Tag Archives: grilling

Memorial Day grilling: Grilled Orange Chicken #glutenfree

Grilled Orange ChickenWhat better way to end National Barbecue Month by grilling up some chicken skewers on the grill this Memorial Day. By using San-J’s Orange Sauce, you add some unique flavor without a lot of work. Plus, if you’re cooking for gluten free guests or relatives, you can be assured that you’ll be serving up a dish that’s safe for them to eat since San-J Orange Sauce is certified gluten free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.

Grilled Orange Chicken

By Carol Kicinski of Simply Gluten Free

Makes 4 servings


  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup San-J Orange Sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds


  1. Cut chicken into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Combine the San-J Orange Sauce and honey and put half in a medium mixing bowl, reserve the rest for later. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and toss to combine. Let chicken marinate for
  2. 20 minutes at room temperature or for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. (If marinating in the refrigerator, let come to room temperature for 20 minutes before grilling.) If using wooden skewers, soak 4 in water for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the grill to moderately high heat (450°F on a gas grill).
  5. Divide chicken pieces onto 4 skewers allowing the chicken to touch but do not cram the pieces together. Brush grates of grill with oil.
  6. Grill for 4 minutes with the lid to barbecue closed. Turn skewers over and grill another 4 minutes covered. Brush the reserved sauce onto the chicken and cook for another 2 minutes, turning several times, or until the chicken is cooked through but still juicy. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Recipe and photo used with permission. © 2012 San-J International. All rights reserved.

Seared Panko Encrusted Tuna on Black Rice

Seared Panko Encrusted Tuna on Black Rice at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

It’s been over a month since I’ve been back from Hawaii. I still miss the food, especially the fish dishes. I bought two wonderful cookbooks to see if I could replicate some of the recipes, but so many Hawaiian ingredients aren’t available on the mainland or the dishes were too complicated for a quick weekday meal.

Instead, I’ve been using products like World Harbors marinades to help give me the taste of Hawaii without all the hassle. I’ve used World Harbors’ Island Mango and the Maui Mountain Sweet and Sour marinades when I’ve made Seared Panko Encrusted Tuna on Black Rice. They’re super easy to use and you can boil the marinade afterwards to create a dipping or drizzling sauce. All you need to do is marinade your tuna overnight or first thing in the morning before you leave from work. That evening, roll the marinated tuna steaks in panko Japanese-style breadcrumbs, grill and serve over rice. I used black rice, which I get at Costco, but you can use brown rice. Easy, quick, healthy and delicious!

If you’re gluten free, you can make bread crumbs from gluten free bread. Or be on the lookout for Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Panko or Aleia’s Gluten Free Panko. Toast the bread and chop it finely in a mini-food processor or blender. World Harbor marinades are not certified as gluten free, so check the label to make sure they’re right for you and your food sensitivities. The Island Mango doesn’t contain wheat, but the Maui Mountain Sweet and Sour one does.World Harbors marinades

World Harbors Golden Label Sweepstakes

World Harbors is hold two sweepstakes this year. First is their Golden Label Sweeps launched in retail stores today and runs through September 3, 2012. Six winning bottles will have a “golden label” in it. If you purchase one of those bottles, you’ll win an exotic vacation to either Maui, Fiji, Tahiti, Cabo, New England or a trip for a tropical cruise. You can find more about the sweepstakes on World Harbors Facebook page.

While you’re on the World Harbors Facebook page, say hi to dad blogger John Cave Osborne, who is “taking over” the page during the month of May. In June, Dad Centric will be taking over. So stop by and ask them a few cooking or grilling questions!

Seared Panko Encrusted Tuna on Black Rice at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Seared Panko Encrusted Tuna on Black Rice


  • 1 bottle World Harbors marinade
  • 4 (6 ounce) tuna steaks
  • 1 cup black rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)


  1. Place tuna in a zipper lock baggie. Pour in entire bottle of marinade. Place bag in the refrigerator and marinate 5-10 hours or overnight.
  2. Cook rice as directed on package.
  3. Pour panko on to a large plate or cookie sheet.
  4. Remove tuna steaks from marinade and dredge (roll) in panko until covered.
  5. Grill steaks until golden on the outside and rare in the middle.
  6. Slice tuna at an angle and serve over rice.

To use marinade as a dipping or drizzling sauce:

  1. Pour used marinade it into a small sauce pan.
  2. Cook over high heat until marinade is at a rolling boil for 1 to 2 minutes.
Prep Time: 12 Hours
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 12 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4
  • Serving size: 1 (6 ounce) tuna steak)

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of World Harbors, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

Cooking with Coca-Cola®– Coca Cola Carne Asada Marinade

diet cokeIn a little more than a week, my family and I leave Colorado to go to the heart of Coca-Cola country – Georgia. It’s where people pronounce Coke “Co’Cola” and they ask you if you want a Coke when they really mean if you want a drink. When we were out in Athens house hunting, our real estate agent, Alicia, would treat us to mini glass bottles of Diet Coke.  She said they traditionally kept glass bottles on hand because the agency’s founder liked them. The kids loved it and I thought it was charming.

