Tag Archives: Heart-Healthy

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Wow, it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy summer! But it’s the great comments to this blog that made me realize I need to get back to it. Like Mr. Cialis, who had some nice things to say, as well as offering a helpful link to great deals on cheap generic prescription drugs that I’m sure would be hard to find anywhere else on the internet. And who could forget iqquagnsufpk, who memorably said and I quote,  “TSw4mS xwpxpjepzcux”. Not quite sure what he or she was getting at, but I’m sure it was well-intentioned and profound. Makes me almost want to turn commenting back on.

Anyway, it’s late July, and if you’re growing tomatoes and basil in the midwest like me, that means big beautiful basil bushes but probably just a couple ripe tomatoes so far. Especially with the late start we got this spring, with all the cold and the rain. So it’s a perfect time to make pesto. And with the hot humid 90+ weather we’ve had for like the entire month of July, who wants to cook. The only thing you need to heat up for this is water to boil the pasta.

Pesto is really good– for us it’s a real taste of summer. It works great by itself as a vegetarian meal, or you can thaw some pre-cooked cocktail-style shrimp and throw it in. Or serve it as a side dish with some barbecued chicken.

Usually you use pine nuts in pesto, but I had a big bag of shelled pistachios hanging around, and I knew from past experience pistachios work great in pesto. But traditional pine nuts are good too.


  • 2 Cups basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup pistachios (or pine nuts)
  • Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Special utensils:

  • Food processor

Serves 2-4

Wash basil leaves and separate the leaves that are in good condition from the stems and the damaged leaves. Chop the garlic coarsely and add all ingredients except tomato to the food processor. Set processor to chop, and chop the pesto ingredients in short pulses, stopping frequently to take a spatula to fold the unchopped stuff along the outside toward the bottom to get everything evenly chopped. Don’t overprocess it– Pesto should be coarsely chopped.

Mix the pesto into the boiled pasta of your choice. I usually use thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Chop up tomato and add it to the mix. Enjoy.


Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Shirmp Kebabs

Shrimply Delicious (sorry)

Memorial Day was blazin’ hot, 90+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Finally some real summer weather! We spent the afternoon at the beach, so we needed something quick and simple to grill when we got back. Shrimp kebabs are the ticket for quick and simple. The marinating takes a little prep, but it’s easy to get ready, throw the marinating ingredients in the refrigerator and spend the afternoon at the beach.


  • 40 jumbo shrimp
  • Any combination of red, yellow, orange, green bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 Finely diced Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice from one lemon or lime

Special Utensils:

  • Some type of skewer

Serves 4

Marinating kebabs

Marinating kebabs

Mix up marinating ingredients. Chop peppers and onions into kebab-sized pieces. A tip on marinating kebabs: marinate before skewering- put the pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate for a few hours. Put the kebabs together after. It’s a lot easier that way.

After the shrimp and veggies marinate, assemble them on the skewer, 8 kebabs, 5 shrimp to a kebab, and throw them on a hot grill. Turn over after 3-4 minutes on each side, and they’re ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides- I made some rice and grilled asparagus, Enjoy!


Smoked Barbequed Turkey

Smoked Turkey

I always get one of the legs

We had family over for Mother’s Day, so I decided to smoke a turkey. Turkeys are pretty cheap per pound, and smoked turkey is a real crowd pleaser. This recipe takes time though- it sure ain’t a candidate for the “Quick Meals” category.

There are two ways you can smoke a turkey- the long way and the really long way. The really long way is to make a brine and steep the turkey in the brine overnight. Brining makes the turkey meat moist, juicy and delicious. If you choose to brine you’ll want to choose a turkey that has not been injected with a brine-like solution of turkey broth, salt, sugar and a few other ingredients. Check the label and make sure it’s nothing but turkey. Amish turkeys are typically unprocessed. If you want to skip the brining step, just go ahead and get a turkey injected with the brining solution. Why would you want to do the brining yourself if you can just pick up a pre-brined turkey? You can add seasonings to the brine you make yourself, and add your own signature extra flavor. This is the path to true barbeque mastery.

