Back in Ohio, I had a lot of things. A house. A yard. Shrubbery. The whole kit and kaboodle. Sure, most people save downsizing til they’re empty-nesters, but me? Oh, no. I cut ties with three-quarters of my belongings at age 26, leaving behind my beloved hedging shears, lawn gnomes, and my beautiful propane grill (complete with double burners), and headed south. Since then, I’ve dreamed of the day I’d once again cook over an open flame, just me, my meat, and the great outdoors.
I spent the Memorial Day weekend at home in Ohio, and one morning I convinced my dad to teach me how to light a charcoal grill. As a soon-to-be-thirty, self-declared independent woman, I’m ashamed to publicly announce my ineptitude in this area. But standing in the backyard, listening to him explain the mechanics of the offset smoker while the flames licked at the mound of coals put a fire in my belly.
And when I returned home to Charlotte, this:
Even before I’d taken the grill out of the box, I invited a few friends over for sausage party. I stocked my fridge full of Johnsonville brats, opened up a bottle of wine, and got to assembling my new grill.
In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to give the ole grill a trial run. Nothing like going at it green with a crowd full of hungry bystanders. Though my dad had showed me how easy it was to light a charcoal grill using a charcoal chimney, I was overcome with a sudden confidence in the grilling aisle at Lowes, and when I picked up the chimney to put it in my cart, I thought, “oh, no, I got this,” and put the chimney right back on the shelf. Flash forward a few hours later, with the aforementioned starving bystanders, and me with nary a chimney, shred of newspaper, or drop of lighter fluid in sight.
An hour and one burnt thumb later, there was ash-covered charcoal… sort of.
Several mistakes were made this day, but I did do one thing right. Friends, ALWAYS have snacks on hand. The simple Johnsonville Andouille smoked sausage and caramelized onion pizza I threw together kept my friends from rioting while we faltered with the grill. This is sausage and onions done right. Classy, even.
And after two hours of “grilling” we FINALLY sat down and enjoyed some Johnsonville original brats plus some brat-stuffed jalapeno peppers. And you know what? It was fantastic. Even with all the flubs, as long as you don’t pierce the brat with a fork and leach it of its juices, that thing is sure to be delicious.
(As soon as everyone left, I logged onto Amazon and ordered a charcoal chimney.)
Back in 2010, I made a personal vow to focus on healthy eating (read all about it here). This was a challenge for me, the girl who considers bread, brie, and wine a square meal, so I started with small things, like packing a homemade lunch each day, instead of relying on Lean Cuisines and fast food. Slowly, I established a routine of making healthy choices whenever I was the one in control of the preparation (well, MOST of the time, anyway), which lets me enjoy eating at restaurants without worrying quite so much about all the salt and the butter and delightful carbohydrates I’m consuming.
One of my healthy eating goals for 2014 is to incorporate more kale into my diet, as part of the Kale Up campaign. Kale is a green I’ve shied away from in the past, other than occasionally tossing a few handfuls into a nice bean soup. Kale is a very hearty green — you don’t have to worry about it going limp or getting soggy. I often find kale salads are even better when the kale has a bit of time to “marinate” in the dressing.Read More
Ohhhh pork. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Wait. Did I mention barbecue?
Seriously, though. Pork tenderloin is a super simple, oober delicious and versatile cut of meat. My all-time favorite tenderloin recipe is my Sweet Chili Pork Tenderloin. Roasting the pork in the oven is so simple (arguably fool-proof), I decided to use the same approach for this recipe, which utilizes some of those sweet summer tomatoes starting to pop up in the markets.
This is the first of five pork recipes I’ll be creating for the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network in 2014. Did you even know there was such a thing? Admittedly, I did not, but when the Pork Council comes a knockin on your inbox, you say YES, PLEASE.Read More
My passion for barbecue was discovered late in life, at the ripe age of 26, at the very same time and the very same instant I discovered my soulmate of the meat variety. PORK. Thank you Charlotte, for introducing this Ohio girl to your precious piggy bounty, abundant sauces, and deep-rooted opinions on all things ‘cue.
