Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

Summer Corn Chowder


Well it’s been one hot summer so far here in the northeast…and from what I see on the news it isn’t much better throughout most parts of the U.S. The last thing you are probably thinking about during these hot summer days is hot food like soup. Despite the heat, the other day  I decided to make a big pot of summer corn chowder. It is one of my favorite ways to use fresh corn on the cob. I got this recipe from a cooking class Hubby took me to for my birthday last year.

We made it in the class and even though I HATE SOUP (chowder is soup in my book) I told myself that I was going to try all the stuff we made, as this is an important part of cooking. I tasted it and loved it! I make a huge batch and then freeze it in smaller portions. It freezes really well and I love stumbling across it in the freezer after summer is over and you can’t get corn on the cob anymore. Tasting that sweet fresh corn is the best!

So whether you make this now or freeze it for later you will not be disappointed. For a heartier meal, you can add some cooked chicken cut up into small pieces. Serve with fresh homemade French Bread (check out my Mini French Loaves recipe!) and a small salad for an amazing summer meal.

Summer Corn Chowder

4-6 ears of corn

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh tarragon

2 tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 medium red potatoes, diced

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cubed (optional)

  1. Shuck the corn and using a knife strip the kernels into a bowl. Put the cobs in a large stock pot with 4 cups of water and herb sprigs (tie the herbs together with string); bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. When the butter melts, add the onion, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion soft, about 5 minutes; add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes.
  3. After the corn cobs have cooked, strain the liquid into the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, add diced potatoes, then turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. When the potatoes and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, add the corn kernels and cream and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, garnish with parsley, and serve.* Can be made the day before or frozen.
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Chicken Pomodoro


I came across this recipe in Cuisine at Home magazine. I had never heard of chicken pomodoro so I wasn’t exactly sure if the recipe is similar to an authentic version of the dish or not. An internet search didn’t provide too much information, so maybe one of you can enlighten me!?!? In any case this is a really good dish. It is definitely one of those restaurant quality meals that your guests and/or loved ones will think you slaved away making, when in reality, it’s pretty simple to make. I served this with a side of pasta with a light tomato sauce.

The recipe calls for vodka, which kind of intrigued me.  I cook with alcohol all the time, but if you are not too keen on doing this I’ve read that you can substitute white grape juice for vodka. However, I’ve never tried it so I am not saying that it will work or that it will taste good.  If anyone has tried it or has other suggestions please share!! Anyway, be careful with the vodka…it is best to remove the pan from the heat and then add the vodka to deglaze the pan. Don’t forget to pound your chicken to ¼” thick to ensure even cooking. Also, I didn’t have any scallions on hand so I just cut up some fresh basil and used that to garnish.

Chicken Pomodoro

Source: Cuisine at Home

10-12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded into cutlets

Salt & Pepper, to taste

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup vodka

½ cup chicken stock (or low-sodium chicken broth)

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp. heavy cream

Scallions, for garnish

  1. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour.
  2. Heat a sauté pan to medium high and add the oil. When the oil is hot sauté the cutlets until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (approximately 5 minutes per side). Remove chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Set aside.
  3. Remove pan from heat and deglaze with the vodka.  Return to heat and cook until nearly evaporated.
  4. Add chicken stock and lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium high. Stir in the cream and chopped tomato and heat through.
  5. Pour the sauce over the cutlets and garnish with scallions.
  6. Serve and enjoy!
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The Best Laid Plans….Pork Tenderloin or Pulled Pork


Sometimes what you have in mind just doesn’t happen, which was the case last night when I had planned to make this nice smoked tenderloin with a side of grilled asparagus and sweet potatoes. Sounds good right? Well, unfortunately (or actually fortunately because it ended up tasting great!) this gourmet dish turned into pulled pork sandwiches when Hubby called to let me know that he was going to be stuck at work for quite a while. See, I had already started smoking the pork tenderloin when he called so there was no turning back and even though I was following the “low & slow” rule, it still got done WAY before he was expected to arrive. I really didn’t want this beautiful piece of meat to dry out which is what would have happened if I had to reheat it.