Ingredients (brine):

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1/2 gallon water with lots of ice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Ingredients (Turkey and rub)

  • 10-14 lb. turkey
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp. thyme
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar

Special Utensils:

  • Smoker
  • Meat Thermometer

If you’re doing the brining step, on the day before you’re going to grill, boil a 1/2 gallon of water with the rest of the ingredients in a large stock pot for 10 minutes or so. Let it cool to room temperature. This is important- don’t put the turkey into brine that is too warm. It’s important to keep the turkey at refrigerator temp. Rinse the turkey off well and if it’ll fit in the stock pot, put the turkey in there and add the other 1/2 gallon of heavily iced water. If the turkey is too big, any other clean container will do- 5 gallon bucket, large plastic bag, as long as you can fit it into the refrigerator. Let the turkey steep in the brine overnight.

Soaking wood for smoking

Soaking the apple and hickory wood

On turkey smoking day, get an early start because it will take at least a 1/2 hour per pound to cook the turkey through. Soak the wood chips or chunks you’re going to use for smoking for an hour before the turkey goes on the heat. I used a mix of apple and hickory wood. Remember, as I said in the Applewood Smoked Spice Rub Chicken post, you can use many different types of hardwood, but never pine or any evergreen wood. Fire up the charcoal, and while waiting for it to be ready, take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off with some paper towels. Mix the rub ingredients together and coat the turkey. Get in between the skin and the meat where you can- like in between the skin and the breast meat, there’s a pocket you can get the rub in there. Get the inside cavity of the turkey too.


Me old trusty smoker

So this may come as a surprise, but in order to smoke a turkey, it really helps to have a smoker. You could use a regular charcoal grill, like a Weber kettle grill, as long as you keep the heat indirect and have a water pan under the turkey. But the hard part will be adding wood and fresh charcoal every 2 hours. A smoker like the trusty old one I use in the picture has a little door at the bottom to add coals and more smoking wood. It doesn’t have to cost a lot- I picked this one up at a yard sale for $10- it had only been used once. It’s held up for several years now. The middle of the smoker has a pan for water. This is important because it keeps the cooking temps cooler and the evaporating water adds humidity to the smoke, helping the meat to not dry out. You can also add apple juice or wine to the water pan. People also soak the smoking wood in wine to add flavor, but I’ve tried that in the past and I don’t think it really adds any noticeable flavor. I’d rather save the wine for drinking, so I just use water these days. Email and let me know if you disagree!


Only 6 to 8 hours to go!

So put the turkey in the smoker, insert the meat thermometer into the center of the breast,  add wood chips or chunks, and settle in for a long wait. When you no longer see much smoke, add more wood. Keep an eye on the temperature reading on the smoker. you want to keep the cooking temp low and steady– if it spikes up it may be some of the smoking wood drying out and catching fire. I keep one of our kids’ squirt guns handy to put out the fire and bring the heat back down again. Add fresh charcoal every two hours and mix it in with the old charcoal.

When the turkey internal temp reaches 165 remove, slice it up for your guests, grab yourself a turkey leg and enjoy!

Simple Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

The Soup

Kristina pointed out that all my recipes so far took a long time to prepare, and people might want to see recipe ideas that were quick and simple to make. I thought this was a great idea, and so a new category for the site, “Quick Meals” is born. Here is a recipe that I put together quickly with what we had in the kitchen, and it’s quick, nutritious and delicious!


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • Couple handfuls of mini-carrots
  • 1-2 cups broccoli florets (the flower-looking ends)
  • 1 Tbs. Olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 28-32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Cup rice
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves 2-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

First get 2 cups of water boiling in a small pot on the stove. Add the rice, reduce heat to low, and cover. White rice will take about 15-20 minutes to cook, brown rice about 30 minutes, so we want to start it now so it’ll be ready for the soup. Special soup tip: When I make soup I always make the rice or noodles separately and mix them only when serving the soup. The reason for this is if you have leftovers the rice or pasta will continue to absorb the liquid from the soup overnight like a sponge. The next day you won’t have soup, you’ll have slop.

