Homemade Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Yes, it’s been ages – I know. But in my defense, I was super busy with work-stuff, projects and (ahem, ahem) vacation. You will get a slight benefit from my endless excuses – I will, over the coming weeks, post fabulous pictures of the ridiculous food we got to eat (and yes, ridiculous is the perfect way to describe it). I wanted to start back with this great recipe I made before I traveled, a few weeks back, and have continued to make and package to friends and family: Tangy BBQ Sauce.

While the weather is, for the most part, gross and icky – there are those few gorgeous sunny weekend’s, and this recipe is for those days. There are tons of great BBQ recipes out there – spicy, peppery, asiany, tomato-based, etc. This one is has more of a tangy twist. Of all the easy recipes I’ve made, this has got to be the easiest, since it consists of literally just dumping ingredients into a massive pot and letting them stew.  

1 1/2 cups of chopped yellow onion (about 1 whole onion)

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1 cup of tomato paste

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup honey

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon red-pepper flakes

 

On low heat, saute the onions and garlic in vegetable oil for a good 15 minutes. Once the onions have softened, add all the remaining ingredients into the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Once complete, either use immediately or refrigerate.

 

I found some leftover jars around the house, cleaned them out, labeled them, and packaged a few to send to friends and family. With my portion, I marinated lamb chops for two days and grilled them on the barbecue. They came out gorgeously glazed.

 

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Recipe, courtesy of smittenkitchen

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Garlic and Herb Summer Cherry Tomatoes

I have such a soft spot for delicious, beautiful side-dishes. I think they get such a bad rap and are usually the same-old, standard, bland salads and boiled veggies. Most cook’s concentrate so much on the main, the sides are usually quite boring. I’m on a mission to try and jazz up a bunch of side dishes recipes, and instead of having massive 3-hour main course dishes (although, oh-so-yummy), try and deliver two or three course mains that are simple, healthy and different. I began with these. For one, cherry tomatoes are every where right now. And I mean, everywhere. Large one’s, small one’s medium sized ones – they’re just beautiful and screaming of summer. I grabbed a few boxes (yes, again) and whipped up something quick, light and easy. 

Serves 4-6

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)

2 pints of cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (I couldn’t find thyme and used rosemary instead)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


This recipe is almost ridiculously easy. First, heat the olive oil in a pan or skillet – I like to use one I will already serve them in. Add the garlic and allow to heat for roughly 1 minute. Add the basil, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Move the tomatoes around with a wooden spatula so all sides get saturated in the spices. Allow to cook for a good 5 to 7 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to burst. When finished, garnish with extra parsley.

 

Yes, that’s really it. And you better believe, this is just the beginning of the gorgeous sides I’m going to begin giving homage to. I served this alongside buttermilk mashed potatoes and a nice rib-eye steak. Call me crazy, but I think these tomatoes can also be diced, then added into a crisp, warm, italian baguette with soft-buffalo mozerella and a drizzle of olive-oil, as a take-away vegetarian sandwich. Or, tossed into a mixed green salad. Or, scarfed in one sitting as is (ahem). Enjoy! 

 

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Recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten

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Melted-Gooey Blondies

These treats remind me of the 60 Thomspon in NYC, which isn’t like most boutique hotels. Instead of standard little mints awaiting you on your snuggly soft pillow, the Thompson opted for blondies. Yes, blondies. All wrapped up and waiting for me right on my pillow every night. (Of course I gouged mine and stole my husbands, but that’s another story). I loved them, but couldn’t (and still quite can’t) figure these little treats out. Is it a cookie? A sort of inside-out brownie? Or both? Apparently it’s from the cookie-family, although I consider it a brownie. Whatever it is, it’s delicious. A cool thing about this recipe is that there are two parts – the basic mixture and then all the little additives you want to include and customize.

