Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Grilled Veggies


This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and it also means “Grilling Season” (although for those of us who love to grill I’m sure this started already!).

For those of you who have been following my blog and are more interested in some of my “healthier” posts, I just wanted to say that despite my lack of posting about my weight loss journey and Slimmed Down Sensations, I am still going strong (just not as quickly as I’d hoped)!  I’m still filling up with lots and lots of veggies and made this side the other night with dinner. It does have a higher Weight Watchers Points Plus value because of the oil, but I’ve played around with it a bit and found that this was the minimum amount of oil I could use to get that great flavor. Throughout the meal I couldn’t stop mentioning how awesome the veggies were! I completely cleaned my plate!!

 For me to rave about vegetables is MONUMENTAL!! This makes a really big portion and is very filling. I used a grill basket to put everything in. You could do this on foil, but you won’t get the same chargrilled taste. Also, if you are very particular about the texture of your veggies you may want to add the different veggies based on the length of time they’ll take to get done…for instance the carrots, broccoli and eggplant will take a little bit longer than the asparagus & onions. I put everything on at the same time and the asparagus, onions and even the broccoli were a little bit softer than they should have been, but this really didn’t bother me because the overall flavor was so good I didn’t even think about the texture. You could also par-boil the carrots to soften them up and they won’t need to be on the grill for so long.  You can pretty much add whatever veggies you want, but for me the veggies listed in the recipe have been the best combo I’ve tried so far.

 So without further ado…here is my grilled veggie recipe (modified from an Emeril recipe ).

Cheers to Grilling Season!!!!

Grilled Veggies (Makes 4 servings; 1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus)

(Source: Emeril Lagasse)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 small eggplant, cubed

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

6-8 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces

1 small head of broccoli, chopped

1 small onion, sliced

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs.
  2. Prepare vegetables as stated above and add to a large Ziploc bag.
  3. Pour marinade over vegetables and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Preheat grill to medium heat and place vegetables in a grill basket over direct heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. After the first 10 minutes move grill basket to indirect heat for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
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Grilled Polenta


This is a really yummy, easy and unique side dish! It is one of those things you should serve for company because they’ll think you worked really hard to make it and you’ll definitely impress them. It will just be our little secret that it is so simple!! Don’t have a grill? The polenta can be pan fried as well (but I prefer the grilled version 😉 !) You can also try switching it up with different cheeses.

USA Pans Mini Loaf Pan

Also, I’d like to mention that I had recently purchased this mini loaf pan made by USA Pans at Bed Bath & Beyond. I wanted to make mini pound cakes and typically I buy Wilton pans, but they didn’t have the one I needed so I came across this one. It was a little on the pricey side and that shiney silver made me a little skeptical that it actually was good quality and non-stick. However, I really didn’t have a choice because I needed the pound cakes for that same evening. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this pan is. It is really durable and I have had no problems in regards to sticking…everything pops out with no problem (this may be one of the best non-stick pans I’ve ever used). Plus, it feels good to actually purchase something that is made in the U.S.A.!

Grilled Polenta (Makes 8 servings)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%)

1 cup instant polenta

1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2  tsp. pepper (or to taste)

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles

    1.  In a medium saucepan bring the milk and chicken stock to a boil.

    2. Reduce heat and add the polenta, pouring in a steady stream while whisking.

    3. Whisk continuously until thickened about 2-3 minutes.

    4. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, butter and cheese.

    5. Pour hot polenta into cake pan and allow to cool.

    6. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (can be made up to one day in advance).

    7. When ready to grill remove polenta from cake pan, if using a round pan cut into 8 slices.

    8. Brush each piece of polenta lighty with olive oil and place on a preheated grill for about 3 minutes per side until heated through.

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Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza


Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

For those of you who read my posts regularly, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I love to grill!  I will attempt to grill everything! One of my favorite things to make on the grill is pizza and bread. Grilled pizza has become quite popular over the last few years and with good reason…it tastes great! So here is a really quick and easy meal that everyone will love. Typically this is one of the meals I throw together when I have leftover chicken, but you can always cook your chicken right before making the pizza. If you’ve read how to make grilled pizza you may have been told to oil your dough, but that is actually not necessary. I usually always oil my grill grates because it does help prevent foods from sticking but it also keeps the grates in better condition, however this is also not necessary for pizza. Once the dough firms up it will come right off the grate with no problems. I never measure my ingredients for this so although I’ve included measurements for each ingredient in the recipe ultimately you can just put the toppings on to your own preference.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1 Pizza Dough (homemade or store bought is fine)

1 cup Barbecue Sauce

1 cup Mozzarella Cheese

1 cup Cheddar Cheese

2 slices of cooked bacon

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

 1/4 cup chopped red onions

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat.

  2. Divide dough into four and flatten using a rolling pin or your hands.

  3. Place each piece of dough on the grill for 3 minutes over direct heat.

  4. Remove the dough from the grill to add toppings. On the cooked side of the dough, place about 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce, 1 tbsp. onions, 2 tbsp. of shredded chicken over each piece of dough. Crumble the bacon over the pizzas and add the cheese (about 1/4 cup of Mozzarella & 1/4 cup of cheddar on each pizza).

