Recipe for Ground Beef Meatloaf, individual servings

Easy as 1-2-3, This Flavorful Meatloaf is Hard to Beat.

Sometimes, whipping up a quick and easy meal isn’t all that quick, or easy. But when meatloaf goes to the table, not only is Momma happy, Daddy and the whole gang are waiting with fork in hand for the start of a memorial and satisfying meal. Nothing is quicker, nor tastier than a good ol’ homemade meatloaf. And when I say homemade,  I mean using good ingredients and delectable flavors that will make every bite outstanding.

Now the key to easy dinners is planning and keeping it simple. But that does not mean processed foods or out-of-the-box meals or sides. This meatloaf meal comes together with 3 recipes that together, makes for one outstanding, non-ordinary meatloaf. Plan your side dishes around the meatloaf, choose ones that will complement the flavor and be sure to maintain correct portions of the vegetables ( and the grains, fruit and dairy too) to the protein serving. Think steamed or quick pan sauteed, or even oven roasted vegetables.

We love meatloaf around our house. This is one way we enjoy making it, in individual servings and with a gravy made with good ingredients that really taste superb. The recipe uses basic ingredients for flavor but what we really love about this one is the added flavor and moistness the vegetables give to the texture and, with the addition of tomato paste as a binder, no egg is used. Enjoy!

Individual Meatloaves with Vegetable Gravy
Great for family dinners or company too – freeze unneeded loaves

makes 6 loaves

1) for the meatloaves:

2 1/2 to 3 pounds ground round beef (85/15)
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onions
1 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic
2 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend (you should know by know, mine is Badia Complete)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon low sodium Worcestershire
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onions
1/2 cup finely chopped mixed bell peppers
1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2) for the basting sop:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

3) for the vegetable gravy:

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup chopped mixed bell peppers
1 small carrot, diced
seasoning blend of choice
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup low sodium chicken or beef stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch

In an extra large bowl, blend the dried onion and garlic, seasoning blend, tomato paste, Worcestershire, soy sauce and liquid smoke together well. Mix in the chopped vegetables. Using a large metal or wooden spatula or mixing fork, cut in the ground beef adding about one-third of meat at a time. Mix to incorporate being careful not to compact the meat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using cold hands, form meat mixture into 6 balls and then each one into individual meatloaves. Place on a meat or wire rack and over a large shallow roasting pan.

Cook for about 30 minutes basting with the sop about 3 or 4 times during the cooking time. Remove when each is nicely brown and glazed.

While loaves are cooking, saute the mushrooms, onion, bell peppers and carrot with the olive oil until onion is soft. Add wine and chicken stock and allow to reduce about half in volume. Stir the cornstarch in a little stock or water and blend into the mixture to thicken. Simmer on low until gravy is desired consistency.

Place loaves in baking dish and spoon gravy on top. Return to oven if desired and allow gravy to simmer. Or, you can serve right away.

Notes: You could do away with much of the dried seasonings and use the standard onion soup mix I suppose, but then, it wouldn’t exactly be my recipe.
Next time I make these, I am gonna cook these on the grill, I can only imagine the added flavor especially using the basting sop.

Cooking Pole Beans, New Southern Style

Ain’t nuttin’ finer than a pot of pole beans.

Well, ‘cept maybe a pan of stewed yellow summer squash sitting pretty next to our favorite skillet of fried summertime fresh corn. Dag nabitt, I done got myself all hungry again.

Now, if you have not prepped a mess of pole beans before, well, you are in for a treat. Getting ‘em ready is as rewarding as eating ‘em, I mean, the process helps our sanity, don’t you see. I know there are many of you who remember time spent a few years ago shelling peas and snapping beans, a time spent that has passed our hurriedly society just as quickly as time marches forward.

“Snapping beans” is term used by mothers, grandmothers and generations before our now youth who at first thought, might think the term represents a new logo, web site or even a up-and-coming music act . . . I am just guessing here.  But I do know that back in my youth, sitting around, shelling peas and snapping beans was our way of ‘networking’, from the front porches catching up on gossip, sitting ’round the TV watching Lucille Ball, Jack Benny or  even Red Skelton, or in the kitchen waiting for the pot to boil. It was our early form of social media, with the likes of Skelton’s antics taking center stage if only for the amount of time until the ‘mess of beans’ were finished.

