Finger Lickin’ Good BBQ Sauce

I haven’t always been a huge barbecue sauce fan, but I obviously was going about the whole thing wrong. For the first time ever (!) we (I say we as if I had anything to do with it, but the truth is, I was getting my hair done and Billy was busting his ass in the kitchen. I can only take credit for forwarding him this recipe.) made homemade sauce and slathered it on some fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs. Oh. My. GOSH. I have never been so fond of BBQ sauce my entire life. I literally licked my fingers clean. After each rib. That’s right, I’m not afraid to admit it.

Conveniently, at the exact time our ribs were slow cooking in the oven Georgia from The Comfort of Cooking posted about her awesome experience creating BBQ sauce (and also slathering it on ribs). I sent the link to the hubs, who was holding down the fort for the day, and we both immediately knew that we’d be whipping up a BBQ sauce that night. While we didn’t follow Georgia’s recipe exactly, we did use it as a basis for what we ended up with. And let me tell you, we ended up with the absolute best barbecue sauce we’ve ever had. It was sweet, spicy, tangy and sticky. This sauce was the very definition of finger lickin’ good.

Finger Lickin’ Good BBQ Sauce

{Print this Recipe}
Here’s what you’ll need:
Makes: about 1 cup (enough for a full rack of ribs, plus a little extra)
– olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tsp dried minced onions
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp dry mustard
– 1/3 cup ketchup
– 1/4 cup soy sauce
– 2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
– 2 tbsp Sriracha
– 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 2 tbsp white wine
– salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Everyone brace yourself, I don’t know if you’ll be able to handle the intense directions that lie ahead!

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic and onions until the garlic becomes fragrant, about two minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir well to make sure everything is combined. Bring the mixture to a bubble (not quite a boil, but make sure there’s some bubbles forming around the edges of the pan) and let it simmer away for about 15 minutes, or until nice and thick and flavorful.

Yes, it’s literally that easy. I’m sure you’re wondering, much like we were in between delicious bites of homemade BBQ sauce slathered ribs, why you’ve never made barbecue sauce before.

Billy’s saucy creation was sweet, spicy and tangy all at the same time. All the familiar flavors of a traditional barbecue sauce were great, but the hint of Asian flavor really made this sauce something special. The sweetness from the brown sugar really lent itself to the kick from the Sriracha. Move over Pat and Gina Neely, here comes a new pit master!

We slathered our new favorite BBQ sauce on a nice rack of slow cooked, quick grilled ribs and chowed down. I don’t know if there’s a better vehicle for BBQ sauce than ribs, but I definitely think this sauce was best suited for that fall-off-the-bone kind of meat that comes from slow cooking.

I’m no barbecue sauce expert or anything, but I do know what tastes good — and this sauce definitely tasted good. All the ingredients are subjective, so feel free to play around with the measurements or add or take out anything you like. But please give BBQ sauce a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

P.S. Thanks, Georgia, for the inspiration!

Mugrabidi

It’s been a while since I posed about Arabic food (actually, it’s been a while since we made Arabic food), so I thought I’d share something before we get rolling on all the Christmas goodies (yay!). Mugrabidi is a sort of soupy dish with tiny pasta, garbanzo beans and chicken. This is a perfect dish for a cold winter night — I promise it will hit the spot and warm you up instantly!

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 8 cups water
– 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
– 1/2 to 1 pound acini de pepe pasta (amount depends on what kind of pasta to bean/chicken/liquid ratio you want)
– salt and pepper to taste

This is a really simple recipe, but the end result is nothing but! First, add the cut chicken pieces to a pot of boiling water. Let the chicken begin to cook and when the water returns to a rolling boil, add the garbanzo beans. Meanwhile, saute the onion until it begins to turn brown then add it to the boiling water. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through. Finally, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 15 more minutes. At this point the chicken and pasta should be done. Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to serve! (There will be quite a bit of liquid left, the consistency of the dish is supposed to be soupy.)

Of all the Arabic dishes I’ve had, I would say this is the least Arabic tasting…if that makes sense. It doesn’t have any of the flavorings and spices found in most Arabic dishes. Nevertheless, this is a great dish and it’s one of my favorites. I love the soupy consistency and the flavor the beans give to the liquid. I think the best way to eat mugrabidi is to get a little of everything in each bite — you really get a great flavor and texture combination that way.

Honey Rolls

Last year Billy and I hosted our first holiday. I was determined to find the perfect bread/roll recipe since it’s such an important part of every holiday table (especially with a bunch of hungry Italians). I can’t even remember where I found the recipe for these honey rolls, but we won’t ever go another holiday without them.