8 tablespoons of butter (or 1 stick), melted

1 cup of brown sugar (a little less if it’s light, a little more of it’s dark)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 pinch of salt

1 cup of all-purpose flour

 

Additives: (pick one or a combination of whatever you like below)

1 cup of chopped nuts

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon of mint extract, in place of the vanilla

1/2 cup of mashed bananas

2 tablespoons of espresso powder with the vanilla

1/2 cup of dried fruit, mixed in the with the batter

Top with vanilla butter cream or chocolate peanut butter frosting

 

Preheat your oven to 170C and butter an 8 x 8 baking dish. Mix together the brown sugar and and butter until smooth. Once smooth, add the egg and vanilla. Add salt and then stir in flour. This provides the basis of your blondie, add in whatever additional combinations you’d like. I opted for chopped pecans and semi-sweet chocolate chips which turned out excellent. Once the batter is complete, place in baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the batter, you don’t want to over cook it, as that keeps the gooey and chocolate interior (which is to die for). That’s it.

I served alongside a scoop of ice cream and they were divine. A quick, easy dessert – and a nice change to my routine peanut butter or oatmeal cookies. Plus, when they’re all gooey and melted, they won’t last long on your dessert tray.

 

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Recipe, courtesy of smittenkitchen and How To Cook Everything

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Lemon Cream Pasta – Summer is Here

I’m not sure where we lost spring, but it looks like summer is already here. With a supply of fresh bright veggies, it’s almost a shame not to take advantage of it all. The past two weeks I’ve gone grocery shopping the cherry tomatoes have practically been talking to me, begging to finally be incorporated into some delicious dish (of course, I went a little overboard on the cherry tomato themed dishes this week – oh well.) A nice contrast from the heavy and hearty meals of winter, I love the lightness of summer dinners. Dishes like this are substantial enough to stand alone, but I made a smaller portion alongside chicken escalope. Although delicious, I’d recommend serving with veal next time. 

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

2 cups of good heavy cream

3 lemons

2 bunches of arugula (1/4 kg)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 box of cherry tomatoes, havled

1 box of fusilli pasta (0.5 kg)

salt, pepper and paprika for garnish


Begin by warming the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and allow to sizzle for about a minute, then add the heavy cream, zest of 2 lemons, juice of 2 lemons, 1.5 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. (Although these are the ingredients the recipe calls for, I found the sauce a bit too lemony for my liking – if you prefer a more toned-down lemon sauce, add the zest and juice of only one lemon. You can always squeeze a little extra when it’s complete.) Bring the sauce to a boil, then allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes so as to intensify it’s flavors. In the meantime, prepare the vegetables and boil the pasta to al dente. Once complete, add the pasta and veggies right into the sauce pan and toss together. Add the parmesan and mix until it melts and the sauce further thickens. Slice the final lemon and toss the lemon slices into the sauce or place on top for presentation.

 

A great aspect of this dish is you can add pretty much whatever you have in your fridge: broccoli, brussel sprouts, or even chopped asparagus. It’s a great spring/ summery dish in that whatever is in season or you had managed to pick up at the grocery store can be tossed in. You can also make a larger portion and serve it as a main dish, which would be just as filling and a great vegetarian option. I served this alongside escalope and stir-fried broccoli with almonds.

 

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Recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten

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Meatballs and Sauce – An Italian Game Night

I knew last night would be intense, considering it was the big Chelsea and Barcelona game. No, I’m not a footballer but my husband definitely is, and just in case he’d be sulking around the house if Chelsea lost, I wanted to cook something I knew he’d enjoy (Thank God, they won, though! ). This recipe is quite an important one in my house – the sauce and meatballs were given to me by a good Italian friend in college, who’s grandmother had taught it to her. Although the sauce remains a bit of a “secret recipe” I keep in my dusted tiny book in the corner shelf of my kitchen, the meatball recipe is a staple I think every kitchen should have. It’s absolutely fabulous and, the great thing about meatballs, it can be cooked a few different ways. I opt for the classic meatballs and sauce, but if you like, you could always bake them, make a meatball sandwich or add gravy. It’s quite a flexible and delicious recipe! 