Well, this spring (until May 31) Coca-Cola wants to help gather your family around the dinner table with Coke with Meals through My Coke Rewards. The site features recipes and how-to videos from Chefs G. Garvin and Ingrid Hoffmann. You can also submit your own recipes to inspire others. You can check it out at MyCokeRewards.com/meals, where you can also create a shareable cookbook of your family’s all-time favorites, and read and share how to get kids, pre-teens and teens involved in the kitchen.

Eating healthy with Coca-Cola

While MyCokeRewards.com/meals does feature Southern classics like Georgia Drop Biscuits and BBQ Pork and Beans with Coca-Cola® BBQ Sauce, there are healthy choices too like Shrimp and Scallop Easy Paella and Asparagus Soup. Yes, some recipes contain Coca-Cola as an ingredient, like Coca-Cola Rice or Pork Loin with Coca-Cola® BBQ Sauce. However, many are just meant to be paired with an ice cold Coke (or in my case an ice cold Coke Zero) like Lime Chicken with Quick Avocado Salsa.

Cooking with Coca-Cola Southern (California) style

While I may be moving to the South, my culinary heart is actually back in Southern California much of the time as I love Baja style. One thing we’ll be bringing with me are two carne asada recipes. The one I consider the Best Carne Asada Marinade features vinegar and citrus juice. However, the one my brother-in-law uses features Coca-Cola. Feel free to substitute Coke Zero if you’re watching your calories.

carne asada on the grill

Coca-Cola Carne Asada Marinade

Serves 4 to 6 (one pound per person)


  • 4 to 6 pounds of skirt or flank steak
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced (slice and keep the peels)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 can of Coke


  • Mix up the ingredients, add the meat, and put in a sealed container or sealed bag for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • To cook, place the meat on the grill and when the juices start to rise on the surface, sprinkle with table salt. (You’re salting the meat on the grill, not while you’re marinating it.)
  • When the salt dissolves on the surface of the meat, flip it over and repeat on the other side. (Carne asada is supposed to be on the salty side, but don’t go nuts with the salt.)
  • Grill meat until well done. Remove from grill and place meat on a carving board.
  • Cut the meat with a sharp knife across the grain into thin strips.
  • Serve with warm corn tortillas, salsa, lime juice, shredded cheese, avocado slices or guacamole, chopped red onion, and lime juice.

Diet Coke picture by niallkennedy on Flickr. Carne Asada picture by Poncho Equihua on Flickr.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Coca-Cola, but Coca-Cola is not a sponsor, administrator, or involved in any other way with this post. All opinions expressed are my own and not those of Coca-Cola.

Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever!

Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever! at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet  - thismamacooks.com A recent culinary challenge I faced was cooking the mountain goat my husband bagged in September. We had our local game processor make the meat into German, Italian and chorizo sausage – all of which have been fantastic. However, I was concerned with the steaks and chops. Would they be gamey?

I tentatively grilled up a few and found the mountain goat meat was very mild tasting – and extremely chewy. So much so that it was practically inedible. Flummoxed, I decided to marinate and tenderize the heck out the mountain goat meat by making carne asada.

It’s all about the vinegar

We love authentic Mexican carne asada and have learned to make it at home using a recipe my husband found on the Internet. (There are so many similar versions online that I’m not sure who to credit as the author.)

Traditionally, a carne asada marinade uses red wine vinegar. Instead, I decided to do things differently and use Holland House Malt Vinegar. Both Holland House Malt Vinegar and Holland House Red Wine Vinegar have 5% acidity, which makes both perfect for breaking down and tenderizing tough meat. However, the malt vinegar has a wonderful, strong zingy taste that goes well with the lime and orange juices.

My Carne Asada Marinade recipe will marinade five to six pounds of meat and can be easily halved for a small dinner with no leftover or doubled for a big party or tail gating. If you’re using beef, use skirt steak or a similar thin cut, as show above, and marinate 24 to 48 hours. (The tougher the meat, the longer you should marinate it.)

Slow cooker pulled carne asada

Traditionally, you grill carne asada meat. I tried that on half the mountain goat meat I prepared. While it was extremely delicious, it was still chewy even after marinating the mountain goat for over two days!

Instead, I decided to cook the other half of the meat in the slow cooker. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as sweet and tangy as the grilled carne asada. It was still tasty and tender, more like “pulled” meat, which is what I was shooting for. From now on, all mountain goat meat will be slow cooked. Lesson learned.

Rocky Mountain Goat

Best Carne Asada Marinade recipe ever! at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet  - thismamacooks.com

Best Carne Asada Marinade Recipe Ever!


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Holland House Malt Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons peeled fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 pounds skirt steak


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Place meat in gallon sized freezer bag, in the bottom of a shallow baking dish, or a non-reactive (plastic or glass) storage container with a lid.
  3. Pour carne asada marinade on top of meat, cover dish or close bag, and marinate overnight up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.

Grilling the marinated carne asada:

  1. Take meat out of container and grill until just cooked through. (Rare to medium rare.)
  2. Cut cooked meat into strips.
  3. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.

Slow cooking the marinated carne asada:

  1. After marinating for one or two days, place meat and marinade in a slow cooker.
  2. Slow cook for 10 to 12 hours on low.
  3. Meat should be extra tender and can be shredded with a fork.
  4. Place meat and favorite toppings (salsa, cheese, guacamole, avocado slices, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, grilled sweet peppers, etc.) in a tortilla to make into tacos or burritos. You can also serve meat over rice for a carne asada bowl.
Prep Time: 48 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: Feeds 4 to 6 with leftovers.
  • Serving size: 1/2 pound per person.

