Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Perfect Rib Platter with text

Today was a perfect day for “smokin” some ribs… The temp hit about 80 degrees this afternoon, so I uncovered the smoker and got busy.  I have a Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain smoker that I purchased from Wal-mart a couple of years ago.  It was inexpensive and does a great job of smoking meat.  Smoking ribs are a several step process, so I’ll explain as I go.  I had intended to take a photo of the ribs as soon as they came off the smoker, before they were cut, but with 3 other hungry people waiting and drooling, I forgot all about it.  Take my word for it, these ribs were as good as I’ve had in any rib joint and so easy that anyone can do it, even if you don’t have a smoker.  Any grill can be set up for indirect heat for smoking ribs.  For expert advice about smoking ribs, go to Amazing Ribs.com

2 racks pork baby back ribs (you can also use St. Louis style ribs, but we prefer baby backs)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/4 to 1/2 cup Rib Rub (recipe found here)

1 1/2 cups hickory chips or 4-5 hickory wood chunks, soaked for about 30 minutes (I prefer the chips, both can be purchased at Walmart)

Your favorite BBQ sauce (We like Stubbs and Sweet Baby Rays and mix the two together to get just the right amount of spicy and sweet)

Step 1: Set up your smoker.  Fill the water pan with water and the wood box with drained soaked hickory chips or wood chunks

Step 2: Open your package of vacuum sealed ribs and rinse them off.  I usually put down foil on the countertop, but was out today, so I put plastic wrap all over my kitchen island to keep the mess to a minimum.

Raw ribs

Step 3: Turn the ribs over and take a knife and insert it under the membrane on the back of the ribs and lift it up, pulling it all the way off.  Once you get a hold on the membrane it will come off very easily and in one piece.  The membrane is tough and removing it also allows the smoke to permeate the meat better.

Ribs membrane removal

Step 4: Rub 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil on each side of both racks of ribs.  This will help your rib rub to stick to the ribs better.  Then take your rib rub and sprinkle liberally over both sides of both racks, patting down lightly with your hands to help the rub stay in place.

Ribs with rub

Preheat your smoker to 225°F and put the ribs inside.  One on each rack.

Ribs in Smoker enhanced 2

Close the door and smoke for about 4 hours, or until done.  Because of all the bones, you cannot take a temperature reading to see if the ribs are cooked properly.  But when you lift them with your tongs, they should almost start to crack or come apart when you pick them up.  I started my ribs at 1:30pm and they were ready at 5:30pm.

It is very important that you maintain a steady temperature of 225-250 degrees during the entire smoking process.  For tender ribs, you want “low and slow”.

Perfect Temperature

When done, remove the ribs from your smoker and brush lightly with your favorite barbecue sauce.  You may serve them at this point, but I prefer to put them back in the smoker for another 15 minutes to “set” the barbecue sauce.

Enjoy!!  Ribs done right are simply scrumptious!

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Snickerdoodles

Cookies are definitely my weakness.  Of all the things I bake, there’s nothing I LOVE more than a fresh, warm, chewy cookie.  I think we’ve already established that I’m crazy for cinnamon, so it should be no surprise that these Snickerdoodles are one of my all-time favorite cookies.  You NEED to bake these cookies.  You will LOVE them, too.  Your family will LOVE you for baking them.  They have a wonderful slightly crisp exterior from the cinnamon sugar coating, but once you take a bite, it’s all chewy deliciousness inside.

Snickerdoodle and milk 4

I’ve been making these for over 30 years, so I have no idea where the original recipe came from.

Yield: 42 cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, and then add eggs and vanilla, blending well.  Combine flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt and whisk together, then add to the butter mixture, mixing until well combined and dough comes together.  I use a small cookie scoop to scoop out the dough balls so that they are all uniform in size, and then I roll each in a  ball.  If you don’t have a cookie scoop, then just pinch off sections of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls.  Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl, and roll balls of dough in this mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I use a 13 X 18 (1/2 sheet) pan and get 15 dough balls on each sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.   Mine were perfect at 9 minutes.   I believe it’s better to under bake than over bake here.

