Anything that combines the words jalapeno popper + mac and cheese has to be good, right? I found this recipe on a great BBQ site at HeyGrillHey.com. We threw this on the smoker and paired it with our Smoked Sloppy Joe’s for an easy and delicious meal. I knew this one was going to be great when it started with a cast iron skillet…

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 link uncooked bratwurst, casing removed
2 fresh jalapenos, seeds removed and finely diced
1, 8 ounce package cream cheese
8 ounces of uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (note: I substituted the 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream for 2 cups half & half)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of your favorite sweet BBQ rub

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a mild wood like pecan or maple.

On your stove top, preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Brown the bacon and sausage, stirring and breaking it up as it cooks. Stir in the diced jalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften.

Stir in the cream cheese and mix until melted and well combined. Add in the uncooked macaroni, water, milk and cream. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles have absorbed a majority of the liquid (about 8-10 minutes).

Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and shredded cheese, mixing until the cheese is melted.

Sprinkle the top with the sweet BBQ rub, the crushed crackers and the thin jalapeno slices.

Place the skillet in the smoker, uncovered, and smoke for 30 minutes. At this point you can bump the temperature up to 400 and cook for an additional 8-10 to brown the topping, or you can transfer the pan to your kitchen oven for that task.

This is a dish that I will definitely use as a base for experimentation. I’d like to try using a variety of different meats, cheeses and spice combinations to vary the dish. It’s sure to become a favorite side dish!

Grammy

If you’re like me, you eat a lot of oatmeal. I like oatmeal, and eat it for my health, but, like to make it an enjoyable experience. That means I experiment with add-ins and spices to make my morning oatmeal experience more exciting.

I love chai spiced anything. I started using it with my tea, moved on to desserts, and now like to find ways to include it in some of my healthier food options. Adding it to both the oatmeal and the apples in this recipe satisfied my chai cravings without completely breaking my healthy diet plan. As with all of my recipes, I am providing amounts that suit MY taste, but feel free to experiment so that the end result suits your taste.

INGREDIENTS:

For the oatmeal:

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats (you can use whatever oats you prefer for your oatmeal)
1 scant tablespoon chai spice

For the apples:

3 medium apples, cored and diced with peeling on
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon low-calorie butter or spread (I use Brummel and Brown)
1 scant tablespoon chai spice

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a large saucepan add water and chai spice. Mix the spice into the water to distribute. Bring the water to a boil. Add the 1 cup steel cut oats and lower heat to a simmer. Cook about 25 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. (Note: If you like a sweeter oatmeal, you can add some brown sugar (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) or a brown sugar blend like Truvia, to the water with the spice.)

In a small skillet, add the water and the apples. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to soften. Add the honey, butter and chai spice to the apples. Continue to stir until the liquid begins to thicken and develops a nice golden color.

Serve oatmeal with the apples spooned over the top. This recipe makes about 4 servings.

When working with spices, it’s important to taste as you go. A tip is to begin with half of what a recipe calls for, taste, and then add more if desired. Taste is a personal thing, especially with a bold spice like chai.

Grammy

Finally, it’s that time of year again when I can start making all of my chili, soup and stew recipes. These are some of our family’s favorite meals. This White Chicken Chili recipe is one I got from AllRecipes.com years ago and was one inspired by the dish served at Cha Cha’s Restaurant. I’ve never eaten at Cha Cha’s, but I can attest to the great flavor and budget friendly appeal of this version. It’s important to stir the Monterey Jack cheese into the hot chili broth – it makes a scrumptious, creamy chili bowl and you’ll be sure to go back for seconds!

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1, 4 oz. can jalapeno peppers (I use the jarred, diced jalapenos in mine)
1, 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
3 (15 ounce) cans white beans of your choice (I use navy beans)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Fritos corn chips
Sour cream and sliced jalapenos for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute until tender. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender and all ingredients are well mixed, about 3 minutes.

Mix the chicken broth, chicken and white beans (with their juice) in a large Dutch oven or soup pan. Add in the onion, peppers and spice mixture. Simmer on low about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When ready to serve, remove from heat. You can add the cheese to the pan and stir until mixed before serving individual portions, or you can allow each person to add the cheese to their bowl in the amount they want. We do the individual portion method at our house. Some like more, some like less, some don’t want cheese at all. Serve with extra shredded cheese, Fritos, sour cream and jalapenos as add-ins.


I make this dish even easier by cooking chicken breasts in advance, dicing it into pieces, and measuring out the amount I need for recipes before freezing. This cuts your time for prepping dishes like this one in half.

