Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Sauces are one of those things that seemed hard or mysterious to me. After all, if they weren’t hard, why is buying them pre-made such a prevalent practice, even among those who consider themselves good cooks? Why do we surrender the biggest flavor payload in our dish tos omething that makes a gloopy sound as it oozes out of plastic or glass jars? A few weeks ago when I hosted my late summer BBQ, I decided to make my own sauce and it was really pretty easy.

Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup organic or reduced-sguar ketchup
  • 1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 molasses
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Prep

  • Finely chop your onion and garlic.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat your EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes until soft.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. Keep scrapping and folding the sauce off the sides of the pot and stirring. If the sauce seems a little thin you can simmer for another 2 minutes, but keep stirring and folding so it doesn’t get gooey.
  • Taste the sauce and add a little more salt and pepper, as needed.

The end result should be a crowd pleasing, sticky sauce with a nice balance between sweet, savory, and heat. I personally prefer ridiculously spicy sauces like Famous Dave’s Devil Spit or the Memphis/Kansas City varietals, which are hotter and more vinegary, but this sauce was lovely and hit the right notes for a crowd where you can’t go to far in one direction or another. You know a sauce is great when people lick their fingers instead of using a napkin and I saw a lot of that going on.

~Enjoy the bragging rights for making your own sauce and Nom On

The Case of the Disappearing Tequila-Habanero Spiced Pineapple Wontons

In case you are wondering why I have no picture for you, it’s because twice I made these, twice I served them to guests to give me feedback on my new recipe with the warning not to eat them all because I still needed a picture, and twice I turned around about 3 minutes later to see an empty plate where my wontons should be.

“Hey!,” I exclaim, “You were not supposed to eat them all before I took a picture!” The individual who swiped the last one chews more quietly, looking anywhere but at me. I sigh, “Never mind, I’ll make another batch later….” Except the spousal unit drank the last of the tequila and the rest of my pineapple went into a pineapple-blueberry wonton so it’s going to be awhile before I make these again. Given how delectable they are, I figured I had better share the recipe before your next party.

Missing

Tequila-Habanero Spiced Pineapple Wontons

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 habanero pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cup tequila (The best you can afford)
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 small, red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, diced
  • 1/2 pkg wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten

Prep

  • Finely dice the habanero pepper. Add your pineapple chunks to a small tupperware container and add the tequila and diced pepper. Cover and give the mixture a shake to make sure its distributed. Let the pineapple soak for a few hours. You can even leave these soaking for a few days if you want a stronger flavor.
  • Once your pineapple is ready, extract the chunks and finely dice them. Set aside.
  • Place your softened cream cheese in a medium bowl, and using a hand mixer, whip until soft and fluffy.
    If you are unfamiliar with whipping cream cheese, start the blades on slow and circle around a few times. The cheese will start to cling to the blades. Put the speed to high and beat against the side of the bowl in a circular motion and the cheese will come loose as it becomes soft and whipped.
  • Finely dice your onion and cilantro.
  • Add the diced pineapple, cilantro, and onion to the cream cheese. You should also add in the diced habanero from the marinade. Combine and stir with a rubber spatula until you have a well blended mixture.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay out your wonton wrappers. Start with 12 wrappers.
  • Beat your egg in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Place approx 1 tbsp of the mixture into the dead center of the wrapper.
    Use any manner of deep breathing techniques and chanting of ‘a little dab will do ya’ to resist the urge to add larger and larger globs of filling to the wontons. It will look like you didn’t put enough, but I promise it’s correct. The filling expands in the heat and will burst your wonton open.
  • Dip your finger in the egg and trace around the edge of each wonton. Fold the sides into an X and pinch together to seal.
  • Spray a little non-stick on a cookie sheet and transfer the wontons. Make sure they are evenly spaced apart.
  • Bake the wontons for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden and crisp.
  • Serve immediately.

What do you recommend as a dipping sauce? 

