Category Archives: Sides

Grilled Lamb Chops with Grilled Asparagus

Grilled Lamb and Asparagus

We finally had some warm spring-like weather fit for grilling this weekend. 72 degrees on Sunday-very welcome after the brutal winter we endured. I had a little venison to grill that my brother-in-law gave us, but I didn’t think it would be enough for dinner. So I decided to pick up some lamb chops. I used a marinade I’ve used on cuts of beef before which works just as well on lamb chops (and venison, too!). The marinade in this recipe is for just a few chops, so if you have more to grill feel free to double the marinade amount.

The grilled lamb chops turned out delicious! Similar to a fine cut of steak, but different enough in flavor to be a nice change of pace. They’re definitely going into my summer grilling rotation. The venison was very good too, but I’ve had grilled venison before, and I knew what to expect. The lamb chops were unexpectedly tasty. I’ve eaten lamb plenty of times in different dishes and cooked various ways, but I don’t know if I’ve grilled lamb chops anytime recently, and these were nice, thick-cut chops, looking like miniature T-bone streaks.

For sides I picked up some asparagus– grilling asparagus directly on the grill is really simple and one of my favorite ways to cook it. I also made a batch of mac and cheese, Clarkston Union style.

Ingredients, lamb chops + marinade:

  • 4 lamb chops
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely minced or crushed in a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


Ingredients, asparagus:

  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


Mix the marinade ingredients and marinade the chops for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight.

Marinating Lamb

Fire up enough charcoal to cover 1/2 the grill (or turn the burners on high on one side of the gas grill, if you must use one). Same grilling method as in my Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post: First brown the outside of the chops on both sides by quickly grilling over direct heat, then move to the cooler indirect side of the grill to finish cooking. I also briefly soaked a few apple and hickory chips and threw them on the coals for a smoky flavor.


Coat the asparagus in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When you move the chops to the cooler part of the grill, throw the asparagus on the hot side of the grill (perpendicular to the grate, of course!) and make sure you turn the asparagi by rolling them so they grill up quickly on all sides and don’t burn. When the asparagus is done, the chops should be done (I like my lamb chops to be medium-rare, just like my steaks). Enjoy!


Mashed Rutabaga (Swedes)

Mashed Rutabaga (Swedes)

Here’s my contribution for a really tasty side dish for Thanksgiving or any upcoming holiday dinner, a traditional holiday side dish in my family. My Scottish Grandma used to make mashed rutabaga as a side for holiday meals. She called them “Swedes”, which Wikipedia tells me is what they’re called in most British Commonwealth nations, having originated in Sweden. They’re a cross between a turnip and a cabbage, and they have a delicious earthy, cabbage-like flavor.

Well, enough rutabaga fun facts. Here’s what you really need to know- how to cook them!


  • 3 Good-Sized Rutabagas (a little larger than a softball).
  • 1/4 – 1/2 stick of butter
  • 15 oz. Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste


Special Utensils:

  • A Potato Masher comes in really handy!


Serves 6-8


Yes, this is what rutabagas look like

Chopped Rutabaga

Ready for boilin’

Cut ends off rutabagas and peel off skin. Rutabagas are difficult to work with, so carefully cutting the skin off with a sharp knife will probably work better than a potato peeler. Chop the rutabagas up into roughly inch and a half wide cubes, being careful because rutabagas are very hard and dense in their raw state, and difficult to cut up.

Some recipes for mashed rutabaga say to add cream. I think a generous amount of butter plus some good chicken stock give the rutabagas plenty of extra flavor. I like to take about a pint or so of low-sodium chicken stock and boil it down by 1/2 or more to concentrate the flavor.

Boiling Rutabaga

It’s beginning to boil…

As the chicken stock starts to reduce, put the rutabaga pieces into a large pot and fill with water so they’re covered. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer the rutabaga until it’s easy to break apart with a fork, about 1/2 hour. Drain the water from the rutabaga pieces and put them back into the pot.