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwich

I mentioned earlier this week, just how much I LOVE bacon and eggs.  Here’s a bacon and egg recipe that’s not necessarily for breakfast but makes a delicious, easy-to-fix lunch or dinner.  The first time I made this, I had leftover deviled eggs from a New Year’s Eve party and just chopped them all up and added bacon.  The entire family loved it, so it ended up on the menu again, only this time I didn’t have leftover deviled eggs to start with.  The eggs, mustard and mayo make a very creamy egg salad and the bacon adds just the right balance of crunch and saltiness.  I think next time, I’ll add just a little dill pickle relish.  I hope you’ll give it a try.  I’m not too happy with the photo of the sandwich… I almost forgot to take one and the lighting was not so good.  By the time I tried to make it better in Photoshop, I just wasn’t in the mood and just couldn’t seem to get it right.  Oh, and I totally forgot to take a photo of the Bacon and Egg Salad with the dressing all combined… can you say, airhead?  Take my word for it, this Bacon and Egg Salad is delicious!  Sometimes simple recipes are the absolute best.

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwiches-1

8 large hard boiled eggs

8 slices bacon, fried crisp and chopped (I used thick-sliced pre-cooked bacon from Costco–it’s the best!)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 heaping tablespoon yellow mustard

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish (optional – I will definitely do this next time)

Your choice of sandwich bread

Chop or grate boiled eggs and place in a medium sized bowl.  (Instead of chopping mine, I put them through an egg slicer horizontally and sliced them and then picked up each entire sliced egg immediately, keeping it together, and put it back through the egg slicer again, but this time vertically.  Easy Peasy and they were “chopped” in no time).

Add your bacon to the bowl and combine chopped eggs and bacon.  Then add your mayonnaise and yellow mustard and mix well.

Spread on your choice of sandwich bread and enjoy!  Told ya it was easy.  🙂

Mexican Inspired Turkey Burgers

Along with Pizza, Hamburgers are definitely one of America’s Favorite casual foods.  Nothing better than a juicy hamburger with the cheese melted to perfection on a buttered and toasted bun.  Today’s burger is a bit more of a healthy take on the traditional burger with some Tex-Mex thrown in.  We’ve traded in regular hamburger buns for Sandwich Thins in this recipe and didn’t even miss them.  We definitely saved a few calories there, too.  Top it off with either regular or low-fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese and you’ve got a great casual meal.

Mexican Inspired Turkey Burgers

1/4 cup salsa

1/4  cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano                                                                                           PTDC0004_edited-1

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (19 oz.) package 93% Lean Ground Turkey

4 hamburger buns or Sandwich Thins

Your desired Hamburger Toppings such as pickle, onion, tomato and lettuce

In a large bowl, combine Ground Turkey, salsa, cheese, paprika, oregano, cumin, sugar, garlic powder, thyme, salt and cayenne and mix well, shaping into four burgers.

Coat grill with cooking spray and grill, covered, over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165° and juices run clear.

Place burgers on buns and top with additional cheese if desired and your favorite condiments and hamburger toppings.

Source: Taste of Home 2009 Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes, also at Taste of Home

Sunburst Lemon Bars

Sunburst Lemon Bars

What says spring better than a Sunburst Lemon Bar?  To me, spring is all about fresh, bright flavors, and you can’t get much brighter or fresher than these killer Sunburst Lemon Bars.  Instead of the traditional powdered sugar topping, this one has a light lemon glaze on top that really complements the tart creamy lemon filling.  We just can’t stop eating them!

Yield: 32 bars

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Filling:

4 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Note: Depending on the size of your lemons, you will need from 2-4 lemons for the juice and lemon peel in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, flour and lemon peel on low speed until crumbly.  Line a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the long sides of the pan.  This will make removing the bars from the pan much easier later, allowing you to get more precise cuts.  Press this crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the lined pan.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, In a large bowl with wire whisk, lightly beat eggs.  Beat in remaining filling ingredients except lemon juice and lemon peel until well blended.  Beat in ¼ cup lemon juice and peel.

Remove partially baked base from oven.  Pour filling evenly over warm base and return to oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes longer until top is light golden brown.  Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup powdered sugar and enough lemon juice for desired spreading consistency until smooth.  Remove baked base and filling from pan and spread glaze over cooled lemon bars.  Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.  We like them cold right out of the refrigerator, but you can always allow the bars to come to room temperature before eating.