Here’s what you’ll need: (for three dozen rolls)
– 3 packages active dry yeast
– 2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
– 1/4 cup honey
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 1 tbsp salt
– 2 eggs, plus 1 egg, separated
– about 8 cups bread flour
– 1/2 tsp cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Once all the yeast has dissolved and the mixture has become frothy, about two minutes, add the honey, oil, salt, two eggs, the yolk of the separated egg, and five cups of the bread flour. Mix on low to medium speed until smooth. The dough will still be pretty sticky at this point, but you’re just trying to get everything combined. Begin adding the remainder of the flour, one half-cup at a time, until a stiff dough is formed. You may not end up using the entire eight cups of flour, but just base it on how the dough looks and feels. When you poke it, it should hold the form of your finger but shouldn’t be sticky enough to stick to your fingers.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about six to eight minutes. You’ll know when the dough is ready based on the way it looks and feels — you’ll also notice a difference from the time you took it out of the mixing bowl and the time you started kneading. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a large greased bowl, turning once to cover the entire surface of the dough with grease. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.

Punch the dough down (it’s perfectly normal to picture someone’s head while doing this :)) and begin dividing and forming the dough into desired sizes and shapes — we usually form 2-inch balls since the dough will rise again before baking. Place on a greased baking sheet, one to two inches apart, and cover. Let the divided pieces rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the white of the separated egg with the 1/2 teaspoon of cold water and brush over dough. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet immediately and let cool on a wire rack.

Sorry for the horrible picture…but it’s the best I could get in the midst of all the Thanksgiving madness. Regardless, I guarantee these will be some of the best rolls you’ve ever had. They’re perfectly fluffy (yet substantial) on the inside and have a nice firm crust. The hint of honey really makes these rolls stand out in comparison to a regular bread dough, but it definitely doesn’t give them an overwhelmingly sweetness. They’re full of flavor, with or without butter, and they make a great Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. This is most definitely our go-to recipe for rolls, any time of the year (and it should be yours, too!).

Mother-in-Law Party Mix

There are few things that I will say someone makes better than my mom, but this is one of them. The first time I had the famous chex mix was the Christmas of 2005. I arrived at Billy’s parents house a few days after Christmas, not knowing his family that well, but I quickly learned that my mother-in-law makes the best chex mix ever. She makes it for pretty much every event, and it always disappears (usually eaten by me and my father-in-law). So, when we decided we were having a Halloween party, I knew I had to make it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups rice chex cereal
– 4 cups wheat chex cereal
– 2.5 to 3 cups Cheerios
– 1 can (16 oz.) peanuts
– pretzels
– 3 sticks butter, melted
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. You’ll want to use a large aluminum pan or a large turkey roasting type pan that will hold everything.

Combine the chex, Cheerios, peanuts and pretzels and mix together well. Next, add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt to the butter, stirring well to combine. Pour the butter mixture over the cereal mixture and stir to coat everything. Bake for one hour at 250 degrees, stirring well every 15 minutes.

For Halloween, we decided to replace the pretzels (our least favorite ingredient) with festive colored M&M’s — only we added them after the baking was done. I thought adding something sweet to the mix was pretty good, but definitely not the same. Billy didn’t like it. Either way…still the best party mix you’ll ever have. I’m not sure if it’s the butter, the Worcestershire sauce or the garlic salt, but something about this mix is amazing. Eating bagged chex mix isn’t even an option anymore…thanks Linda.

Sausage, Peppers and Onions

The great thing about sausage, peppers and onions is that everything is cooked in one pot and the only other thing you need to go with the meal is a good, hard roll or two. SPandO is a meal that I consider a “classic” Italian dish (I’m actually not sure if it really is classic or not, but it seems like it should be if it isn’t already). It’s got all of the classic Italian flavors — wine, tomatoes, meat and…wine. What makes it even better is that it’s really simple to make and it doesn’t take much effort at all.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Olive Oil (for cooking the sausages)
– 1/2 to 1 lb Italian sausage (we like to use hot Italian turkey sausage)
– 1 to 2 bell peppers, sliced
– 1 onion, sliced
– salt and pepper to taste
– red pepper flakes
– 1/2 tsp dried oregano
– 1/2 cup fresh basil (or about 1/4 cup dried)
– 2 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
– 2 tbsp tomato paste
– 1/2 to 1 cup red wine
– 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

The first thing you want to do is cook the sausages. Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep-sided pan large enough to hold everything and cook the sausages until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Once they’re cooked through, take them out of the pan and set aside until they cool down. Add the peppers and onions to the same pan (you might need more oil, depending on the kind of sausage you’re using) and cook them until they’re the consistency you like, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, add the salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic and herbs and cook another 2 to 3 minutes (you want the garlic to cook down a little, but still keep a lot of it’s flavor).

Once all the veggies are cooked through, add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, then the wine and tomatoes. Make sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan after you add the liquid. Bring the pan to a simmer. In the mean time, cut the sausages into smaller pieces, about 4 to 6 inches each. We like to cut them in half, then cut the halves in half length-wise (did that make sense?). Assuming the wine and veggies are simmering away, add the sausages back into the pan. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to desired consistency. And…that’s it! Easy enough, right?