Mashing Rutabagas

I did the mash…

Now comes the fun part– mashing! Add the butter, salt and pepper, and the reduced chicken stock a little at a time, mashing and stirring until it gets to a chunky mashed potato consistency. Taste as you go to add more butter, stock or seasoning as needed. Enjoy!


Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I felt like grilling something sort of Mexican style last weekend. I had a general idea of marinating and grilling flank steak with some peppers and onions and making fajitas. So I stopped at the grocery store to get a few ingredients– the steak, some corn tortillas… and I noticed some nice-looking poblano peppers that intrigued me. Decided to pick up a few poblanos, not sure what I’d do with them. We already had plenty of red and green peppers to grill for the fajitas, so I decided to stuff the poblanos. Never tried stuffing them before, but I’d heard about stuffed poblano peppers and it sounded good in theory. Well, I put together some stuffing ingredients from what I had around, and the stuffed poblanos turned out fantastic on the grill! Delicious and filling. So good in fact, that we started eating them first and almost forgot about the flank steak, although that turned out great too. Maybe I’ll do a post about the flank steak next week. We decided the stuffed poblanos and the steak would be enough for dinner and figured we’d make fajitas another day.

It’s easy to make this a vegetarian meal if you use water instead of chicken stock to cook the rice and leave out the bacon. Leave out the cheese, and it’s vegan.


  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, like Basmati
  • 2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or Water
  • 6 Strips Cooked, Diced Bacon
  • 1 Small Diced Red Onion
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1/2 Cup of your Favorite Salsa
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Cheese– Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, or any combo thereof
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper


Special Utensils:

  • Just a Grill


Serves 4

Heat the 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water to boiling, then add the rice, turn heat down to low, and cover. When the rice is ready in about 20 minutes, mix with the other stuffing ingredients. The same tip I gave for the fried rice recipe applies here– use just a little bit less than 2 cups of liquid to the 1 cup of rice, and it’s also a good idea to undercook the rice just a little. There’s more liquid to be added with the salsa and beans and more cooking to be done on the grill.

Cut the tops off the poblano peppers and carefully cut the two ribs on each side of the seed pod area that holds it to the inside of the pepper, so the seeds can be removed. Fill the empty pepper with the stuffing mix and put the top of the pepper back on, holding it on with two toothpicks.

The same grilling instructions from the Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post apply here: Get enough charcoal ready for one side of the grill, and soak a handful of your favorite type of wood chips. When the coals are ready, add the wood chips and roast the peppers on the hot side of the grill to get a nice char (but be careful not to burn them), turning at least once to a side. Then move the peppers to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. The peppers will take about 15 minutes total to cook, so if you’re grilling them with a thin steak like a flank steak, you’ll want to start the peppers first. Enjoy!

Mac and Cheese, Clarkston Union Style

Mac & Cheese

We had some friends over on the 4th of July yesterday, and I barbecued some marinated pork tenderloin. But I’ve been  wanting to try something special for a side dish. There’s a restaurant called the Union Woodshop in Clarkston, Michigan that serves fantastic barbeque. there’s often several hour waits for a table there– even at 5 pm on a weekday. This place rocks. Along with your main choice of pulled pork, ribs or beef brisket you get two sides– and one of the side options is their legendary mac & cheese.

An episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network had Kid Rock taking host Guy Fieri to one of his favorite restaurants, the Clarkston Union, which has the same owners as the Union Woodshop just down the street. That’s where the Clarkston Union mac and cheese was created, and Kid Rock’s favorite, most mackinest mac and cheese, was the featured item in this episode.

I’m planning to have a barbeque later this summer where I want to reproduce the Union Woodshop menu as much as possible–with pulled pork, ribs, and a few sides like collard greens, slow-cooked smoky beans… and the mac and cheese. So our friends who came over were guinea pigs for my first mac and cheese trial effort– and they weren’t disappointed.

