Smoked BBQ Ribs

I refuse to believe that summer is nearly over.

My garden is still spilling out tomatoes and zucchini.

The temps are still in the 80s and 90s.

To me?  That means summer is far from over.

So there’s still plenty more time to give your grill and smoker a workout!

Like I mentioned on Tuesday, there’s about eleventy million ways to BBQ and smoke ribs.  I’m hardly claiming that this is the best.  But this is how we do it, and how my dad has done it for as long as I can remember.  So I’m sticking with it.

One year ago: Iced Irish Cream Mocha Latte
Two years ago: Gooey Butter Cake and Mac ‘n’ Jack Pasta Salad

Smoked BBQ ribs
a PLFF original recipe (well, with contributions from my dad)

1.5-2 racks of baby back ribs
1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, defrosted
1/3 batch dry rib rub
1 large sweet yellow onion, cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups apple juice
wood chips of choice or hardwood charcoal
BBQ sauce of choice

Mix lemonade concentrate with one can of water in a large pan (I used a glass 9×13).  Add ribs and turn to coat.  Add more water if necessary to submerge ribs.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain marinate and pat ribs dry.  Coat ribs generously with rib rub.

Bring smoker or grill temp to 225-250.  If using a smoker, add onion, apple juice, and 1 1/2 cups of water to water pan.

Add ribs to grill grate.  Smoke/grill for 4-5 hours, maintaining temperature around 225.

Remove from smoker and cut ribs into 2-3 piece chunks.  Place in large aluminum pan.  Cover in BBQ sauce of choice.  Heat though in oven or on grill for an additional 20 minutes.

Then devour.  Make sure there’s lots of cold beer and napkins.


BBQ Rib Rub

I’m going to tease you mercilessly here.

Forgive me.

I’m going to drag out the full recipe for this recipe over two different posts.

I’m sorry!

But this is a two-part process, and I felt like it would be too much for one post.

So you get the rib rub today.

And the rest of the rib deliciousness on Friday.  Still, plenty of time for you to make these ribs this weekend.  And you really should.

I know BBQ is a very particular thing – everyone has their way to do it.

And I’m not attesting that this is the “right” way.  I’m sure there are people who have a better way.

But this is the best way I know.

And judging by the empty bone yard of rib bones in front of Scott and I – we did something right.

Feel free to rub this amazing concoction on any kind of BBQ – would be amazing on a pork shoulder, now that I’m thinking about it…..

One year ago: Cherry Limeade Cupcakes
Two years ago: Crock Pot Beef Dip Sandwiches

BBQ Dry Rub
adapted from Food Network

1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tbsp hickory salt (optional*)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Store in airtight container.

* you can find hickory salt at many specialty spice shops.  I got mine from here.  It’s an awesome addition to any BBQ rub – makes it tastes smoky and delicious!

Sweet Pork and Pears

I’ve mentioned before, Pork chops aren’t exactly my favorite piece of meat.  I think I might have one or two pork chop recipes in the entire recipe history of PLFF.

But if I’m being honest?  We might start having pork a bit more regularly with this dish.

This pork was a little bit of everything – juicy, tart, sweet, salty and just seriously delish.  And EASY.  Less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

And now when I see pork chops in the sale ads, I much more likely to pick up a package.

Don’t forget to enter the Yes, Chef giveaway by Friday!

One year ago: Porch Pounder Sangria
Two years ago: Triple Berry Cakes

Sweet Pork and Pears with Goat Cheese on Quinoa
adapted from Clean Eating Magazine

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 cup quinoa
olive oil
4 4oz boneless pork loin chops
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper
2 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and chopped
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
goat cheese, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil.  Stir in quinoa, reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for around 15 minutes, or until tender.  Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Season both sides of the pork with salt, pepper, and tarragon.  Add to skillet and brown on each sided (around 2 minutes each side).  Add pears, vinegar and honey, stirring to combine.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until pork is cooked through.

Divide quinoa among serving plates and top with pork, pear mixture, and sauce.  Top with goat cheese and serve.


Roasted Elk Tenderloin (or Pork, Beef, Venison, etc)

When preparing to roast our elk tenderloin for the 24×24 event, I knew wanted something flavorful, but nothing that everywhelmed the amazing flavor of the elk meat. Elk meat is incredibly rich – it’s lean like venison, but more tender and less game-y.  Imagine a richer version of beef.

And because elk is incredibly lean, you have to add some kind of fat to it when cooking it.  Whether that’s a pat of butter to melt over your steaks fresh off the grill, a little extra olive oil in your marinade or in the pan for searing, or my favorite – wrapping it in bacon.

But before wrapping, I lathered our elk up with a generous rub of olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and minced garlic:

Then wrapped in good, thick sliced bacon.  Next time, I’ll actually wrap the bacon more closely together – as good as the tenderloing was, I think it would have stayed juicier if wrapped completely.

Then stuck it in the oven at a high temp until we were all salivating from the smell.

