Monday, March 31, 2008

DD's Baked Beans

Nothing like a good batch of baked beans to warm you up on a cold March evening. I'm really happy with how these came out. I have never been much of a baked bean person, but I think that a lot of that had to do with my primary experience being eating them from a can. In addition, when your rent is dangerously close to half your monthly income it is important to conserve where you can. Hope you enjoy!

3 15.5 oz cans of white beans
1 15.5 oz can of red kidney beans
1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion rough chopped
12 slices of turkey bacon (or regular if preferred)
2 tablespoons of molasses
3/4 of a cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of BBQ seasonings (optional)

In a pan, cook the turkey bacon until crisp and set aside.

Pour the white and red beans into a strainer to drain out the majority of the liquid and add to the crockpot. Add in the tomatoes, onions, brown sugar and BBQ seasonings. Roughly crumble the bacon and top and stir the mixture until the ingredients are evenly mixed.

Set your crockpot to low and cook for 9 hours, giving it a quick stir after 4.5 hours.

If I got to do this over again I would have added 1/2 cup of ketchup for a little more flavor and texture. I think these bean go great as a side dish, but can also be the main even accompanied by some bread for dipping. I through a little hot sauce on mine for spice, but they are great as is if you like things a little more mild. Sour cream would also probably go well also.

This recipe will easily feed 4-6 people as a dinner and freeze and reheat really well.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peanut Bombs

A special thanks to for inspiring this recipe. As promised, I am adding some desserts and sides to go along with the meats. I love BBQ as much as anyone, but even I can't eat pulled pork and brisket everyday for lunch and dinner. That in mind, I present my recipe for peanut bombs, and easy to make and great tasting dessert!

16 oz of salted peanuts
12 oz of milk chocolate chips
4 heaping tablespoons of smooth peanut butter
1 cup of m & m's
2 cups of mini marshmallows

Pour the peanuts into the crockpot and top with the 4 tablespoons of peanut butter. Add the chocolate chips on top and set your crockpot to 2 hours on low. I would recommend taking a look every 30 min or so to make sure you don't burn the the chocolate.

At the end of 2 hours (or sooner if your crockpot runs a little hotter) you should see something like this.

Although the chocolate chips may not appear be fully melted, they will coat the peanuts readily when stirred. Once you have stirred up the peanuts, add in the m & m's and stir again. Finally, add in the marshmallows and stir one more time. The marshmallows will disintegrate quickly, but will give the mixture a nice texture and color.

Using two spoons, form roughly rounded spheres of the mixture (make sure you turn your crockpot off to stop the chocolate from cooking any further) and place them on waxed paper to cool.

Put your tray into the fridge overnight to allow the peanut bombs to fully harden. You will be rewarded for you patience on this I promise.

After cooling down, your peanut bombs are ready to be enjoyed. The great thing about these is how flexible the recipe is. Dark or white chocolate can easily be swapped in as can all different types of nuts (almonds, cashews and walnuts to name a few). You can also easily swap out the m & m's and marshmallows for raisins, dried cranberries and other dried fruits. My roommate suggested I try graham cracker pieces for a smore like creation. As you can see, the combinations are endless.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What the heck is Molasses anyway?

A few weeks ago I bought a jar of molasses, not so much because I knew what it was, but because it seems to be a staple of BBQ cooking. I always thought of it as a sort of sugar based version of honey, thick and sweet. I have vague recollections of my father putting it on his pancakes when I was a kid.

A quick check on wikipedia gave a pretty good description. Molasses is a by product from the processing of sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. The word is derived from the Portuguese word "melaco" which come from mel, the Portuguese word for honey. Some common uses of molasses are gingerbread, gingersnaps and other desserts. Plain molasses has a really sharp taste to it so I would say it is not really suited for eating as is. At least not the kind I bought anyway. There a couple grades of molasses ranging from 1st grade (sweeter) to Blackstrap (more bitter). For more details on molasses go to

I bring this up only because my upcoming baked bean recipe will contain molasses and I had purchased this dark syrup product without having any idea as to what it was and what it should be used for.