The beans actually do make a snapping sound, almost like a homemade pop-gun. And, to do justice, there is an art in snapping pole beans, as taught by our older generation and passed down, now to us. Start with the stem end and break away or ‘pop’ off the top and strip the string down on one side. Turn it over and pot the end followed with removing the string on that side. Then, break or snap the beans into one-and-one half to two-inch sections. As told, if there is not a string on the first run or side, then go ahead and snap into sections. The younger the beans, the less strings.

Fresh Pole Beans

Fresh pole beans should make a healthy snapping sound. When you pop off the ends, if it has a string attached, just pull down both sides of the pod to remove it.
 

the ‘ends and strings’ from Pole Beans

This is how I now cook pole beans, I mean, no one in my family used olive oil when I was growing up. It was all bacon grease and lard to ‘grease the pot’

Pole Beans
like Momma used to cook, only a little better for us 
6 to 8 servings

2 pounds fresh pole beans
1 or 2 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

Wash and prep the beans for cooking by ‘snapping’ off the ends, removing the strings and ‘snapping’ in about 1 1/2-inch sections. Drain well.

fresh ‘snapped’ Pole Beans

Cut the bacon in 1/2-inch slices and place in a stockpot over medium high heat. Cook the bacon until brown and crisp. Turn heat down and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a small plate or bowl. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Add olive oil (about 1 good tablespoon), the beans and increase heat back to medium high heat. Stir to coat all of the beans in the oil cooking about 2 minutes. Add onion, salt, pepper, sugar and stir to combine. Add enough chicken stock to just about cover the beans; cover with lid. At boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook between 25 minutes to an hour, depending on how firm you like them. Most southerners cook them about an hour until the beans are really soft.

Add the vinegar and red bell pepper and turn off heat. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Serve with a sprinkle of the crispy bacon.

Grilled Marinated Pork Loin Chops with recipe for Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce

Lean with a healthy slant, this is a recipe to sink your teeth into.

Did you know pork loin is America’s most popular lean meat? Well, other than chicken, neither did I. And, marinating thick chops are one of our favorite way to flavor this cut of pork as well as putting it on the grill.

The loin roast comes from the upper part area of the hog between the shoulder and the start of the leg. The loin roast is delicious when marinated and grilled quickly over direct heat. For a crisp surface on your chop, be sure the grill is fully preheated before placing the chops on the rack. Of note, if cooking pork loin chops on the stove, again, be sure to use medium high heat. Because of the connecting fibers, these chops should not be braised or stewed as they have a tendency to lose tenderness when cooked by means of moist heat.

Now, according to wiki-how, “the USDA recommends cooking pork to 160 degrees,” that is, if you prefer tough meat, “but it is perfectly safe to cook American pork to 145 degrees. Trichina dies out at 137, and most other ones die at around 140. For those outside American soil, you should probably cook your pork well.”

Enough of all that. I don’t know how many times I have used this marinade on pork chops nor guess how many more times I will in the future. I know it will be many more good eatings.

Tender, juicy and full of flavor, these chops with or without the tangy sauce is spectacular. Hope you get your grill out and get to cooking soon. Enjoy!

Grilled Marinated Pork Loin Chops
glazed with Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce
4 servings

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon low-sodium Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 -1 1/2 to 2 inch thick boneless pork loin chops
Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce -see below

Combine all marinade ingredients in a container or sealable bag and let marinate for 1 to 2 hours refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator and let rest about 30 minutes before grilling.

Heat grill to high heat. Place chops directly over flame and after first sear marks appear on both sides (about 2 minutes each side) reduce heat to medium heat or move away from direct heat. Begin glazing with the Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce. Move chops further away from heat if the sauce darkens too much. You want to coat with several layers of the glaze for a really outstanding taste.

Grill until internal temperature reaches desired range (140 to 155 depending on taste and location). Remove from grill, tent with foil and allow chops to rest for about 10 minutes before cutting or serving. Remember, meat will rise in temperature about 5 degrees after removing from heat source as long as it is tinted.

