Backyard BBQ: Ribs

We enjoyed these ribs yesterday for Father’s Day! I wish I could take credit for this delicious sauce – it was fabulous! I found the recipe on Food Network. I did change the cooking instructions to start with baking – I think it makes ribs more tender and you still have the wonderful grilled flavor from finishing on the grill. I would probably make these with baby backs next time…and there will be a next time! As I note, I did not use an entire can of chipotles – add them until you reach your desired heat level.

(Cooking Method adapted – Recipe from
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1 cup honey
2 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 (7-ounce) can chipotles in adobo sauce
3 pounds country style pork ribs, bone in

In a food processor, combine honey, ketchup, ginger, and 5 chipotles with adobo sauce. Blend until smooth. Taste and add remaining chipotles, or more honey, if desired. If sauce is too thick, thin with a little water or apple juice. Pour half of the sauce over the pork and reserve the rest. Marinate for at least 4 and up to 24 hours.

Bake at 300 degrees for 2-3 hours. Prepare a grill or grill pan. Grill the pork ribs until cooked to desired doneness. Some charring on the pork is delicious. Brush with some of the reserved sauce. Remove pork from heat and slather with remaining sauce or serve sauce alongside.

Counter Culture

Just stepping in briefly to say hello and give you a glimpse into my kitchen in the past month. While I haven’t been able to participate in the November Magazine Review, I have been enjoying browsing through the food magazines and drooling at the amazing line-up of recipes. Midwest Living and Cooking Light were my favorites.

One Sunday this past month we enjoyed a pork roast with a dried fruit sauce that came from Southern Living. It was simple to make and not very time consuming. The results looked outstanding on the plate.

I have a cardboard box on the floor of the kitchen filled with my stash of fall squash: butternut, cheese pumpkin, acorn, and pie pumpkin. Some of the squash found their way to the mantel for my fall decoration. We’ll eat those in December and January. The recipe below was from Rachael Ray (October I think). Butter, brown sugar, and herbs formed a sweet/savory coating on these acorn squash wedges.

Mustard greens recently came in my CSA. They looked different from the ones in the grocery store. I was so surprised to find they were mild and delicious when sautéed with onion and olive oil.

The kids and I are working on US geography this year — studying one state a week. The highlight for me is finding food specific to each state. Rhode Island was our last state and we ate “pizza strips” with “coffee milk.” I can hardly believe they call cold, sauce-less pizza a delicacy. Ours was warm, and it was good.

Something I haven’t made in many years is Cornish Pasties. I used to make them regularly for picnics as they are delicious and filling. Needing a portable dinner for a trip I decided to pull them out of the file. I used whole wheat flour for the pastry and they tasted great!

(The Picnic Gourmet)
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1 lb. raw beef cut into ¼” cubes
3 raw potatoes, diced
5 green onions minced (or one small reg. onion)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
dash pepper
seasonings of your choice: garlic powder, steak seasoning, etc.

1 c. butter
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
ice water

Mix together the filling ingredients.

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in butter and mix with hands until small crumbs form. Add ice water to make a workable dough. Knead a few times. Divide into small balls. Roll balls into circles. Place a spoon or two of meat filling to one side of the circle. Dip your finger in water and “paint” the edge of the circle.  Fold dough over to form half circles. Seal edges. Brush with milk. Bake at 425 for one hour.

Serves 8. Easily halved.

Another recipe I recently tried recently was Butternut Squash with Pecans and Vanilla. It was nice, but next time I’ll throw the vanilla extract in at the end so we can taste it more.

The apples leftover from my orchard trip were slowly turning nasty. The answer to that problem was pies. Lots of them. Yum, yum, yum! Pie for breakfast three days in a row is such a treat! (I used part whole-wheat crust and only a dab of honey to sweeten them.)

I can’t believe I’ve had zinnias blooming up to the first week of November! They brighten our table and mix well with the pumpkins.

I hope you all are eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving and thinking ahead to what you’re going to cook!

