Ribfest 2018

This is the first time in years I have been home over Veteran’s Day weekend so was able to attend one of my favorite events that I have really missed.  It is the Northeast Exchange Club’s Ribfest held in Vinoy Park  on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, and this year was their 30th anniversary.  The net proceeds of the event helps the community in its efforts to prevent child abuse, helped build a new children’s hospital, contributes to many youth oriented causes, helps individuals in need and promotes Americanism.  So besides being a really fun and yummy event, raises money for some really good causes.

There were some mighty tasty ribs this year…some I liked the tenderness of the meat, some I liked the smokiness of the meat, some had better sauce.  But my favorite all around was Desperado’s BBQ & Rib Co. (and to be honest they are normally my favorite – always spot on!!).  They also have live music each day of the event.  If you are ever in the St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida area around Veteran’s Day, try and squeeze this one into your schedule! (Don’t let the short lines fool you – we went right when the event opened to try and beat the crowds, the event does gets PACKED!!! )





Smokey Apple Glazed Pork Chops with Bacon Pesto

This pork chop recipe came about from a grilling contest a few years ago.  It is super easy to make and full of flavor.

The chops are rubbed with a seasoning blend that contains ancho chili powder and smoked paprika.  Once the chops have grilled on each side for a few minutes to set the spices, they are then brushed with apple jelly while they finish cooking.  Apples and pork pair together so well and the apple jelly is a quick way to add that apple flavor to the pork.

Once the bacon is cooked for the pesto, it is a quick whiz in the food processor to chop and combine all the ingredients.  If you have leftover bacon from breakfast or even some of that ready cooked bacon you could use that and save a step, getting this delicious chop on the dinner table even faster!

Smokey Apple Glazed Pork Chops with Bacon Pesto

Smokey Apple Glazed Pork Chops with Bacon Pesto

6 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 thick cut bone-in pork chops
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup apple jelly
For garnish: Finely grated parmesan cheese, additional crumbled bacon and fresh basil leaves

Heat a gas grill to medium heat.

Place the bacon into a heat-safe skillet and place onto grill (or if the grill has a side burner, place skillet onto side burner over medium heat) and cook bacon until crispy, approximately 3 – 4 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, place the basil, walnuts, anchovy paste, garlic, parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Process until finely ground. Add in 1/2 of the bacon and olive oil, process until finely ground. Add in remaining 1/2 of bacon and pulse, leaving larger pieces of bacon in the pesto; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, paprika and nutmeg. Season the pork chops with salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, then sprinkle with the seasoning mixture, patting it onto the chops.

Place pork chops onto the grill and grill each side 1 – 2 minutes to set spice. Using a brush, begin to glaze the pork chops with the apple jelly, coating each side at least two times, flipping the chops in between each glaze, and cook until chops are cooked through. Glaze the top side of the chop right before removing from grill to serving plate.

To serve, place chop onto serving plate, top with a spoonful of the bacon pesto, garnish with parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon and basil leaves.

Serves 2


Deviled Pig

I am so excited to write this post and introduce you to a new barbeque restaurant, Deviled Pig.  They are located in Tampa, Florida at 3307 South Dale Mabry Highway and the grand opening is Tuesday, October 30, 2018.  Champion Pitmaster Lee Ann Whippen and World Sandwich Champion Jennifer Daskevich have joined forces to bring you what they call “Meat with an Attitude”, which combines traditional roots and award winning smoked meats, BBQ and Tampa inspired sandwiches.

Deviled Pig

At the soft opening, guests were treated to some pretty fabulous barbeque, as well as some of their original signature delish dishes.

The ribs and rib tips were perfection, so tender and so flavorful!  The didn’t even need sauce, but of course, I wanted to try them so used some of the Buccaneer Original Barbeque Sauce on these babies.  It is a mild sauce, Kansas City style with a hint of sweet – really good!

Competition Premium St. Louis Ribs

Premium Rib Tips

Next up – The “Deviled Pig” – which was amazing…loved, loved, loved these!!  Think crab cake but with pork.  It is a combination of smoked pulled pork, onions, peppers, spices, panko crusted, then deep fried and dusted with their Pig Powder.  I can’t wait to have them again!

The “Deviled Pig”

One of the signature sandwiches – the Pirate Shipwreck Sandwich – has smoked turkey, pulled pork, pork belly bacon, cole slaw and their pirate mustard sauce all on fresh local Cuban bread.  See the sandwich on the far left, with that big ole piece of pork belly hanging off the end – that was the one I grabbed – so worth the calories!