I can’t figure this part out. The flavors are so fusion. Do you want spicy? Do you want sweet? Do you want an asian sauce or a salsa? I offered 2 options and what I noticed is that my taste testers had very different preferences when they tried each sauce and then just started popping them in their mouth, sans sauce, at an increasingly rapid pace. Here’s what I made for your experimenting pleasure.

If you want to offer something with sweet notes, maybe you can rock a ponzu? If you try that, let me know how it goes!

Warning: Make sure you hold back one or two wontons before you serve these or you may find yourself lost in a godzilla-like rage similar to what we all feel when someone eats the last spring roll without asking if anyone else wanted it.

~Nom On

Orgasmic Summer Squash

I wasn’t really sure what the hell to call this dish, but then it occurred to me that everyone rolled their eyes back in their heads at first tasting, so there you have it. Perfect side for a BBQ gathering or if you just want a bowl of rad, this is a fun way to get freaky with those infused oils you see in the store and are never sure if you should buy. I am here to say … BUY THEM.

Orgasmic Summer Squash

Orgasmic Summer Squash

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Zucchini
  • 1-2 Yellow Squash
  • 1 small, White Onion
  • 1 basket cherry tomatoes
  • Fancy-pants infused olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Prep

  • Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Roll out a large layer of foil.
  • Slice your squash up and then halve the slices. Toss them on the foil.
  • Quarter your small white onion. Toss them on the foil.
  • Dump your cherry tomatoes on the foil, too.
  • Now, for the fun part. Liberally pour your fancy-pants infused oil on your veggies. Using your hands, mix them all around to coat in the oil. For my veggies, I used a citrus-habanero infused oil.
  • Liberally season your veggies with salt and pepper. Again, use your hands to mix well. Taste to make sure you have a nice balance.
  • Fold the veggies up into a pocket with the foil and crimp the edges for a tight seal.
  • Place the packet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. I pulled mine out after 20 minutes to check on them and I recommend you do the same. The should be nice and soft by the end, but not mushy.

This is a lovely side and a great way to enjoy seasonal squash from the farmers market and infused oils. Everyone raved about them at my Lammas Day celebration. If you are looking for a light meal on a weeknight, this would also work well because you are getting the fat from the oil and the anti-oxidants from the veggies. A very balanced dish, nutritionally.

~Nom on

Seasonal Berry Compote

Do those gorgeous pallets of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries that are in just about every stall at the farmers market during the summer entice you as much as they do me? They are so pretty! I just get all dizzy with fantasies of mixed berry tarts and sundaes and pies, oh my! But tarts and pies take forever, and lets face it, we’ll probably be too drunk from our sippy-sippy while we cook to finish anything that delicate and time consuming. Am I right? Well, that’s why the good lord invented compotes. Great on sundaes, waffles, pancakes, sponge and pound cakes, or as a side to dip your butter cookies in, the reasons to make a compote are endless. And it’s ok if you are drunk by the time you pour it over pancakes at 10 am. No judgement!

Mixed Berry Sundae

Seasonal Berry Compote

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cups mixed spring or summer berries
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (which is approx. 1/2 medium lemon)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tbsp butter

Prep

  • In a small sauce pan, bring water and sugar to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and add in the remaining ingredients, except the butter.
  • Return to a boil and stir a few times. 45 seconds boiling, tops.
  • Turn off the heat and add in butter. Stir until fully melted and combined.
  • Using a potato masher, crush berries until you have a nice lumpy sauce. Don’t over crush, just make sure all berries are broken down.

Now that you have your delicious compote, what you pour it on is up to you! It’s lovely served warm on ice cream, pancakes, waffles, etc, but you can also store in a jar in your fridge for a week or so and add to milk shakes and smoothies. It can also work well as a jam on toast and scones, or you can get a little freaky and make a squishy ice cream and compote cookie sandwich with Nilla wafers. Heck if you need to get fancy, make cream puffs, also known as profiterole, and fill them up. We’ll all be impressed.