I searched online to see if anyone had tried to reproduce the Clarkston Union recipe, and my recipe is a combo of the few I found. I leaned most heavily on this guy’s recipe, so I give him props: Triple D in the ‘D’ Most Macked Mac & Cheese! I changed a few things– I added finely chopped bacon, and I used a little different mix of cheeses than the recipes I found online and in the video of the Kid Rock episode of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. The bacon was just my effort to really knock my mac and cheese out of the park. The reason I used a couple different cheeses was mostly due to availability, but in future mac and cheese experiments I’d like to try out more different types of cheese. One last note– I was a little surprised to see the nutmeg in the recipe list. It seemed like an odd ingredient for mac and cheese. But it really makes a difference– it’s the secret ingredient that really makes it special (other than the massive quantities of cheese and heavy cream). So don’t leave the nutmeg out if you find it to be an odd ingredient like I did at first. It works!

Of course, this doesn’t have to be a side dish- it could easily stand out on its own as a main dish. And our kids, who are 7 and 10 and believe that the stuff that comes out of the box with the neon orange powder is the pinnacle of great mac and cheese making, actually really liked this. That was the best endorsement of all. Not a heart-healthy dish by any means, but once in a while, hey, ya gotta live a little.


1 lb. Box Penne Rigate pasta
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Cups 2% Milk
½ Tsp. Nutmeg
½ Tsp. Salt
½ Tsp. Pepper
4 Tbsp. Butter
4 Tbsp. Flour
3-4 Cloves Garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 Small to Medium Onion, diced very fine
6 Slices Cooked Bacon, cut into small pieces
2 Cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese
10-12 Slices Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (or Pinconning, that’s what the restaurant uses)
2 cups Shredded Yellow Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Panko (Japanese-Style) Bread Crumbs


Special Utensils:

  • Garlic Press
  • Baking Dish


Serves 4-8, depending on how hungry they are and how much they dig the mac and cheese

Boil the penne pasta until al dente– make sure not to overcook, since it’s going to bake more in the oven. Drain and set aside to cool. I mixed the pasta up with a little olive oil so it wouldn’t stick together.

Onions Bacon Butter

Getting started with the onions, bacon, garlic and butter

Add the chopped onions, crushed garlic, bacon and butter to a pan and cook on medium heat until the onions are turning translucent. TIP: if you don’t like to do a lot of chopping, you could run the onions, garlic and bacon in a food processor to get them diced up nice and small. Just don’t go too overboard and puree everything.


Getting there…

Now add the flour a little at a time while constantly stirring, to make a roux. Who woulda thought that good old-fashioned down-home mac and cheese has origins in fine French Cuisine? Keep stirring until the roux is the color of peanut butter.

Milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper warming up in its own pan

Milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper warming up in its own pan

While the roux is cooking, add two cups milk and one cup of the cream to a separate pot with the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and heat on low to medium heat, stirring regularly, until warm.

Adding the cheese...

Adding the cheese…

When the roux is ready, add the warm milk/cream mixture to the pan and mix thoroughly. Stir until the mixture just starts to simmer and thickens up. Add the two cups of shredded parmesan a little at a time. I was a little low on parm, so I made two cups worth with 2/3 parm and 1/3 shredded sharp cheddar.

Let the roux/milk/cream/cheese mix cool. Since this mix and the pasta need to cool down, this is good to make ahead of time so it’s quicker to put together and throw in the oven just before dinner.

Next, mix the roux/milk/cream/cheese mix with the pasta. The milk/cheese mix will be very thick at this point after cooling, so the best way to mix with the pasta is with your hands. Add some of the remaining cup of heavy cream to help thin the milk/cheese mix a little and help get everything mixed together.