In other news, I have completed my first dessert recipe that I have dubbed "peanut bombs." They are in the fridge right now cooling down, but I will be posting the results and recipe later on.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2 Crockpots are better than 1

Given my rash of new ideas and expansion into the dessert and side dish arena, it seems logical that I buy an additional crockpot. For one, crockpots are really cheap (mine was about $40) and are extremely durable. Additionally, one draw back to crockpots is that you can any only make one thing at a time and each thing can take upwards of 10 hours to cook. It would have been handy a few weeks ago to have been able to cook the brisket in one pot and the sweet potatoes in the other. Everything could have been ready at the exact same time.

I may be going out on a limb here, but it seems like crockpots develop a inherent flavor after awhile. I always scrub out the bowl carefully, but I still feel like the meats sometimes leave a little flavor behind. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you would like to make a dessert. Pork and brisket flavored chocolate peanut clusters don't sound like they would be that great. Most of the folks I have talked to use a two crock pot system, one for meats/savory and another for desserts/sweet. I don't really know where I'm going to fit another crockpot in my kitchen, but I'll just worry about that later I guess.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mixing it up

I have been making primarily meat lately, but I think I will try in incorporate more sides and even desserts going forward. I think of BBQ as a genre, as opposed to just the slow cooking of meats. Some of my favorite things at BBQ restaurants are the sides such as sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, cornbread and baked beans. Brisket or pulled pork without the sides wouldn't be the same. It is really important to try to incorporate a variety of flavors and textures in a meal.

Some things I will be making down the road include bourbon peaches, sweet cornbread with strawberries, and chocolate-peanut butter cashews. Looking forward to trying these new recipes out. Just need to find some folks to eat them so I don't eat the whole thing myself.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easy BBQ Chicken

Having had great success with beef and pork I decided that I would give chicken a shot even though I had some reservations about the meat drying out. As it turns out, dark meat chicken has plenty of fat and moisture and works great in the crockpot.

Easy BBQ Chicken


8 boneless/skinless Chicken thighs (about 2 lbs)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 Tablespoons of BBQ rub of choice (store bought or homemade works great)
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar 1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Medium Onion, chopped
3-4 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ Sauce

In a large bowl, combine the chicken thighs with the Worcestershire sauce, honey, brown sugar and bbq rub and stir until the chicken is evenly coated.

Rough Chop the onion into bite size pieces and add to the chicken and top with your BBQ sauce of choice.

Give everything one final stir before setting your crockpot to low for 9 hours

After the meat has finished cooking remove the chicken and onions from the crock pot and put into a bowl or plastic container. Shred the chicken with two forks and spoon the juices left in the crock pot back onto the meat along with a little BBQ sauce if you so choose.

Stir everything together one last time. The chicken can be served on it's own or on a roll with BBQ sauce. A couple dashes of apple cider or white vinegar also gives it a nice flavor as well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick and Easy BBQ spice rub

In the event that you do not have access to a store that sells spice rubs, below is a pretty good recipe for a basic spice rub. This goes well with chicken and pork, but could be used with beef as well.

2 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of black pepper
4 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper

I would recommend buying pre-made rubs individually if they are available to you because they are pretty cheap and effective, but if you have a fully stocked spice cabinet, this works great to.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What cuts of pork work best?

I would like to open up a discussion regarding what the best cuts of pork are for making pulled pork. I have always gone with the pork butt (the top of shoulder) because it is the right amount of fat to keep the pork moist and tender throughout the long cooking process. However, I have also seen recipes that use pork loin or other less fatty cuts. I would be interested to know if anyone has been able to keep their pulled pork tender despite not having a lot of fat to work with.

My main concern would be that the meat would become very dry or tough unless some other source of fat was introduced. This is the main reason why I haven't tried to make pulled chicken yet. My best guess would be that dark meat chicken with the skin on might have enough fat to keep the chicken moist and tender throughout the cooking process.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A few thoughts

I have noticed that I have been doing a fair amount of restaurant reviewing and not as much crockpotting as of late. A lot of this has to do with having been on vacation the last few days, but I also am a huge enthusiast of BBQ food and enjoy having BBQ made the old fashioned way. However, based on my experiences and the feedback I have gotten from others, Crockpot BBQ is a solid alternative to going to a BBQ restaurant. Unless you are living in one of the major BBQ areas (Memphis, Kansas city, Austin etc.) you might not get the opportunity to enjoy really good BBQ. Additionally, BBQ food is not always cheap, even though the cuts of meat generally involved (pork shoulder, brisket) can be purchased for less than $5 a pound. There is also the risk of having bad BBQ, as I described in a prior entry.

