Baked Northern Beans with Rosemary and Mustard

FullSizeRenderTake a break from basic baked beans with this bacon-laced white bean side dish. I’d clipped the recipe from the May 2007 edition of Better Homes & Garden magazine, and had yet to try it out. Since it called for rosemary, and I’m trying to find ways to use up my fresh herbs before the first frost, I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I liked it, but it isn’t a “star” dish. Not everything on the table has to take center stage though, does it? It’s also not terribly gorgeous to look at, as you can see from my sad photo attempt. (I’m really selling you on this one, aren’t I!) It would work for summer barbecue with brats or burgers, and it would also pair well with a winter meal of roast pork, beef, or whatever meat you choose. It’s got that homey, comfort-food vibe going on, so tag this one to make this winter.

The original recipe called for four 16-ounce cans of butter beans or Great Northern beans, but I wanted to use a bag of dry Great Northern beans I had on hand. I’ve also heard that the canned beans are rather high in sodium, so thought it might be a healthier dish if I used the dry beans instead. Directions below include overnight soaking of a bag of beans—which required pre-planning, but wasn’t a ton of prep otherwise. My husband didn’t think the dish was zippy enough, but he’s burned out his taste buds by constantly dousing his food with cayenne pepper. Consider the source. My taste-tester Emily and I thought they were tasty, so I’ll be making these again some time—when my husband’s not home for dinner.

Serves 6-8

1 bag dry Great Northern beans
1 teaspoon salt
8 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container dairy sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or Namaste® gluten-free perfect blend
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used 1, but I think it could have used 2)

Rinse dry bean in cold water, and then put in Dutch oven. Cover with cold water, and let soak overnight. Drain off water and add water to 1-inch above beans. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and bring beans to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Line plate with paper towels, and place bacon on towels to drain. Let cool. Drain skillet of all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rosemary, parsley, and black pepper and sauté until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl. Crumble cooked bacon and add to beans.

In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, chicken broth, flour or gluten-free flour blend, and Dijon mustard. Add to beans and stir until all ingredients are combined. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Serve.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Can make bean dish and not bake, and then store covered in frig for a day or two. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.

S’More Cookies

FullSizeRenderIf you love s’mores, then you’re in for a super sweet treat! These cookies have all the fun flavors of a campfire-toasted marshmallow sandwiched between graham crackers and chocolate, but you don’t have to burn a bunch of logs to make them. I’m posting these early in the season, before all the BBQ gatherings and 4th of July festivities begin, but make a mental note to bring these to your next big outdoor bash. I found this recipe on Midwest Living’s website, and couldn’t resist trying it, given that I’m a bit of a s’mores fanatic. This recipe feeds a crowd—it makes a whopping 3 dozen cookies, and you can’t stack them because of all the delicious gooey-ness on top. So it’s best to make ’em and bring ’em to be consumed right away! And don’t worry, they will be. (Unless you’re feeding your gluten-free friends, in which case, they won’t be touched. Gotta know your audience!)

Makes 32-38 cookies

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (about 15 squares)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme
32-38 Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375°. In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat again. Add granulated sugar and beat until butter and sugars are light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until eggs are incorporated. Add milk and vanilla and beat again. Slowly mix in the oats and flour mixture with the mixer until all ingredients are combined.

Cover bowl of dough with plastic wrap, and chill for 1-4 hours. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8-9 minutes.

IMG_1588While cookies are baking, open large Ziplock bag and spoon in all of the marshmallow creme, concentrating it in one corner of the bag. Snip a small piece off corner of the bag, to make a pastry bag for piping creme into centers of cookies. Remove cookies from oven and make a slight impression in hot cookies with the back of a spoon. Pipe a dollop (about 1 teaspoon) of marshmallow creme into indent in each cookie, and top with a Hershey’s kiss, point size down.

Return cookies to oven for 3-4 minutes, or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely before storing.

NOTE: I have a large baking sheet that has a lid, and that’s the perfect container for storing and transporting these cookies.

Crunchy Cauliflower and Pea Salad

IMG_0963Trying to get kids—or picky adults—to eat their veggies? This crunchy salad loaded with fresh cauliflower, celery, and peas might just convert some veggie-haters into lovers. Ranch is the base of the dressing, and then there’s bacon…so I rest my case. I think I got this super easy recipe from a women’s magazine ad promoting Ranch dressing, from when Ranch was new player on the food scene (80’s or 90’s?). I will say that the cashews are delicious in the salad, but if you’re not going to consume the whole bowl in one sitting, they soften and take on the texture of mushrooms by the next day. So only add the cashews to the amount of salad you think will be eaten first time around. Otherwise, the salad is fine leftover the next day!

