Tag Archives: BBQ

Hormel Extended Family Food Blogger

As some of you may have noticed (though most probably read these posts through some sort of Reader), I’ve added another badge to the lefthand side of the good ‘ole blog. Based on the title of the post, you can probably guess it’s the Hormel Extended Family Food Blogger badge! About a month ago I was contacted and asked if I would like to join in the fun, and I couldn’t refuse! I’ve had quite a few Hormel giveaways on the blog before, and they’ve always been so good to me, I just had to see what else they had to offer. Look what the sent just to get me started!

This month’s challenge was to make a meal using three Hormel ingredients, called Grocery Shopping 101 – Weekend BBQ Challenge. Only after perusing their website did I realize just how much I had to chose from! After some pondering, and assessing what I already had on hand and what was given to me in my “welcome kit,” I came up with the perfect Holiday weekend BBQ menu.

To start, I made some homemade tortillas using Chi-Chi’s burrito sized tortillas (same recipe found here), and had some Chi-Chi’s salsa and also some pico de guaco. I found pico de guaco in the produce section of the grocery store, and it’s exactly what it sounds like; pico de gallo on top of guacamole. It was like killing two birds with one stone, so I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. After enjoying the chips and dip, we moved on to the main course.

I decided to keep it simple and have some Jennie-O turkey burgers, topped with some pepper jack cheese, and of course more pico de guaco. One the side, I decided to make a potato skins potato salad

. My fiancé loathes mayo, so I’m always hard pressed to find a potato salad recipe that doesn’t have that as a main ingredient. I started thinking about potato skins (you know, the ones you get at a bar and grill), and figured I’d try and turn that into a potato salad, since it doesn’t include mayo. It does have bacon in it, and I know how most people feel about that. Well, sweet success! It doesn’t look like much, but oh did it taste delicious.

Of course we had to have some veggies as well, so I marinated some portabello mushrooms and zucchini in balsamic vinegar and grilled those along with the burgers. Unfortunately, there was a serious thunderstorm going on for most of the afternoon, so we wound up doing our grilling inside on the George Forman. I didn’t mind too much, until I heard that our local fireworks were postponed until Friday due to the weather. Thankfully, we got to check out a different town’s fireworks, which was the perfect end to a delicious day!

Potato Skins Salad
– serves 6 –

Ingredients:
3 red skinned potatoes, roughly diced
1 Idaho potato, roughly diced
3 Tbsp red onion, diced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup shredded cheese
6 slices of bacon (I used Hormel ready-cooked)
1 tsp olive oil
tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Combine  diced potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Using a large spoon, make sure each piece of potato is coated with the seasoning. Place on a greased baking sheet. 
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, using a spatula to shake up the  potatoes and move them around at about the 10 minute mark.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked, add them back to the original bowl, and mix in the rest of the ingredients, starting with the onions, followed by the bacon, sour cream and then the cheese. Again make sure everything is well coated.

*Disclaimer: I was provided a welcome kit to be a part of the program, and for this month’s challenge I received a $50 gift card to help cover the cost of food in order to complete the three ingredient challenge. Thanks again, Hormel!

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Summery Tomato Salad

Aside from having both veggie and regular hot dogs and hamburgers for this past Saturday’s BBQ, I made a bunch of different side salads, and of course cupcakes. I have to admit, aside from my fiancé’s super spicy burgers, I think my salads were show stealers. In addition to the Corn & Black Bean Salad I’ve made a few times, I also made a tomato salad, which was awesome. I think this recipe came from Vegetarian Times, but I don’t remember for sure. I of course made some tweaks to what was available, and doubled the recipe. Thankfully, we had some left over, so I’m looking forward to enjoying some of it with a giant ear of corn later!

These fruit and vegetable salads are some of the most flavorful, and easiest dishes I’ve made! Since neither my fiancé or I are fans of mayo (I can eat things with it, but he can’t even be near it) we don’t ever have potato salad or maccaroni salad. So, I’ve been exploring other cook-out and picnic accompaniments, which have been awesome. This recipe suggests to make the dressing the night before and allow it to marinade overnight before combining it with the tomatoes and cucumbers and it’s defintely a suggestion to heed.

