The Best Barbecue Sauce

Summer is here. Whoo hoo. For those of us in the Northeast, who were battered and bruised after last winter (some mornings were -18°) it’s time to celebrate with some delicious summer food. And that means grilling. And that means barbecue sauce.

Yes, you can buy it at the store. When I’m short on time, I do that too, and no one complains. (Or, they don’t complain in my presence.) However, why buy it when you can make it? Especially when it tastes soooo much better.

This recipe came from chef Wolfgang Puck and is lip-smackin’ delicious on everything, including baby back ribs. That recipe will be coming your way soon.

 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ medium onion, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

BeginningofSauceIn a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Sauté the onions, garlic and oregano until translucent, about four to five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Be careful when you stir because this sauce is like bubbling, volcanic lava. It’s hot and sticky. If it gets on your skin, it’s going to burn. To prevent sauce injury, I use a long-handled spoon – the longer the better – to stir with then put a lid on it so it doesn’t bubble up and get me. SauceDone

But, even if I get a little burn, it’s worth it. Trust me. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.

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Mother’s Day gift ideas for foodie moms

Psst … Mother’s Day is coming. It’s Sunday, May 11. If you haven’t gotten anything for your mom yet, you still have time. And, if your mom is a foodie, I have some ideas for you.

A cookbook.
Really. We foodies love them. And, since there are so many of them out there, you can choose one based on her style of cooking:

A subscription to a good food magazine.
If she’s truly a foodie, she loves reading about food and the people who make it, finding new recipes and discovering new ingredients to use:

High-tech kitchen gadgets.
Foodies love kitchen gadgets. If she also loves high tech stuff, she’ll probably enjoy receiving one of these high-tech kitchen gadgets  from Mashable.

Cook for her.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, make her a meal. I find that people are often intimidated and don’t want to cook for foodies because, well, foodies are usually great cooks. However, if your mom is a foodie, she’s probably always cooking. It’s time to give her a break. Plus, she’s your mom. She’ll love whatever you make. Trust me on this one.

Try one of these recipes for dinner. They’re all simple and delicious. And she’ll love you for it.

Or, just make her a sweet treat. These are all simple as well. And, she’ll love you for it.

I hope you and your mom have a great day. For all of my fellow foodie moms, Happy Mother’s Day.

Baking holiday gifts? These are neater than sneakers on a chicken

Each year as the holidays near and I plan the gifts I want to bake, I face a dilemma. If I make cookies or cake or bark, how do I package it? I want the gifts to look nice and festive, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money on packaging. And, I don’t want to use something the giftee feels he/she has to return.

Then magically, almost like the dancing Sugar Plum Fairies themselves, the answer appeared as I was leafing through last month’s catalog for King Arthur Flour.  (In case you’re wondering, I am not being compensated by the company. However, if someone from KAF wants to toss some free sparkling sugar or espresso powder my way for endorsing these products, I won’t be mad.)

Anyway, the catalog featured something I hadn’t seen before: paper baking pans. What a neat idea.

These are worry-free pans: I don’t have to worry about getting my pans back, and the giftee doesn’t have to worry about washing and returning them.

There are several to choose from:

KAFPaperBakingPans

There are also several holiday package accessories:

So, if you get something tasty from me this holiday season, just toss the pan out when you’re finished with it.

If you try any of these, let me know how they worked out for you.

Holiday gift ideas for your favorite foodies

Foodies love foodie gifts. With the holiday season quickly approaching, Here are some gift ideas you might want to consider for your favorite foodie.

PhotoForDec.1TrioofSpicesGreat spices/ingredients
A true foodie is always looking for good spices and ingredients to make his/her recipes even better. Last Christmas, my friend Liza bought me some Vietnamese cinnamon and pizza seasoning  from King Arthur Flour, and I’ve been using them ever since. Trust me on this one. I purchased these for my dad, my favorite foodie, and he loved them. The cinnamon is incredible, and makes everything – even boring old oatmeal – taste fantastic. I wouldn’t use anything else.

Cookbooks
You might think that a foodie wouldn’t need or want a new cookbook, but au contraire, it depends on the book.

PhotoJohnSchlimmBookDec.1Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes a Cook’s Manifesto”  is more than a mere cookbook.  While it includes recipes, the premise of the book is that every cook’s success comes down to 20 concepts.

TheCheesyVeganIs your favorite foodie a vegan? If so, I have an author for you: John Schlimm, who has written several vegan cookbooks, including “Grilling Vegan Style” and “The Cheesy Vegan.” Or, is your foodie a fan of beer and spirits? John’s got you covered there as well, with “The Beer Lover’s Cookbook: More than 300 Recipes all Made With Beer”  and “The Tipsy Vegan: 75 Boozy Recipes to Turn Every Bite Into Happy Hours.”

Funky gifts
Uncommon goods has several interesting and unique gifts that your foodie likely will cherish, including a wiener dog oil and vinegar set and a salts of the world test tube set.

Bacon
Yep, you read that right. You can enroll your foodie in a Bacon Club. For three or six months, your foodie will receive 12 to 16 ounces of bacon (did someone say bacon?!?) along with recipes and other bacon goodies. At $189 for six months’ worth, it’s a little pricey, but it’s bacon.