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Fall grilling: Smoked Marinated Chicken

Fall grilling: Smoked Marinated Chicken at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com I just got an email reminder for my kids to place their online football picks for week 8. Week 8? Boy has football season gone quickly! Even so, it’s never too late (or too cold) to do some weekend grilling and barbecuing for the big game or a tailgate party.

Recently, I took advantage of our unseasonably-warm-for-Colorado weekend weather to cook up some chicken in our Masterbuilt electric smoker. It’s so easy to smoke a chicken that I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. (It probably has something to do with all that fish and venison in our freezer! Chicken’s a rare treat at my house.)

World Harbors marinades make smoking chicken easy

Using a premade marinade like those from World Harbors® makes the process even easier. This time around I used World Harbors Maui Mountain Teriyaki and World Harbors Maui Mountain Sweet 'N Sour to marinate a couple of chickens. (You can use any variety you like!) Combined with the smoke from the sugar maple wood I used, both birds turned out moist and delicious. If you have a smoker or know how to smoke chicken using a grill, the process is easy.

This Mama’s tips

  • Since most smokers are large enough do two or more birds at once, take advantage of the situation and smoke extra chicken(s). Eat one immediately while you’re watching football. The extra chicken is great the next day in salads, sandwiches, stir fry or soups or reheated in the oven or microwave.
  • I like smoking fish (lake trout is wonderful) while I’m smoking the chicken. I place the fish under the chicken so the chicken fat drips on to the fish. Decadent!
  • If you want your chicken to cook even faster, try spatchcocking it!
Fall grilling: Smoked Marinated Chicken at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Smoked Marinated Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pound fryer)
  • 1 bottle of World Harbors marinade of your choice
  • 1 sealable plastic baggie


  1. Remove giblets, liver and neck from chicken. (Set aside to make stock.)
  2. Place whole chicken in plastic bag.
  3. Pour in entire bottle of World Harbors marinade.
  4. Add some water if necessary so marinade completely covers the chicken.
  5. Seal bag and set in refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours. Turn bag once to evenly marinate chicken about half way through the process.
  6. Heat your smoker to 235 degrees F and add your favorite bird-friendly wood (apple, sugar maple, etc.)
  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place the chicken in the smoker, breast side down to start. After 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turn it over to finish.
  8. Cook the chicken until it reaches 160 degrees F. Make sure to check the temperature of chicken at the meatiest part of the breast between the bones.
  9. Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Prep Time: 24 Hours
Cook Time: 2 Minutes
Total Time: 26 Hours
Servings: Serves 4 to 6
  • Serving size: 1/2 pounds of meat per person

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of World Harbors, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Labor Day grilling: how to smoke a meatloaf

 Smoked Meatloaf Hash

What do you do when you cook up a meatloaf that’s delicious, but falls apart when you slice it? Make meatloaf hash! Just chop up the meatloaf with a spoon and add some healthy mix-ins like rice or vegetables or just a bit of ketchup, like I did above.

That’s what I’m making until I’ve perfected my Smoked Meatloaf recipe. It’s almost there but needs a little more work. I want a meatloaf that slices up perfectly when it’s hot out of the oven – or in my case the smoker. I’ve made it twice – and it’s good enough to share – but maybe you can give me some help on perfecting it by commenting your suggestions below.

How to smoke a meatloaf

Well, you find a big pipe and…

Seriously though, I first heard about smoked meatloaf when my husband came home raving about the taste after sampling it at a local restaurant. I did a search and found My Smoked Meat Loaf Recipe from Smoking-Meat.com. (If you own a smoker, you must sign up for Jeff’s Smoking Meat enewsletter.) I liked his recipe but wanted to combine it with my recipe for Boulder Firefighters Meatloaf.

Also, I wasn’t crazy about how Jeff set up his uncooked loaves. The first time I made smoked meatloaf, I didn’t use a loaf pan. I ended up with a flat, squishy meatloaf that was delicious – thus the Smoked Meatloaf Hash.

The next time I made it, I knew I would have to smoke it in a loaf pan. But how?

Preparing your loaf pans

There’s two problems using a loaf pan:

  1. The meatloaf won’t get exposed to the smoke.
  2. It will cook in it's juices and stay mushy.

After discussing it with Paul, he came up with an idea of taking a metal loaf pan and drilling holes in it. He drilled two holes on the ends, three on the sides, and seven on the bottom. Then he sanded off the burs.

You could also do this with a disposable aluminum loaf pan. However, since metal loaf pans were only $6 at WalMart, he went out a bought a couple just to make smoked meatloaf in. (He obviously wants me to make this all the time.) You can pick up few loaf pans for a  buck or two at thrift stores or garage sales, too.

Smoking your meatloaf

Now that the pans will drain, I needed something to catch the juices. I decided the easiest method would be to place the meatloaf pans on the bottom rack of the smoker so it would drain directly into the water dish at the bottom. Easy!

This worked pretty well until we realized that as the ground meat cooked, it would expand and block the holes. About half way into the cooking process, I had to tip to the pans and empty out some of the juices from the top and sides. Maybe we need more drill more holes in the pans. Or maybe just emptying the juices a few times will do the trick.

