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Our new grill

Chef JimSo yesterday my wife and I bought a new grill–mainly because the one we had was on its last leg, had wasp nests growing inside of it, and was blown over by the Great Blizzard of 2011 a few months ago. I had assembled it again and got it to work, but only marginally…it would not even get hot enough so that my hand touching the lid wouldn’t make me jump five feet in the air.

So we went to Menard’s here in Madison and bought another Char-Broil grill, the same brand we had before that served us well, and because it was only 98 bucks! Only problem…I asked the nice lady in that department how easy it is to put together..she said it was only in 2-3 pieces. Um, no. It was in like a million pieces, complete with instructions most humans cannot comprehend. Now, it was around 2pm and I had no interest in doing this on Memorial Day, not this late when it might take 8 hours for me to complete. But my wife, bless her heart, decided to help me. She also calmed me down a few times when I wanted to throw said million pieces out the window. But hey, piece by piece it came together, and four hours later we were grilling!

It was a pain, but we accomplished it and the food tasted that much better because of it. But hey, if you buy a grill like this, be warned…..and give yourself plenty of time to put it together. Onward!

Memorial Day: let the barbecue season begin

I’m looking out of my office window right now and it’s a bright sunny day, and close to 70 degrees. I think we’re expecting some rain this weekend, but my mind is still on Memorial Day and the fact that it’s cookout season. That means you can officially bust out your grill. And with that in mind, here are some recipes I’ve posted before on Mikey’s Kitchen that you can try this weekend……

Fresh Summer Grilling

Quick and Easy Grilling

Peanut Butter & Banana Burger

Steak and Potatoes 1

Steak and Potatoes 2

There you go. You have no excuses….get out there and fire up the grill! And have a safe and awesome holiday weekend.

Linguine with red pepper sauce

You want something light for the spring or summer warm weather months? Here is a pasta that fits the bill, especially in the throes of summer when bell peppers are in season. If you want something even healthier, use whole wheat pasta and fat free half and half, but I’m a big proponent of portion control (well, I try to be!), so I prefer regular pasta and real half and half or cream. This is also a good recipe to make for a date night in, such as the one I wrote about on Bullz-Eye.com’s Get Real Guide for Men. Enjoy….

Ingredients
1 package Linguine
1 tbsp. Olive oil
3 large red bell peppers, halved and seeded
3 tbsp chicken broth
½ tsp. Minced garlic
¼ cup half & half
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
On a preheated grill rack, grill pepper halves on high heat. Grill for 10-12 minutes or until peppers begin to char, turning occasionally. Set aside to let cool. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, drizzle with olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside.

Place grilled peppers in a food processor along with chicken broth, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree or pulse until just smooth and pour mixture into a large saucepan. Warm over medium heat, slowly adding half and half until smooth. Add pasta to sauce and heat through. Makes 8 servings.

Product review: Savi Seed

When the rep reached out to me about Savi Seed, it sounded too good to be true. Here was a nut product that is harvested in South America that have 13 times Omega 3 fatty acids as wild salmon. Say what? Well, that’s good news for me because I’m not a fish person. I am hesitant as well to take fish oil capsules, because I am afraid of having fish burps. But if you can have a product that has 3500 milligrams of Omega 3′s in a convenient little pouch, and if these nuts can be covered in sugar or chocolate to make them taste even better, why would you ever eat fish? Okay, I know that was a rhetorical question, because I’m in the minority about my distaste for seafood.

Anyway, Savi Seeds are all that. I tried the two they sent me–”karmalized,” which are coated with raw sugar cane; and cocoa kissed, which are coated in extra dark chocolate. The sugar ones were a bit too crunchy, and kind of grainy. But you could still taste the roasted seeds and they taste pretty good. The chocolate ones are way better, and incredibly addictive. The seeds themselves are something akin to a cross between a peanut and hazelnut, and about the size of a small peanut. Each packet (1 oz./28 g) also has 5-6 grams of protein. Can you say mega-food?