I do think going out for BBQ food is a great opportunity to look for ways to improve your BBQ. The idea for my sweet potatoes was inspired by my visit to Daisy May's, which makes some excellent sweet potatoes. However, do not be fooled that you can 't make something great on your own. Though they do not get much press, Crockpots are a great way to make good food for a lot of people on the cheap. Case in point, for my dinner party I spent about $60 to feed 11 people and have enough leftovers for 6 more meals. Dinner at a BBQ restaurant for that many people would have cost considerably more and in my opinion would not have been significantly better either.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sweet Redemption

Having suffered through a pretty rough BBQ meal a few days ago I was looking to get myself back on track. I suppose the moral of this story is that you should do your homework before going out for BBQ, or better yet, just make it yourself.

That being said, on my last day in Massachusetts I headed to Blue Ribbon BBQ in Newton MA. I have been eating at this place since I was in high school, long before I got into making my own BBQ or even developed a real taste for BBQ food. The food is just plain awesome. I got the KC Burnt ends sandwich (that's the ends of of a BBQ brisket chopped up) with baked beans and coleslaw.

The meat was cooked perfectly and served in a great sauce on a kaiser roll. You can really tell that it had been smoked properly as it fell apart when you bit into it. I could taste the rub, but not the extent that it overpowered the flavor of the meat. The coleslaw had a little more mayo that I usually go for, but it tasted great nonetheless. The baked beans were solid as well, with plenty of chunks of pulled pork and brisket in them.

When you enter Blue Ribbon it is immediately apparent that this is a serious, no frills BBQ place. There aren't any tables, only a counter with stools. You go up to the front and all of the sandwich options are written on a blackboard. A sandwich with two sides will run you about $6.50 and unless you haven't eaten for a few days, you will not be able to finish everything.

Needless to say, I have calmed down considerably from Saturday and am looking forward to my next project.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Worst BBQ ever

It is always disappointing to go to a BBQ restaurant looking forward to great food and getting something looks and tastes like it was made by a dilapidated Walrus. Such is the case with Jake's Winn Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, MA.

Fresh off having made my own beef Brisket I was really eager to try some of the same thing made the old fashioned way by smoking it for 18-24 hours. This place had the gall to make allusions to smoking their meats using a variety of woods on their menu. I ordered the beef brisket and was presented with a plate of dry, tasteless brisket with about a tablespoon of average BBQ sauce. I knew right away I was in for a bad meal as I had some difficulty cutting through the meat right from the beginning. It was just blatantly obvious that this meat had not been prepared properly as it should have cut easily and been tender. I sampled my friends burnt ends which weren't terrible, but were also so doused in sauce that it would have been hard to tell if it was bad or not.

The Corn Bread was extremely dry borderline burnt. The baked beans and coleslaw weren't terrible, but that isn't why you go to a BBQ restaurant in the first place. One thing that I liked about the place was they served each meal with a slice of fresh watermelon. I think that is probably the perfect finisher to a BBQ meal as it is sweet, not too heavy and really refreshing. I would've needed a truckload of watermelon to get the taste of that crappy brisket out of my mouth. I will leave the link only in hopes that people will recognize the site and will not go here in the future. There are far too many good places out there to have to tolerate this kind of BBQ.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Brisket Recipe

I don't know how I forgot to take a picture of the results of my brisket, but unfortunately there is nothing left to take a picture of. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed though.

24 Hour Marinaded BBQ Brisket

6 lbs of Beef Brisket
6 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ spice rub
4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of liquid smoke
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

The first step is to trim off any excess fat from the brisket. There tends to be a layer on the top that is about 1/4 inch thick. The meat has plenty of interior marbling so you will will still end up with moist brisket even if you trim off the top fat.

In a small bowl mix together the Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, water, honey and brown sugar until evenly blended. Put the brisket in a large bowl or pan and pour the liquid mixture over the meat, turning the meat multiple times until evenly coated. Pour out any excess liquid mixture that has not been absorbed by the meat. Add your dry rub liberally to the brisket (don't hold back, the more the merrier here) and make sure all sides are evenly covered. Put the brisket in a plastic bag (I would double up to make sure sauce doesn't drip into the fridge) and leave for 24 hours.