Weekend Fare & A Giveaway

Last night I made this scrumptious pizza – pizza dough, drizzled with olive oil, topped w/sliced fresh tomatoes (from our garden), scattered w/fresh chopped basil, seasoned w/salt & pepper, topped w/Italian blend shredded cheese, and finished w/leftover chopped grilled chicken. Yum. It was fresh and delicious. So there you have an idea for a sauceless pizza…had I grilled it, I have not doubt it would have been in my top favorite pizzas of all time. Anyway…

Homemade pork burgers are a delicous alternative to the classic hamburger. I created these one night with some ground pork from the farmer’s market. We all enjoyed the sweetness added through the red pepper and the twist on a grilled burgers.

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1 lb. ground pork
1/2 red onion (or any onion will do), finely chopped
1/4 red pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
1 egg
lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup, mustard (opt.)

Combine all ingredients. Grease & pre-heat grill or grill pan. Divide meat mixture into 6 patties. Grill until thoroughly cooked. Serve on a bun or lettuce with desired toppings. Enjoy.



It’s about time for another giveaway! I’m not sure I want to actually give this book away – it’s so fun and has such great, do-able ideas for entertaining. Without further ado, here it is:

Doesn’t it just make you want to plan a party just from the cover? Party Food has plenty of delicious-sounding recipes for your next dinner party or birthday bash and the beautiful photos will inspire your creativity.  

– Leave a comment on this post telling us anything you would like related to cooking, the blog, an ingredient, or whatever topic you would like.
– Make sure we have a way to contact you!

For additional entries (just leave us a comment telling us which ones you have done!):
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– Add us to your blog roll.
– Join our facebook group – The Cooks Next Door.
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There you go! You could earn as many as 7 entries. And if you already are in our group, subscribe etc, let us know and we will add in the extra entries!

I will close this giveaway on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 and randomly choose a winner. All the best!

Weekend Fare: 4th of July!

The 4th of July just seems to be the essence of summer. Cooking out, eating fresh foods, enjoying ice cream, and dining outdoors are just a few of the wonderful parts of this season! Today I’m sharing three recipes that will be great for your weekend bbq: baby back ribs, baked beans, and a summer cocktail.

A friend of ours makes the most amazing ribs ever. He told me the secret to them is slowly baking them first. I don’t make them often but I always follow his advice!

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1 rack of baby back pork ribs
salt & pepper
olive oil
bbq sauce of choice (homemade or bottled – I used a fabulous local honey bbq sauce)

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Drizzle olive oil on ribs and season with salt and pepper. Bake pork in a disposable aluminum pan or a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until tender.

Prepare grill. Liberally brush the ribs with bbq sauce and put on the grill. Brush with bbq sauce every 5-6 minutes. Cook ribs for 30-45 minutes until charred and very tender. Enjoy!

Side note – the company (Local Folks Foods) makes amazing bbq sauce and ketchup with local, fresh ingredients! We love them!


These are vegetarian baked beans but they would be quite awesome with bacon, too.

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2 cans cannelini (white) beans
1/2 c. red onion, diced
1/2 c. bbq sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 Tb. prepared mustard
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 Tb. lemon juice
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until sauce is thickened.

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coarse salt
1/4 c. vodka
1/4 c. fresh squeezed key lime juice
1/4 c. fruit juice or nectar (I used strawberry nectar)
key lime carbonated water

Dip rim of a tall glass in vodka and then coarse salt. Fill glass with ice. Pour in vodka, lime juice, and fruit juice. Add carbonated water to top of glass. Stir if desired. Makes 1 cocktail.

Off The Shelf: The Kitchen Diaries

It’s that time of year when many of us begin to think of calendars, schedules, and diaries for the new year. Today’s book, The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, is a great book to consider starting to read in the new year.

Nigel Slater is a very gifted food writer. As the cover to The Kitchen Diaries says, Nigel writes “about food in a way that stimulates the imagination, the heart, and the palate all at once.” Nigel has written several cookbooks (including a favorite of mine called Appetite) and writes a popular column for the UK newspaper The Observer.