This is a nice year-round recipe, as the ingredients are available any time. It’s especially good with spring and summer menus, as a side to grilled meat, burgers, or brats, and even better if you’re bored with beans and slaw. And as excited as we Midwesterners are about summer when the first blades of green grass appear, we do get to that point. Am I right, people?

Serves 6-8

10 ounces fresh shelled peas, or frozen
2-3 cups fresh cauliflower florets, in bite-size pieces
1 cup diced celery
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced scallions
6-8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cashew halves

For dressing

1 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove fresh garlic, minced

If using frozen peas, rinse in cold water in strainer, and allow to drain. In large bowl, combine cauliflower, celery, red pepper, and scallions. Once peas are drained, add those as well.

In medium bowl, combine Ranch dressing, sour cream, Dijon, and garlic. Beat with wire whisk until dressing and sour cream are smooth. Pour over vegetables, and toss to combines. Add crumbled bacon and toss again. Add cashews just before serving.

NOTE: If using a gluten-free Ranch option, this recipe is gluten-free. Leave out nuts if you’ve got nut-allergy folks in your circles, and it tastes just fine without them. The bacon gives it enough flavor so you won’t really miss the cashews. The bacon also removes it from the vegetarian dish category…sorry.

Classic Baby Back Ribs

IMG_0681With the 4th of July just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to share our favorite baby back rib recipe. These super savory morsels of meat take a few hours on the charcoal grill, but they are totally worth the wait. My husband Rich found this recipe on Weber’s website, and aside from his apostasy of Weber and zealous love of his new-found Big Green Egg, he follows the recipe pretty closely—minus the homemade barbecue sauce. We have someone with an allergy to tomato-based foods in our family, so he avoids brushing any BBQ sauce onto the ribs while grilling. There is also a philosophy out there in manly grilling land that says adding barbecue sauce to meats makes them char, as tomato has a low burning point. Those in the “dry rub” camp say, add your sauce when you’re eatin’, not when you’re cookin’.

What goes great with these tender, smoky ribs? Any of these recipes already posted on my blog: Corn Bread or Savory Sweet Potato Biscuits, Curry Cabbage and Vegetable Salad, Mean Mexican Rice or Baked Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions. For refreshments, try Mint Lemon Sweet Tea, Fresh Lemonade, or Rhubarb Mint Coolers—and follow your super summer meal up with warm Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. My mother-in-law Marynona’s famous Potato Salad recipe (another summer time staple) will be posted soon. Never fear—I’ll be sure all your warm-weather dietary desires are covered!

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
4 teaspoons pure chili powder
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin


4 racks baby back ribs, each about 2 pounds
4 medium chunks of hickory wood, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes


1 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (from above)

Mix all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a dull knife, slide the tip under the membrane covering the back of each rack of ribs. Lift and loosen the membrane until it breaks, then grab a corner of it with a paper towel and pull it off. Season the ribs all over with the rub, putting more on the meaty sides than the bone sides. Arrange the ribs in a rib rack, with all the ribs facing the same direction. Allow the ribs to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until the surface looks moist, before grilling.

Fill a chimney starter to the rim with charcoal and burn the charcoal until it is lightly covered with ash. Spread the charcoal in a tightly packed, single layer across one-third of the charcoal grate. Place a large disposable drip pan on the empty side of the charcoal grate. Fill the pan about halfway with warm water. Let the coals burn down to low heat (250° to 300°F). Leave all the vents open.

When the fire has burned down to low heat, add two hickory wood chunks to the charcoal. Put the cooking grate in place. Place the rib rack over indirect low heat (over the drip pan) as far from the coals as possible, with the bone sides facing toward the charcoal. Close the lid. Close the top vent about halfway. Let the ribs cook and smoke for 1 hour. During that time, maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents. Meanwhile, make the mop.

Make mop: In a small saucepan mix the mop ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat to melt the butter, and then remove the saucepan from the heat. Or melt butter in microwave, and add other mop ingredients and stir.

After the first hour of cooking ribs, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes and the remaining two wood chunks to the fire. At the same time, lightly baste the ribs with some mop. Leaving the lid off for a few minutes while you baste the ribs will help the new briquettes to light. Close the lid and cook for another hour. During that time, maintain the temperature of the grill between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents.