My favorite way to make an SPandO sandwich is to cut a tip off of a long roll then hollow it out, leaving a little bit of the middle inside the roll so that you have crust, but also yummy fluffyness inside. Stuff the hollowed out roll with plenty of sausage, peppers, onions and juices. The best part? You can use the bread that you took out to sop up more juice! Y-U-M.

P.S. This is a combination of recipes…my mom’s “famous” sausage, peppers and onions, and Giada de Laurentis. Clck here for Giada’s recipe.

Koussa

For those of you who don’t already know…Billy is half Arabic. As he got older and started taking an interest in cooking, he made a point to learn how to cook his great-grandma’s and grandma’s famous Arabic dishes. Let me tell you…it’s a good thing he did! This particular recipe probably isn’t something you would think of when you think of middle eastern cooking (if you really even think of it at all), but it’s worth trying and it dos have all of the traditional flavors of middle eastern dishes.

Koussa is basically squash stuffed with rice and lamb cooked in boiling water and tomato sauce.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 to 4 Mexican squash (depending on how many people you’re serving — allow for one squash per person)
– 1 12 oz. can of tomato sauce
– 1 cup rice
– 1/2 lb. lamb, cut into small cubes (you can use any cut of lamb you prefer, but we find that the meat from the chop is the most tender)
– salt and pepper to taste
– A pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg
– 1 tbsp. butter, melted

This is a simple recipe actually, but not something you find every day. The first thing you want to do is hollow out the squash. Billy has a really old “tool” that his great-grandma used to use, but any type of zucchini corer (or even a knife or small spoon) will work fine. First, cut off the tip of the squash, but make sure to save it. Take out all the meat that’s inside, but make sure to keep enough flesh so the squash is stable and you won’t poke a hole through it, and discard. Next, rinse the rice with cold water and mix with lamb, butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stuff the mixture into the squash until it’s about 3/4 of the way full. Make sure not to over-stuff or the rice won’t cook all the way. “Plug” the opening with the tip you cut off using two toothpicks to hold it in place and poke several holes in the body of the squash.

Place the stuffed squash (aka, koussa) in a large pot and cover with tomato sauce and water until completely submerged. Using a glass plate (or something else heavy), cover the squash in order to keep them completely submerged during cooking. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the squash, rice and lamb will all be cooked to perfection! That’s it! Simple, right?

Koussa, like many middle eastern dishes, is traditionally served with plain yogurt as a sort of “dressing.” It took me a long time to try this — it just sounded kind of weird to me — but I was sorry I did. Using yogurt give everything a different texture and really helps it all come together. And contrary to what you might be thinking, you can’t even taste it. So, go ahead, give it a try…I promise you’ll like it!

Nanny’s Macaroni and Peas

Probably since the day I could chew food, my absolute favorite meal in the entire universe is my great-grandma’s macaroni and peas. I know what you’re thinking, “Macaroni and peas? What the hell is that and why is it so good?” Let me explain….

It’s nothing complicated or fancy. It’s basically a soupy pasta dish with some onions, tomato sauce, and peas. Literally. But the deliciousness of this dish is unlike anything I can describe, but I’ll try. It’s tomato-y, pea-y and full of old-fashioned Italian simpleness. The sauce is thin and watery, yet holds a lot of flavor.

I hesitate to give out the (not so) secret recipe, but I insist that everyone try this dish. So, here it is in it’s short entirety.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 pound of some kind of small pasta (small is a must)
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 small can of tomato sauce
– 1 can Le Sueur peas, with juice (it is most certainly important that you use Le Sueur peas — trust me on this one)
– Salt, Pepper and Red Pepper flakes to taste

This will be one of the simplest dishes you ever make. First, saute the onions in a little olive oil until the become soft and translucent. Season them with the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (you can omit the red pepper flakes if you prefer). Next, add the can of tomato sauce. Let this simmer away for a few minutes so the sauce has time to heat up and cook down a little. Then, add the peas and all their juices. Stir to combine then remove the pot from the heat and add water. You need enough water to boil the pasta, but not so much that it takes away the flavor of the tomato paste and peas. I usually determine how much water I want by the color of the sauce. My personal preference is for it to remain fairly red, but you can add as much water as you like. (A good way to determine how much water you want is to taste as you’re adding to decide how strong of a flavor you want.) Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente and serve right away. (That’s right ladies and gentlemen…no draining of the pasta water here!)

Billy likes to cook some sausage on the side, but I think that’s sabotage. (Secretly I think it’s pretty good, but still not right.) My great-grandma always makes breaded and fried chicken cutlets on the side. Either way, it is imperative that you have bread to dip in the sauce.

I literally could eat a whole pound of this in one sitting, and if you know me that never happens. While I don’t think my mac and peas will ever be as good as Nanny’s, they sure do come in a close second (sorry mom). I think they’d make her proud.

BTW, if you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out and what you thought of it! Since it’s one of my favorites, I’m always interested in other people’s opinions.

P.S. Don’t judge our heart-shaped bowls. 🙂