I’m super-excited today to share some great summer cookout tips from Jack Vogt, Tony Roma’s Pitmaster just in time for the summer barbecue season!
How to prep for an Unforgettable Summer Cookout
Before you fire up the grill, you’ve got to get your backyard kitchen aka THE GRILL prepped and ready. Here’s a checklist to get you set for your first summer cookout:
- Grill. If you already own a grill, drag it out of storage and give it a good scrub. Use a stiff wire brush to scrape off the grate and follow the directions in your grill’s instruction manual for cleaning the rest of the grill. If you’re new to the grilling game, check out this list of grills and smokers from AmazingRibs.com to help you find a grill that matches your needs and budget.
- Fuel. If you’re working with a gas grill, you’ll need to fill your propane tank. While you’re there, grab a spare. You never want to get halfway through grilling the perfect prime rib and discover you’re out of gas. If you have a charcoal grill, pick up a bag of charcoal briquettes, a chimney starter and a few pieces of newspaper to get the fire started.
- Grilling tools. Many stores sell BBQ or grill tool sets, but you can also buy each tool separately depending on what you already have at home. The most important tools to have handy are tongs, a spatula, a basting brush and a fork. You may also want to pick up a few metal skewers for kebabs (and everyone’s favorite dessert – s’mores!).
- Instant Read Thermometer. Using a meat thermometer will ensure your meat is properly cooked – no one wants their guests to leave with a stomachache. A thermometer will also help you gauge when to pull the meat off to avoid an overcooked, dry dinner.
- Flashlight or grill light. If you think your summer party will extend past daylight hours, you’ll need some direct lighting on the grill. You can buy a grill light that clips onto the side of the grill so you can work hands free. If you’re using a flashlight, enlist a friend to assist you.
Now that you’ve got the grill prepped, here are a few of my tested tips to make this summer’s cookouts the most successful (and delicious) yet!
- Choose the best cut. The best cut (and type) of meat may depend on your budget and the number of people at your party, but these three are my favorites.
Baby back ribs are the most tender cut. While they are one of the pricier options, this cut is sure to please your guests. You can start cooking ribs before your guests arrive and finish them on the grill when you’re ready to eat.
Chicken breasts, legs and thighs are all great options if you’re feeding a group. Chicken is less expensive than ribs and it is easy to cook (read: hard to mess up!), so it’s a good choice if you’re a grilling novice.
Beef skirt steak may have a bad reputation as a tough cut of meat, but it can be real crowd pleaser when cooked on the grill. Plus, it can be cooked quickly (about four minutes on each side) so you won’t have to worry about keeping hungry guests waiting.
- Marinate to perfection. Marinades are used to enhance the flavors of your chosen meat and your marinade options are almost limitless. Most marinades consist of a fat (like olive oil), an acid (like citrus or wine), and flavoring (herbs and spices), but as always, there are exceptions to this rule. Whether you are making your own marinade or using a prepared one, you’ll want to make sure you give the meat enough time to soak up all the flavor.
If you’re working with seafood, a short marinating time is best; an hour or two is plenty of time to infuse seafood with flavor. You can soak hard vegetables anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and softer vegetables for about 30 minutes. You have more leeway when it comes to meat, which can be marinated anywhere from one hour to overnight (which may be the most convenient if you are planning a party for a lot of people).
Keep in mind that the thinner the food is cut, the less time it will need to marinate. Marinades that are high in acid also require less time as the acid breaks down tissue and can toughen the meat if left to soak for an extended period of time.
Safety tip: Don’t ever reuse a marinade as it can contain harmful bacteria.
- Seasoning is everything! You may think that since you’ve already marinated your meat, you don’t have to worry about seasoning, but think again! Seasoning with salt and pepper will help bring out the flavors you have infused into the meat. Even if you decide to skip the marinade and go with a dry rub, you still want to make sure you include salt and pepper.
- Pre-cook meat. Before your guests arrive, heat the meat most of the way so all you have to do is finish on the grill. You can also purchase pre-cooked ribs, pulled pork or chicken at your local supermarket. Easy to prepare and ready to serve in about 15 minutes, they’re the perfect option for entertaining, plus you’ll have more time to socialize and more room on the grill for other dishes.
- Maintain the correct temperature. Cooking your meat to the proper temperature can mean the difference between a juicy steak and a dry one. Use your grill’s lid and vents to help you control the temperature.
The difference between using your grill’s lid and leaving it open is like the difference between oven and stovetop cooking. The lid is useful in trapping not only heat, but also smoke and flavor. If you don’t use the lid, you’re only cooking from underneath, which is preferable for thin foods, but not for foods that are more than ¾ inch thick.
Basic rule of thumb: If the food is thin or you need to watch its color, leave the lid off. If it’s over an inch thick, close the lid and use a high quality grill thermometer.
The key to successful grilling is to remain in control of the heat. It’s also important to remember that the charcoal or wood is not the only fuel- oxygen also plays a role. Grills have an intake vent and an exhaust vent, and by manipulating these vents you can control the temperature. The intake damper brings oxygen to the fire, and the exhaust damper helps the intake vent do this, while also allowing gases to escape.