I’ve decided that ShopRite really isn’t cutting it for me these days. Unfortunately, we don’t have many other (better) options, aside from Wegman’s. I’d love to be closer to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but I know I’d wind up spending double every trip since they have such an awesome selection. My parents have a Trader Joe’s in their town, so if I’m looking for something specific or just want to treat myself to some yummy goodness, I’ll stop in. My latest problem with StopRite was their lack of heirloom tomatoes. Oh, and the fact that on Friday afternoon when we went after work, they didn’t have any corn left! Thankfully the Stop & Shop near our house had a ton of corn, so we stocked up. Since I didn’t get the heirloom tomatoes, I just used Jersey tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and plum tomatoes – good enough!

So aside from the tomato mishap, the only other difference with this recipe was the cheese. I went with an herb seasoned feta, which was delicious! I also decided not to puree the dressing and just cut the basil into little pieces, and combined it only with 1/2 tsp of oil, leaving out the second two tsp. The salad was a hit, and everyone was asking for the recipe. So here it is!

Heirloom (or any tomato) Summer Salad
– Serves 6-8 –

Ingredients:
Dressing:
2/3 cup of fresh basil leaves (and more for garnish)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Salad:
12 oz. heirloom (or other) peak tomatoes, cut in different shapes
1 medium cucumber peeled & sliced
1/4 cup small red onion, chopped
1 1/2 oz. ricotta salata, crumbled

Directions:
1. Puree basil, garlic, and 1/2 tsp of oil, stir in remaining oil
2. Toss together veggies
3. Pour dressing and combine

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Running and food are a perfect combination

Downtown Westfield is doing something right. At first, you might think to yourself – why on earth would I want to run a 5k at 7pm at the end of July? That’s just asking for torture. Well, perhaps because you’ll get to eat all the pizza you want as soon as you cross the finish line. Yes, as soon as you cross that finish line the first thing on your mind is water and to continue walking, but once the nausea passes and you realize it’s over, hunger sets in.

For the past few years (I believe about 9) Downtown Westfield in New Jersey (my home town!) has been doing a 5k pizza run extravaganza. If you’re unfamiliar with Westfield, it’s a pretty nice town; it’s won the Main Street USA award a few years, the television show Ed was filmed here as well as tid bits of quite a few commercials and movies. It was also called home by the creator of The Addams Family, Langston Hughes, Dave Brown (Giants), Zora Neale Hurston, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe… you get the drift.

This is my second year running the race, and last year it was actually my first 5k, and second road race. It started to drizzle and there was some serious wind and lightning before the start, but I was hopeful it’d hold out until we were done – and it did! I decided to rock my newly acquired No Meat Athlete shirt, which is adorable! Even though I’m not 100% veggie and my fiancé joked it was false advertising, I think the idea behind the shirt, and the fact that I’m at least conscious and mindful about what I eat is what counts!

Happily rockin' my shirt pre-race

I had a little trouble starting MapMyFitness on my iPhone once the race started, so people were pushing me out of the way (rude!). It was honestly one of the rudest races I’ve ever run – people were cutting me off left and right, zig zagging so I couldn’t get in front of them, and elbowing me and invading my personal space! I had a cramp within the first half mile till the end, and my side is actually a little sore from it. But in the end I finished in 25:21, almost a minute faster than my previous PR, set last October. Hoorah! With the heat and humidity, and it being at 7p after a full day of work, I was very pleased.

Down the home stretch... I have no idea how both feet are planted

Once the race was over, my fiancé had a slice of pizza while I guzzled a ton of water, and we focused on trying to cool off. Since the race was in my home town, my parents so graciously offered for us to come over to enjoy dinner from one of my favorite Thai restaurants, Thailand. Being a creature of habit, both my fiancé and I ordered our ususals; I got Pad Kee Mao, and he got the Chicken Pad Thai (nice and spicy, of course). We also all shared an order of spring rolls, and some salad. I’m a huge fan of the salad because it comes with some fried tofu and a delicious peanut dressing. After relaxing a bit more, we shared a caramel pretzel Klondike bar, which are my newest obession. I’ve always been a huge fan of Klondikes, but these are amazing! Crunchy, sweet, and salty are the perfect combination. I highly recommend them.

I’m looking forward to some more deliciousness this weekend, including a trip to the beach tomorrow for our half day with a stop at WaWa, and some type of BBQ on Saturday. Oh yeah, and some running.

Happy healthy nomzing!

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Summertime Nomz

Man, I have been seriously lacking in the blogosphere lately, haven’t I? My sincerest apologies! This whole going back to school while still working full time and simultaneously trying to plan a wedding and somehow still have a life is quite time consuming.