Tangy Gold BBQ Sauce

A well bodied, full flavored table sauce for pork, poultry, game, fish and seafood – also great for glazing on BBQ or Grilled foods
makes about 1 cup

1 cup yellow prepared mustard
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4-5 tablespoons Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 1/2 cup brown sugar)*
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Mix ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sauce just begins to simmer. Reduce heat and cook stirring often until sauce is reduced in half or thickens to desired consistency. Serve cool or warm.

*Adjust Splenda Blend or brown sugar to taste. To me, Splenda Brown Sugar Blend is sweeter in strength compared with regular brown sugar using the equivalent amount.

You can store sauce in a sealed jar refrigerated for a several weeks.

Award Winning Summertime Tasting Hamburger

A new favorite, maybe the best!

It is crazy how we get stuck in a rut. I mean, eating the same thing over-and-over again. Now I am not saying to put away a good recipe when you find one, I’m just saying I like to try and create new ones from time to time. Do I try to ‘out do’ the previous favorite? No, nor do I try to replace it. But I think having several great recipes for the same food under the belt, so to speak, is a good idea. To change things up a bit at times, don’t you see.

So when I came up with this recipe a few weeks ago, I did what I do best, I reached into the cabinet and let my mind and taste thoughts lead me toward creating what became a hamburger with a remarkable and flavorful, southern smoky grilled taste. A new recipe that was hailed as ‘award winning’ by all who enjoyed it. (I have made a second batch and grilled them with equally great reactions.) In fact, one even went as far in saying it was the new favorite, the best ever. Well, I don’t know . . . I’ll let you decide that. Go ahead, make up a batch yourself, get to grilling and enjoy a really good great hamburger. Enjoy!

My New Southern Seasoned Hamburger Recipe
makes 4 burgers

2 tablespoons Southern Seasoning Home Blend (see below)
2 tablespoons low-sodium Worcestershire
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Badia Complete Seasoning or seasoning salt
2 pounds ground chuck beef (80/20), cold from refrigerator

In a wide large bowl, whisk the first 6 ingredients together. Let set for about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef by carefully breaking it apart and with a large spoon or spatula, blend it into the seasoning mixture. Using your hands will heat the meat and cause the fat to tighten up the texture.

Dip your hands in ice-cold water. Dry hands completely and divide mixture into 4 balls. Quickly pat out into no less than 1-inch thick patties. I like to form the side edges somewhat flat, perpendicular to the surface. Lay each on a baking pan and press an indention into the center of each burger. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until about 30 minutes before ready to grill.

Preheat grill on medium high. Grill patties for 5 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Baste both sides with the of the Hamburger Basting Sauce (below) while grilling.

Top each with a layer of cheese (I used Chipotle Cheddar) right after removing from grill. Add what ever condiments and finish with a dressing however you like. I made up a quick jam by sauteing red and green bell pepper slices with onion silvers along with olive oil and as it just began to caramelize, I added grain mustard and ketchup for a wonderful, dressing to pair with the grilled hamburger.

Note: Badia Compete or Sazon Completa is the same item and is available in most grocers. I use the heck out of this in so many foods as an all-purpose seasoning blend. And what I like best, besides the taste, is that salt is one of the last listed spice ingredients.

SO… What are a few of my other ‘favorite’ burgers’?
Steakhouse Burger – with flavors of a steakhouse grill
Dad’s Better Burger - beef and pork sausage burger with bacon jam and special sauce
Sensational Burgers - pure savory beef burgers with no egg or bread fillers
Smoky Texan ‘Ham’burgers – loaded patty with onions, peppers, smoked ham and bacon…juicy with Texan BBQ sauce glaze

Southern Seasoning Home Blend
I like to make up a batch and use as a general additive to so many foods, from dips, soups, stocks and the likes of this: hamburgers. (also esp. good in meatloaf)

1/4 cup dried minced onions
3 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried carrots flakes
2 tablespoons dried minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves

Combine all in a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in a dry, dark cabinet or pantry.
Note: Carrot flakes are found in natural or health food specialty stores

Hamburger Basting Sauce
Use this to mop on the burgers as you grill.

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon low-sodium Worcestershire
good dash of Chipotle Tabasco or liquid smoke

I like to place this in a half-pint mason jar and mop with a baster

Oven Baked Vegetable Spears

Crusted Vegetable Sticks Baked to Perfection.