The other issue was cooking time. If I put all the meat (2 pounds) into one loaf pan, it would take three to four hours to cook. Since I didn’t have time, I opted to divide the recipe in half to cut back the cooking time to about 90 minutes. Smoking food is all about planning, so next time I’ll make sure I have enough time to cook just a two pound meatloaf in one pan. I’ve a feeling a bigger loaf will be more solid and sliceable.

smoked meatloaf hash

Smoked Meatloaf Hash

Smoked Meat Loaf

Nutritional information based on using ground venison.


  • 2 pounds ground venison, lean beef or turkey ((The leaner the beef, themore likely the meatloaf will fall apart. But the lower the calories and fat grams!)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pieces whole wheat or gluten free bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or barbeque sauce


  1. Set smoker for 250 degrees.
  2. Soak the bread in warm water in a small bowl – enough to moisten the bread but not too much so it turns into mush
  3. Place the ground meat in a large bowl.
  4. Add softened bread, onion, carrots, garlic, egg, egg whites, and ketchup. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Put meat mixture into a specially prepared loaf pan (see above).
  6. Place loaf pan on lower rack, just above the water pan.
  7. Add mesquite wood chips and smoke for 3 to 4 hours until the center registered 160 degrees.
  8. If necessary, pour off extra juice that gathers on top of the loaf pan every hour.
  9. You can finish the top with ketchup or barbeque sauce about 30 minutes before the meatloaf is finished smoking. Some people like to use bacon instead.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 - 4 Hours
Total Time: 3:15 - 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: 8 slices
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 190
  • Calories from Fat: 18
  • Total Fat: 2.0g
  • Saturated fat: 0.1g
  • Unsaturated fat: 1.9g
  • Sodium: 393mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 12.7g
  • Sugar: 8.2g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 28.2g
  • Cholesterol: 23mg

How to make homemade Agave & Bourbon Smoked Bacon

bacon slices

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that I’ve become a little bacon obsessed here at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet. It all stems from a friend’s annual bacon themed party, where I made Goat Cheese and Bacon Pops. While I loved the idea of bacon wrapped Tater Tots, and the bacon jam was fabulous, my favorite was the Bacon Caramel Popcorn.

Creating a healthier bacon

I know you’re wagging your finger at me, saying, “Anne-Marie, bacon’s not healthy! Why are you blogging about it?” Well, I’m all for indulging, in moderation of course. After all, I’m NOT telling you to consume a pound of bacon in one meal. Honestly, there IS such a thing as too much bacon. After my friend’s party, I woke up with a bacon hangover the next day and felt pretty crappy. So glad his party only comes once a year.

Making my own bacon let me work around my food sensitivities. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, making food from scratch like bacon lets you control what’s in it.

Also, with the trend in buying local and organic, many people are harvesting their own food through hunting, fishing and gardening, or buying from local, small family own farms. I also have friends who are raising their own chickens for eggs and pigs for pork, and a few are even foraging for wild plants and mushrooms. Making your own fruit preserves, pickles, jerky and cured meats is part of that trend, too.

Finally, making your own bacon means you can limit the nitrates and nitrites in your diet, though culinary expert Michael Ruhlman says that The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax is, well, a hoax. He writes in his For Charcutepaloozians: Food Safety and Common Sense post:

Nitrates and Nitrites are naturally occurring chemicals that our bodies rely on for a number of reasons.  Green vegetables such as spinach and celery are loaded with them.  Of all the nitrite in our bodies, as much as 93% of it comes from the nitrate in vegetables.  Our bodies naturally convert nitrate into nitrite, which works as a powerful antibacterial agent, particularly in an acidic environment (such as in our stomachs).

In the 1970s, concerns arose that nitrites could be carcinogenic.  Current studies conclude that large quantities (as in contaminated water) can do serious damage, but that the quantities added to food do not.

The pinking salt used in making bacon is sodium nitrate. Michael says it’s “by regulation 93.75% sodium and 6.25% nitrite” and that it kills bacteria that cause botulism in smoked and ground meat. As you can see from the recipe below, it’s a very small amount. However, if you’re still freaked out about nitrite, I’d advise you giving up bacon. Easy said than done!

Making bacon is easy

charcuterie Those are a few reasons why I’m sharing my recipe for homemade bacon. Another is because making bacon to your tastes and dietary specifications is incredibly easy to do and the end result is so much tastier than the stuff you can buy at the store or even at your local butcher.

I smoked mine in our Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, but you can cook it in your oven like my friend, Barbara of Creative Culinary, did in her Maple Bourbon Bacon. I based my recipe on Barbara’s, but changed a few ingredients that I can’t eat due to my food sensitivities (the sugar and the maple syrup). I also followed Michael Ruhlman’s smoking advice in his book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

Barbara, who lives about an hour from me, had a tough time finding her pork belly and pinking salt. I was fortunate that my local butcher had a couple of pork bellies in stock in their freezer when I called to check. While I was picking it up, I asked they butcher if he carried pinking salt. He didn’t but he told me that I could get it at the local Ace Hardware. It seems that the guy in charge of Ace’s extensive grilling section makes his own bacon, so always keeps it in stock.