I have to admit, I haven’t done much exciting cooking recently. My time has been spent at a LOT of BBQ’s, and it isn’t even officially summer yet! So, I figured this post could be about two of my favorite things: summer and eating. These are two very broad topics, but I’m referring to their relationship to one another. I mean BBQ’s, ice cream, iced coffee, eating outside and all that other goodness.

In the past two weeks I’ve devoured enough BBQ-style food to last me a lifetime. Hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, grilled chicken, grilled veggies, ribs, and more. There’s just something so wonderful about the smell of a grill, no matter what’s on it cooking. I relish the days where you’re driving with the windows down, and you can smell someone’s grill off in the distance. I think I’ve been craving BBQ food more and more simply because my fiancé and I don’t have a grill. We’re in the process of procuring one from my parents (they’re getting a new one), but we haven’t gotten it yet and are chomping at the bit to use it. I suppose we better pick something phenomenal to grill first!

In addition to summertime food, there’s also summertime drinks. This means lots of iced coffees, teas, lemonades, frozen concoctions, and everyone’s favorite, booze! I myself am a big fan of mojito’s, Patron and pineapple, and margaritas! Other than that, you can probably find me sucking down iced coffee throughout the day. Now, I’m going to have to agree with Shelby from eat, drink, run that iced coffees are a waste of money; how can some frozen water jack up the price nearly a dollar?! Because of that I find myself making iced coffee on most occasions, which is actually pretty easy. I just double brew (so if I need three scoops for hot coffee, I’ll do six instead), and if I have the time, I throw it in the refrigerator for a bit. That way, I don’t need to use as much ice. Delicious!

While I haven’t explored the veggie BBQing world too much, I think I’m going to try it a little more this summer. I’m a big fan of Morningstar Farm’s spicy black bean burgers, and Dr. Praeger’s california burgers, but I think I want to branch out some more. I know Morningstar makes a mean “grillers” version that is apparently pretty close to an actual burger. I’m a little “meh” about veggie hot dogs, mainly because I’m not a huge fan of regular hot dogs either. I’m also looking forward to just grilling a ton of veggies; eggplant, zucchini, squash, corn… yum! Oh, and I’m totally grilling a pizza and getting my salad on. I’m not talking about boring lettuce thrown together. I mean bean salads, pasta salads, and crispy veggie salads. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon some really good side and main dish salad recipes that are pretty easy and straight forward, so I’m definitely looking forward to those, too.

As you can tell, I have big plans for myself in terms of cooking this summer. There’s just something so wonderful about sitting outside (sans bugs, of course) enjoying some good food and drink. Sure, living in New Jersey means probably a lot of bugs, and serious humidity. But every once in awhile we get ourselves the perfect day, and I can’t wait to make good use of it. So feel free to send any good grilling recipes my way, I’m going to be a grill master by the end of the summer – you just wait and see!

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Veggie burgers and Mexican BBQ

Yesterday was seriously delicious.

My parents and I decided to go to lunch in New Brunswick to catch up and talk wedding business. My dad works at Rutgers, so everyone is pretty familiar with the food options in the area. After much debate on what we wanted, we settled on Old Man Rafferty’s. Though I hadn’t been there in easily 10 years, I remember it being pretty good.

I started off with a coconut flavored iced latte. It was topped with
real whipped cream and absolutely delicious. For my entree, I went
with the veggie burger paired with sweet potato fries. My mom got the shrimp salad “boat” and my dad the chicken salad “boat.” My parent’s meals were paired with a Greek salad and pita chips, and looked awesome. My veggie burger was really good. It had a nice char-grilled flavor, but wasn’t over-done. At one point I really questioned if it was veggie – it was impressive! The fries were sliced thin and had the perfect crisp. It was served with a cucumber ranch dip that I used both for my burger and my fries.

Later that evening we decided to head to The Grub Hut in Manville with the usual foodie suspects. BBQ and Mexican in one place?! Not only does it sound amazing, it is amazing. I don’t even know where to start with this place. It’s nothing special on the outside, and even when you walk in; there are a few table and chairs on either side of the doors, and then the kitchen area is wide open with metal everywhere – they don’t hide anything, and they don’t go for looks either. But when the food is that good, does it really matter what the place itself looks like? If you are ever in the mood for smoky, excellently seasoned and perfectly cooked food, and A LOT of it, then I would absolutely suggest The Grub Hut. They actually used to be called The Rub Hut, but added a G in front, probably for the best.