Yeah, I know. There are way too many recipes for oven-baked asparagus, green beans and zucchini spears, but this one is different. It is my concoction, my way of doing it. A recipe that not only taste good but is good for you too.

You see, I made hamburgers the past weekend (okay, not so good for us but I did use whole wheat buns, okay?) and we just could not go the usual potato fries, not even baked. Nope – rarely do we eat potatoes anymore and when we do, it is gonna be one loaded dish, really good but bad. So instead, I opted for baked vegetable sticks. Now this recipe is, like I said, one that is good for you in the sense that it uses much better ingredients than most bake ‘fried’ vegetable recipes. It is one that I tweaked to our liking.

Give it a try. It is one which I will make many times over now that I have perfected it. Enjoy!

Oven Baked Vegetable Spears
I list a few ingredients with my version and an option for those not dieting
serves 4

quarter pound each of fresh whole green bean and fresh zucchini
half pound of fresh asparagus spears
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Egg-Beaters or 2 whole eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise or  regular mayo
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon no-salt Cajun or Creole seasoning, divided
1 teaspoon low-salt seasoning blend (I like Badia Completa), divided
1/3 cup Japanese Panko, see note

Wash the green beans and trim the ends. Wash the asparagus and snap at natural breaking point removing the tough root end. Soak in ice water for about 15 minutes. Remove, drain and completely pat dry. Was the zucchini and cut away the ends; cut into strips about the same size as the green beans.

Using three wide shallow bowls, add the flour and half of the seasonings to one. Whisk the egg with the mayo in the 2nd bowl. Mix the Parmesan, sesame seeds, the remaining half of seasonings and Panko in the 3rd bowl.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Position wire racks on two baking pans. Spray with vegetable oil. DO NOT SKIP the coating of the racks. Dip the vegetable sticks in the flour, dip in the egg mixture and roll in the Panko mixture to coat. Place on the racks, not touching and place into the oven, center rack.

Reduce oven to 350 and bake about 15 minutes or until brown. Remove and serve warm

I served these with a Chipotle low-fat mayo combo sauce and a low-fat Ranch type dipping sauce.

Note: Panko is a better coating and is healthier than regular breadcrumbs, here’s why:

  • Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb made from bread without crusts. It has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breadcrumbs.
  • Panko stays crisp after cooking, unlike other types of breading, which can get soggy.
  • Panko is lower in calories, sodium, and fat and higher in fiber than regular breadcrumbs.

Top 5 Canning Recipes

okay, #6 – Pickled Asparagus



The best for a reason.
 

Well, at least we think so and so must many of you too.

Since the gardens across the country in many areas are now peaking (ours of course are long over except for hot climate peppers etc.), I thought I would recap a reference page to the top 5 recipes that visitors search when looking at canning recipes on my site.

Click on title to open recipe in new window.

TOP 5 from the top:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Enjoy!

Smothered Pork Chops over Collard Greens

Old southern foods are a lot like people – resilient!

There has been a lot on my mind lately that I just can’t seem to shake no matter how much I try to move on, certain thoughts still linger around, unsettled I suppose, now going on the second month. I’m talking about people, my southern brethren to be exact, folks who just don’t know how to act nor have learned the values of living. That’s it in a nutshell.

Now, I get all riled up when I see a chef go and do some dang fool thing with a southern recipe, meddling with it or doing something that I purely disagree with and then calling out to all that it’s the real deal. That’s one thing; it’s my opinion and I think I have the right to do so and I guess they have the right too. I have called out on such a thing a few times before and probably will again. Of course, the person that I’m talking about, well, I can say I have never thought of using the title ‘chef’ as reference. Why, that’s like calling me a chef and we all know I’m nothing more that a cook. A self-made entrepreneur for sure, this person climbed to TV stardom and is indeed a very shrewd business person. A ‘celebrity chef’ is perhaps more fitting, but I still think adding ‘chef’ is using the title loosely. Although she did entertain me for a short while before I became bored with the epitomized act of all things southern even though her southernism is a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing. The south was and is the main focus of this celebrity’s food, media and merchandising commodity, but really, do we southerners really tauk like that?

