Mac and Cheese Soup

I had pretty low expectations for this mac and cheese soup. I thought it might be too thick. Or not have much flavor. Oh, boy was I wrong about everything. This soup was fantastic. It made for the perfect bowl of happiness on a cold, dreary winter’s day. Just the right amount of seasoning. Just the right of cheese. And oh so creamy smooth. I should’ve doubled the recipe.
Mac and Cheese Soup

I like a bit of kick, a bit of heat, in my dishes so I admit to adding a good deal more cayenne pepper when I made this mac and cheese soup. Not so much that it overpowered the great flavors, but enough that I knew that it was there.

Feel free to use other varieties of Velveeta for totally new soup flavors.

Mac and Cheese Soup

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked pasta shells I used medium-sized
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 stalk celery chopped fine
  • 1 medium onion chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cubed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain well and reserve.
  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the celery and onion and saute until the celery is softened.
  • Stir in the flour and cook another minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk.
  • Bring to a simmer and stir in the dry mustard, Worcestershire, garlic salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.
  • Stir until the mixture thickens.
  • Add the Velveeta. Stir until melted.
  • Remove from heat and add the cheddar cheese. Stir until melted.
  • Stir in cooked pasta and serve.

Cedar Planked Asparagus

I am a huge fan of cooking on cedar planks. From sides to main dishes to desserts, I love the flavor and aroma of cedar. I don’t go crazy with the cedar. I char it just enough to add a hint of the wood. It adds something different to grilled foods. Like these cedar planked asparagus. Easy as can be to make, they come out crisp-tender (or, to your liking) with a great fresh asparagus flavor.

Cedar Planked Asparagus

You can easily change the flavor of your cedar planked asparagus by changing the seasonings or using infused olive oil instead. I sometimes like to add a good pinch of red pepper flake for a bit of heat. Lemon-infused oil adds a great citrus flavor. A few roasted pecans or walnuts add crunch and well, nuttiness. You can’t mess these up. Just don’t overcook them.

Also try my cedar planked sweet corn.

Cedar Planked Asparagus

Course Side
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil use flavor-infused oil if you wish
  • 1 fresh lemon thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for serving
  • Parmesan cheese shaved, for topping

Instructions

  • Soak cedar plank in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile bend asparagus stem until it breaks. This will remove the fibrous part.
  • Toss the asparagus with lemon slices, oil, pepper and salt.
  • Transfer plank to the grill over medium heat and top with the asparagus. Grill 20-30 minutes or until the asparagus is the desired tenderness.
  • Serve with shaved Parmesan and sprinkled with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Easy Marinated Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy

This super easy marinated chicken is exactly why I love using my Char-Broil Big Easy. I was serving salad for dinner, and wanted chicken to go with it. Not dried out, bland super market rotisserie chicken. Moist, tender flavor-packed chicken. And with as little fuss as possible. And this is it.

Easy Marinated Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy

I don’t see any reason to use a super fru-fru Italian dressing for marinating the chicken. I used a 16 ounce bottle of generic dressing from our local grocery store. For $1, it added the perfect flavor, tenderness and juiciness to my chicken. Use any dressing (or even bottled marinade) you like, but stay away from anything that contains sugar or sugar-like substances. Sugar will cause the outside of the chicken to burn long before the insides are done.

Also try my apple juice brined Big Easy chicken.

Love your Big Easy as much I love mine? Check out my Big Easy Add-Ons page and my free Big Easy eCookbook!

Easy Marinated Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy

Course Main
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 4 large pieces chicken I used split chicken breasts
  • 1 bottle Italian salad dressing

Instructions

  • Rinse chicken and place into a large resealable container or baggie.
  • Shake the bottle of dressing and add to container. Cover or seal and shake gently to coat.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, turning the chicken once or twice to make sure all sides get time in the dressing.
  • Fire up your Big Easy.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.
  • Transfer the chicken to the Big Easy basket and place into the Big Easy.
  • Roast for about 20 minutes per pound, or until breasts reach at least 165 F and dark meat reaches 175 F.
  • Remove and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

I smoked a big ole bologna chubb not long ago. Of course I ended up with a lot of bologna. I ended up slicing it nice and thick, freezing some of it for later. Later as in ‘for the best fried bologna sandwich ever’ later. This is the sandwich bologna was invented for. Fried bologna with just a little bit of crunchy char around the edges. Melted gooey cheese. Crunchy BBQ chips and lettuce. And the tang of pickled chow chow. Mustard. Mayonnaise. All on white bread.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

You must use white bread when you make a fried bologna sandwich. It’s a law. Or should be. Let’s face it, you didn’t make this sandwich because of it’s organic farm fresh ingredients. This isn’t fru-fru, this is a big ole honkin’ sandwich that you’ll love.

Fried Bologna Sandwich

Course Main
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 1
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 slice bologna at least 1/2" thick. If you can't find thick bologna, use 4 thin slices instead.
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread Wonder Bread
  • mayonnaise
  • prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chow chow or a sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 cup BBQ potato chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Meanwhile, spread one side of one of the bread slices with mayo. Spread one side of the other slice of bread with the mustard.
  • Cut a 1" wide 'X' pattern in the middle of the bologna if using thing slices. This will keep it from curling. I didn't have to do this with my thick bologna.
  • Add bologna to skillet and swirl around to coat the bottom in the butter. Cook a few minutes until browned, then flip and repeat.
  • Add the cheese slices to the bologna and cook another minute to melt.
  • Place the bologna on top of the mayo-topped bread slice.
  • Add the chow chow, potato chips and shredded lettuce.
  • Add the last piece of bread and gently push down on the sandwich to just crush the chips. Don't destroy them, just make the sandwich bite-able.
  • Devour.