Agave & Bourbon Smoked Bacon


Curing directions:

  1. If necessary, defrost your pork belly in the refrigerator. You cannot cure frozen pork!
  2. Combine the salt, pink salt and sugar in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Rub this mixture over the entire surface of the belly.
  4. Place pork belly in a 2 gallon Ziploc bag or shallow container. (The salt will make the pork release water creating a brine).
  5. Pour the agave nectar over the pork belly. Make sure it’s distributed evenly on all sides of the pork belly.
  6. Refrigerate, turning the pork, and redistributing the cure every day for seven days.
  7. Remove the pork from the cure, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.
  8. Place it on a rack set over paper towels in the refrigerator and allow to dry, uncovered for 12-24 hours.

Smoking your pork:

  1. Set your smoker to 200 degrees. I used maple wood pellets for smoking. Hickory, apple, or pecan would work, too.
  2. Fill your water dish with four cups Maker’s Mark or your favorite bourbon or whiskey.
  3. Place your pork belly in your smoker and cook it until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 3 hours. (I used the meat thermometer that attaches to our smoker, which is why my bacon has a hole through it. No biggie.)
  4. Remove from smoker and let cool slightly when it’s cool enough to touch. If your pork belly has skin on it, cut it off leaving as much fat as possible. (The piece I bought already had the skin cut off).
  5. Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to slice and use.

Tips on cooking homemade bacon

  • It’s very challenging to thinly slice homemade bacon. Partially freezing it, then using a very sharp knife helps. Even so, your bacon slices will be much thicker than commercially made bacon.
  • A little of this bacon goes a long way. It’s very “hammy” and thick. So if you usually have four pieces of bacon with your Sunday breakfast, you may want to only have one or two pieces instead.
  • Fry your bacon on low heat otherwise it will quickly caramelized and burn.
  • You may want to bake your bacon in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes instead of frying. It doesn’t get crispy this way, just warm and juicy.
  • Remember, this bacon is already cured and cooked. When you’re frying or baking, you’re just warming up the already-cooked bacon, so don’t worry about it being raw or undercooked if it’s not fried to a crisp.

Skewered Chicken Balsamico

Skewered Chicken Balsamico at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Holland House recently announced their summer sweepstakes “Grill of Your Dreams” on Facebook. The grand prize winner will receive a $2,000 Visa® Gift Card, which may be used to purchase a new grill. All you need to do is go to the Holland House Facebook page, “like” it, then register with your info. Then you play a round of the Gulping Grill Game to win an instant win game prizes, a Holland House bottles gift pack. You can enter once a day. The Grill of Your Dreams goes until August 5, 2011.

Get grilling with Holland House

Holland House vinegars are a wonderful way to create marinades and sauces for summer grilling. Here’s a recipe for healthy chicken skewers that uses Holland House Balsamic Vinegar that would be great with grilled corn on the cob or veggie kabobs at your next grilling party.

Skewered Chicken Balsamico at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Skewered Chicken Balsamico

Recipe courtesy of Mizkan.


  • 1-1/2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1/3 cup Holland House Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or gluten free tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 6 (8-inch) skewers


  1. Place chicken in sealable gallon plastic bag.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients (except skewers) in a bowl. Stir to dissolve salt.
  3. Pour over chicken and shake bag gently to coat. Seal bag and refrigerate 8 to 10 hours, turning bag over once.
  4. If using wood skewers, soak skewers in water 30 minutes. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  5. Drain chicken well.
  6. Thread chicken onto skewers.
  7. Grill over low flame until cooked through.
Prep Time: 10 Hours
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: Makes 4 to 6 servings
  • Serving size: 1 to 2 skewers

Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Win a sampler pack of Juliet Mae Fine Spices from Foodily.com for #4thofJulyGrilling

grill My friends at Foodily.com are awarding one “spice-y” prize every day for the next five days! They’ve partnered with the folks at Juliet Mae Fine Spices and are giving away a sampler pack of a different blend of grilling spices every day this week.

There are several ways to enter:

  • You can login into Foodily with Facebook Connect, find a great grilling recipe and then share it with your friends via Facebook. (Here’s a sample of a cool recipe for Dr. Pepper ribs I shared.)
  • Login to Foodily and tweet a great grilling recipe with the hashtag #4thofJulyGrilling and include @Foodily with a few words on why you chose the recipe. (Here’s a sample of a tweet I did.)
  • You can post a comment below and include a link to the recipe you like.

One winner will be picked each day for five days. Good luck!

Disclosure: I’m a compensated Foodily Brand Ambassador and was given this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, Inc. All opinions expressed are my own.

Grilled Wahoo with Tomatoes and Olives

Grilled Wahoo with Tomatoes and Olives at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

My husband recently came back from yet another Mexican fishing trip. What am I going to do with all this fish I wondered? (You should have my problems, I know.)

I decided to grill up a couple of wahoo fillets. Wahoo is related to mackerel and is called “ono” in Hawaii and “peto” in the Spanish speaking parts of the Caribbean and Central America.

Grilled Wahoo with Tomatoes and Olives at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I’ve made Grilled Wahoo and Orange Butter before, but I wanted to try another recipe. After doing a search, I found a Grilled Wahoo with Tomato Sauce recipe from Bobby Flay.