Some of our other favorite recipes we’ve successfully used our elk in:
Swedish Meatballs
Tacos using homemade taco seasoning
Fajitas using homemade taco seasoning (just add a little lime juice for fajitas!)
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Grilled Gyros
Game Day Chili

A few other tips for cooking with game like elk:
– Ground meat works great in dishes that are cooked for a long time, like chili and bolognase.  But that doesn’t mean the round steaks or flank steaks would be good in the crockpot.  Because they aren’t.  Totally dries the meat out.  I don’t recommend it.
– Anytime you’re cooking a steak-like piece of meat (chop, steak, flank steak, etc): give it a good hard sear (very high temp), cook it hard and fast, and to medium done-ness at the most. I don’t care if you’re typically a medium-well or well-done kind of person, your elk will be incredibly dry and practically inedible if you try to cook it to well done.
– let it rest.  Longer than you would beef.  If your elk juices bleed out, you’ll be very sad and won’t want to eat your beautiful piece of meat.  Let rest a good 5+ minutes.  Bigger pieces of meat let rest a good 10 minutes to lock those juices back in.  On a similar note, learn to test your meat without cutting into it.  Learn to test done-ness just by touching it.  Use a meat thermometer at most.  But don’t stick it in several times, you’ll lose your juices.

One year ago: Blueberry Muffins
Two years ago: Arancini

Roasted Tenderloin
a PLFF original recipe

1 lb tenderloin (pork, beef, elk, vension)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 slices of bacon

Preheat oven to 500.  Trim any silver skin from tenderloin(s).

Combine ingredients for rub.  Rub thoroughly over meat.  Wrap in bacon, securing with toothpicks if needed.  Place on baking sheet or pan that’s been coated with cooking spray.

Roast for 10 minutes, then turn.  Roast an addition 10 minutes or until internal temp reaches 140.  (will have to add time for larger terderloins like beef).  Remove form oven and cover with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes (temperature should rise to 145).  Remove bacon and slice.  Serve immediately.




Summer Veggie Pasta

I’m one of those super indecisive people.  When I was wedding dress shopping, I kept finding myself saying things like “well, I like the top of this dress, but I like the skirt of the other dress better.”   Over and over again.   I just did the same things when shopping for bedroom furniture last week – “well, I like the headboard of this bed, but I don’t like the footboard.  I like that footboard better.”  Like I can just magically Frankenstein things together.

Sure enough, I bookmarked two different recipes featuring some of the same summer-y ingredients.  One had bacon, corn, and zucchini.  The other had zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and white wine.  I kept looking back and forth between the recipes, so undecided on which to put on the menu.  And while I couldn’t Frankenstein two wedding dresses together, I could Frankenstein these two recipes – I don’t have to pick Option A or B, I get Option C – all of the above.

And it worked beautifully!  The sweet corn and tomatoes, the crispy bacon, the tender zucchini, the garlicky pesto.  I was worried that there would be too much going on – but it wasn’t.  EVerything worked together in awesome harmony. It was still so light and flavorful.  It was like everything you love about summer on one plate.

One year ago: Cranberry-Almond Granola Bars

Summer Veggie Pasta
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking (originally from Cooks Country) and Milk and Honey (originally from Gourmet)

12oz short cut pasta
1/2 lb thick sliced bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
1/2 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)
shredded parmesan cheese (optional, I forgot it and it still tasted great!)

Bring large pot of water to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon drippings from the pan.

Add onion to bacon drippings and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until softened, another 2 minutes.  Add zucchini and corn, cook 3-5 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.  Add wine and cook until reduced by half.  Season veggies with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes, drained pasta, and pesto to the veggies and stir until thoroughly combined.  Top with crumbled bacon and shredded parm if desired.


Chorizo-Rice Stuffed Zucchini

It never fails.  Every year I seem to plant fewer and fewer zucchini plants. Yet somehow, I get more and more zucchini.  I have gotten at least 20 zucchini from pretty much one plant.  I have two, but one of them isn’t doing very well.  So pretty much all from one plant.  And it’s still kicking – at least 2-3 zucchini a week.  And while I have several standby recipes (see my zucchini tag!), when I saw this recipe I just knew it would become another regular zucchini recipe. I’ve actually made it twice in the time this recipes has sat on my desk waiting to be blogged.  And I’m not gonna lie, it might be on the menu again in the next few weeks the way my plants are going.

The filling really is the star of this recipe.  It’s spicy and hearty and the queso fresco on top is just perfect.  The first time I made this recipe, I had a thought about halfway through eating – that this filling would be equally amazing in stuffed peppers.  So as soon as zucchini season is over, look out – you’ll see an adaptation of this into stuffed peppers!

One year ago: Sweet Potato and Poblano Salad

Chorizo-Rice Stuffed Zucchini
adapted from  Oishii

4 medium zucchini
1 cup rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb chorizo, diced
3 big handfuls of baby spinach
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
around 3oz queso fresco

Preheat oven to 375.  Trim ends from zucchini and cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out insides and seeds of zucchini.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper and olive oil.  Rub seasoning all over zucchini.  Set aside.

Cook rice according to package directions, set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and jalapeno and saute 1-2 minutes.  Season with oregano.