Below are a few recipes to cook on the grill this summer!
Open-faced Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Sandwich
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
- 8 slices Texas Toast
- 4 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, warmed
- 2large onions, thinly sliced
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 8 slices Gouda cheese
- 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 pkg. (2 cups) Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- Preheat grill to medium-high, about 400°-450°F, and lightly oil the grate.
- Place sliced onions into a 6-inch square piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Close foil around onion slices.
- Set foil packets on lower rack of a gas grill or directly on top of hot coals on a charcoal grill. Cook for 30-35 minutes. While waiting for the onions to caramelize, heat Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork as per package instructions.
- Butter both sides of each slice of toast. Layer each with one slice of cheddar cheese, ¼ cup macaroni and cheese, ¼ cup pulled pork, ¼ cup caramelized onions, and one slice of Gouda cheese.
- Working in batches of four, cook the sandwiches until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, about 5 minutes.
- Drizzle with barbeque sauce and enjoy!
Prairie-Style Weddings (Rustic and Romantic Farm, Woodland, and Garden Celebrations) by Fifi O’Neill makes me want to rush outside and start planning a grand party.
Working with talented photography Mark Lohman, O’Neill created a book that is not only gorgeous, but packed full of marvelous, creative notions.
The book’s blurb says: “Rustic barns and gardens are popular settings for the intimate, personalized weddings that are today’s top trend. Stylist Fifi O’Neill knows how to transform such venues into gorgeous “prairie style” celebrations that seamlessly blend ruggedness and elegance. This beautifully illustrated look-book with more than 150 photographs is filled with unique ideas for planning the perfect bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception. From a cheery garden-shed party to a dinner set amid a lush cornfield, Prairie-Style Weddings shows how to achieve an effortless look that is rich in personality and bursting with charm. Ten simple DIY projects add a homespun touch to any wedding event.”
Each page holds a treasure-trove of ideas, pops of color, and a definite romantic feel.
Talk about clever – who would have thought to make a chandelier out of vintage silverware and candles? And I want every single plate in the top photo on the right!
How fun are these chairs for a newlywed couple? Seriously, there are just pages and pages of unforgettable style.
I absolutely love this idea! I can’t even begin to tell you how every girly cell in me screams out to jump into the photo and attend this celebration. The soft pastel colors, the lace, the candles and the chandelier combine for a perfect ideal of romance against the rustic barn setting.
If you are a romantic at heart, love beautiful photography, or host parties, this book is a great selection to add to your collection. Especially, if you’re planning a wedding!
My niece makes a mean angel food cake. When I incorporated “angel cake” into the soon-to-be-released Thimbles and Thistles, I begged her for the recipe and she willingly shared.
If you’ve never had homemade angel food cake (as in completely from scratch) – the effort is worth it!
Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about nine eggs)
1 1/2 cups sifted powder sugar
1 cup sifted flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
Whipping Cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bring egg whites to room temperature.
Sift powdered sugar and flour together three times (Alternate the flour and sugar when putting it into the sifter. It makes sifting easier).
In large bowl beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla, with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Gradually add sugar about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.
Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over beaten egg mixture; fold in gently. Repeat folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths.
Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake on lowest rack in oven for about 40 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.
Immediately invert pan and cool completely, about an hour.
Slide a knife around the side and center of the tube pan. Remove cake to a serving plate. Garnish with berries and whipping cream, if desired. Yield: approx. 8-10 servings.
February is National Hot Breakfast month. Krusteaz officially named every Wednesday night this month “Breakfast Night.”
Krusteaz found in a national survey that nine out of ten Americans claim to eat breakfast for dinner, with 56 percent doing so once a month or more often. Families are even more into the trend with 67 percent of respondents with children saying they have breakfast for dinner once a month or more.
One of the contributing factors to eating breakfast for dinner is the ease of preparation versus a traditional dinner. Families also say it is a fun way to break of the monotony of the usual weeknight dinner.
The folks at Krusteaz were kind enough to send me a box of fun goodies to sample and experiment with. Captain Cavedweller and I enjoyed Breakfast Night last night and I thought I’d share the results with you today!
Post a comment below about your favorite breakfast item or menu and you will be entered to win your own box of goodies from Krusteaz including: Buttermilk Pancake Mix (1), Blueberry Belgian Waffle Mix (1), Chocolate Chunk Muffin Mix (1) and Honey Wheat Pancake Mix (1) as well as Krusteaz coupons for free product. The giveaway will close tonight at midnight, so hurry and post those comments.
Since I’m lazy, I decided to make a breakfast casserole for dinner.
That turned out to be a tasty (and incredibly easy) decision.
Breakfast Sausage Bake
1 cup Krusteaz Light & Fluffy Buttermilk Pancake Mix
2 packages bulk pork sausage (12 ounce each)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tbsp. chopped onion
3 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
2 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese
2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Place in hash browns and pop the pan into the oven as it preheats.
In a heavy skillet, brown sausage with celery and onion. Drain grease. Remove baking dish from oven and mix potatoes with sausage. Sprinkle one cup of the cheese over the meat mixture.