It looked delicious, but I didn’t have many of the ingredients on hand. However, it got me thinking that I could substitute that jar of Spanish green and black olives I had in the fridge for the capers and anchovies. Here’s what I ended up making that got rave reviews from my husband. Super simple and it took longer to cook the fish than it did the tomatoes and olives.

This is a perfect date night grilling recipe since most kids don’t like fish or only the fried kind. Serve it up with a nice bottle of chilled white wine and a side dish of quinoa.

Grilled Wahoo with Tomatoes and Olives at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Grilled Wahoo with Tomatoes and Olives


  • 2 small to medium-sized wahoo fillets
  • canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 cup manzanilla olives, pitted and diced


  1. Heat the grill to high.
  2. Brush both sides of the fillets with canola oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Place fish on the grill and immediately turn the dials to low. Close the cover. Grill until cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes per side depending on how thick your fish fillet is.
  4. While the fish is grilling, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the tomatoes and olives and cook until heated through.
  7. Plate fish and spoon sauce over it. Serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Serves 2
  • Serving size: 1 fillet

Sriracha Chicken Skewers

Sriracha Chicken Skewers at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com My husband is a big fan of sriracha sauce. I wasn’t until I tried my friend Jennifer’s Sriracha Chicken Wings. (She also has a recipe for Crispy Baked Panko Sriracha Chicken Tenders on her blog, Savoring the Thyme.)

I made her sriracha chicken wings for the Super Bowl and loved them. Still, I was a little freaked out about eating wings due to all the fat from the chicken skin. Wanting to “health it up,” I used thigh meat in my Sriracha Chicken Skewers. You could also use chicken breast since it’s leaner and lower in Weight Watchers POINTS, calories and fat.

Serve the sriracha chicken with stir fried vegetables and brown rice or quinoa. You can also double or triple the recipe for a terrific party appetizer.
Making Sriracha Chicken Skewers at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

This Mama’s tips

Sriracha Chicken Skewers at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Sriracha Chicken Skewers


  • 1/4 cup amber agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup low sodium, gluten free soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
  • 4 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 6-10 bamboo skewers
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca or corn starch


  1. Slice chicken thigh meat into 1 inch strips. Place into a food storage container large enough for chicken and marinade.
  2. Combine agave through sriracha ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined.
  3. Pour over chicken and place lid on container. Shake so chicken is completely covered with marinade.
  4. Place container in the refrigerator and marinate for a minimum of one hour. Overnight is ideal for maximum flavor.
  5. Soak 10 bamboo skewers in water for 10 to 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  7. Prepare the baking sheet by covering it with foil for easier cleanup. Then place an oven safe cooling rack on it. (Cooking it on a rack helps to caramelize the marinade glaze.)
  8. Remove meat from marinade and thread on to skewers.
  9. Pour marinade into a small sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil.
  10. Mix one tablespoon of starch with an equal amount of water. Stir to produce a slurry. Pour slurry into boiling marinade and stir. It should immediately thicken. Once it thickens remove from heat.
  11. Take a pastry brush or spatula and brush thickened marinade sauce on to both sides of the skewered chicken.
  12. Evenly place chicken skewers on racks and put baking sheet into the oven.
  13. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Prep Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Total Time: 20 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4
  • Serving size: 6 ounces of chicken
  • Calories: 341
  • Calories from Fat: 70
  • Total Fat: 7.8g
  • Saturated fat: 2.0g
  • Unsaturated fat: 5.8g
  • Sodium: 494mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 11.1g
  • Protein: 53.3g
  • Cholesterol: 151mg

Nutritional information (using chicken breast)

1 serving is approximately 6 ounces of chicken

When using chicken breast:

Calories 341
Calories from Fat 70
Total Fat 7.8g
Saturated Fat 2.0g
Cholesterol 145mg
Sodium 494mg
Total Carbohydrates 11.1g
Protein 53.3g
Nutrition Grade B from CalorieCount

Weight Watchers POINTS = 7

Foil pouch salmon, squash and zucchini dinner

 Foil pouch salmon, squash and zucchini dinner I like getting my Omega-3s the old fashioned way – by eating fish! One of my favorites is to grilled wild caught salmon. Wild Atlantic salmon (6 oz. cooked) has 3,130 mg of EPA and DHA, and Wild Coho salmon (6 oz. cooked) has 1800 mg according to Nutrition Action Health Article: Omega Medicine? Is fish oil good for what ails you? (PDF).

Wild caught vs farm raised fish

I prefer wild caught because I’ve read that farmed salmon are given antibiotics to help fight disease outbreaks. I don’t like antibiotics in my beef, pork, turkey or chicken, so why would I want it in my fish? I also believe that fish farming is harmful to the environment.

More information on fish farming and the benefits of wild caught fish can be found at:

Cooking salmon

Since you’re spending a little more on wild caught versus farm raised salmon, you want to make sure you cook it perfectly. The easiest way is making it – along with your favorite vegetables – in a foil pouch. I got this idea from the July/August 2010 issue of Clean Eating magazine and from The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great by Pam Anderson.

Both Pam’s cookbook and Clean Eating gave elaborate  recipes for sauces and seasonings. I simplified it by using herbs I had on hand and vegetables fresh from my garden. I cooked my on the grill but you can also cook foil pouches in the oven.

