Summer BBQs, the smell of wood smoke, and perfect pool weather are part of what makes this time of year so great – at least for those of us who live in the South and can enjoy picnics before Memorial Day. Before we load up the cooler, and invite our good friends to the backyard, we should nail down a few BBQ techniques from the experts. My friends at Smoked BBQ Source asked me to feature their advice on my blog, so I hope you’ll click on their wonderfully handy wood smoking guide. In it, BBQ source shares the two main ways you can use wood when you barbecue, what kind of smoker to use, and how to bring out coveted aromas and flavors in your meat. With all their talk of apple, cherry, hickory, mesquite or pecan woods, and videos of how to man a superior grill, my mouth was watering!

If you’re gonna have a BBQ, you gotta have French fries, and you might as well have the best! The ketchup in this recipe is full of robust flavors, and there’s enough for dipping the last morsel of fry. Have fun out there!

The Real Deal Fries and Home Made Ketchup

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon hot ground mustard
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for fries
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Put the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cloves and allspice into a small pan over low heat. Pour in ¼ cup water. Whisk until smooth. Cook until the sugar melts and the ketchup is warmed through. Set aside and let the flavors blend at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator overnight.
2 large Idaho potatoes, scrubbed
Canola oil for frying

Peel the potatoes. Cut each potato lengthwise into 4 long slices. Cut each slice into 4 strips. Place the strips into a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge. Drain the potatoes through a colander and slide onto a paper towels. Use more towels to blot the potatoes dry. The drier the potatoes, the more they will crisp.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour enough oil to come 1-inch up the side of the skillet. Use a candy thermometer to gauge the oil to 325° Place the fries into the oil and cook for 5 minutes. This step cooks the inside of the potatoes. Transfer the fries to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. These pre-cooked fries will keep in the fridge for several hours until you are ready to serve.

Raise the temperature of the oil to 375°. Place the partially cooked fries in the oil. Cook until golden, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and serve with ketchup.

When You Just Gotta Have Some ‘Cue

When You Just Gotta Have Some ‘Cue

The absolute best thing about living in the South is the barbecue. Slow-roasted, smoked, seasoned, sauced it’s all just delicious! Just riding down the road you spy place after place after place, touting their version of the best barbecue in town. You can’t possibly eat at every mom and pop, checkered table-clothed, pass-the-pickles restaurant that there is, but if you are like me, you just might try!

Sometimes, you have a barbecue craving that just can’t wait. It’s a desperation kinda thing! You long for the twang of the sauce, whether it be molasses-thick, or vinegary tart. The meat has to be sliced thin enough, or perhaps just thick enough with crispy brown edges that snap in your mouth. The bun is soft, the cole slaw piled on top and yes…. you might just have a side or two of hush puppies to go along with your cue.

Want to know how to get that slow-roasted, barbecue flavor at home, in just under an hour? I have a secret. Please don’t give me away to any of the locals, because this just ain’t a bit authentic, and we know how important traditions are in these parts. But, it will work just fine – especially if you are in another part of the country, and just can’t go on down the road to satisfy your hankerin’ for Southern-style barbecue.

Slow Roasted Pork Tenderloin

A video of making this magic is coming to Youtube soon! A video of making this magic is coming to Youtube soon!

Serves 6 to 8

60 Minute Cuisine

3 tablespoons bacon fat (substitute with a combination of butter and olive oil)

2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins

1 tablespoon prepared steak seasoning (substitute with a combination of garlic salt and onion salt)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup barbecue sauce

For Sammies:

6 to 8 soft hamburger buns

Cole slaw


More sauce!

Preheat the oven to 300°. Heat the bacon fat in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloins with steak seasoning, salt and pepper. Place the tenderloins into the hot fat (it will spit back at you so be careful). Brown the pork on all sides, about 5 minutes. Use a pot holder to place the skillet into the oven. Roast the pork for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour 1 cup (or more) barbecue sauce over the pork. Return the skillet to the oven and cook for 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. DO NOT forget to use your pot holder! Cover the meat with aluminum foil and rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the pork to your work surface and slice. Pile sliced pork onto the buns. Top the meat with extra sauce, cole-slaw and pickles. Yee haw!!

Behold, the Picnic Trio, A.K.A., All You Need to Eat This Summer

Behold, the Picnic Trio, A.K.A., All You Need to Eat This Summer


For those of us who live on the East coast, summer has arrived! I love the heady smell of magnolias and gardenias when I’m out for a walk. Every morning in my kitchen is a new day for pulling farmers market finds out of the crisper, and whipping something up that goes straight back into the fridge, so I can have it chilled later on. This particular morning – Friday the 13th – I found it hard not to nibble on the freshly made trio, just as soon as the potatoes cooled down enough to spear with my mayo stained fork!

With Memorial Day here at the end of this month, I’m revisiting my best Sunday Best Dishes for outdoor BBQs and potlucks. I had forgotten how much fantastic food each of these recipes yield. I almost didn’t make one (of the 3) because I was running out of room in my refrigerator! Not to worry, though. I simply ate the watermelon and freed up the space. God, I love summer!

Here are my foolproof recipes, sure to make your next al fresco dining experience extra sunny and bright – you can pack these up in paper cartons, like these pictured above (available just about anywhere, including the dollar store), or simply serve it in your favorite bowl – the more colorful, the better!

Purple Potato Salad

I have a confession to make. When I made this favorite summer salad this week, I didn’t have purple potatoes. I was also onion deprived, and forced to use a white one. On top of THAT, I had yellow mustard and no Dijon. But guess what? The salad was still delicious, and is already gone…gobbled up.

2 pounds baby purple potatoes

1 pound baby red potatoes

2 large celery stalks, trimmed and diced, about ½ cup

¼ red onion, diced, about ⅓ cup

4 large radishes, trimmed and diced, about ⅓ cup

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 cup good quality mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

            Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and cool slightly. Cut the potatoes into ½-inch pieces and place into a bowl. Add the celery, onion, radishes and dill. Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into the bowl and toss to coat all of the veggies. Cover and chill until ready to serve.


Toasted Corn and Poblano Slaw

OMG – nothing on Earth need stop you from making this. This recipe produces enough salad to fill a truck bed, and is so full of complex tangy, zesty, spicy flavor, it’s a go to every summer. No worries if you don’t have a food processor. You can safely shred the veggies with your hands, or Ninja knife skills. It’s fine to substitute frozen corn kernels for fresh off the ear, too.

½ head red cabbage

½ head Nappa cabbage

2 large carrots

1 large poblano pepper, seeded, and deveined

¼ red onion, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 ears of corn

1 cup good quality mayonnaise

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper


Use a food processor to shred the cabbages, pepper and red onion. Place all of the vegetables into a large bowl. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cut the kernels from the corn and place into the pan. Cook until the kernels are just golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the corn into the bowl with the veggies. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.


Pasta Primavera Salad

This Sunday Best Dish is unbelievably healthy, and works just as well with red wine vinegar if that’s all you’ve got. I had to know if this was true, so I tested it both ways!

1 pound baby pasta shells

2 pounds fresh broccoli florets, about 4 cups

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup

Juice of 1 large lemon, about ¼ cup

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup olive oil

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour the pasta into a large bowl. Steam the broccoli florets until crisp-tender. Roughly chop and add to the bowl.  Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add to the bowl. Pour the cheese into the bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, white wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Happy Memorial Day, friends! Here’s to you and the awesome picnics on your horizon

Okay, all – time to pack it in, and I mean literally. I’m gearing up to put this holy trinity of summer salads into cartons, and head for the beach. Let me know why you’re a big dill this holiday weekend…sorry, always love a good pun!