Then as time went on, I started to feel a bit lazy and really didn’t want to make grilled sweet potatoes or asparagus or have anything to do with firing up the grill again when it was getting close to my bedtime (which embarassingly is about 9pm). So, I just pulled out some buns that I’d made the other day and started shredding!!! The meat stayed moist and retained it’s wonderful smoky flavor. Now that I’ve gotten more into real “barbecuing” I didn’t soak it in barbecue sauce either and the addition of just a tad bit of barbecue sauce once placed on the bun was perfect!! Now I’m perfectly aware that the best pulled pork comes from “pork butt” but shredding the pork tenderloin was a pretty close second….and I’m pretty sure a much healthier option.  So for this recipe you can either use it as “pork tenderloin” and slice it up all pretty or you can use it as “pulled pork” and shred it! Either way you can’t go wrong. Also, I recommend that you use apple wood chips for this. I’ve used hickory and it’s pretty good but the apple chips really give it something extra (we all know pork + apples = winner!). One more thing to mention is the spice rub will make way more than you need for just one pork tenderloin so you should be sure to prepare it in a sealable container so you can keep the leftover for another time or another meat ;).

Smoked Pork Tenderloin

1 – 1 lb. pork tenderloin

Pork Rub (recipe follows)

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

Barbecue Sauce of your choice (click here for an amazing barbecue sauce recipe!)

Pork Dry Rub

(Remember this makes more than enough for the recipe so make sure to store it in a sealed container so you can use the rest for something else).

3/4 cup paprika

1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup kosher salt

2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tbsp. onion powder

1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper

  1. The night before (or at least 8 hours ahead) you plan to make this, prepare the pork tenderloin by rubbing the olive oil over the entire piece of meat. Then add the dry rub (be sure to actually “rub” it in). Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Preheat your smoker to 200 degrees F. Prepare wood chips and smoker per manufacturer’s directions.
  3. Remove the pork from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring it to room temperature.
  4. Place the pork in the smoker and cook for about 1 -1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
  5. To serve, slice or shred. Top with barbecue sauce of your choice.
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Ranch Chicken Grilled Pizza


Here is another delicious grilled pizza recipe. For this recipe I did not use my usual “go to” pizza dough recipe, but used one that is a little bit thinner and has a good texture for cooking it on the grill. It is so easy to work with and shape and it’s not sticky at all. When you put it on the grill it may puff up a little but this goes down and ends up nice and crispy. For the chicken you can pretty much make it however you want or use leftovers, but personally I like to make my Grilled Ranch-Style Chicken.  Also, you can use whatever cheese you like, but based on previous attempts at making this I think mild cheddar is the way to go, as it does not overpower or clash with the ranch dressing. Also, I’ve included measurements in the recipe, however they’re just guesstimates so just go ahead and adjust them based on your own tastes. Remember to follow the last step of completely removing the dough from the grill to add the toppings. If you do not do this you will run the risk of burning your pizza!!

 

Ranch Chicken Grilled Pizza

Pizza Dough:

  • 2 tsp. instant/rapid rise yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 – 3 ½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

 ¼ to ½ cup Ranch Dressing

4 oz. cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed (I use Ranch Style Grilled Chicken)

2-3 slices bacon, cooked crisp & crumbled

1 to 1 ½ cups of mild cheddar cheese, shredded.

  1. Combine all the pizza dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on low-medium speed until well combined. Increase the speed and continue to mix until dough forms a smooth ball and no longer sticks to the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into four. Place on a baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes. (If you let it “rest” for longer it’s ok; it will not affect the end result of the dough)
  2. Meanwhile, gather and prepare all other ingredients. Preheat the grill to medium high heat.
  3. After the dough has rested for at least 15 minutes, roll out each piece as flat as possible (be careful not to rip it).
  4. Place the four pieces of dough on the grill for about 2 minutes. Remove the dough completely from the grill (grilled side down) and add the ranch dressing, chicken, bacon and cheese. Return to grill for 3-4 minutes until dough is crisp, toppings are heated through, and cheese is melted.
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Grilled Ranch-Style Chicken


There is truly nothing like going out to your garden and getting the fresh herbs that you need for a recipe, which is exactly what I did when I made the marinade for this ranch-style grilled chicken. This recipe works best with fresh herbs but you can definitely substitute dried, just remember to use less.  Also, I like to put my marinades in the blender (I have the Cuisinart CPB-300 SmartPower 15-Piece Compact Portable Blending/Chopping System, so it’s pretty convenient) when I am using fresh herbs, personally I think it helps get all the flavors into the meat better, plus sometimes I get a little bit lazy and don’t really feel like chopping everything up, so blending it takes care of that!  So you can either just chop everything up and mix it together or throw it all in the blender. Totally your choice! I called this “ranch-style” because it is not your typical creamy ranch, but I still used all the seasonings from my Ranch Dressing.