After 2 hours of cooking ribs, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes to the fire. Remove the ribs from the rib rack, spread them out on clean work area and baste them thoroughly with some mop. Put them back in the rib rack, again all facing the same direction, but this time turned over so that the ends facing down earlier now face up. Also position any ribs that appear to be cooking faster than others toward the back of the rib rack, farther from the charcoal. Let the ribs cook for a third hour. During that time, maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F by opening and closing the top vents.

After 3 hours of cooking ribs, check if any rack is ready to come off the grill. They are done when the meat has shrunk back from most of the bones by ¼ inch or more. When you lift a rack by picking up one end with tongs, the rack should bend in the middle and the meat should tear easily. If the meat does not tear easily, continue to cook the ribs. The total cooking time could be anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. Not all racks will cook in same amount of time. Lightly brush the cooked ribs with some sauce and, if desired for crispiness, cook them over direct heat for a few minutes. Transfer to a sheet pan and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with barbecue sauce on the side.

Carolina Barbecued Pork

FullSizeRenderSlow cooker recipes are such time-savers, and this shredded pork number from the Crock Pot website is especially tender and tasty. Serve the shredded meat on crusty ciabatta rolls, not on hamburger buns or other soft breads. Stiffer, crustier bread holds up better with this juicy meat recipe. This is perfect for a graduation open house spread (if you live in the Midwest and do parties for high school graduates), but also works at potlucks in spring, summer, fall or winter. I’ve doubled it to serve a crowd, and every time I’ve had this simmering in the slow cooker, the recipe has been requested by a few folks. Let everyone serve themselves, and then gluten-free people can dish up a heaping pile of meat and avoid the bread. Vegetarians in your midst? They might change their persuasion when they get a whiff of what’s cooking. The original recipe gave instructions for making a sauce with the vinegar and seasonings, and then pouring it over the cooked meat when serving. But it’s easier and works perfectly fine to throw it all in the slow cooker, and let the ingredients make magic together.

(My apologies for not posting this last week in honor of Father’s Day! That was my intention, but you know what they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not sure what that has to do with a blog post.)

NOTE: The Curry Cabbage Vegetable Salad (posted recently) is a nice side with this sandwich.

Serves 6-8

2 medium onions, chopped
4 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika (I use smoked Spanish paprika)
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 to 6 pound boneless pork butt, shoulder, or loin
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
BBQ sauce of choice

Place onions in bottom of Crock Pot. In large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper. Roll pork in rub until it coats meat. Place meat in pot on top of onions. In a measuring cup, combine cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, sugar, mustard, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Pour over meat in pot. Cover and cook on Low for 10-12 hours, or on High for 5-6 hours. Once cooked, remove meat from pot and shred for sandwiches. Return meat to juices in pot. Use slotted spoon to serve meat.

Savory Sweet Potato Biscuits

FullSizeRender-1When you need something to round out your barbecue, soup, or stew menu (and happen to have sweet potatoes on hand), these easy biscuits are sure to garner “ooohs” and “aaaaahs” at your table. The original recipe for these biscuits came from the Deen Brothers website (sons of Food network star Paula Deen) and is a healthier version of traditional southern biscuits. Their recipe used sweet seasonings like pumpkin pie spice, etc., but we found that too sweet for bread you want to eat with a meat or soup, so have substituted in cumin and coriander instead. The sweet potato, yogurt, and oil add moisture to the dough, so you won’t miss the usual buttery biscuits one bit. 

IMG_0844If you happen to have any leftover, rejoice! The savory flavor makes them great second-day, layered with sandwich meats and cheese, and a dab of mustard or fresh hummus. Some fresh spinach and sweet peppers add crunch as well as extra nutrition, as you see pictured here. My son Mitch loves these in his lunch bag, and will request them for supper just to get a tasty sandwich the next day. (Hey Judy, my yeast-fearing sister, here’s a bread recipe sans yeast! Will you try this one?)

Makes 10-12 biscuits

1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (1 large sweet potato)
¼ cup Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ ground ginger
¼ cup fat-free milk

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Bake sweet potato in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until it yields to gentle pressure. (Can do this a day ahead and store cooked potato in frig.) Line large baking sheet with parchment, or spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Combine mashed sweet potato, yogurt, olive oil, and maple syrup in small bowl and set aside. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and ginger in large mixing bowl. Alternately add sweet potato mixture and milk, stirring with wooden spoon until dry ingredients are moistened.

Drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead a couple times until dough holds together. Do not over-knead—dough will be sticky. Shape into oblong, then roll out with rolling pin (moving from center to outside edges) until dough is about 1” high and 10”x13” in shape. Cut into 10-12 biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until bottoms and corners of biscuits are golden brown. Remove to cooling rack until cooled. May serve warm or room temperature.

Mint Lemon Sweet Tea

IMG_0850Nothing is quite as refreshing in a summertime drink as mint. If your mint is growing like a weed (in your mini herb garden pots), here’s one way to tame it. I found the original recipe in a food magazine put out by Marshall Field’s (before it became Macy’s), and credit is given to “Sunkist Growers, Inc.” in a tagline. I’ve added more mint, less sugar, and never bothered with the suggested grapefruit, so I think this is kinda my recipe now. I’m giving you an amount of mint (because that’s what you do in a recipe), but I nip off fistfuls of the herb from my pot without measuring, rinse and chop leaves only (no stems), and we’ve never thought, “Oh that’s too much mint.” (Pinch mint stem off right where new leaves are growing, as pictured here. That way your plant will branch out as it grows.)

FullSizeRenderNormally I’m a tea snob, but this is one case where I say, go for the Lipton’s. I used to find gallon-sized Lipton’s tea bags at Sam’s Club, but they no longer stock them. (Costco doesn’t carry any Lipton’s products.) I’ve found the large tea bags through Walmart online—they are cheaper and so much easier than unwrapping 12 single-serving tea bags.

One of the secrets of this drink, is pouring the boiled and steeped tea into the sugar, and stirring to dissolve it before adding the cold water. That’s how the southerners make their sweet tea, and it really is so much better than adding sugar to cold tea, where it just sinks to the bottom in an undissolved, sweet sludge. This tea has become our summertime drink of choice, and my son’s call it “liquid gold” or “the nectar of the gods”—when they are waxing poetic, that is. Suffice it to say, they really, really like it. I think you’ll like it too!

Makes 1 gallon

12 Lipton’s tea bags, or 1 gallon-sized tea bag
1 cup fresh spearmint leaves, rinsed and chopped*
4 cups boiling water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 cups cold water
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

If using individual Lipton’s tea bags, unwrap and gather all the strings together. Flip them over the side of medium mixing bowl. (Gallon-size tea bag just goes in the bowl—it has no wrapping or string.) Add chopped mint. Pour 4 cups boiling water over mint and tea; cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Put sugar into gallon-sized pitcher. Place a sieve over opening of container. Pour hot steeped tea through sieve into gallon container, pressing on tea and mint to get all liquid out of bags. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 8 cups cold water and lemon juice. Stir again. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before serving. Keeps in frig for a couple weeks—if it lasts that long.

*NOTE: Just a reminder that you should use spearmint, not peppermint. Hope you planted the right herb!

Baked Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Baked-Beans-IMG_0676I had you at bacon, right? This baked bean dish is one I came up with through years of tweaking, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken or ribs, burgers or brats. The trick is to bake it low and slow—then the flavors really blend together. Next time you’re invited to your friends or neighbors for a barbecue, offer to bring these. You can make ahead a day or two, refrigerate, then bake an hour or two before the event. No last minute prep needed. 

If you want to try to appear classier than you actually are, you can put the beans in individual ramekins for your dinner guests. Then bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6-8

4-6 pieces of bacon
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans Bush’s baked beans, do NOT drain
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, rinse and drain
1 (14 ounce) can butter or cannelloni beans, rinse and drain
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup full-flavored molasses
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon dried mustard (or 1 tablespoon prepared mustard)
Dash each salt and pepper

IMG_0668Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Fry bacon in large frying pan until crisp. (If not cooked until crisp, bacon will turn soft when baked with beans.) Remove cooked bacon to plate lined with paper towels; cool. Add onions to bacon fat and sauté on medium to medium-high heat until onions are golden and caramelized (see photo). Add minced garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes longer, until garlic is golden brown. Drain off any excess bacon fat.

In large bowl, combine all the beans, catsup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper. Add in caramelized onion mixture, and crumble bacon on top. Stir again until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into 3-quart baking dish (casserole dish is better than 9″x12″ baking dish), and bake uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until sauce has thickened and darkened in color.

NOTE: If making ahead and refrigerating, let stand at room temp for an hour or so before baking, if possible.

And this recipe may not be low-cal, but it is gluten-free!