  5. Return the dough to the grill uncooked side down and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes over direct heat. Then continue to cook the pizzas over indirect heat until the toppings are heated through and the cheese is melted.

  6. Cut into slices or squares and serve!

 

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Smoked Baby Back Ribs


Finally the weather stayed nice and I was able to use my new smoker! I made baby back ribs and they came out awesome!

After a lot of reading about how to smoke meat I think I did pretty darn good for my first time. They got done a lot sooner than I had anticipated, so they did get a little over done and were just a tad bit dry on some of the thinner pieces of meat, but the flavor was so good and the meat was really tender.

The whole process was actually quite simple.  Choose your meat, make a spice rub, and cook it “low and slow”…that is low heat over a few hours time, checking on it occasionally.

I do have a “pork rub” that I usually make, but since I already had a batch of spice rub made up I just used that and then topped them with my sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.

To prep the meat, I removed the thin membrane from the back of the ribs by inserting a butter knife and pulling it up just enough to get a good grip on it. Then, using a paper towel, I pulled it off. I’ve made ribs before but never did this, but apparently it is an important step so that the flavor can get into the meat and it also makes the meat more tender. I then spread Dijon mustard over both sides of the ribs and added the spice rub (be sure to actually RUB the meat with the spices, just sprinkling it on is not good enough). I then vacuum sealed the ribs with my Food Saver and allowed it to sit over night in the refrigerator. The reason I decided to use my Food Saver is because this allows the spices to really soak into the meat. If you don’t have a Food Saver you can just wrap the ribs tightly with plastic wrap. When it was time to put the ribs into the smoker, I removed them from the wrapping and made sure they were still seasoned well, which they were. If you take off the plastic wrap and notice that the rub is looking thinner or it’s stuck to the plastic wrap, you should go ahead and rub some more of the spice rub into the meat. I preheated the smoker to 200 degrees and then added the ribs bone side down, checking on them every 30-45 minutes. I didn’t open the smoker door each time (wanted to maintain an appropriate temperature), I only checked to make sure the smoker was actually producing a good amount of smoke (I kept having to add water to the pan, the smoke seemed to decrease when the water evaporated from the tray). After about an hour I flipped the ribs over and then let them cook for another hour. I then removed the ribs from the smoker and wrapped them in foil. At this point, however, I noticed that the ribs were looking done so I used my meat thermometer to see where they were at and I was right…they were done. Even though they were done, I still wrapped them in foil and put them back in the smoker for another hour…only because I had anticipated a 3-4 hour cooking time and really wasn’t ready for them to be done in 2 hours. Ultimately this really didn’t do too much “damage” except for a little bit of dryness in some of the thinner parts of meat, like I mentioned earlier. Next time I will definitely make sure to have an oven thermometer and meat thermometer inside the smoker. I had read that these are important but I didn’t have them, so just went by the thermometer on the smoker door. Throughout the cooking process the thermometer remained between 200-220 degrees, but I am thinking that it was actually hotter inside the smoker.  After about a total of 3 hours I did remove the ribs and left them wrapped in the foil to rest. I had made our sides on the grill so right before everything was done I spread some barbecue sauce on the ribs and grilled them for a minute or two on each side just to crisp them up a bit.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at smoking meat. These were definitely the best ribs I’ve ever made!!

 

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

1 rack of baby back ribs (or 2 half racks)

Spice Rub

Dijon Mustard

Barbecue Sauce (optional)

  1. Prepare the ribs the day before you plan to smoke them by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs, spreading the ribs on both sides with Dijon mustard and adding the spice rub thoroughly to both sides of the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator for about 24 hours until ready to cook.
  2. Preheat smoker according to manufacturer’s directions to about 200 degrees F.
  3. Place ribs in smoker and allow to smoke for about an hour. After the first hour flip the ribs over to the other side. Allow to cook for another hour. Be sure to maintain heat between 200-220 degrees F.
  4. After 2 hours remove ribs and wrap in foil. Return to the smoker for another hour.
  5. After 3 hours, check the ribs for doneness. If they are not done, return to the smoker.
  6. If ribs are done, allow to rest in the foil for 10-15 minutes.
  7. If desired, coat ribs with barbecue sauce and grill for about 2 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with barbecue sauce on the side and enjoy.
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Grilled Asiago & Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes


In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I served my grilled lamb chops with a side of grilled twice baked potatoes. So today I am sharing that recipe. It has a unique blend of flavors by using ricotta cheese, asiago & parmesan. Typically you find that most twice baked potatoes are made with sour cream. Grilling them makes the skins super crispy and tasty and the inside ultra creamy! For this recipe I do not typically measure my ingredients so I’ve listed in the recipe below what I feel is a good starting point. It is best to taste as you go and adjust your spices and cheese according to your own taste.

These definitely go well with any meat dish and are a nice change from the usual kinds of potato sides that you come across!