Sunburst Lemon Bars Stacked

Very slightly adapted from: So How’s It Taste

Everyday Mom's Meals

Sunday Morning Breakfast Scramble

I love lazy Sunday mornings… no alarm clock waking me up at the crack of dawn.  Getting out of bed when I’m ready… No quickie breakfast eaten while I work… Just a nice, relaxing morning at my own pace with no demands and no place I HAVE to be.  This breakfast scramble has all the things in it I LOVE for breakfast and it’s  fairly quick and easy, too.  It’s very versatile and can be eaten with biscuits, toast, or nothing at all.  You could also throw in some jalapenos, green chiles or Cilantro and Mexican seasonings for a Tex-Mex version and maybe use Pepper Jack instead of cheddar.   I have also used sausage or ham in place of the bacon and those were equally yummy.  This morning it turned into breakfast burritos and was very filling and delicious.

Microwaving the diced potatoes before adding them to the skillet, gives them a good head start and means less time in the skillet, so they stay together and don’t fall apart.  Season each layer with salt and pepper before adding the next.  I use three potatoes in this because we LOVE potatoes, but you could always cut it down to two so that the ratio of eggs to potato is a little more even.  It’s going to be a gorgeous day here in Texas… Enjoy it where ever you are!

Breakfast Scramble

3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes

1 tablespoon water

8 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

8 slices bacon, fried until crisp and chopped or crumbled (Pre-cooked bacon cooked in the microwave works great, too!)  Or you may use diced ham (about 1 cup) or 1/2 lb. browned pork or turkey sausage.

2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain your diced potatoes well in a colander, and then place into a microwaveable bowl along with the 1 tablespoon of water and microwave for 5 minutes.  Take them out and give them a quick stir and then microwave for 5 more minutes.  While your potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon until crisp and then lay on paper towels to drain and absorb some of the great.  Heat your vegetable oil on medium high heat in a large skillet and put in the potatoes, arranging them into an even layer over the bottom of the skillet.  If you fried your bacon and have leftover bacon grease, then definitely use that in place of the oil for even more added flavor.  I didn’t have any raw bacon on hand so I used thick sliced pre-cooked bacon that I microwaved for 1 1/2 minutes.  Put on the lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the potatoes are brown and crispy on the bottom.  Using a spatula, flip and turn over the potatoes, again arranging them into a single layer, and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  While the potatoes are cooking, combine the eggs and milk and whisk with a fork, adding salt and pepper to taste.  When your potatoes are brown and crispy, season with salt and pepper, then pour in your egg mixture and add the chopped/crumbled bacon.  Turn the heat down to low and cook and turn the mixture until the eggs are set to your liking.  Top it off with the shredded sharp cheddar cheese and put the lid back on just long enough for the cheese to melt.  This makes a huge skillet full.  I store leftovers in the fridge for easy weekday breakfasts.  Just re-heat in the microwave on 60% power until heated through and hot and pair with your favorite bread or flour tortillas.

Breakfast Scramble closeup

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones wheel framed

I LOVE SCONES!  They are so quick and easy to pull together and you can have them on the table in about 30 minutes.  Pair these flaky, cheesy, bacony scones with some scrambled or fried eggs and you’ve got a great weekend breakfast.  These scones use sour cream, but I’m sure you could sub fat free greek yogurt and get the same delicious results.

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones stacked II

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 slices bacon, cooked, cool and chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped chives (I had green onions, so I used them)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture.  Use the tips of your fingers to work in the butter.  It will be the texture of coarse meal.  In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and egg until smooth.  Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until large dough clumps form.  Stir in the cheese, bacon and chives, until they are well incorporate into the dough.  Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball.  At first there may seem like there isn’t enough liquid, but as you press the dough will come together.  Pat dough into a 7 inch disk about 3/4″ thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 triangles.  Place the scones 1 inch apart on the parchment lined baking sheet and brush with heavy cream.  Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.  Best served warm.  This dough freezes extremely well.  To freeze scones and bake later, after cutting dough into triangles, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, then transfer to a ziplock bag.  I’ve done this several times for potluck breakfasts with our camping club, simply thawing them out in the RV fridge over night and then baking them the next morning.  Same great results.

Source: My Baking Addiction

Bacon Cheddar Scones stacked side-view

A Wiener Dog in the Kitchen

A Wiener Dog in the Kitchen