Brined and Smoked Turkey

Smoked Turkey IMG_0616A man and his meat. It’s a beautiful thing. My husband Rich loves, loves, LOVES to grill, and with the recent addition of a Big Green Egg to his fleet of fiery furnaces, he’s learning a whole new way to barbecue. This brined turkey recipe from Weber Grill’s website has received rave reviews from the guests at our table, so I think it’s safe to say it’s a keeper. (He’s followed the recipe for the brine, but not tried the gravy yet, so that portion of the recipe is not included. The instructions below are for the Green Egg process which is charcoal, not a gas Weber grill.) Marinating in the brine takes 12-18 hours, and the smoking takes about 4-7, depending on the size of your bird. If it’s gorgeous out, it’s a great excuse for a guy to sit on the deck, soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the scent of smoked meat wafting through the air. If it’s cold and snowy (like this Christmas, when Rich smoked a bird for the extended family), it’s a labor of love. If he’s willing to labor, we’re willing to love it.

turkey on grillCouple tips. Rich found that the suggested 18-24 hours of brining made the bird far too salty, so he’s cut the brining time down considerably. He’s also found a handy chart on the Big Green Egg website with turkey tips. Rich slapped some slices of bacon on the big birds about halfway through smoking them. Why? Why not! He likes bacon.

In the photo at right, the two smaller birds are pheasants. Our son Brandon brought those pre-brined to a family party, and brushed reduced maple syrup on them as they smoked. Mmmmmmmmm. They were delicious.

Serves 8-12

For Brine

2 quarts apple juice
1 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

For Turkey

1 whole turkey, 10 to 12 pounds, fresh or defrosted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cooper and ChesterIn a large pot combine the brine ingredients. Stir vigorously until the salt is dissolved. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey (and cook giblets for your dogs—our dog Cooper, and our granddog Chester love this part). Rinse the turkey inside and outside with cold water.

Partially fill a cooler with ice. Open a large, sturdy plastic bag in the cooler. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the bag. Carefully pour the brine over the turkey and then add 3 quarts of cold water. The turkey should be almost completely submerged. If some of the back is exposed above the brine, that’s fine. Press the air out of the bag, seal the bag tightly, close the lid of the cooler, and set aside for 12 to 18 hours.

Smoking Turkey

If using wood chips, soak in water for at least 1 hour (no need to soak wood chunks). For charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter to the rim with charcoal and burn the coals until they are lightly covered with ash. You will want to smoke turkey with indirect heat, so place coals to side of cooking area. Carefully place a large, disposable drip pan in the center of the charcoal grate and fill it about halfway with warm water. This will help to maintain the temperature of the fire. Put the cooking grate in place, close the lid, bring the heat up to 350° Fahrenheit with all vents open. Then set vents to almost closed to reduce to low heat (200°). (If using a gas grill, follow manufacturers instructions for smoking.)

Remove the turkey from the bag and rinse it, inside and outside, with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine. Lightly coat the turkey with some of the melted butter. Season with the pepper.

Add two wood chunks or two handfuls of wood chips (drained) to the charcoal, and close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, place the turkey in the center of the cooking grate. Position the bird so the turkey legs face the charcoal. Cook the turkey over indirect low heat, with the lid closed, for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, turn turkey breast-side up, and add more wood chips. Close the lid, and watch until the temperature is back up to 200°. Continue to cook the turkey with the lid closed, for a second hour, maintaining that 200° temperature.

At the end of the second hour, baste the turkey all over with the remaining butter. If any parts are getting too dark, wrap them tightly with aluminum foil. Continue to cook the turkey. The total cooking time will be 4-6 hours. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 160° to 165° in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone).

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil, and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving (the internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees during this time). Carve the turkey, and serve.

Corn Bread

IMG_0718When my college-age son Mitchell called (a real live phone call! not a text!) to ask how I made my corn bread, I thought I’d post this fabulous recipe for everyone. My friend Mary Ericksen shared it with me after I complained about my dry, crumbly corn bread recipe. This is the best corn bread ever—it’s actually more of a corn cake, but let’s not haggle over the name. The addition of a generous amount of sour cream makes it moist and delicious. We love dipping wedges of it in a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter day, or munching on it with a slab of barbecued ribs. It’s also great slathered in homemade cheddar cheese sauce and served with a couple slices of ham.

Makes 8 servings

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup white flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt, if you want to cut calories)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Spray round 9” cake pan, or 9”x9” square baking dish with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Beat just until all ingredients are combined, scraping bowl occasionally with rubber spatula.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and use spatula to smooth batter down a bit. (It will be thick.) Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Top of corn bread will be light golden brown when done. Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes or more before slicing and serving.