~Nom your sweet tooth on

Bruschetta Salsa

A staple starter in pretty much every Italian eatery, and most bar and grilles, I think bruschetta get’s over looked. It’s also really easy to make an utterly underwhelming batch; just use off-season tomatoes and dried basil instead of fresh and you will be one sad mac. Here’s how to make it right, and then you can put it on everything!

Bruschetta Mozzarella

Bruschetta Salsa

Ingredients

As a general note, you should shop for all your fresh ingredients at the farmers market for this dish. Good bruschetta hinges entirely on how vibrant the produce and herbs are. Get your toms, garlic, basil, and parsley from the market the day you plan on making the salsa and choose with care.

  • 4 plum, ripe, in-season tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh minced basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh, minced parsley
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 crushed red pepper flakes

Prep

  • Combine all your ingredients and let soak and chill in the fridge for about an hour before you serve.

If you want an elegant, low-carb snack or starter …

pick up a log of fresh mozzarella and slice into small medallions. Arrange a few large basil leaves on a plate, then 3-4 medallions. Spoon the salsa over the medallions. If you have time, make a simple balsamic reduction and drizzle a little over the dish. Magnifique!

Bruschetta Toast

If you want classic bruschetta toast ….

cut a fresh baguette into thick slices. Spread a little butter on each slice and toast to a medium-well. Getting the slices the right thickness and level of crispy is crucial because the salsa has oil and vinegar and it really soaks through the bread. I can’t tell you how many restaurants have blown this aspect and I am left with a soggy mess and a serious case of situational depression.

I like to add a little leaf of basil to eat slice of bread before I spoon the mixture on. It adds color and a pop of freshness, plus it helps slow the pace of the bread soaking and breaking down. If you think the toast will sit awhile because you are setting it out for a gathering, I recommend this.

Again, if you have time to make a quick balsamic reduction, drizzle this on as a finishing touch. Don’t get carried away though. It’s a strong flavor.

What else can I do with this lovely salsa?

Man, it’s almost endless. The salsa is the flavor so if you want a quick, light vegetarian entree, top off some angel hair pasta and drizzle with balsamic reduction. You can make the dish heartier with slices of grilled chicken.

If you want low-carb, grill chicken breasts or flank steak in a garlic butter and sauté some squash. Top the meat with the salsa and serve with a dollop of balsamic reduction on the side for dipping.

Want a fabulous vegetarian burger? Grill up a portabella mushroom, top with a fat slice of mozzarella cheese and the salsa. Serve on toasted wheat buns with garlic butter. Or, if you want to try something fun, make garlic bread and use two thick slices of that for your bun. Dude.

If you aren’t ready to nom on at this point, you may be hopeless!

BLT Deviled Eggs

What is it about the summer that just makes one jones for bacon, lettuce, and tomato? It’s never not awesome, right? Well, today I decided to stuff it in my deviled eggs and declare it breakfast! Low-carb, of course, if you are looking for an excuse to skip the bread and always appreciated as an appetizer.

BLT Deviled Eggs

BLT Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayo or miracle whip
  • 3 slices bacon, pan friend and crumbled
  • 1 large roma tomato, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
  • 12 small shreds of green, leafy lettuce

Prep

  • Pan fry your bacon strips and drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
  • Next, bring a pot of water, about 4 cups, to a rolling boil. Set your timer for 9 minutes and place your six eggs into the water and boil. This is the perfect time for creamy yolks and firm whites that you need for a deviled egg. As soon as the timer goes off, remove from heat and transfer the eggs into a bowl of cold water.
  • Allow the eggs to cool and set in the cold water while you crumble your bacon and finely dice your tomato.
  • Remove the shells of each egg and slice in half.
  • With a small spoon, gently remove the yolks from each egg and place into small bowl.
  • Combine the egg yolks with the mayo and stir until soft and creamy.
  • Fold in the bacon crumbles and diced tomato. Taste. If bland, add in a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and taste again.
  • Once your mixture is complete, take a piece of lettuce and push into the center of the egg white and then add a spoonful of the yolk mixture. It will heap over because of the bacon. Repeat for all the egg halves.
  • Sprinkle each egg with a little parsley and cayenne pepper for garnish.
  • Chill for at least 10 minutes before serving.