In a large mixing bowl combine pancake mix, milk and eggs until well blended. Pour into baking dish. Do not stir!
Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is lightly browned and a knife inserted comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake an additional minute or two until cheese is melted.
Serve and savor an easy weeknight meal!
Oh – and what’s dinner without a little dessert?
Banana Chocolate Chip Bars
1 box Krusteaz Chocolate Chunk Muffin mix
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 ripe banana, mashed
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease an 8×8 cake pan, set aside.
Divide the muffin mix in half (you should have about three cups total). In a small mixing bowl, combine half the muffin mix with the butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining muffin mix with water, oil, 1 egg and the mashed banana until well blended.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and remaining egg. If you want a sweeter filling, add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top of the crust.
Top with the muffin batter.
Bake for about 35-40 minutes until top is light brown or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar. You can also drizzle with a little chocolate sauce if you want an added chocolate boost (which, of course I did!).
If you happen to have leftovers, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Here it is!
I’m so pleased and honored to be a part of this fun book, out just in time for Valentine’s Day!
The book offers more than 60 recipes and snippets of stories by sixteen of the award-winning authors of Sweet Romance Reads.
If you turn to my section in the book, you’ll find recipes made by Haven Haggarty for Brody Jackson in Love at the 20-Yard Line, along with an excerpt from the story.
Recipes include everything from Filet Mignon to sugar cookies and fudge.
The ebook is only 99 cents!
And where can you find the book chock-full of recipes and stories, you ask?
It will also be available in paperback very soon!
If you haven’t yet, you might like to sign up for the Sweet Romance Reads newsletter. It comes out just a few times a year, but it features some special short stories. I might even have contributed something for the Valentine newsletter… Here is a link: http://www.sweetromancereads.com/ It’s easy to sign up – just scroll down the page until you see “Mailing List” on the right hand side. Enter your email and then confirm. You’re all set!
Just for fun, I’ll give away two copies of the book to anyone who leaves a comment on my facebook page today.
You can leave any comment you like – or tell me if you have a favorite Valentine recipe.
Won Ton S’mores.
That’s right, Won Ton S’mores.
If you’ve never had them, run to the store and get the simple ingredients as fast as humanly possible to rectify the situation!
Are you heading to or hosting a Super Bowl Party this weekend? If so, you’ll be the MVP if you make a batch of these decadent little devils.
The wonderful folks at Nasoya recently gave me the opportunity to test out their Asian Style Wraps. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was “how can I make dessert with these?”
Below, you’ll find the Won Ton S’mores recipe along with a few other tasty treats using Nasoya’s Won Ton and Egg Roll Wraps.
Won Ton S’mores
1 package of Nasoya Won Ton Wraps
1 bag of miniature marshallows
1 bag of miniature chocolate bars
Place one chocolate bar in the center of a wrap then add three marshmallows. Using water or egg white, moisten the edges of the wrap. Fold the corners of the wrap up into the center and press edges to seal.
Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a heavy skillet and warm over medium-heat. When oil is hot, add S’more and fry on each side for just a few seconds, until lightly browned. Remove and drain grease on paper towel, then savor the crispy outside and deliciously gooey inside!
These are incredibly easy and unbelievably tasty. They’ll score a touchdown with all your football fans!
1 package Nasoya Won Ton Wraps
1 pound sausage
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Fry sausage and drain grease.
Mix sausage with cream cheese and shredded cheese. Set aside.
Line a mini-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps by gently folding a wrap into each muffin cup. Spoon sausage mixture into each wrap and bake for about eight minutes, until edges of the wrap are brown.
Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls
Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls
1 package of Nasoya Egg Roll Wraps
1 pound of hamburger
1 cup of bacon bits
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Season hamburger with your favorite seasonings and brown. Drain. Mix with bacon bits and cheese. Spoon about two tablespoons of meat mixture onto the center of an egg roll wrap in a rectangle. Fold the end of the wrap nearest you into the center. Fold in the two side edges, then roll the wrap, sealing the edges by moistening with water or egg whites (I used water, and it worked fine).
You can either bake or fry these.
If baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about eight minutes or until edges start to brown.
If frying, heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry one side, then the other (takes about a minute total).
Serve with a side of ketchup or barbecue sauce for dipping.
1 package of Won Ton Wraps
1 can of fruit pie filling
*Note – You can use any flavor of canned pie filling.
Spoon a heaping teaspoon of pie filling into the center of a Won Ton wrap. Top with a second wrap. Moisten the edges of the wraps and fold them inward. Moisten the new “edge” and fold it inward a second time. Using a fork, crimp the edges to make sure they are sealed.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry each side for about 30 seconds, or until brown. Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar then stand back and watch them disappear!
Enjoy the Super Bowl and party safely!
Posted in Appetizers, Desserts, Easy Recipes, entertain, Entertaining at Home, Party Theme | Tagged Nasoya Wraps, Savvy Entertaining, Shanna Hatfield, Super Bowl, Super Bowl Appetizers, Super Bowl Desserts, Super Bowl Food, Super Bowl Ideas | Leave a Comment »