The Kitchen Diaries is exactly what it says it is: it’s a record of what Nigel cooked and ate for one year, complete with recipes and mouth-watering pictures. The book is broken down into months, so you can either read the book from cover to cover, or just glance at the current month’s recipes. Of course Nigel is a big fan of seasonal cooking, so this doubles as a seasonal idea and cookbook. Even if you have no intention of cooking any of Nigel’s recipes, this book is still a good read in terms of food descriptions.

Here are some tempting items from the book:

January: Onion soup without tears, Chicken broth with noodles, lemon and mint, Sausage with salami and lentils
February: Chicken patties with rosemary and pancetta, Hot chocolate puddings, Braised lamb with leeks
March: Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce and ginger, Chickpea and sweet potato curry, Chocolate almond cake
April: Thai fish cakes, Thyme and feta lamb, Lemon trifle, Bramley apple shortcake
May: Lemon and basil linguine, Orange and ricotta pancakes, Asparagus and lemon risotto
June: Chicken and rice salad, Radish, mint and feta salad, Strawberry mascarpone tart
July: A soup of roasted summer vegetables, Zucchini cakes with dill and feta, A lunch of baked tomatoes
August: Grilled chicken with lemon and couscous, Mozzarella grilled with fennel, Bread and tomato salad
September: A moist, fresh plum cake, Baked mushrooms with tarragon mustard butter, Tomato curry
October: Carrot salad, Ham and butter beans, Roast eggplant with tahini
November: Roast squash with thyme, Baked onions with parmesan and cream, Blackberry and apple pie
December: Sauteed chicken with spices, fennel and cream, Bean sprout salad with cilantro and mint, Passion fruit roulade

I decided on an Herb Butter for Grilled Chops which comes from the January section. The recipe calls for blue cheese, which is taboo when one is pregnant, so I had to forego it in place of feta. Next time I would try substituting and herbed goat cheese. But, I’m also going to try it again sometime when I can eat the blue cheese! Being winter, I didn’t want to grill my pork, so I seared it in a pan and then transferred it to the oven to finish cooking.

Here are Nigel’s exact words:

“I make a quick herb butter with equal amounts of blue cheese and butter (I use 1/2 cup of each), mashed with a tablespoon each of fresh thyme leaves and Dijon mustard, then stir in a couple of Tablespoons of heavy cream and a grinding of black pepper. It sits in the fridge till supper, when I lay thick slices of it on grilled pork steaks. The cheese butter melts over the charred edges of the chops, making an impromptu sauce to mop up with craggy lumps of sourdough bread.”

Holiday Feast: Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner is for many the major food attraction of the entire holiday season. Every family has their own tradition — some may prefer a day of finger foods and snacks, while others go all out and prepare a second Thanksgiving feast. The important thing is choosing a menu that is best for your family and your circumstances. We thought we’d each share some of what is traditional in our families.

In my family (Heather), Christmas dinner is a big event. Its menu is planned for weeks ahead and thought is given to setting the table with  festive tablecloth, napkins and a centerpiece. It is not set in stone what our menu will be. Creative reign is given to the host to decide if she would like to cook a turkey, ham, or some other form of meat. Why all the fuss? Our family loves sitting around the table sharing good food, enjoying lovely surroundings and one another’s company.

Last year I decided to make a stuffed pork loin for Christmas dinner. It was not difficult and provided a stunning centerpiece to the Christmas dinner. This year I’m thinking ham, accompanied by a potato/parsnip gratin (recipe yet to be created), spinach salad with grapefruit and maybe spiced pepitas, rolls, savory roasted sweet potatoes (if I have oven room), and chiffonade of Brussel sprouts. Dessert will be cookies, eggnog and Christmas pudding (a simple recipe will appear on Dec. 24).