Grammy

One of my favorite food bloggers posted a recipe this morning claiming that these cookies are “the best cookies I’ve ever made.” As she said, that’s a big statement from someone who wrote a cookie cookbook. So, of course, I had to bake them and see if her claim was valid. There’s a really good reason that I’m addicted to Sally’s Baking Addiction. She never leads me astray. Maple and brown sugar are two of my favorite flavors for fall. I’m going to have to agree with Sally. These cookies are probably some of the best cookies I’ve ever made (or eaten). Her recipe follows:

INGREDIENTS:

For the cookies:

2 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

For the frosting:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer , cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and beat on high until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and maple extract, then beat on high speed until combined.

Pour the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix on low until combined. Add the pecans, then beat on low speed until combined. Dough will be creamy and soft.

Cover and chill the dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator (and up to 3-4 days). If chilling for longer than a few hours, though, allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking because the dough will be quite hard.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. 

Roll cookie dough into balls, about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough per cookie. Bake each batch for 12-13 minutes until lightly browned. The centers will look very soft.

Remove from the oven. If your warm cookies look puffy, lightly bang the pan on the counter when you remove it from the oven. That will help slightly deflate the cookies, creating lovely cracks as you see in the pictured cookies. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and maple syrup together, whisking occasionally. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sifted confectioners’ sugar. Taste. Add a pinch of salt, if desired. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Icing will set after about 1 hour.

Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Note: This frosting is wonderful, but you have to work quickly when drizzling on the cookies as it sets up quickly. If it gets a little too stiff to drizzle, you can pop it in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to loosen it up.

Grammy

If you like a little spice in your breakfast food, introducing Andouille sausage is a great way to add a bit of a kick to your morning routine. This is a super easy breakfast and yet it’s something you can feed family or guests and make a pretty and impressive plate.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Andouille sausage, quartered length way and diced
1/2 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 medium red pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
1/3 cup half and half
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
kosher salt
Tabasco (optional)
Cajun seasoning (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion, peppers and Andouille sausage. Cook until veggies are just tender and sausage has browned slightly. Break the 6 eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk with the half and half and about a teaspoon of salt. Be careful how much salt you add as the sausage is heavily seasoned. It’s always easy to add more later, but hard to fix if you over season now. If you like a little added kick, add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce or a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to the egg mixture.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet with the sausage and veggies. Move the eggs about the pan as the eggs set, making sure the bottom doesn’t get brown. After the eggs have begun to set, but not quite done, add the cheese. Continue moving the mixture in the pan until the cheese melts. Remove pan from heat.

Serve immediately garnished with a bit of shredded cheese and sliced green onion.

Want to make this recipe even easier? Dice all your veggies and sausage the day before and have them ready in the refrigerator to grab in the morning.

Grammy

This is one of the easiest, yet most impressive, meals you can serve on a holiday weekend. With very little labor and prep, you can feed a number of people a healthy portion of shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. The key is really have it all ready to add to the pot at the right time and standing ready so you don’t overcook the shrimp. I use the standard recipe from OLD BAY as my guide, but I add more or less of various ingredients to suit our personal tastes. Yum!

INGREDIENTS:

4 quarts (16 cups) water
1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons salt
8 medium red potatoes, quartered
2 large onions, cut into wedges
2 pounds lean smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces
8 ears fresh corn, shucked and halved crosswise
4 pounds jumbo (21 to 25 count) shrimp, shells on
Cocktail Sauce and lemon wedges for serving

INSTRUCTIONS:

Bring water, Old Bay Seasoning and salt to boil in 12-quart stockpot on high heat. Add the potatoes and onions and cook about 8 minutes. Add smoked sausage and cook for 5 minutes. Add corn and cook for 7 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook for 4 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.

Scoop the shrimp, sausage and fixings out of the liquid and onto a large platter or serving dish. Serve it with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce.

You can use whatever type of smoked sausage you like. I use Cajun Andouille sausage because we like a little extra spice.

Grammy

This is a recipe from my mother-in-law and it is a very well “traveled” cake. When she had zucchini in abundance, she would make these, wrap them well and freeze them. She nearly always brought one with her when she and my father-in-law came to visit us in Missouri. It’s a very easy recipe, uses pantry staples and can be adjusted to accommodate those who have gluten allergies by simply replacing the all-purpose flour with a good GF cup-for-cup replacement flour.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup “sour” milk (add 1 tsp. white vinegar to milk and let stand for a few minutes to thicken)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup grated coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cream together butter, oil and sugar. Incorporate the eggs, vanilla and sour milk until well blended. Add the dry ingredients. Stir in the shredded zucchini. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

To freeze, cool cake completely. Turn out of pan onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then with foil. Let defrost at room temperature before serving.

