (mmmm!) before wrapping them into little packages. No photo of this, sadly. While wrapping, I noted that the ribs looked more ‘done’ than I would have expected, so I decided to adjust the cooking time slightly.

I put the packets of meat back on the grill and set my timer for 40 minutes (instead of 2 hours). When the timer went off, I checked the internal temperature of the meat and found it was already at 190F. Eeep!

I unwrapped the meat, brushed both sides with a 50/50 mix of BBQ sauce and honey, and put them back on the grill for a total of 30 minutes (flipping them once after 10 minutes).

The 3-2-1 method became the 3-1-.5 method!

To be honest, I was pretty convinced that they would be overcooked – possibly dried out – given how dark the outside of the meat was. I was mentally making adjustments in my head, checking out some info on the Kamado Guru forums, and plotting how I’d do all of this differently for the next batch.

But when we sat down to eat… oh, holy heck, they were amazing. And not just the amazing that comes from spending 5 hours cooking something, either.

The outside was crispy and had some chewiness to it (from the honey/brown sugar) and there was a hint of a smoke ring on the inside, and the meat just fell off of the bone as we ate it.

So good. So very good.

So good. So very good.

It took 5 hours to make and about 10 minutes to eat them all. Totally worth it.

Next time I’m going to work on keeping my temperature a lot lower – I need to get used to the air flow and the vents and how they work together – but I would not be the slightest bit sad if the next batch turned out exactly like these did.

I’m so glad that I’ve got another package of ribs waiting in the fridge for next time.

Spicy Scalloped Potatoes.

There is no photo to accompany this post because, well, this was not an attractive recipe. My shoddy photography skills would have made it even worse.  And since these turned out to be really delicious, I don’t want to scare you off with a hideous photo.

At the age of 39, I realized that I have never made scalloped potatoes. I skimmed through a bunch of recipes, settled on one that didn’t sound bland, and decided to make it – with a few changes along the way.

This came out delightfully spicy (which I like!) but you may want to adjust your ingredients to make it more, or less, spicy. If you don’t like any spice whatsoever, well, you may want to look for a different recipe.

Spicy Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients:

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp  all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups warm milk
2 cup shredded habanero cheese (or other spicy, melty cheese!)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 lb white potatoes
2 cups chunky salsa (hot!)
1/2 cup drained pickled or marinated jalapeno pepper slices (like Cowgirl Candy!)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in the warm milk and continue whisking constantly for 3 to 5 minutes – or until beginning to boil and thicken. Add more flour, slowly, if needed to thicken.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cheese, salt, oregano, cumin and pepper. Set the pot aside for a bit.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  5. Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Use a mandoline if you’re afraid of losing a finger.
  6. Arrange about one third of the slices into a thin layer in the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish.
  7. Spread half of the salsa on top of the potatoes.
  8. Repeat steps 5 and 6, making happy potato and salsa layers, then layer the remaining potato slices on top.
  9. Pour the cheese sauce over top to cover evenly and reach the sides and bottom of dish.
  10. Sprinkle with jalapeno pepper slices.
  11. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes or until lightly browned. The potatoes should be tender.
  12. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

You can make this more, or less, spicy by choosing cheeses and salsas that are more or less spicy. You can also skip the jalapeno slices on top for less kick. I have no idea why you would want to make it LESS spicy, but, hey, it’s your dinner.

Veggie Fried Rice.

Veggies! Rice!

Veggies! Rice!

Growing up, we visited my grandparents every weekend and, every weekend, we returned home with containers filled with assorted food. During my middle teenage years, my grandfather became somewhat obsessed with making the perfect vegetable fried rice. Every weekend, a big bowl of his most recent experiment was sent home with an accompanying demand for feedback and suggestions. Once he perfected it, he stopped making it.

And, of course, he didn’t write down the recipe anywhere.

So I was happy to find this recipe on Budget Bytes. It’s not quite what my grandfather made but, with a bit of tweaking, I’m pretty sure I can make it closely resemble his recipe. (Hint number one: sauteed onions!) Also, it’s easy. And delicious.  We had to double the recipe to feed our family (with one single, lonely serving leftover!)