Pirate Shipwreck Sandwich

And then the shrimp! Argentinian Red Deviled Smoked Shrimp to be exact.  Pig powder dusted and served with drawn butter (or choice of sauce).  Look at the size of those beauties!  They were as tasty as they look!  (Sorry for the blur on the photo…tongs in action grabbing shrimp off the platter!)

Argentinian Red Deviled Smoked Shrimp

They also served up the hot link sausage, pulled chicken sandwich and the burnt ends – sadly I didn’t get a picture of those but they looked and tasted as good as everything else!!

If you are ever in the Tampa area, be sure to make a stop at Deviled Pig…you will not be disappointed!  And for those living in the area, they have take-out and also cater!

(Disclaimer:  I was invited to the soft opening of the restaurant, but all opinions are my own.)


Strawberry Basil Fizz

My local grocery store has strawberries on sale this week, and it got me thinking about some yummy cocktails I have created using them.  The one I am sharing here today was created for a vodka contest a few years back.  It calls for simple syrup, which you can buy nowadays at the store, but it is super easy to make at home.  Just boil equal amounts of water and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, then cool (keep in the fridge til ready to use).

Strawberry Basil Fizz

Strawberry Basil Fizz

1/2 cup strawberries (approx. 4 strawberries)
3 – 4 large basil leaves
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces vodka
3 – 4 ounces lemon lime soda

Garnish – strawberries and basil

Place the strawberries, basil, simple syrup and vodka into a blender, process until strawberries are pureed. Pour into an ice filled rocks glass, top with lemon lime soda.

Garnish with strawberries and basil.

Makes 1 drink


Southwestern Lentil Shepherds Pie

The National Lentil Festival is held yearly in Pullman, Washington and as part of the festival they host the Legendary Lentil Cook-off.  I am still trying to make it to that one and looking forward to creating new recipes to enter next year.  But, in the meantime, thought I would share my entry from this year – Southwestern Lentil Shepherds Pie.  Recipe entries had to specify at least 1/2 cup raw lentils, 1 cup cooked lentils and/or 1/2 cup of lentil flour and no more than 15 ingredients (not including salt, pepper or an oiled pan).

Southwestern Lentil Shepherds Pie

Southwestern Lentil Shepherds Pie

1 poblano pepper
1 ear of corn, cleaned
1 lime
5 cups vegetable broth, divided use
1 cup raw lentils, rinsed
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, divided use, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, seeds removed, minced, plus 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from can
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tomato, diced
1 24-ounce package refrigerated store-bought garlic mashed potatoes
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded, divided use
2 ounces hot and spicy or nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips, crushed

Preheat broiler to high heat. Broil the poblano pepper until blackened and blistered on all sides, approximately 2 – 3 minutes per side. Remove from broiler and place into a small heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Remove and discard skin and seeds. Chop poblano and set aside.

While the poblano is in the broiler, also place the ear of corn under the broiler. Broil on all sides just until the corn begins to lightly brown, approximately 1 – 2 minutes per side. Remove from broiler and allow to cool slightly. Cut the kernels off of the cob and set kernels aside.

Turn broiler off and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Zest and juice the lime, set both aside.

Place a large, deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add in 3 cups of the vegetable broth, the lentils, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover skillet and cook lentils according to package instructions, approximately 30 minutes.

Once the lentils are fully cooked, in a medium bowl whisk together the remaining 2 cups vegetable broth, cornstarch, chipotles, adobo sauce, and ground cumin. Add to lentils in skillet. Also add in the tomato, reserved poblano pepper, reserved corn, 1/2 teaspoon lime zest and 2 teaspoons lime juice. Mix to fully combine. Cook over medium heat until heated through and thickened, approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Season with salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

While lentils are cooking, heat the mashed potatoes in a microwave just until warmed (or bring to room temperature if microwave is not available). Mix into the potatoes 6 ounces of the pepper jack cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.

Evenly divide the lentil mixture between 4 single serve baking dishes. Top evenly with the remaining 2 ounces of pepper jack cheese, then with the mashed potatoes. Place baking dishes into preheated oven and bake for 15 – 18 minutes until heated through and bubbling around the edges. Then top evenly with the crushed tortilla chips, place back in oven and bake until chips begin to lightly brown, approximately 3 – 5 minutes, or can be broiled for approximately 1 minute. Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy!

Serves 4