Put the brisket into your crockpot and set on low for 12 hours. Pour a little BBQ sauce on top of the meat and then let cook for 12 hours. Once completed, put the brisket in a pan and shred using 2 forks. There should be a decent amount of liquid left in the crockpot from the juices of the brisket. Using a large spoon, drizzle the 1/2 of the remaining juices over the meat (this adds some moisture back to the meat as well as flavor). Add the remainder of your BBQ sauce in and stir until evenly distributed.

I recommend putting the brisket in a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes right before serving. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of your rub and drizzle some BBQ sauce on top to give it a a little more of crust.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Recipe For Sweet Potatoes

As promised, I'm going to start putting my recipes from this past weekend's festivities up. We'll start off with the sweet potatoes.

JC's Sugared Sweet Potatoes (serves 7-10)

-6 Large Sweet Potatoes
-1 Cup of Brown Sugar
-2 tablespoons of butter
-3/4 of a cup of 2% milk
-2 teaspoons of Cinnamon

Rinse and peel the sweet potatoes and then cut width wise into about 6-7 smaller circular pieces. Chop these pieces further into 3 to four smaller stick like pieces. Throw out the end pieces which tend to be on the tougher side.

In your crockpot put down a layer of sweet potato pieces that just covers the bottom. Add about 1/4 of your brown sugar evenly over the top along with a few pieces of butter (I recommend using a knife to shave off thin strips of butter). Repeat this process until all of your sweet potatoes are in the crockpot (6 large ones should take it to about the top). Be liberal with the brown sugar and butter and add more on top if you run out before using all of the sweet potatoes.

Set your crockpot to either 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high depending on how much time you have. I don't think you lose a lot by cooking them on high so I would opt for that. After they are done cooking use a potato masher to break them down. If the potato masher doesn't go through the potatoes easily, they need to cook for longer until they are soft and easily mashed.

Mash the potatoes thoroughly (if you like lumpy sweet potatoes by all means mash less). Add in the milk, Cinnamon and a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar and stir until all the ingredients have been mixed. Feel free to improvise with whole milk or cream if that is how you like it or add any honey, maple syrup or other sweeteners you have around.

I can't stress enough that using a crockpot allows you to take a recipe and make it your own.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Great Success

Everything turned out great last night. I had been a little concerned about the timing of everything, but preparing the meat in advance really helped to balance out only having one crockpot. All it took was about 20 min in the oven at 200 degrees to warm it back up. One little problem occurred with the cornbread. Unlike the crockpot, 5 minutes makes a big difference in the oven. Long story short, my cornbread was of the crispy blackened variety. Fortunately in NY there is usually a convenience store within 1-2 blocks of anywhere. I was able to remake the cornbread with much better results.

Baking is not an area I excel at, but it seems the key is to check whatever you are baking often because factors such as oven temperatures (most ovens don't maintain the exact temperature on the dial) can burn your food even if you follow the exact instructions on the box.

The sweet potatoes came out great as well making the effort of peeling and chopping them well worth it. Recipes will follow. In the mean time, here are some photos of my results.

Potatoes and cornbread. Can't go wrong with that.

Brown sugar, cinnamon and a little milk helped to make the potatoes smooth and delicious

Corn Bread round #2. Note the lack of blackened pieces.

Dessert. I left this one to the experts. The perfect ending to a great meal.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Right on Schedule

Everything is moving along well. As planned, I put the brisket in last night around 1 am and it was ready around 1 today. Initial samples indicate that is is going to be a winner. I got a bit of later start on the sweet potatoes due to the fact that I needed to wash, peel and chop them. The first two went fine but the chopping was a slow go with my crappy kitchen knife. Gotta get a better one if I'm going to do this again.

Another issue was that I had bought too many sweet potatoes to fit into the crockpot so I have a little extra that maybe I'll throw in the oven just so they don't go to waste. I'm a little bit behind so I may need to put the crockpot on high for a few hours in order to catch up. I don't think that it will have too much, if any effect on the sweet potatoes taste or texture wise. With meat I think the longer and lower temperature you cook it the better, but I think with potatoes it won't really make a big difference. I'll go through the recipes in more detail after I'm done because I'm pretty much making it up as I go along (another great thing about crockpots is that as long as you don't have bad ingredients the slow cooking process will make everything taste great).

Right now I'm getting ready to put the cornbread in. My goal is to have everything cooked ahead of time and then warm it up as it's gets closer to 8. Wish me luck...