In terms of their menu, it’s pretty impressive; they offer brisket, chicken, pork, Texas link, and ribs all done either in a traditional BBQ way, or Mexican style and served up either in a burrito, flauta, taco, enchilada, or chimichanga. You can even order the mother of all combos and have some BBQ and Mexican heaven together. They offer individual sized meals as well as those you can share with a table, such as a THREE POUND burrito!

The meal started off great with nicely seasoned tortilla chips and an awesome salsa. It is super chunky, and spicy and tangy in a way that most salsa’s seem to miss. I went for the chicken chimichanga, while my fiancé got the ground beef jumbo burrito. They were both HUGE! I was really pleased with my choice of chicken; it was smoky and definitely had a BBQ flavor, but also had a serious kick of Mexican spices. Shoved into a huge tortilla that was fried with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato paired with some sour cream and guacamole = heaven. I only ate about half, and am saving the rest for tomorrow night’s dinner! Everyone else at the table went for the BBQ side; a BBQ chicken sandwich, a platter called “Hog Heaven” that had chorizo, ribs, brisket and pulled pork, and a Pit Master platter that was similar. Most of their entrées come with two sides; they have everything from fried plantains and rice and beans to “loco” fries doused in jalapeños and cheese.

Jefe Grande Chimi

Needless to say we all waddled out of the restaurant, and headed not home, but to Rita’s. Yes, we’re gluttons for punishment and decided to stretch our stomachs just a little more. While everyone else went for ice, I got myself some vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles – my own personal heaven. I only finished about a quarter of it, but it was well worth every bite.

Thankfully, I went for a four mile run today and watched myself in terms of eating, since yesterday was a serious glutton fest. But what can I say? You need one of those every once in awhile!! And I’m definitely planning on going back to The Grub Hut to enjoy some more Mexican BBQ in the future!

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Virgil’s BBQ: Smoky Goodness

Last night a group of us headed into the city to have dinner at Virgil’s BBQ in Times Square. Feeling super touristy, we got the ultimate hit of that when we bought our round-trip NJ Transit tickets. For both my fiancé and I to travel from our train stop in Edison to New York Penn Station, we each paid $24.50. Yes, you read that correctly. Almost 50% more than we paid before the price increase (it was only about $17.50 before!). Needless to say, our trips to the city will be a little less frequent, and probably by car for the foreseeable future.

Despite that little road bump, we definitely enjoyed our dinner. We started off with some hush puppies for the table which were AMAZING. I typically see hush puppies in a ball-like form, but these looked more like mozzarella sticks. They were served with a maple-syrup butter, and I had to use serious restraint not to eat the entire plate. Unfortunately, they were super filling, leaving me little room for my actual meal. As for drinks, they have a lot to offer in terms of beer, wine, margaritas, and mixed drinks. My fiance and I went for their beer flight of Magic Hat (Circus Boy, #9, and Virgil’s), while others got the “June Bug” mixed drink, lemonade, and root beer.

Hush Puppies with Maple Butter

As always, I spent some time prior to our trip familiarizing myself with their menu. It’s weird, I know, but I like to think by previewing the menu beforehand, my decision making is made easier once at the actual restaurant. I decided on the Fish Fry, which was actually their special for the day; it had calamari, scallops, shrimp, monk fish and cod served with homemade waffle chips, cornbread, and two types of creamy tartar sauce. It was really good, but I barely made a dent in it! My fiance went with the two meat combo of Memphis spare ribs and Texas brisket and two sides of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. Some of our other table mates had the barbeque chicken, smoked ham, fried chicken po’boy, and the “pig out” which came with a little bit of everything – bbq chicken, Texas link, ribs, brisket, and two sides!

Fish fry with homemade waffle chips

I don’t think there was much conversation during, or even after our meal – everyone loved everything, and they were STUFFED! We had little room or motivation for anything afterwards, so we wound up heading back home, feeling old and lame.

Two meat combo of ribs & brisket w. mac&cheese and mashed potatoes

I have to be honest that I was a bit worried prior to the trip. Everyone aside from me had been there before, but I had an inkling that based on it’s location (46th St. right across from the giant Toys R Us in Times Square) that it was going to be gimmicky, and really over priced. Turns out that I was almost completely wrong. Yes, it was somewhat expensive, but we got A TON of food, and it definitely wasn’t gimmicky like I expected. So, I would absolutely go back. But this time, I’d get something that was in one of their 1400lb capacity smoker!

Barbeque chicken

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