Here’s how I made it:

Veggie Fried Rice

Ingredients:

6 cups cooked rice (leftover would be ideal)

  • 4 Tbsp peanut oil
    2 large carrots
    6 cloves garlic (pre-minced in jar)
    2 inch fresh ginger
    2 cups frozen peas
    2 medium bell pepper
    1 bunch green onions
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
    2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Make rice if you don’t have any leftover rice kicking around.
  2. Dice the carrots and the peppers. Peel and grate the ginger.
  3. Add the peanut oil to a large non-stick skillet/wok and heat over medium/high heat until the oil is very hot. Add the garlic, ginger, and diced carrots. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes (until carrots are slightly tender).
  4. Add the peppers and frozen peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Dump all the veggies into a large bowl.
  5. Add the rice into the empty wok and stir fry for a few minutes. Make a well in the middle of the rice and add the eggs. Slightly scramble the eggs as they cook. Try to cook the eggs in large chunks.
  6. Once the egg has fully cooked, add the rice and the cooked vegetables. Stir in the green onions. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil gradually, tasting as you go to make sure it’s not too strongly flavouring the rice. Cook until heated. Eat.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups.

My middle son has declared that this is his favourite dinner. I am pretty sure that he’s made that same declaration about a few other foods. At any rate, the entire family enjoys this and we usually only have a roll or two left when we’re finished.

Spinach! Lasagna! Roll-up!

Spinach! Lasagna! Roll-up!

For a long time I was ridiculously afraid to use the lasagna noodles that you need to boil – I always bought the “oven ready” kind. This meant that I didn’t experiment with recipes like this one. I regret all those years – now I have to make up for it by eating this recipe at least once a month.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

Makes one large 9×13″ pan of roll-ups!

Ingredients:
1 pkg lasagna noodles (I like the spinach ones best)
2 small containers of ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs
2 bricks of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (microwave!)
6 cups of your favourite pasta sauce
pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the full package of lasagna noodles and cook them until they’re soft – not mushy! Drain them, rinse quickly with cold water, and set aside.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, combine the thawed spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, pepper, and parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Mix! Stir! Combine!
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray the inside of a 9×13″ pan with some non-stick spray.
  4. Take one cooked noodle and lay it flat on the counter. Coat it nicely with the filling, then roll it up! Place in the pan. Repeat for all as many other noodles as you can fit into the pan.
  5. Pour the pasta sauce over the noodles – use a spoon to make sure all the surfaces are covered.
  6. Cover the dish in tin foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, discard tin foil, allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
I make this based on this recipe – we like our filling to be extra, uh, filling, so we doubled the original and added extra mozzarella cheese for good measure. I also use more sauce on top to prevent the noodles from drying out.

Spinach Quiche Casserole.

In theory, this could have been a healthy meal – after all, it does contain plenty of spinach and a few eggs. But no, this is not a healthy dinner.

It is, however, very tasty.

Like many foods that taste really, really good, this does not look remotely appealing in photographs. I strongly suggest that you overlook that fault and make it anyway.

Spinach! Cheese! Mmmm!

Spinach! Cheese! Mmmm!

Spinach Quiche Casserole

See the picture above? This recipe made 8 servings that size. 

Ingredients:
2 blocks of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
500 ml container of cottage cheese (2% or higher)
1 1/2 cups of cubed old cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup of butter, cut into about 12 chunks
3 tablespoons of flour
salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a bowl, mix the spinach, cottage cheese, old cheddar cheese, eggs, flour, salt and pepper, and half of the butter chunks.
  3. Pour into a glass casserole dish.
  4. Top with the remaining chunks of butter, randomly.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is slightly crisp and everything is gooey and melty.

Notes:
No need to grease the casserole dish ahead of time, trust me. We didn’t use salt or pepper – this turned out perfectly tasty. It is not health-food – it’s full of melted cheese.  I like to think that it’s possible for the huge amount of spinach to somehow negate the melted cheese – but I’m not a scientist.  This should probably be a side-dish but man, we just ATE IT.

