Mandy's Marvelous Meals

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

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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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.).

Craving Chinese: Sesame Chicken & Pork Fried Rice

Ever wonder why Chinese food tastes SOOOO good? And no matter how hard you try you just can’t make it yourself as good as they do at a Chinese Restaurant. I’m pretty sure it has to do with all the oil and MSG they put in everything. 😉 So, when I had a Chinese food craving I decided we’d have to settle for second best and I’d make it at home…ordering Chinese is just not diet friendly (stay tuned for the slimmed down version in tomorrow’s post!).When it comes to Chinese food, even items that seem like they might be “healthy” usually are not. Of course, some restaurants now offer healthy options, but let’s get real….if you’re going to order Chinese the last thing you’re thinking about is healthy….I mean if I wanted steamed broccoli, I’d just make it myself!

So here is a recipe that is pretty close to being as good as the real thing. I always bake the chicken, but the original recipe calls for you to deep fry it.  You definitely could fry it if you’re not being health-conscious, but personally I think baking it tastes much better. If you do want to fry it, be sure to add the flour with the first ingredients to make a wet badder, instead of dredging it in the flour, as is listed in my version.

As for the rice, you can substitute pretty much any meat for the pork, but since I had left over pork loin, I used that. Chicken, bacon, and ham are all good alternatives. Also, you can add more or less vegetables to your preference.  Fried rice is definitely the best way to use up leftover rice and if you have leftover meat it’s a double bonus. Of course if you don’t have leftovers and don’t feel like making the fried rice, this Sesame Chicken tastes great with plain white or brown rice, just pile the chicken and sauce on top!

Sesame Chicken (Serves 3-4)

(Modified from “Perfect Sesame Chicken” on

1/4 cup flour

2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. water

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup sugar

1 tbsp. white vinegar

1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. sesame oil

½  – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp. cornstarch

¼ cup water

1-2 tbsp. sesame seeds

4 scallions, chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, water and oil.
  2. Add the chicken to the bowl, making sure all the pieces are coated with the batter. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Place the flour in a shallow dish or bowl and dredge the chicken pieces coating all sides.
  4. Place chicken pieces on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Bake chicken at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  6. Meanwhile, make the sauce by bringing the chicken stock, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper flakes, and garlic to a boil.
  7. Dissolve the 2 tbsp. of cornstarch into ¼ cup of water, and stir into the boiling sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and turns clear. Reduce heat to low and keep the sauce warm.
  8. Add the baked chicken pieces to the completed sauce and stir to coat.
  9. Serve chicken and sauce topped with the sesame seeds and scallions.

Pork Fried Rice (Serves 4)

1 tbsp. sesame or olive oil

½ cup pork loin, cooked and chopped into small pieces.

3 scallions, chopped

1 egg

½ cup frozen peas, partially thawed

2 cups cooked white rice, cold

2 tbsp. soy sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add the pork and stir fry for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Add the scallions and stir fry for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the egg and stir until completely scrambled/cooked.
  5. Add the peas and stir fry for about 2 minutes until heated through.
  6. Add the rice to the pan, breaking up any clumps, and cook for a few minutes until heated through.
  7. Add the soy sauce and stir until well combined. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Serve & enjoy.

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