Foil pouch salmon, squash and zucchini dinner

Serves 2

  • 1-12 ounce salmon fillet
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs like thyme, dill or herbes de provence
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small summer squash, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced


  1. Tear off a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil – about 20 inches. Place on a flat surface, long side facing you.
  2. Place fish in center foil. Drizzle both sides of fish with oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Placed diced vegetables on top and season with herbs.
  5. Grasp top and bottom edges of foil (the long sides) and pull up over the food, pinching together at the top.
  6. Begin folding the foil down toward the food until it is about 2 inches from the food.
  7. Grasp the right side of the foil and fold at least twice toward the center to seal.
  8. Repeat with the left side.

Stove cooking instructions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat over to 500 degrees.
  2. Set foil packet on a large baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and let stand for 3 minutes.
  4. Open packet carefully to test fish for doneness (fish should be flakey). If the fish is ready, serve.
  5. If needed, close the packet back up to cook a few more minutes.

Grill cooking instructions:

  1. On a gas grill, ignite all the burners on high for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Set foil packet on hot rack, cover and grill for 8 minutes.
  3. Remove from grill and let stand for 3 minutes.
  4. Open packet carefully to test fish for doneness (fish should be flakey). If the fish is ready, serve.
  5. If needed, close the packet back up and place back on grill for a few more minutes.

Nutritional information:

  • Calories 444
  • Calories from Fat 252
  • Total Fat 28.0g
  • Saturated Fat 5.2g
  • Cholesterol 107mg
  • Sodium 117mg (before adding salt)
  • Total Carbohydrates 7.4g
  • Dietary Fiber 2.0g
  • Sugars 3.5g
  • Protein 39.4g
  • Vitamin A 7%
  • Vitamin C 48%
  • Calcium 6%
  • Iron 8%

Nutrition Grade B+ from CalorieCount 

Weight Watchers POINTS = 10 for 6 ounces of salmon or 7 for 4 ounces

This Mama Cooks! tips

  • Experiment with different vegetables – mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, and so on.
  • Use different types of fish like tilapia, Atlantic chard, mahi mahi, trout, etc. Try chicken breasts if you don’t like fish.
  • Have fun with different seasonings and sauces. Some ideas are: a bottled salad dressing, teriyaki sauce or homemade barbecue sauce. Lemon juice and dill are great with fish. Try fresh herbs or sea salt mixes, too.
  • To lower calorie and fat, add more veggies and reduce fish portion to 4 ounces.

Frugal, healthy eating: making your own barbecue marinade, sauce and meat rub

grilling One thing that has impressed me about frugal cookbooks like Dollars to Donuts, The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook and Family Feasts for $75 a Week is their back to basics, DIY approach to barbecue sauce recipes and meat rubs that you’d normally buy at the store. Not only is it cheaper to make them yourself, but it’s healthier, too. You can eliminate the high fructose corn syrup found in most barbecue sauces, and lower the sodium content of meat rubs, if you so wish.

Now that we have a new Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, I’m interested in making a variety of bbq sauce recipes and rubs myself. Here are a few that fit the bill.

Homemade BBQ Marinade

From The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook

Cost: $.34


  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 3 ounces of water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Place the tomato paste into a small bowl.
  2. Fill the tomato paste can half way with water (approximately 3 ounces) and pour into the same bowl and whisk together.
  3. Add the vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, and pepper.
  4. Mix well and pour over chicken pieces.
  5. Let the chicken marinate for a least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before grilling.

This Mama’s tips:

  • If smoking a whole chicken, double the recipe and add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Place the chicken in a freezer bag and add the marinate to it. Let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Spicy Ribs Rub

From The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook Cost: $.50


  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
  2. Rub over pork ribs.
  3. Wrap the ribs in foil and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Grill or smoke the ribs the next day.

This Mama’s tips:

  • Experiment and add other spices to the mix like chili powder, cumin or oregano. If you’re adventurous, try Chinese 5 spice, ginger or cinnamon.
  • Try adding a little orange or lemon zest to your rub.

Tex Mex Rub

From Dollars to Donuts


  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika


  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
  2. Store leftovers in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Honey Barbecue Sauce

From Family Feasts for $75 a Week 

Makes 3 cupsFamily Feasts for $75 a Week


  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-size saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Cool and store, tightly covered, in refrigerator up to two months.

This Mama’s tips:

  • Use a ketchup that contains no high fructose corn syrup like Hunt’s. Also, many organic and organic store variety ketchups contain no HFCS either – check the label!

More on grilling and barbecuing at This Mama Cooks:


Disclosure: I was sent a copies of Dollars to Donuts, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, and The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook to review.

Masterbuilt electric smoker review

Masterbuilt Electric Smokers When our 10-year-old Masterbuilt propane gas smoker died, I wanted to buy a replacement for my husband for Father’s Day that I would feel comfortable using as well. I wanted an electric smoker since I was uncomfortable using gas ones since I was certain that I was going to burn down the deck.

It was always such a big production to use our old smoker, and a huge pain when we would run out of propane and have to drive to the store to get another tank. We also had a hard time getting a correct and steady temperature with our old smoker. Instead, I wanted an electric smoker with a digital thermostat so we wouldn’t have to guess.