Dice up the onions, garlic, and celery, and cut the mini-carrots in half or thirds. Add to a pan with the ground turkey and saute on medium to high heat, stirring, until the turkey is browned and the onions and celery are softened up. Use a spoon to remove the liquid fat in the pan from the turkey- it won’t be much.

Add the soup stock. Reduce to a simmer when it starts to boil and add oregano, thyme and pepper. Cut broccoli into bite-size florets and squeeze juice from one lemon.

When the soup’s been simmering for about 10 minutes, add the broccoli. After about 20 minutes see if soup is done by checking a carrot piece to see if it’s cooked through. When soup is done remove from heat, add the lemon juice and stir it in. Serve in bowls with rice added and enjoy!

Applewood-Smoked Spice Rub Chicken with Grilled Asparagus

Spice rubbed chicken on the grill

Spice rubbed chicken on the grill

Finally we got some summerlike weather here in Michigan! It was in the 80s this past Sunday, and so the barbequing season begins. Now, I’ll barbeque and grill outside all year long, but it’s definitely more fun to be standing around the grill in shorts and a t-shirt, cold beverage in hand, than freezing in the cold with snow blowing around.

We love to barbeque and grill, and I’ve done a lot of it. In the coming summer months I’ll be doing my best to impart the tricks and techniques I’ve learned about the fine art of grilling and barbeque over the years. Why do I keep saying grill AND barbeque? Grilling is cooking food directly over high heat, while barbequing is cooking food slowly with indirect heat. Then there’s smoking, which is similar to bbq, which can also involve smoke, and is also done on low heat, sometimes lower than bbq. Each method has its place-you’d grill a steak, you’d barbeque or smoke a larger cut of meat like a brisket or a roast.

In the future I will do posts on taking all day to slow-smoke a couple whole chickens, a pork shoulder or even a whole turkey. But I didn’t have a lot of time this particular Sunday, since we were doing chores outside all day, and boneless chicken breasts were what we had on hand. This blog is about using what you have in the time that you have, so I decided to do a spice rub using the boneless chicken, and do sort of a cross between grilling and bbq/smoking. This post can serve as a “BBQ 101″ course for inexperienced bbq’ers. The advanced courses will come later…


  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 8 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. hot red pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1/4 Tsp. Coriander
  • 1/4 Tsp. Celery seed

For asparagus:

  • 1-2 Lbs. Asparagus
  • 1 Tbl. Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse ground pepper

Special Utensils:

  • Barbeque Grill
  • Meat Thermometer

Serves 4

Spice Rub

Aye, there's the rub

I usually just wing it when I mix up a spice rub, but this time I decided to try the “classic” spice rub ratio of 8:3:1:1. That is, 8 parts brown sugar, 3 parts kosher salt, 1 part chile powder and 1 part every other herb and spice you want to add. Which in the ingredients list above translates to: 8 tablespoons brown sugar; 3 tablespoons salt; 1/2 tablespoon of some very spicy Indian chile powder I have plus 1/2 tablespoon less spicy Chipotle chile powder to make the first “1″ in the ratio; then for the second “1″ in that ratio there are fractions of teaspoons of the herbs and spices to make one tablespoon (1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons). If that’s too much math, just remember:

8 parts sugar | 3 parts salt | 1 part chile powder | 1 part anything else

I was skeptical of the amount of sugar in the ratio, seemed like way too much sugar. It turned out good, but in the future I might cut down the salt a little. It’s easy to add too much salt to a dry spice rub, so try to use seasonings that don’t have salt added. Use garlic powder, not garlic salt…celery seed, not celery salt. That way you can control the salt you do add. Or cut back on the kosher salt a little if you do use seasonings with salt added. The Old Bay seasoning I used has salt in it, so that may be where I overdid it.