A few notes…

Personally, I think real mayo is nasty. It tastes like fish to me. If your first batch tastes a little ‘fishy’ or off to you, try it with miracle whip next time.

If you like spicy food, you can stir in a 1/4 tsp of horseradish for a kick. If you are unfamiliar with this condiment, there are many layers of heat and style you can buy. They can be creamy or grainy, mild or very hot. You’ll need to experiment, but I think they are all really tasty.

~Nom On

Greek Turkey Burgers

The summer continues and so do my experiments with burgers. Today I made a low-carb Greek burger with homemade tzaziki sauce and it was quite yummy.

Greek Turkey Burger

Greek Turkey Burgers

Ingredients

  • 16 oz ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 oz – 3 oz crumbled feta cheese, depending on how strong you want the feta flavor
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Thick slices of beefsteak tomato, cucumbers, leafy lettuce, and red onion for serving.

Prep

  • Combine the ground turkey, onion, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs together in a medium-sized bowl. Use your fingers and mix well.
  • Fold in your feta cheese crumbles and mix well.
  • Finally fold in your spices. Mix well and form into 4 equally sized patties. Set aside.
  • Heat up your griddle and brush with a little olive oil.
  • Grill the patties for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the patties reach 160 degrees internally. Transfer to a plate and let rest for a couple minutes.

Quick Tzaziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 1 half cucumber, diced
  • 1 large roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prep

  • Combine all your ingredients except the salt and pepper. Mix well.
  • Add in about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper and taste.

Note: Tzaziki isn’t meant to be salty, it should taste refreshing. This recipe is by no means a traditional sauce, but it’ll get you the majority of that flavor and it’s quick and easy to prep. Some traditional tzaziki sauces can be very garlic-y and if you like that, add in another fresh garlic clove or add a pinch of garlic powder. 

If you are serving this low-carb, arrange the patties on a bed of leafy lettuce and layer on the sauce. Top with a little more feta, if desired. You can serve with thick slices of tomato, red onion, and cucumber dusted with salt and pepper and a dollop of hummus for dipping. I make my sauces with the veggies and toppings basically folded in so you don’t need to add those extra veggies if you don’t want to. The flavors are all there.

~Nom On

Savory Bacon-Cheddar Muffins

Surprise, surprise! I am posting another recipe for hand held food. These savory little gems are really nice any time of the day. Brunch-y, and lunch-y, and hearty enough for dinner all at the same time. And in a move I didn’t see coming, my 2-yr old took the muffin right out of her dad’s hand and started chowing down. She lives on tomatoes, olives, and fish crackers so intensely picky is she, we did not even think to offer it to her.

Savory Bacon Cheddar Muffins

Savory Bacon-Cheddar Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped
  • 4 oz thick-cut bacon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Prep

  • Bake your bacon according to package instructions. Drain, dry, and dice roughly. Yields 2/3 cup.
  • While bacon is in the oven, sauté your onions in a tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent. Set aside.
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • In a large bowl, mix all your ingredients for the batter, except the bacon, cheese, and onions.
  • Fold in your remaining ingredients gently. Don’t stir too much. The batter should be lumpy but all the ingredients should be mixed in.
  • Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Let the muffins rest for 15 minutes before serving.

I didn’t expect the toddler to like it, but she yanked it right out of daddy’s hand and started chowing down!

Kid Friendly Savory Muffins

What are my garnish options?

  • If the muffins seem a little dry to you, I recommend either a spiced sour cream or a chunky salsa.
  • This may sound nuts, but if you like that savory-sweet-tart combo, I would try serving with sugar-free apple sauce. I was raised eating latkas (savory potato and onion pancakes) with sour cream and apple sauce so I think it could work here, too.
  • These could also just have a few dashes of hot sauce added if you are eating on the road and need some heat.