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas.

Perhaps it’s becoming obvious that I love spinach? Maybe you’ve noticed that I quite enjoy recipes that include black beans? Here we go again..

Oh, enchiladas!

Oh, enchiladas!

Gooey, spicy, tasty enchiladas with homemade sauce. Ridiculously easy to make and only 20 minutes in the oven. The recipe looks long but most of it is spices – because you can never, ever have too many spices.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients:
Enchiladas
15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups of corn
1 block of frozen spinach, thawed
2 tsp. cumin
3 cups shredded spicy cheese (habanero!)
8 tortillas (whole wheat or white will work)

Sauce
3 cups low (or no-) sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper (to taste)
3 tablespoons of corn starch (+ water)
1 cup of shredded cheese to top

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients, other than the corn starch and cheese, in a large sauce pan. Whisk over medium heat until the tomato paste has been fully dissolved into the liquid. Adjust spices to your preference!
  2. In a small jar with a lid, combine 3 tablespoons of corn starch with enough cold water to create a liquid. Shake the jar until the corn starch is fully dissolved.
  3. Slowly pour the corn starch into the sauce while whisking everything together. Continue to heat the mixture until the sauce has thickened. (If needed, add more corn starch.)
  4. Let the sauce remain on a low heat on the stove while you prepare the enchiladas.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  6. Combine all of the enchilada ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well.
  7. Spoon some filling into the middle of the tortilla and roll it up like a burrito! Repeat for the remaining filling and tortillas.
  8. Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray and add one cup of the sauce to the bottom, spreading it evenly.
  9. Place the rolled-up enchiladas into the pan with their folded sides on the bottom.
  10. Pour the remainder of the sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  11. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: I find that the recipe often makes 10 enchiladas, so I just cram the extras into the pan. Leftovers are ‘okay’ but not fantastic – they can be reheated in a microwave or toaster oven.

The Best Meatloaf Ever.

Growing up, I hated meatloaf. In fact, I wasn’t much of a fan of it in my younger-adult years; I ate it, but I didn’t like it.

Eventually I found a meatloaf recipe that was okay – but which literally took hours to cook in the loaf pan. Then, when it was time to eat, there’d be grease around the edges and the loaf would either fall apart when I tried to plate it or would seemingly glue itself into the pan.  I tried to adjust the ingredients, the cooking time, and.. nope. Since the taste was “okay”, but not awesome, I eventually just stopped making it.

Then I found a new recipe – it looked easier, used ingredients that I already had (and no dry bread crumbs or crackers were in it), and didn’t require me to prise it out of a loaf pan at the end.  I gave it a shot and, over the past year-ish, have made it multiple times. It’s SO good, and SO easy, and clean-up is a breeze.

The only catch is that it looks awful when you remove it from the oven – if you’re serving it to guests, don’t let them see it until it’s ready to eat.

Seriously, here’s what it looks like when it’s fresh out of the oven:

U-G-L-Y, right?

U-G-L-Y, right?

This is a bit flatter than how I normally make it – so it’s also a bit wider – but you can see how some of the glaze has slid off and burnt onto the foil. It does this every time. Quite frankly, this does not look at all like something I’d want to eat.  (One of the great benefits to cooking the loaf this way is that the foil underneath can simply be tossed – leaving no pan to clean after dinner!)

But here’s what it looks like plated:

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

Much better, right? A nice sticky-sweet-spicy glaze on top of the moist, but firm, meat. Seriously – this stuff is SO GOOD.

Here’s a closer look at the meat itself:

20131124_133420

Absolutely perfect meatloaf.

Here’s the recipe. The only substitutions that I make are that I use ground chicken instead of turkey – chicken is easier to find and much cheaper around here – and basmati rice (because we always have that around).

Everyone in my family loves this recipe and would happily eat it every week if I made it. My husband gleefully eats the leftovers (which we don’t often have) for lunch the next day. And in all the times that I’ve made it, nothing has ever gone wrong. It’s foolproof perfect meatloaf!

(Is it becoming obvious that I’m a HUGE fan of BudgetBytes? I am.)