Anyway, it looks like these are distributed by Sequel Naturals in Vancouver, but if you can’t find them online or in health food or Whole Foods type stores, let me know–the information that was sent with the product was limited. But either way, Savi Seeds are well worth seeking out.

Breakfast

Here is a stray Grub for Guys recipe set that hasn’t published but that I thought you might like to check out heading into the weekend. Enjoy!

Two Healthy and Extremely Awesome Breakfast Recipes
Panko Banana Waffle French Toast & Sweet Potato Pancakes

Without trying to sound like Sandra Lee in her “Semi-Homemade” show (come on, I know you guys watch her), here are two easy breakfast recipes that begin with pre-made ingredients. Because after a night of drinking, you need carbs to soak up that alcohol. Or if you’re a dad like me, and want to impress your family, these two are can’t-miss.

Panko Banana Waffle French Toast
Ingredients:
8 Eggo frozen waffles (whole wheat if you want to go healthier)
2 large eggs
¾ cup panko-style bread crumbs
2 bananas, sliced to ¼ inch thickness
2 tbsp. milk (skim is fine)
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar
Maple syrup

Directions:
Pre-heat non-stick skillet or a large non-stick frying pan. Let waffles thaw, which takes about 30 minutes. Beat eggs with milk and vanilla in a large, wide bowl. Put bread crumbs on a plate next to egg mixture. Take the waffles, one at a time and put a few banana slices on one half, then fold over. Dip in egg mixture, then bread crumbs, and then onto skillet. Repeat with remaining waffles, and cook until crispy on the outside. Top each waffle with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup on the side. Makes four (2-waffle) servings.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat pancake mix (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
1 medium sweet potato
¼ cup chopped pecans, divided
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
Maple syrup

Directions:
Peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks. Place in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 12-15 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash into a puree and set aside. Pre-heat non-stick skillet or large non-stick frying pan. Prepare pancake mixture according to package directions (it’s really easy…you mix it with an egg, some oil and water until the proper consistency). Then fold in ¾ cup of the sweet potato puree and 2 tbsp. of the pecans. After pouring the batter onto the skillet, melt the butter with brown sugar in a small frying pan over medium heat, and then add the remaining 2 tbsp. pecans and toast for a few minutes until dark brown and caramelized. After cooking the pancakes to desired doneness, serve on a plate topped with some of the pecan mixture and serve with maple syrup on the side. Serves 4, or two really hungry people.

Mmmmm, steak

Man, I could go for a steak right now. This morning, Men’s Health e-mailed me a copy of an article they published two years ago about man food, and it starts with this positively mouth-watering photo of a bone-in ribeye.

I think I’m feeling faint. Iron deficient. Yeah, I need to fire up the grill soon….if not today, then this weekend. Anyway, the article goes on to list other favorite guy foods that they found across the US such as meaty chili and lobster rolls.

And hey, in case you forgot, I posted this easy set of grilling tips a while back for the perfect steak dinner during grill season. Now what are you waiting for?

Product review: Blue Diamond Nut-Thins

Chef JimIf you haven’t tried Blue Diamond’s new Nut-Thins, you are in for a treat–especially if you are allergic to wheat products (although there is a disclaimer on the box about that). The fine folks of Blue Diamond have figured out a way to make a cracker out of almonds, even if the main ingredient is rice flour. The second ingredient is pure almonds, and you can surely taste the delcious nutty flavor in each bite.

The company sent us two flavors–original and smokehouse. The original tastes very much like a flattened rice cake, but a bit more dense from the almonds. The smokehouse has that signature flavor we’ve all come to love from the company’s signature Smokehouse Almonds. And I can attest to one thing that Mrs. Mikey and I both noticed–you absolutely can’t stop eating them, especially the highly addictive smokehouse flavor.

And the good thing about not being able to put the box down, is that each 16-cracker serving is only 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat but with a whopping 3 grams of protein. They are baked, not fried, and yet are light and crispy.

In addition to the flavors we tried, there is also a cheddar flavor almond cracker, as well as hazelnut and pecan versions.