And, when I see such a person acting a fool on a matter that should have been answered and coped with and overhauled so long ago, it just tears me up. To sling slurs as a child or young teenager is one thing. We can blame it on peer pressure. But this is a grandmother. And we are not talking about targeting aspersions toward just one group. Why, no – she made sure she scooped everyone up in her sweet pot. I doubt her intentions missed any of her many pursued crowds. Well, it just goes to show that sooner or later, as grandmother used to say “even sweet honey brings out nasty flies.”

Oh well, I may not feel any better; my head might not be any clearer nor my heart any lighter and I might have offended a few but I do have a real, bonafide southern recipe to share. One that I am proud of and one that’s the real deal. This recipe or versions like it, been around for decades, resilient to disparateness long before anyone ever thought of becoming a ‘celebrity chef.’ Enjoy!

Smothered Thick Pork Chops
over Seasoned Collard Greens
4 servings

for the Smothered Chops:
Salt, pepper and seasoning blend
4 thick cut pork chops (about 1-inch thickness), diced
3 pieces thick cut hickory smoked bacon
2 tablespoon light olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, sliced into ribbons
2 garlic toes, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves or 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, optional

Dry chops completely with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and a seasoning blend. I used a no salt Creole spice mix but any Mrs. Dash or other blend would do just fine to add a bit of flavor to the meat. Set aside.

Pork Chops in Gravy covered with Onions and PeppersIn a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon until lightly browned. Remove bacon with tongs to a plate to drain and remove all but 1 teaspoon of bacon grease to a large stockpot (for cooking the collards). Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil. Add chops and cook about 3 minutes for a good brown sear to form. Turn chops over and sear the other side cooking for 3 minutes. Remove chops with tongs to a clean plate.

Stir in the onion and bell pepper cooking for about 5 minutes until light brown. Remove onion and bell pepper with a slotted spoon to a bowl leaving as much oil as possible in skillet. Stir the garlic into the skillet and cook until fragrant. Add flour and stir to mix. Cook stirring the bottom for about 4 minutes or until mixture is light brown. Slowly add chicken stock and stir to blend. Add bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Add additional salt if needed to the gravy. Nestle in the chops and spoon gravy over the top of each. Sprinkle the onion mixture onto each chop. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, test (pork should be 145 degrees F.), cover and turn off heat.

for the Collard Greens:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small hot pepper or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bunches fresh collards (or packaged if desired)
2 cups or more chicken stock
1 smoked ham or turkey meat
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cider vinegar

Rinse greens underwater in a deep sink if possible allowing grit to settle to bottom. Remove greens and drain water rinsing away the grit. Repeat until no trace of grit remains. Remove the thick stems and discard any blemished leaves. Rough chop collards and put aside.

Add olive oil to stockpot with bacon grease and heat over medium high heat. Add onion and hot pepper. Saute until onion is soft. Add a handful of collards at a time tossing all while cooking until all the greens are wilted. Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the ham hock and simmer covered on low until greens are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove cover, add the vinegar, stir and continue simmering out most of the liquid, about 30 minutes. Do not allow collards to scorch.

To serve:
Spoon with a slotted spoon a helping of collards on each dish. Top with a pork chop covered with onions. Divide the gravy among the chops as well as the bacon.

Note: Back in the day, for many households, the collards were cooked into the gravy mixture (which was thinned out) with the chops nestled in during the tenderizing stage of the last, long simmer.

Pork Kabobs with Garden Vegetables

Grilled Pork Kabobs
Another skewer recipe for grilling.

Many of you already know that we do love our barbecue and grilled foods and we especially love the simplicity and ease of kabob cookouts. The pork and vegetable skewers today along with a yellow rice medley and steamed fresh broccoli made for one fine dinner this week.

Now, I have many recipes, as I am sure many of you do too, for kabobs but this one folks, is one that I will be bragging about for a while and one I will make again many times. It really is that good.

The marinade aids in not only tenderizing the pork cubes but also lays down a first layer of wonderful flavors. And, the thing I love about the marinade is there is a harmonious unifying of flavors, not one overpowering the other. The finishing glaze is another layer of flavor that mingles together a taste of distinction that I am proud of and again, not one flavor is more pronounced than the other. The overall taste is really not sweet at all but brings about the gratifying spirit of what a grilled kabob should be. Enjoy!