Grilled Ranch Style Chicken

10 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. white vinegar

Salt & pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients except for chicken in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined (or put it all in a blender and blend for a few seconds). Place chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill chicken over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

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Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken


Well so much for getting back in the groove like I said I was last week! Since my last post I’ve been slacking all around in the diet department, the blogging department, and the cooking department. Too much eating out and a lack of fresh groceries in the house has caused me to gain 2 lbs. at this week’s weigh-in…*sigh*!  But, I have no one to blame but myself. So here is my attempt to once again get back in the groove with eating better, cooking yummy food for me & Hubby and sticking to my blogging.

 

Tonight’s dinner consisted of a simple yet very flavorful chicken dish served with a side of grilled veggies. This chicken was inspired by the Grilled Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops recipe I posted a while back. To make it “slimmed down” I eliminated the oil and used rosemary instead of thyme (only because I ran out of fresh thyme, but had the rosemary). Since there is no oil and a minimal amount of lemon juice the Weight Watchers Points Plus is equal to the amount of chicken you use. So for this recipe I used 4 ounces of boneless skinless chicken breast (weighed before grilling) which is a WWPP value of 3.

Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken (1 serving = 3 WWPP)

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Juice of ½ lemon

1-2 cloves garlic

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until well combined and garlic and rosemary is chopped.

  2. Place chicken in a glass dish and pour the mixture over the chicken. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat grill to medium high and grill chicken until done (internal temperature of 165 degrees).

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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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Slimmed Down Caesar Salad Dressing


Wednesday was my Week 9 weigh-in with a loss of .5 pounds. Happy to see that I lost this week after last week’s stand-still. I’m still moving at a snail’s pace, but I am ok with that…as long as I keep losing that’s all that really matters.

Remember last week how I went on to preach about how I can feel my bad habits and lifestyle changing (much to my own amazement!)? Well here is another example…the other day I ran to the grocery store for a few random items that we were out of and ended up with a huge basketful of mostly all fresh veggies! I was in total shock when I noticed this as I placed everything on the belt at the checkout.

I never go to the grocery store and only get the one or two things I need…I always end up buying  extra things…things like snacks, candy, cupcakes, chips, etc. This time, I didn’t even give those things a second thought but was compelled to go a little overboard in the produce section! The best part about this was that I genuinely just thought “oh that looks good.” Not, “I guess I’ll get some broccoli and force myself to eat it because it is healthy.” The next best part…I wasn’t even thinking about the goodies that I was bombarded with throughout the store (you know those bright & colorful displays of cookies, cakes & donuts?!).

Now some of you may be thinking, “so what? I always stock up on produce.” But for a junk food junkie like me this is amazing! I feel so proud…this is such a big accomplishment. So for those of you who can relate…don’t give up! Just keep working to break those bad habits and before you know it you’ll be over-spending in the produce section instead of the bakery!!

So to commemorate this special event…here is my recipe for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. This is probably my favorite kind of salad….but as I’m sure those of you who are watching what you eat know…Caesar dressing is loaded with fat (especially the “creamy” version)! So to make the dressing a little healthier I’ve altered my usual Caesar dressing by decreasing the oil and adding chicken stock to make it go a little bit further. The chicken stock does make the dressing a bit more runny than regular dressings, but if you add the dressing to the salad and shake it up in a container with a lid, you’ll never even notice that it’s thin…you’ll just taste the great flavor. You can pretty much make your Caesar salad however you like but I’m including how I make the whole thing. I’ve only included the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the salad dressing, though. If you follow WW I’m sure you can figure out the points value based on the amount of chicken you use along with any other ingredients you may add.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing

2 oz. grilled or baked boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper & garlic powder

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

4 Fat Free Caesar-style croutons

2 tbsp. “Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing”

  1. Chop or slice grilled chicken breast.
  2. In a large bowl with a lid add the lettuce, cheese, and chicken.
  3. Add dressing and place lid on bowl. Shake to coat.
  4. Place salad on a serving plate and top with croutons.

Dressing: (Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 2 tbsp. Weight Watchers Points Plus = 2)

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for the olive oil and parmesan cheese, in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined.
  2. While the blender is running on low, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese and run for a few more seconds to incorporate the cheese.
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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 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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