Add chorizo and cook until browned and golden, about 5 minutes.  Stir in spinach and stir until wilted.  Add breadcrumbs, stir, and cook until breadcrumbs start to toast.  Stir in cooked rice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill zucchini with spoonfuls of chorizo-rice mixture.  Top with crumbled queso fresco.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until zucchini is tender and cheese has melted.


Island Spice Pork Tenderloin


In the constant game of “let’s try to eat healthier,” my go-to protein always seems to be chicken or fish.  I always seem to forget about pork tenderloin – it’s lean, low in fat and calories, I can usually find it on sale every few weeks or so, and it’s super easy to throw together.  You can see one of my favorite pork tenderloin recipes here

This recipe was so perfect for summer – I could almost close my eyes and pretend I was on a beach somewhere.  Sweet and spicy, healthy, and easy enough for a weeknight dinner.  Hard to beat that!

One year ago: Blackened Mahi Mahi with pinapple salsa (and homemade blackening seasoning)

Island Spice Pork Tenderloin
courtesy of the Gourmet Cookbook, as seen on Annie’s Eats and Pennies on a Platter

2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (around 1lb each)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl, stirring until blended.  Rub mixture over pork tenderloins. 

Heat olive oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat.  Place tenderloins in skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total (1 minute each side).  Remove from heat, leaving tenderloins in pan. 

Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and hot sauce until blended.  Spread mixture over top of tenderloins.  Place the skillet in a preheated oven and roast for around 20 minutes, until thermometer inserted in center of tenderloins reads 140.  Remove from oven and loosely tent with foil, letting them rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. 


Bacon Pierogi Bake


Variations of this recipe have been circling the blogosphere for a few months now, and after recently making it, I can see why – it comes together super quickly, is fairly figure-friendly, and is absolutely, positively delicious!  And so adaptable – We already have plans for a variation with chorizo and some bell peppers…

Bacon Pierogi Bake
adapted from Cooking Light

1 (16oz) package frozen potato and onion pierogies
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray 11×7 glass baking dish with cooking spray (I used a small oval pan, a 9×9 or 8×8 would probably work too).  Arrange frozen pierogies in pan.

Brown bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Set aside.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon drippings from the pan.

Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings, cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Add cream cheese to the pan, cook for 1 minute or until cheese has melted.  Gradually add chicken broth, stirring until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over pierogies, top with shredded cheese. 

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and thoroughly heated.  Remove from oven top with bacon, green onions, and tomato.


Simple Roasted Pork Tenderloin


I freaking love pork tenderloins.  In the summer, they are awesome BBQed or thrown on the smoker (heaven!), in the winter they can be roasted up for a quick Sunday dinner.  And they are technically leaner than chicken breasts.  Does it get any better than that?  I have several pork tenderloin recipes, and this is one of my favorites for fall and wintertime.  I also have a great recipe that includes apples, pears and a molasses sauce, I need to make that again…

But I digress, today’s recipe is one of the simplest pork tenderloin recipes I have and it’s definitely one of my go-to’s.  Served up with some mashed potatoes (or roasted sweet potatoes) and a veggie and you’ve got a super simple and very tasty Sunday dinner.  But it’s also quick enough that it could make any weeknight feel like a Sunday afternoon.  I’ve been making this pork forever, and now have no clue which magazine or cookbook I got it out of.  So forgive my lack of citation.  If you make this same pork and know where I got it from, please let me know!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin
original source unknown

2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried sage
1 tbsp olive oil
2 trimmed pork tenderloins

Preheat oven to 500.

Combine garlic and spices in a small bowl and combine with oil.  Rub all over tenderloins.  Place on baking sheet lined with foil.  Roast for 10 minutes, turn, and roast for another 8 minutes for a medium doneness.  If you like yours more well-done, add a few more minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. 


Spicy Carbonara


I’m not sure where this recent craving for good carbonara came from, but it’s been pretty fierce for the past few weeks.  Now carbonara is hardly a complicated thing, but I’ve tried several recipes over the years and most of them have just been okay.  Common trend is not having a high enough sauce to pasta ratio.  Actually, that’s a common trend in most pasta recipes I see, and it annoys me to no end.  Maybe it’s because I married an Italian, but I like my pasta nice and saucy, no naked noodles here.  But I digress…

So after combining a few different carbonara recipes and throwing in a little kick of my own, I feel like I’ve finally found a true carbonara recipe that has satisfied my craving.  It was silky and creamy and so flavorful.  And was done in less than 20 minutes.  This recipe will now be frequenting our regular menu planning.  Hope you like it as much as we did!

Spicy Carbonara
a PLFF original recipe

4 large eggs
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
8 oz fettuccini

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped bacon and cook until browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.  Add garlic to bacon drippings and cook until fragrant and soft.  Add wine and bring to a boil, reduce for 2 minutes.  

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Add in 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.  Add drained hot pasta to egg mixture, stirring vigorously to coat the pasta completely.  Add pasta-egg mixture to skillet and toss with garlic and wine mixture.  Add bacon and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese to the pan and stir until sauce has thickened.  Serve immediately.