Also, I didn’t want another stacking style of smoker. When you needed to remove something on the bottom rack, you have to take everything out. Also, it’s not easy to remove hot, slippery turkeys and chicken from this type of smoker. In fact, the last chicken we cooked in it ended up on the deck. Plus, you never know where to put down the hot lid when you’re removing all the food you’re smoking. All of these were reasons I wanted an “oven style” electric smoker with a door and racks that you can easily slide out.

With so many choices of electric smokers, which one was I going to choose? The electric smoker with a window, the one without, what brand, and what size, a 30 or 40 inch? Well, after sending out a message on Twitter asking for some recommendations, Masterbuilt’s PR people contacted me and offered to send me a Masterbuilt Electric Digital Smoker – 30″ Chrome with Window – Model 20070110.

Features of the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (20070110)

  • Viewing window and internal light
  • Push-button digital time temperature and time control panel
  • Thermostat controlled temperature
  • Four chrome-coated smoking racks
  • Convenient side wood-chip loader
  • Removable drip pan and rear-mounted grease pan
  • Built-in meat probe that displays the internal temperature of the food you’re smoking

You can buy the unit online directly from Masterbuilt or through Cabela’s. It retails for $299.99.

My husband, Paul, put the unit together while I was out of town. He said it was fairly easy and straightforward to do, though he did have some difficulty putting in the heating unit at first.

Wood pellets not chips

Also, Paul told me he had to season your smoker before using it. So when you order your smoker, make sure you purchase some pellets, too. Yes, pellets and not chips. Paul had done some online research and found out that people got better results with flavored wood pellets. So I ordered several varieties of BBQr’s Delight Smoke Flavoring Wood Pellets from GardenLuminary.com. A one pound bag is $3.89. You may want to purchase the BBQr’s Delight Super Smoker Set for $19.99, which comes with four varieties of pellets. It also comes with a cast iron smoker pot, so you can use the pellets in your regular grill.

Using the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is as easy to use as your oven

imageFor our maiden smoker run, I made four racks of pork ribs. (Paul had prepared them the night before and used two varieties of rubs. He’s a bit of a BBQ nerd.) He showed me how to program the unit for the temperature I wanted, and for the time I needed the ribs to cook. (He was at work while I was doing this.)

Putting the 1/4 cup of pellets in the side loader was simple to do, too. (You need to put in pellets every 4 hours or so.) Plus, not having to soak chips cut down prep time, too.

I loved that I could look through the window to check on the ribs. Also, it was incredibly easy to remove the ribs when I needed to wrap them in foil for the last hour of cooking. I just slid the rack out a bit, grabbed the ribs with a pair of tongs, and put them on the sheet of foil I had placed on the top of the smoker.

The only problem I had was that the door would swing open all the way when I only wanted it to open part of the way. I’m sure that’s because our deck isn’t perfectly level, so I need to put something underneath the front of the unit to correct this.

Also, I didn’t realize there was a built-in meat probe until I was cleaning it. I’ll make sure to use that next time so I don’t have to get out my digital thermometer.

However, the true test of the unit (besides cooking – the ribs were FANTASTIC) was cleanup. The manual says not to use any cleaning products on the smoker interior. Instead, I filled a bottle with white vinegar and water, and sprayed down the cooled unit and inside the door. I then wiped it down with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge and a wet washcloth. I removed the racks and water pan and washed them in hot soapy water in the kitchen sink.

Next time, I will spray the racks a high heat cooking spray to make cleanup even easier. I like using Spectrum’s Grapeseed Spray Oil when grilling, since grapeseed oil has a high smoke point.

I’m looking forward to smoking some trout and chicken this summer and using it to smoke our Thanksgiving turkey, too.

An interview with Masterbuilt

During his research, Paul read that there were some issues with the older electric models in regards to getting smoke and enough power. Many consumers were having problems with the heating element as well. So I requested a short email interview with Masterbuilt to answer those concerns.

This Mama Cooks!: From the online reviews of the Masterbuilt electric smoker, I’ve noticed that people have a tough time getting enough smoke. What are your best tips for getting “good smoke”?

Masterbuilt: You will achieve best results by not soaking your chips in the electric smoker.

TMC: I’m seeing online complaints about the heating element failing after a year of use. Is it still true that there is no replacement part for it in latest model? What should you do if you have a unit with a broken heating element?

Masterbuilt: We have redesigned the smoker for 2010 to allow the heating element to be replaced, if need be. For customers with older models, we will need to work with the customer to replace the box and element.

TMC: What type of warranty does the smoker have?

Masterbuilt: One year.

TMC: I’ve read that some people have issues with the unit getting enough power and that you shouldn’t use an extension cord with the electric smoker – is that correct?

Masterbuilt: Yes, when you use an extension cord, customers may see a drop in amps. Our recommendation is to not use an extension cord to achieve best results. However, if an extension cord is needed, it is best to use a heavy duty cord with a 14 gauge minimum.

TMC: Maintenance – what are the best ways to keep your Masterbuilt electric smoker working at tip top shape, from cleaning to storage?

Masterbuilt: Make sure to clean the unit after each use. Also, it is important to store the unit in a dry area or use a cover to protect.

Disclosure: Masterbuilt sent me the electric smoker to review. I purchased the wood pellets, food, and smoker cover. All opinions are my own or my husband’s.

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