Pork Kabobs Glazed with Sweet BBQ Finishing Sauce
and served with Grilled Garden Fresh Vegetable Skewers

for the Marinade:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano

Combine all in a sealable bag and let rest for about 20 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon light olive oil and jumble around before adding the pork cubes.

for the Pork Kabobs:
2 pounds thick cut pork loin chops (or four 1-inch cuts of a loin roast)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1/4 sweet onion, wide cuts

Trim any fat from the pork and cut into equal cubes. Place in the bag and refrigerate for about an hour or so, no more than 3 hours.
Skewer the pork cubes alternating with the vegetables. Refrigerate until about 20 minutes prior to grilling. Save the marinade for a baste.

for the Glaze:
I stirred together 1/2 cup apricot preserves along with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar over low heat until dissolved, after which I added 2 teaspoons of a Memphis BBQ sauce for good measure. Delish!

for the Vegetable Kabobs:
2 garden onions, sliced
red and green bell peppers squares
2 yellow squash, sliced
16 cherry tomatoes
mushrooms, optional
other seasonal vegetables as desired

Cut vegetables uniformly as possible to aid in cooking.

To Grill:
Prepare grill to 400 degrees F. Place pork kabobs over direct heat and baste 1 time with any remaining marinade. Discard remaining marinate. Cover grill and cook about 6 minutes. Turn kabobs over and cook 4 to 6 minutes or until pork test done. Give the kabobs a glaze of the finishing sauce the last few minutes of cook time.

Meanwhile, cook vegetable kabobs on indirect heat turning once. I basted these with a balsamic dressing.

Key West Style Mojito, a Classic Cocktail

Recipe for a new favorite cocktail.

I am in love, again. For a really long time, something like thirty-plus years, I have been faithful to just one but on vacation, I strayed and found myself immersed in a totally new relationship. As many of you may know, I am a bourbon man and even in the hottest months of summer have I not ever been tempted to sway or even be teased with a lust of another, booze that is. But I could not help myself. I got all caught up in the moment; hot and tired from a long day of doing absolutely nothing, I found myself saying the words, “I’ll have a mojito, the original version please.”

As for a perfect rum to use in this recipe, I think the best match for this Cuban drink would be a Cuban rum like Havana Club, but it’s not available in the US. My picks off the shelf are Myers Platinum, Flor de Cana, 10 Cane and Cruzan Light; all are about the most decent for mojitos. As told, always use a light rum, never dark. Now, the recipe is based on the way I observed the bartender making it and I asked of the simple syrup he used to sweeten and offset the acidic bitterness of the limes which makes a mojito such a classic. He explained the syrup was an infused sugar water using the mint leaves. The infused water along with the bruised leaves makes what I think is the best mojito out there. And this is coming from the locale where mojito is the king of cocktails – in Hemmingway’s back yard of Key West. Enjoy!

My Mojito Recipe, Key West Style
for each cocktail

2 ounces light rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 1/2 ounces mint infused sugar water
Top with a splash, really just a splash, of club soda and a lime twist

Use a highball glass. Add 3 or 4 mint leaves, a good pinch of sugar (this helps to brighten the mint flavor and release the mint oil as you muddle) and muddle with a, well, muddler. If you don’t have one, use the dowel end of your largest diameter wooden spoon or even a teaspoon will do, but you will have to work a little harder. The idea is to bruise the leaves not macerate them into tiny pieces that will later get caught in your or guests teeth.

Add cubes of ice, never crushed, half way up the glass along with the rum, lime juice and the infused sugar water. Now, gently stir your mojito a little and enjoy a most perfect, classic cocktail.

Notes: The key to a great infused water is to allow the liquid to cool down naturally, that is, to room temperature before removing leaves and refrigerating. Always use fresh limes, preferably the smaller Floridian Key or Mexican limes; use Persian as the last resort but never use bottled lime juice. On average, each cocktail will use about 1 1/2 lime including the twist.

Mint Infused Sugar Water
makes 1 cup ~ I like to double it

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
16 mint leaves, washed

Heat water in a small saucepan over medium high heat to a boil. Add sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add mint leaves. Allow to steep until water comes to room temperature. Remove leaves, refrigerate to cool or until needed.