Grammy

I set out to find a recipe that would allow me to use some of my leftover smoked pork loin. After all, variety is the spice of life, right? This recipe for Easy Garlic Ginger Glazed Sticky Pork came from the FoodieWithFamily.com site. This was an easy recipe made with ingredients I had on hand, including my leftover pork loin, and the finished product rivaled a Chinese restaurant dish you’d want to order again and again. Serving note: I served this with a side of sauteed baby spinach dressed with a few dashes of sesame oil. You need a fresh vegetable like spinach or broccoli to balance the sweet spiciness of this dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 pounds boneless center cut pork loin, cut into 1/4 inch slabs and then 1/4 inch strips, about 3 inches long (Note: I used my leftover smoked pork which was cooked to a medium. Adjust the cooking time if using pork that is already cooked or partially cooked)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 inch knob of fresh ginger (I never have fresh ginger on hand. A substitute, which I used, is ground ginger. A 1 inch piece of fresh ginger equals about 1 1/4 teaspoons of ground ginger.)
1/2 cup mild honey (the lighter the better)
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sriracha (Remember, this is a matter of personal taste and it’s easier to add a bit more than to fix a dish if you start with too much spice.)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS:

It’s very important to have all of your ingredients chopped, measured, prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. This moves pretty quickly once you start cooking.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, sriracha and vinegar. Set aside.

Pour oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and swirl to coat. Let it heat until the oil shimmers. While the oil is heating, season the pork strips with the salt and black pepper, tossing with your hands to coat it evenly. Carefully add the pork to the oil in the pan, working in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Brown uniformly, moving the strips around the pan. Remove the pork to a plate.

Add the garlic and ginger to your pan, stirring until fragrant. About 30 seconds.

Raise the heat to high and pour in the sauce mixture. Bring this to a boil, stirring frequently. When the sauce is very “bubby and thickened like warm honey,” add the pork strips back in and toss to coat evenly. Continue reducing the sauce until it’s a thick, sticky glaze on the pork.

Serve immediately over rice or noodles.

There’s nothing like a pan of slow cooked baked beans. Every family has its very personal take on what makes the perfect baked beans, not unlike the family meatloaf recipe or the spaghetti sauce recipe. Other than a few basics, there’s really no wrong way to do this. In fact, this dish is a very subjective recipe – it’s all about your personal tastes and preferences. Some like sweet, some like spicy, some like thick and some like more liquid. This is the way I make baked beans and it suits our family. I must be doing something right because I am frequently assigned to bring the baked beans to our family events. Enjoy!

To make an 8 x 8 pan of baked beans use the following amounts. When making for my big family gatherings, I make these by the gallon.

INGREDIENTS:

4, 15 oz. cans pork and beans ( if you like your baked beans thicker, drain part of the juice from each can, but be careful not to drain all of it or your beans will be dry)
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup dried minced onion
1/8 cup dried minced green pepper
(If using fresh onion and green pepper, increase amount to 1/4 cup each)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup BBQ sauce of your choice (I like using Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle if I’m making chicken or turkey and Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy if I’m serving beef or pork)
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut in half

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together all ingredients except the bacon in an 8 x 8 baking dish. Lay bacon over the top. Bake in a slow oven, about 300 degrees, for about 2.5 to 3 hours. Baking these low and slow is the key to achieving lovely thick baked beans. You can also put these on your smoker alongside your meat selections to slow cook. The smoky flavor is an added bonus.

For an extra kick, add some minced jalapeno peppers to your baked beans. You can also add a bit of BBQ rub for extra seasoning.

Grammy

It’s beautiful. It’s healthy. It’s diabetic friendly. It’s gluten free. And, most important, it tastes great! This is a dessert dish I discovered, made by the Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. It’s a great way to use those beautiful fresh summer berries without adding too many of those sinful diet no-no’s. In my version, I used strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. I didn’t make the sauce the original recipe called for, and I substituted Splenda for the sugar to make it more diabetic friendly. I think I may have found my new replacement for when those cheesecake cravings hit!

INGREDIENTS:

1 15 ounce carton of ricotta cheese (the original recipe, linked above, gives directions for making your own if you prefer)
2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 6 oz. packages fresh raspberries
2 6 oz. packages fresh blackberries

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the ricotta cheese in a bowl and stir in the sugar, honey and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

In another bowl, combine the berries.

To serve, spoon the berries into a dish and place a large spoon of the ricotta mixture on top. You can dress the dish with the Fresh Raspberry Sauce (recipe provided in the link above). I skipped the sauce and simply served the fruit and ricotta as an easy everyday dessert.

Use the berries you love the most. The more variety, the prettier the presentation and the yummier the dish!

Grammy