Food
There’s no reason you can’t get a foodie food. Most foodies I know love, love, love food. While I have bacon the brain, here’s a potential stocking stuffer for your foodie: the Noble Pig Chocolate Bar library, which includes a milk chocolate bacon bar, a dark chocolate bacon bar and a Barcelona bar, which includes hickory-smoked almonds and sea salt – all for $22.

Zabar’s from New York, one of my most recent finds, offers a wide assortment of awesome-looking food, including coffee, bagels and deli meats. The cinnamon babka is fantastic and makes delicious French toast.

If your favorite foodie comes from The Boot, you may want to check out the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in Pittsburgh for some Italian delectables, including  a small or large antipasta gift box filled with sliced Italian meats, sharp provolone and peppers.  The company also will send fresh pasta, such as smoked mozzarella ravioli and lobster ravioli, which are both wickedly delicious.

Cool tools and gadgets
Foodies love gadgets. The Food Network store features several cool tools/gadgets foodies would love, including what it calls a “lasagna lugger,” a cloth carrier with handles so your foodie can transport hot or cold food easily without burning fingers or making a mess in the car; and an iPad stand for those cooks who refer to electronic recipes.

At one point, every foodie needs a microplaner. Even if your foodie has one, he/she could use another. Williams-Sonoma  offers four with different surfaces for $16.95.

You could also make your foodie an apron at Cafe Press. Yes, most cooks already have one, but they don’t have one with your picture on it, or a special saying or one that you created. And, we foodies are always getting our aprons dirty, so it’s good to have a spare.

What about a baking tool caddy for your baker foodie? Think of it as a tackle box for bakers, enabling him/her to organize all of his/her foodie favorites, including sprinkles, pastry bags, tips, etc.

PenguinsClockSomething for the kitchen
And what foodie wouldn’t love this penguin kitchen clock? Oh, wait. That’s on my holiday list. Never mind.

What are you getting your favorite foodie? Tell me. I can keep a secret.

Passing down the love of cooking

I learned to cook from some of the people I love the most. I remember:

  • watching my mother use her fingertips to pluck hot lasagna noodles out of the colander and layer them in her long, glass pan to make lasagna.
  • seeing my grandmother’s hands covered in flour, her fingers nimbly working the dough for cookies or pasta.
  • admiring my dad as he expertly dropped eggs into a pyramid of flour, worked the gooey mixture over and over, then rolled them out to create noodles.

They didn’t give me cooking lessons per se. I learned by watching, standing at their elbow and watching them work their culinary magic. Occasionally, I’d ask a question: “Dad, why do you use two egg yolks but only one whole egg for the noodles?” Without interrupting his rhythm, he explained that one egg white helped to stiffen the noodles.

Since I learned so much from them, I feel it’s my responsibility to do the same. Enter my 3-year-old granddaughter, Briar. When she was just the size of a pea, I secretly hoped I could teach her to cook. (Well, I knew I had the ability to teach her. I was hoping she’d have the interest to be taught.)

LickingtheSpoonThen, one magical day, we made our first cake together, her standing on a kitchen chair at my elbow, my helping  her crack the eggs and measure the flour and baking powder. As she added each new ingredient, she wanted to take a taste. She  learned that brown sugar tastes awesome; flour, not so much. She also learned that one advantage to cooking is licking the spatula.

The next two times, we made cookies. I rolled out the dough, and she pressed the cutter to make the shapes. I frosted them, and she liberally (and I do mean liberally) decorated them with sprinklesphoto (4)

So far, it’s been everything I had hoped for — and more. Usually when I see her now, she asks me when she’s coming to my house to bake cookies. It may be cookies and cake now, but I hope in a few years she’ll want to learn how to make graham cracker cream pie, Papa’s favorite; oatmeal cookies with brown butter frosting, Daddy’s favorite; and cheesecake, everyone’s favorite.

I hope cooking together will continue to be something special she and I can share. I also hope when she’s older, she’ll remember our cooking adventures with as much love and admiration as I have for those who taught me.

Have you passed along your culinary talent to anyone? If so, let me know.

She’s so good lookin’ when she is cookin’

A while ago I bought one of those do-thingies – actually, I think they’re called docking stations – for my iPhone, which now enables me to listen to Pandora when I’m in the kitchen.

So, while I’m mixing or kneading or frying or frosting or sprinkling or sauteing, I can also enjoy some great music, which makes cooking even more fun. I have several Pandora channels, but the one that seems most conducive to cooking – at least to me – is the Ray Charles channel.

There’s something so empowering about listening to Aretha Franklin while making dinner:

And there’s something so fun about listening to Harry Belafonte jumping in the line, or Sam Cooke twistin’ the night away or Rosemary Clooney doing the mambo Italiano.

But, as much as I love to cook while Sam Cooke and Ray Charles and Otis Redding and Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye sing, I have found the ultimate song to cook to. Truly, the best song. It made me laugh out loud. with lines like, “She’s so good lookin’ when she is cookin’. What a beautiful sight among the pots and pans.”

This gem comes from Lou Monte:

What do you listen to in the kitchen?