Grilled Asiago & Parmesan Twice Baked Potatoes

2 potatoes

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated asiago cheese

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 slice thick cut bacon

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare potatoes by washing and scrubbing with a vegetable brush.
  3. Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 45 minutes-1 hour (or until fork inserted into potato goes in easily).
  4. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Cut a small circle in one side of each potato and scoop out the insides. Place the insides in a mixing bowl.
  6. To the potato insides, add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and ricotta and mix on medium speed until smooth.
  7. Add the asiago and parmesan cheeses, mixing again until well combined.
  8. Add the potato cheese mixture back into the potato shells.
  9. Wrap each potato in foil and place on the grill over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  10. Place the bacon on the grill as well and cook until crisp. You can add this at the same time as the potatoes over indirect heat and they will both be done at the same time.
  11. When potatoes are done, remove from foil and carefully scoop back any filling that may have melted out and over.
  12. Crumble the bacon and add evenly over the potatoes.
  13. Finally, top each potato with the chopped fresh parsley.

 

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Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops


Well, I’ve decided to put my Smoked Ribs on hold…the forecast includes rain and the last thing I want to deal with is having my ribs cooked halfway and it starts to rain!   So today’s post is of last night’s meal, which I luckily remembered to take pictures of (although I had to use my iPhone because my camera battery was dead!).

This is the first time I’ve grilled lamb chops and they came out great! It also the first time I ever marinated them. Also, I should mention that I don’t eat lamb…I’ve eaten it and I’ll taste it when Hubby has it but there’s something that I just can’t get past when thinking about the poor little baby sheep that I am consuming. It’s totally in my head, I know…because everytime I have eaten it it’s tasted really good. I am a total carnivore and LOVE meat…and I have no problem consuming anything else that was once a cute animal…so I guess it is just one of my many unusual little quirks!

Anyway, I have one “top secret” lamb chop recipe that I typically use to make Hubby his lamb chops. He has labelled them “Restaurant Worthy” and therefore when I do experiment with other lamb chop recipes they don’t live up to the original. Since I am totally in love with my grill I wanted to try something new….I scoured the internet to find something unique, but came up empty so when I was at the farmer’s market and saw all the fresh herbs they had I was inspired to create something on my own.

For this recipe I would definitely recommend only using all fresh ingredients. Do not substitute dried herbs for the fresh and make sure you use real lemons and not bottled lemon juice. Also, make sure to watch your grill closely because the marinade will cause the grill to shoot up flames…which you want because it adds good flavor, but if the fire does not go out it will burn the outside before the inside can get done. If the flames will not die down, simply move the chops to a cooler part of the grill.

I served these with a side of grilled veggies and my grilled twice baked potatoes. These would also taste great with a side of garlic mashed potatoes!

Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops

4-6 lamb chops

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lemon, cut in half

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3-4 sprigs of thyme

  1. In a blender or food processor add the olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and juice of half of the lemon.
  2. Blend/process until well combined.
  3. Add chops and marinade to a ziploc bag and allow to marinate in refrigerator for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove chops from refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before grilling.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate and preheat for about 5 minutes to medium heat (around 400 degrees).
  5. Grill chops for 5-6 minutes per side. (More or less time depending on preference of rare or medium chops)
  6. Before serving, sprinkle chops with remaining juice from other half of lemon, if desired. Allow chops to rest for 5-10 minutes after removing from grill.
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2 for 1: 12 Spice Dry Rub Mix and Sweet & Tangy Barbecue Sauce


Grilling season is in full effect and I am loving my new grill!! Since tomorrow is Saturday and the weather is supposed to be nice again I’m going to attempt to make smoked baby back ribs. In preparation, I’ve made a nice big batch of barbecue sauce to go with them. My inspiration for this recipe comes from Monica at The Yummy Life.  The recipe calls for her 14-spice dry rub mix, so I’ve also included my modified version of this recipe as well (ergo the “2 for 1”), which is actually a 12-spice dry rub mix which can be used on pork or chicken and can also be used in sauces, such as the barbecue sauce I’m sharing with you today.

Stay tuned for my smoked ribs adventure…it’s going to be an interesting journey into unknown territory! 🙂 Until then whip up this tasty barbecue sauce and throw some meat on the grill!!!

Sweet & Tangy Barbecue Sauce (Makes approx. 2 1/2 cups; Weight Watchers Points Plus = 1 for 2 tbsp of sauce)

Source: “Barbecue Sauce” @ The Yummy Life

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

2 tbsp. honey

2 cups ketchup

2 tbsp. 12-spice dry rub mix (recipe follows)

1 1/2 tsp. liquid hickory smoke

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

12-Spice Dry Rub for Pork or Chicken (Makes approx. 1 3/4 cups)

Source: “14-Spice Dry Rub Mix” @ The Yummy Life

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. salt

1/2 cup smoked paprika

1 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. celery salt

2 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. dried sage

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. ground mace

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

  1.  Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.
  2. Keep rub in an air-tight container and use as desired.
  3. For use on chicken or pork sprinkle rub on meat and rub in on all sides. For best results, wrap seasoned meat in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. When ready to cook, remove meat from refrigerator and sprinkle a little bit more of the rub onto the meat.
  4. Cook meat as desired (grill, bake, broil, etc.).
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