The herbs and spices are what I chose this particular time, but feel free to try your own mix of whatever you like, or whatever you have on hand. Use whole spices instead of powdered whenever you can and grind them when you need them- the spices stay fresh a lot longer in their whole form. I put whole cumin, coriander, celery seed, and whole black peppercorns in an old electric “spinning blade” type coffee grinder with the thyme and oregano, and ground it all up.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken

Rubbing it in

Put the rub on a plate and roll the chicken around until it’s nice and coated with the spices. Then put the rubbed chicken in the refrigerator and let the rub spices mingle for an hour or two, if possible.

Now we get the grill ready- clean up the grate and dump out any old charcoal ash from last time. I used my Weber kettle grill for this job. What’s that… can you use a gas grill, you ask? No, you can’t.

Okay, you can, but I’m not a big fan of gas grills, and I don’t think the results will be as good. When it comes to the smoking part, I’ve heard you can put wood chips in foil rolled up with the ends open to let smoke out, and put the foil-covered chips directly on the heating element. But I don’t know how well that works, never tried it. On some types of gas grills you might not be able to do it at all.


Firin' up the coals

Fire up the coals- I use that charcoal chimney thing you see in the pic- it works great and you don’t have to worry about getting any lighter fluid taste in your food this way. A note about charcoal: some bbq purists only use real solid-wood charcoal, instead of the pressed-and-formed “briquette” style charcoal I’m using here. I’ve used the real charcoal before, but it’s expensive and doesn’t stay hot too long in my opinion. A good quality briquette style charcoal seems to give a good long consistent heat, and I compensate for the lack of flavor you get from real charcoal by liberal use of wood chunks or wood chips mixed in with the coals.

Applewood Chunks

Soakin' the wood chips

Add water to wood chips. You can buy wood chips or chunks pretty much wherever barbeque supplies are sold, or you can use most types of seasoned hardwood if you happen to have it, like maple, oak, hickory, and fruit-bearing woods like cherry or apple. DO NOT use any pine or evergreen wood for smoking- the pine sap is toxic, or at least very bad tasting. I used some seasoned wood from an old apple tree that fell down on our property a couple years ago- I miss the tree, but I’m making sure it didn’t fall down in vain.

Charcoal and applewood

Charcoal and applewood

When the coals are ready, spread them out over half the grill, drain the water from the wood chips and spread them on the coals. Put the chicken on the side of the grill without coals, so it is indirect heat, as in BBQ, but the grill will be hot enough so the chicken won’t cook too slowly. Put the grill top on and adjust the air vents to about 2/3 open. Turn the chicken after 5 or 10 minutes, make sure it’s not cooking too fast. We want it a nice golden brown, not blackened. If it does seem to be scorching a little on one side, or if the wood is on fire, close the air vents more until things settle down a little. Put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the biggest chicken piece. You don’t have to use the thermometer, but it’s really easy to overcook boneless chicken breasts- there’s no such thing as medium-rare chicken and we want to be safe, so people tend to err on the side of caution. The result is dry, rubbery chicken. The thermometer will let you take the chicken off the heat when the internal temperature is 165 degrees- safe enough to kill any bacteria, but leaving the chicken nice and tender and juicy inside.

While the chicken is cooking, get the asparagus ready. Wash and remove the tough inedible ends of the stalks. An easy tip for doing that instead of cutting the ends off is, grab a handful of asparagus and just snap off the ends-they’ll break off at the natural point where you’d want to cut them. Roll them up with some olive oil and add coarse-ground pepper and kosher salt.

Grilled Asparagus

Grillin' up Good

When the chicken’s almost done, put the asparagus on the grill directly over the heat. You can put it right on the grill, you’ll just have to be careful not to let too many fall through the grate (you’ll lose one or two, no matter how careful you are). I used a veggie-holder grill thing you can see in the pic that works nicely. Keep a close eye and roll the stalks around often so it doesn’t burn on one side. it’ll be done when it’s a little blackened and shriveled-up looking. Grilled asparagus ain’t the most attractive looking way to prepare it, but it sure is tasty this way.

Serve with a side like a simple baked potato and enjoy!