1 package of good ground beef, not lean (I go for 75 or 80 percent)

1 medium-sized egg

1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/4 cup of bread crumbs

1/4 cup fresh parsley

3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

few dashes of cooking wine

pinch of salt and pepper

 

You want to begin preparing your meatballs while your sauce is cooking on low. Real Italian sauce takes roughly 2-4 hours to make, depending on how large the size and how low you set the heat while cooking it (the lower and the longer the better). As soon as I get my sauce going, I begin by dumping all the ingredients into a large bowl. Then, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Begin by mixing together all the ingredients with your hands – make sure everything is pretty well squished together and integrated. Then form into one large ball. Start rolling your balls – you can do this by hand, but I use a meatball maker I purchased last summer (and just adore)! You want to roll each ball to be roughly 5 cm each. Once complete, warm a pan that you used to put meat into your sauce earlier (the extra fat and oils from the previous meat add a lot of taste) – if you hadn’t added extra meat to your sauce, a pan with vegetable oil is just fine. You want to make sure the pan is fairly hot before you start with 3-5 balls at a time, since you need the space to roll them around. Around this time the pan should be smoking, which is a good sign. Remember, you’re only trying to cook the outside of the balls, the inside will cook slowly in the sauce. As each ball is complete, drop it into the sauce, as the extra oil also adds taste to the sauce. Brew into your sauce for at least another half hour – and that’s it! 

 

The results are just gorgeous – beautiful meatballs and sauce piled on fresh pasta, it’s such an incredible guilty pleasure. Thankfully, the night went well with football so the hefty dinner was a great way to end the night. Another great perk about this recipe, is because it’s so large, you can always take the sauce and meatballs and freeze them into individual baggies. So, whenever you’re craving some fresh sauce and meatballs, just pop one into a pot on the stove, and you have a delicious home-made meal in a few minutes. 

 

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Ubon – New Thai Spot

There’s been a little bit of talk about this new spot in the city, and a month or so back when it had just opened my husband and I tried it out. I’m a die-hard thai food fan, and mostly when I get a panang chicken craving I opt for pataya beach restaurant or oriental, so I was excited there was another option. The concept of ubon is entirely different that the previous two and quite charming. I found it to be more fusion and modern-edgy, than the shabby, authentic and tucked-away feel the other two have. And yet, the first thing I fell in love with about this place was the ambiance – it’s different: intimate and yet social, modern and yet rustic – I’m not sure who designed the simple metallic theme, but I liked it a lot, particularly the gorgeous chandelier pots.

The dishes are focused on presentation, and offer a little more of a commercial-fusion thai taste – for example, if you want “thai spicy” order the extra spicy, as opposed to medium, like you might when in Thailand. We ordered the tempura, garlic shrimps, green chicken curry, stir-fried beef, pineapple rice, pad thai and mango rice pudding. Stand-out dishes were definitely the garlic shrimps and the rice pudding. The shrimps were lovely with crunchy garlic chips. The pudding was great. I loved it and gobbled the entire serving. I see that dish alone as a potential staple and stand-out for the restaurant. One thing I absolutely adored at the restaurant was the fact that the owners were present and assisting the waiters with serving. It offered a very warm touch and gave the overall experience that extra edge. 

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Egg in a Cup – Friday Morning Breakfasts

Like most of us, Friday morning breakfasts are somewhat of a ritual. I try to get creative once in a while, and instead of the standard eggs and foul routine, I discovered this little recipe I had clipped out a few months back and kept hidden away. I remember thinking these little egg cups were just adorable and offered a great spin on a standard way to eat the staple morning ingredients of toast, eggs and bacon. 

6 slices of toast (I opted for wheat, but whichever you prefer)

6 eggs

6 slices of half-cooked bacon

2 tablespoons of butter

salt, pepper and paprika for garnish


This recipe is just as easy as it’s ingredients. First, pre-heat your oven to 180C. Try to roll each piece of toast with a rolling pin, to get it slightly thinner before we cut and place it into the cups. Once rolled, use a biscuit cutter to cut a large circle in the toast (if you don’t have one, a large glass might work by turning it upside down and pressing). Cut each circle in half, and then melt the butter and brush the cup-cake pan. begin by placing the each bread half into the pan so that all edges and, especially the bottom, are all covered. If there are any gaps use some of the extra bread to fill them in. Place a piece of bacon in each cup. Crack an egg into each cup (don’t do this too slowly, otherwise the yolk will bread, like it did in a few of mine). Place in the oven and cook until the whites are cooked. It was really, that easy.

 

One of the best parts about this breakfast is that it allowed for time to prepare so many other sides! I served it with fritas papas (Mexican fried potatoes) and hashbrowns. This recipe is also great for brunches or serving large groups, since it allows everyone the chance to eat at the same time, without having to fry each egg individually and having the first batch get cold before you’re complete.  Plus, I think the presentation is just adorable!

 

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Recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart

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