You should be good to go!

~Nom On

Guacamole Turkey Slides

Well, it’s Friday night and you want to rock something fun, flavorful, but not a ridiculous amount of effort. How about some guac turkey sliders? What I love about guacs and salas is that all your toppings are already in your sauce, so you can get to table with huge flavor, very quickly.

Guacamole Turkey Sliders

Guacamole Turkey Sliders

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp cup grated onion
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried parsley (optional)
  • Guacamole (recipe below)
  • Small hamburger buns or white bread dinner rolls
  • Mayo (optional)

Prep

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine all your ingredients with your hands.
  • Form into a large, patted spread. With a biscuit cutter, cut out your patties. If you have small hands, like me, you can roll out the patties by hand; your choice.
  • Using an electric grill or a cast-iron griddle, cook your patties for about 4-5 minutes per side. The goal is to get a nice sear on each side and reach an internal temperature of 155-160 degrees. The meat needs to rest and finish cooking from its internal temp.
    Note: Do NOT press the patties while cooking. They lose their juices. 
  • Place on a plate to rest while you prep your guac and toast your buns buns.

Now, prep your guac…

  • 1 very ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1  small, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 red or white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 fresh garlic clove, minced
  • Fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Ground cayenne, to taste
  • With a fork, mash and stir the avocado. You can leave it a little chunky.
  • Fold in the tomato, onion, jalapeno, diced garlic and stir.
  • Squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  • Add in about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Stir and taste.
  • Add in a few shakes of cayenne. Stir and taste.
  • If your quac seems bland, you can add in a little more salt or cayenne, but don’t go to crazy. Ground spices are more potent than freshly chopped peppers so the taste changes quickly.

Note: This mixture is more potent than usual, which is needed for the burger. It’s not a ‘dipping guac.”

Let’s bring it home…

  • Toast your buns or rolls lightly. Add a little mayo on bottom roll, if using.
  • Add the burger patties to each bottom roll.
  • Spoon guacamole in heaping spoonfuls to each slider and top with bun.

I didn’t serve these with a side; they are dense and loaded with flavor. If you really want a side, I’d say go simple like a handful of tortilla chips or a small salad of mixed greens. To me, a Friday night meal is quick eating.

~Nom On

Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

Mmm….it’s Saturday again and we’re hungry. You know what that means…. Saturday afternoon lunch, ba-by! And on the board this time is a crispy, gooey, cordon bleu panini. Let’s do this.

Chicken Cordon Blue Panini

Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

Ingredients (per sandwich)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2  thin-cut chicken breast (at the deli, asked for a thin cut or find pre-packaged that is labeled thin cut)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 thick slices french bread per serving (from the bakery)
  • Butter or yogurt butter spread
  • 1 slice alpine lace swiss cheese (from the deli counter)
  • 1 slice black forest ham (from the deli counter)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Mayo (optional)

Prep

  • Slice your thin cut chicken breast into strips and then cut in half. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a small pan, heat your olive oil over a medium flame and toss the chicken strips in there. Stir a few times to get a little sear and then cover the pan with a lid. Heat through about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the flame and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
  • Butter bread slices and place one slice in a pan or on a cast-iron griddle, buttered-side down. Layer with swiss cheese, then ham, then chicken. Top with bread slice.
  • Heat the first side until you get nice grill marks, light brown or black, depending on how much crisp you want on your crust.
  • Flip over and heat the second slice until grilled and cheese is starting to melt.
  • Transfer to a plate or cutting board and remove the bread slice that doesn’t have cheese melted to it. Add either a tbsp of mayo, dijon mustard, or a tsp of each. Add back to your sandwich.

This is a dense and flavorful sandwich so you can just eat the hell out that on its own. Pair with pickles, salt and pepper dusted tomatoes, or even a little salad if eating a sandwich with no side freaks you out.

~Nom On