For more information, go to www.bluediamond.com or just go pluck a box or three off your grocery store shelf.

Gazpacho for dudes

Well, not just for dudes, but I posted this on Grub for Guys a couple years back and it’s definitely dude-friendly, thanks to my secret weapon, Buffalo wing sauce. The weather reached almost 90 degrees here in Wisconsin earlier this week, so it’s time to start thinking about warm weather fare. So try this one when you have one of those steamy days….

It’s summer, and you can either embrace that or bide your time until fall. Either way, you can help yourself by eating foods that are warm weather fare—grilled steaks, chicken, salads, and cold pasta are always good choices. And if the thought of cold soup doesn’t scare you, gazpacho is one of the best summer foods, and it’s very easy to make. Here, I came up with my own version that includes a few non-conventional ingredients like avocado, cilantro and Buffalo wing sauce. Give it a whirl in your blender and on your taste buds and let me know how you like it. With that, here we go…..

Ingredients
1 ½ cups tomato juice or vegetable juice such as V-8
3 medium size tomatoes
½ small green pepper
1 celery stalk
½ medium cucumber
1 medium raw jalapeno pepper
1 small avocado or ½ of a large one
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. commercially made Buffalo Wing sauce
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
½ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Directions
Cut the tops off the tomatoes and squeeze the pulp and seeds out, then coarsely chop the flesh. Seed the green pepper and coarsely chop. Remove the strings from the celery and coarsely chop.
Peel and seed the cucumber and coarsely chop it. Seed and chop the jalapeno, using kitchen gloves if possible (or washing your hands immediately afterward…..I hope I don’t need to tell you why!). Then cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, scoop out the flesh and discard the pit and rind. Put all of the vegetables in a blender along with the tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar, wing sauce, cilantro, salt and pepper. Blend or pulse briefly until smooth (shorter time if you prefer a chunkier soup). Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, but you can serve as is if you’re hungry. Serves 4.

Chef’s note: Before making this, make sure you have a loaf of crusty bread and a good summer beer such as Corona on ice. Now you’ve got a meal!

Product review: Spaghettios with Meatballs

Chef JimI am not sure when Campbell’s bought Franco American, but I just had some Spaghettios for the first time in years and the flavor has not changed one bit–it’s comfort food to the Nth degree, no matter when or where you grew up. I’ll be honest, though, I originally was going to review the ones with sliced hot dogs and those hot dog slices were pretty disgusting so I didn’t finish the dish or the review.

But the one with mini-meatballs is delicious. And let’s face it, it can’t be easy to make processed meatballs taste real, and these do have that canned food meatball thing going on, but they still taste real enough not to be considered mystery meat (I think). And with ground pork being the first meat ingredient, the flavor is a bit milder than all-beef meatballs.

As for the pasta rings, they were done about to the degree you’d expect for canned pasta, but those and the familiar mild tomato sauce with a slightly cheesy taste is still really great. Of course, at 480 calories a can (who’s going to eat half a can?), it’s a pretty hefty calorie binge for lunch. But still worth a once-in-a-while binge at that.

Mother’s Day strawberry salad

Guys….Sunday is Mother’s Day, so make sure you have a card en route or that you are planning something for your mom, grandma, or, of course, your wife and mother of your kids. We live back in the north now, but when we lived in Nashville May was strawberry season, so we would go pick them on Mother’s Day. We should have our strawberries in June, but if you like anywhere in the south or in a warm climate like California, or even if you don’t mind grocery store strawberries, this is a great brunch or lunch recipe for your lady(ies). Enjoy and hopefully said ladies will also enjoy….

Mother’s Day Strawberry Salad (serves 2)
Salad:
4 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup sliced strawberries
4 oz. Turkey lunch meat
¼ cup feta cheese
sliced pickled sweet/hot jalapenos (optional)

Dressing:
2 tbsp. Strawberry preserves
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. Balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Lemon juice
dash of salt and pepper

Combine all salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing and pour evenly over salad.

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