1 boneless half roast pork loin (mine weighed about 5 pounds)

4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
salt & pepper
3 c. fresh white bread cubes (1/4-inch cubes)
1/8 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. water or broth

apricot jam
fresh rosemary, sage, thyme (about 1 Tbsp. each or 1 tsp. dried)

pan drippings
1/4 c. port or red wine (use water or apple juice as a substitute)
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apricot jam (or apple jelly)
2 tsp. cornstarch

Melt butter in a saute pan and tip in onions and celery. Cook until onions are translucent. Add apple and cook until apple is beginning to go soft.

Meanwhile, cube bread and place in a large bowl. Add dried cranberries and chopped herbs. Mix in cooked apple and onion mixture and pour on enough broth to make the mixture come together.

Lay the pork loin on a cutting board and carefully begin cutting the loin in a spiral so that it unfolds to be flat.

Place kitchen twine at intervals underneath the pork loin and carefully pat on the stuffing.

Roll the pork loin up slowly, stuffing bits of bread back in as it falls out. Enlist the help of someone close by to help tie the twine as tightly as possible.

Place the pork loin in a roasting pan with the knots of the twine underneath. You can either cover and refrigerate up to one day, or bake the roast immediately.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Spread apricot jam on top of the pork loin and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Roast uncovered in the 350F oven until instant read thermometer reads 160F (mine took about 2 hours). Remove the roast from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm while it rests.

Meanwhile, mix the pan drippings with the port, chicken broth and apricot jam. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to the gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until thickened and keep warm until ready to serve.

Slice the pork roast and lay on a platter, pouring the gravy over top or serving alongside.

Christmas dinner for my family (Alaina) can be anything from lasagna or soup to ham or beef. Traditionally, my grandparents have made ham and I’ll admit that is probably my favorite. I like to buy the spiral cut, semi-boneless, half ham. It’s usually fully cooked and I just heat it in the oven for a couple of hours depending on the size.


1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dijon mustard
2 Tb. prepared yellow mustard

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat. Brush glaze over the entire ham about 30 minutes before it is finished in the oven. Carve & enjoy!

Finding the perfect side dishes can be a challenge. Here are two side dishes that we really enjoy with ham! The first is a twice baked potato recipe that is a beautiful presentation and tastes so wonderful!

(this is a recipe my Mom first made – Alaina)

4 lg baking potatoes (8 servings)
vegetable oil
2 Tb.butter
½ c. sour cream
¼ c. milk
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 Tb. Chives (opt.)

Rub potatoes with oil and place in baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until tender. Cool completely. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp leaving ¼ in. shell; set shells aside.

In mixing bowl combine pulp, butter, sour cream, & milk; beat until creamy. Stir in salt, pepper, and 1 Tb. Chives. Spoon or pipe filling into half of each prepared shell.

4 medium sweet potatoes
¼ c. sour cream or plain yogurt
2 Tb. Butter
2 Tb. Brown sugar
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt

Bake or peel and boil sweet potatoes until tender. Put pulp in large bowl and add sour cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Whip until creamy and smooth. Pipe sweet potato in the other half of the prepared potato shells.

Return potatoes to baking pan – bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.

*These can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to a couple of months.*

(adapted from Taste of Home – Alaina)

1 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 med. onion, finely diced
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a lg. bowl, whisk the flour, eggs, milk, butter, onion, Parmesan, garlic, salt and cayenne until combined. Fold in spinach and other cheese. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 qt. dish.

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes of until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

The final recipe is for an appetizer. I came up with this because it combined flavors that I love.


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 20 oz. wheel of brie
1/2 c. cherry jam
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1 egg, beaten

Roll out the puff pastry into a square (about 12×12 or a little smaller). Cut the wheel of brie horizontally. Place half of the brie rind side down on the puff pastry. Top with cherry jam, sprinkle with the almonds.

Place the other half of the brie on top (cut side down). Pull the puff pastry up around the brie. Brush the top with the beaten egg.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden and cheese is soft. Serve with crackers.