Though it greatly annoys me when a recipes calls for two cups of “your favorite barbecue sauce,” I’ve never attempted to make my own before now. It’s something I’ve left to the professionals (aka Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue joint in town). I favor BBQ sauces that are heavy on the vinegar (that’s eastern NC style for you BBQ neophytes), but I’m also coming around to the sweeter, ketchup-based sauces. So this recipe, my first ever BBQ sauce, is a mash-up of the two, a combo that’s united with a heavy hand of Four Roses Bourbon. Bourbon and barbecue? Puh-lease.Read More
So, kale. It gets lots of buzz in the health food world, and it should. It’s loaded with calcium, vitamins A, C, and K, anti-cancer carotenoids and flavonoids, and it’s been shown to help lower cholesterol. But, uh, it’s kale, and people aren’t always sure what the heck to do with it. The good news is the options are vast: make a salad with a warm vinaigrette, add a bagful to soup or stew, wilt it down with garlic and serve it as a side , throw it in your frittata or fruit smoothie (seriously!), add it to pasta, or make a kale and caramelized onion grilled cheese, if you please.
A few weeks back, I got an email asking me to make my 2014 the year to KALE UP. I’m down for healthy food challenges, so I checked out the KALE UP site, to see what this campaign was all about. Their first blog post introduces kale as your “new friend with benefits” and explains the year to “kale up” means finding easy ways to get kale in your daily life.
I suggest we all start with these 120 calorie savory cheddar-kale scones–they’re a tasty way to score some kale points for the day.Read More
It is with great remorse that I recall how late bolognese entered my life. Yes, there was a time when “bolognese” just sounded too fancy, too French, for my liking. But if there’s one way to get me to eat something, it’s slipping it into lasagna, right there between the layers of pasta and creamy cheese. And for this very thing, I say THANK YOU to Papa Joe’s (one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Akron, Ohio) for their bechamel lasagna with bolognese. It was love at first bite, as they say.
For the record, bolognese is not French. It is, in fact, a hearty Italian meat sauce. I’ve come so far.
I succumbed to eating bolognese without much arm twisting, but I didn’t attempt to cook the sauce myself until I sat in on a cooking class with my friend Keia (her blog: Ink and Fork) at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen at the Atherton Market this fall.
Here’s the deal. This sauce takes time. The more time you put into the sauce, letting it gently simmer on the stove, the richer the flavors will be. The good news is the sauce gives you an excuse to open a nice bottle of red wine (as if you needed an excuse…), and you, lovely chef, can enjoy the remainder of that bottle while the sauce slowly cooks down. It’s precisely the sort of relaxing kitchen moment I crave.
This sauces freezes well, and even if you double the recipe, you’ll still have plenty of wine to drink, so go for it, friend. For my bolognese, I like a medium to full-bodied dry red wine, like the Alamos Malbec I used in this batch. Whatever varietal you choose, make sure to pick a wine you’d actually enjoy drinking. Which is exactly what I did with the rest of my Malbec… This one is going into my regular rotation!
Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen — Healthy & Sustainable cooking classes
If you’re looking for a fun date night or girls night out, check out Chef Alyssa’s cooking classes. Chef Alyssa does an awesome job of breaking down intimidating recipes into easy, step-by-step chunks. Keia and I had a great time in the class, and this bolognese recipe is one I’ll be making for years to come. Check out the class schedule here.
Heat oil in a heavy pot over (or large saute pan) medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
Add beef and pancetta (or bacon); saute, breaking up the meat with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine and balsamic and boil for 2 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits.
Add the stock and tomato paste. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Finish sauce by adding the milk, then bring to a simmer until absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a large saute pan.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cupful of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the bolognese sauce. Turn heat to medium-high, toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a few splashes of the pasta water to loosen it up. Top with parmesan and parsley before serving.Read More