Almost ready for the oven...just have to add the panko crumbs

Almost ready for the oven…just have to add the panko crumbs

Now add the first half of the pasta/cheese mix in a baking dish. I used a porcelain dish that was approximately 8″ x 10″ x 3″ deep, and the amount of this recipe just happened to fit perfectly. After the first layer is in, add the slices of extra-sharp cheddar on top (the Clarkston Union video showed the chef using slices of Pinconning, so you can use that if you can find it). Then layer the rest of the pasta/cheese mix on top, cover with shredded yellow cheddar (once again, the restaurant used shredded white cheddar here), and finally a layer of panko crumbs on top.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes (the chef on the DDD episode recommended 425 at 12 minutes, but he was cooking in a small single-serving size dish. I found that after 20 minutes the mac wasn’t hot enough in the center). I saw in the postings I found for this recipe, and a few people who posted replies who tried this recipe, that the cooking temp and time specified in the episode did not result in a real nice brown crispy breadcrumb crust for them. That crunchy browned top is important to the recipe; it contrasts nicely with the creamy cheesy underneath. They recommended maybe cooking longer at a slightly lower temp like 400, and then forming the brown crust using your oven’s broiler setting. I had a nice brown crust form at 425 without the need of the broiler, maybe because I left it in a little longer. But if your mac isn’t browned enough on top, try the broiler trick to finish it. Enjoy!

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

Well, here’s the fried rice recipe that I promised in a week two weeks ago…

Fried rice is nice and versatile because it can usually be thrown together from what’s already around in the refrigerator and the cupboard, and it can be a side dish or the main course. Add some shrimp toward the end– make it shrimp fried rice, and it can be a pretty impressive main course.

This is a good way to use up leftover rice if you made too much for yesterday’s dinner. In this case I cooked rice intending to use it for the fried rice, so I cooked it with low-sodium chicken stock for a little more flavor. If I use leftover rice that was cooked with water, I just adjust the amount of soy sauce I add when frying the rice up.

Since I was making this to go with the smoky BBQed Garlic-Soy Chicken, but cooking it separately on the stovetop, I wanted to add some smoky flavor to the rice, and I didn’t think the bacon would add enough. So I got the idea to add some smoked almonds I had left over from a camping trip. I actually tried to slice them to make slivered almonds, but they mostly just crumbled on me. But the almonds really added a lot to the fried rice– in addition to the smoky taste they added a nice crunch to it. So if you wanted to add smoked almonds, I’d recommend just putting them in a plastic ziplock bag and breaking them up with a mallet, soupcan, whatever you got that can break up almonds but not cause too much damage.



  • 1 cup long-grain rice (I like Basmati).
  • 2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or Water
  • 6 Strips Bacon
  • Handful of Diced Green Onion
  • 3-4 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 6-8 Mushrooms
  • 1/2 of a Sweet Red or Orange Pepper, or 1/2 Carrot, cut into thin strips (mostly for color)
  • 1/2 Cup Smoked Almonds, broken up
  • 1 Egg
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Peanut Oil
  • Soy Sauce to taste
  • Fine-Ground Black Pepper to taste


Special Utensils:

  • Wok or Large Pan


Serves 4

Heat the 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water to boiling, then add the rice, turn heat down to low, and cover. It should be ready in about 20 minutes, just enough time to get the rest of the ingredients ready. A tip if you’re making the rice for the fried rice recipe– use just a little bit less than 2 cups of liquid to the 1 cup of rice. If the rice is a little on the dry side and not mushy at all it will do better in the frying pan.

Heat up the oil in the wok or large pan. Now everything goes fast once the oil is hot…add the bacon and cook until it starts to get crispy. Add the minced garlic and sweet peppers/carrot, and cook until garlic starts to soften up. Add the rice and mix it around in the hot oil. Add mushrooms and keep mixing rice, making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Add pepper and soy sauce to taste.

Move the rice to make a free area at the bottom and break the egg into it. Mix the egg until it starts to set up, then mix the scrambled egg into the rice. This would be the time to add the shrimp if you were in the mood. Add diced green onion and almonds. Keep cooking and mixing rice until the mushrooms (and shrimp) are cooked, then it’s ready to serve. Enjoy!