Cedar Planked Shrimp with Pesto

I had no idea just how much I would love these cedar planked shrimp with pesto. I mean, I can eat shrimp like the dickens. And I love anything that’s cooked on a cedar plank. But sometimes, pesto can be a bit much for me. Well, this was the first time ever where I absolutely could not get enough pesto. Each bite was perfect. I just wish I’d made more. A lot more. I served these as our main dish, but you can certainly serve them up as an appetizer too!

Cedar Planked Shrimp with Pesto

You can certainly make your own pesto for these cedar planked shrimp. Make it your own. Me, I was looking for a simple dinner that still looked great and tasted even better so I went to the pantry for my pesto. I’m not much of a pesto aficionado but Classico Traditional pesto worked just fine for me!

If was going to serve these shrimp as an appetizer I might do several planks, each with a different type of pesto. Mix it up a bit!

Also try my cedar planked shrimp and grits.

Cedar Planked Shrimp with Pesto

Course Main
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large cedar plank soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp 21-25 count, cleaned, deveined
  • 1/2 cup store-bought pesto divided (I used Classico Traditional)
  • olive oil
  • 2 large lemons halved

Instructions

  • Fire up your grill for direct and indirect cooking. You'll use the direct heat to sear the cedar plank. You'll use indirect (low or no flame under the blank) heat to cook the shrimp.
  • Pat the shrimp dry.
  • Toss the shrimp with half of the pesto.
  • Toss shrimp in mixture, coating it all over.
  • Place your cedar plank over the direct heat for 15 or so minutes until charred on one side.
  • Move the plank to indirect heat. Add the shrimp. Drizzle lightly with oil. Note: You may not need much if any oil, depending on how thick your pesto is. A lighter thinner pesto may not require any. You only need the oil to slightly 'loosen' or thin the pesto.
  • Place the lemons over direct heat.
  • Close the grill lid and let cook until the shrimp start to turn pink.
  • Spoon the remaining pesto over the shrimp. Continue cooking until the shrimp are done. The lemons should get a nice char on them.
  • Drizzle two halves of the lemons over the shrimp (I used grill tongs to squeeze them).
  • Serve shrimp on the plank with the remaining lemon halves for juicing.

Copycat Lone Star Steakhouse Amarillo Cheese Fries

My first (big) bite of these copycat Lone Start Steakhouse Amarillo cheese fries made me think I’d just come upon the world’s largest plate of potato skins. Well, it has some of the flavors of potato skins at least. Good ones. Not the wimpy thin ones with no toppings. These fries are loaded with bacon. And cheese. And a taco-flavored Ranch dressing that you could just drink. I served this at home, but I’d been just as happy ordering a big ole plate of these fries while sitting at a bar sipping on a cold brew!

Copycat Lone Star Steakhouse Amarillo Cheese Fries

You can make this recipe for copycat Lone Star Steakhouse Amarillo cheese fries just as it is and have a good ole time eating it. Or, you can use it as a base recipe for even more amped-up cheese fries. Add some green onion. Maybe a dollop or two of sour cream. Skip and bacon and add BBQ pulled pork or chicken instead. A little pico de gallo ain’t gonna hurt either! Own it!

Also try my Texas fries.

Copycat Lone Star Steakhouse Amarillo Cheese Fries

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 20 ounces your favorite frozen fries
  • 3 slices bacon cooked crumbled
  • 4 ounces cheddar jack cheese shredded
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing
  • 1/2 package taco seasoning or 1 heaping tablespoon homemade

Instructions

  • Cook fries per package instructions. Baked is fine, but deep-fried is better!
  • Meanwhile make the sauce by whisking the Ranch and taco seasoning together in a medium bowl.
  • Arrange fries on a heat-proof platter.
  • Sprinkle fries with bacon and cheese. Place platter in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Drizzle with the Ranch dressing mix and serve.

Korean Fried Chicken using the Vortex

This Korean fried chicken using the Vortex was right up my alley. As always with the Vortex, the chicken is cooked perfectly. Tender and juicy and delicious. The batter makes for an incredible crunchy coating. I mean, crazy crunchy goodness! And the sauce? Score! Asian flavors with a great spiciness.
Korean Fried Chicken using the Vortex

This Korean fried chicken isn’t no wimpy chicken. I added more sriracha than called for because, hey, I like a little kick! I admit that I doubled the sauce ingredients, and I did end up with a little sauce leftover which of course found it’s way onto chicken wings!

You can tame down the hot sauce and still great fantastic chicken. Or make half a batch mild, half a batch hot! No matter how you do it, it’s impossible to go wrong with chicken cooked using a Vortex.Impossible!

Also try my spicy buttermilk fried chicken using the Vortex.

Korean Fried Chicken using the Vortex

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 8 pieces chicken
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 1 1/4 cup corn starch divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder divided
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 12 ounce light beer or club soda

For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup gochugang sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha

Instructions

For the chicken

  • Combine the salt and water in a large bowl or container. Stir until the salt is dissolved then add the chicken. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • Combine 3/4 cup of cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of baking powder in a bowl or large baggie. Working in patches, remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat dry. Transfer to the cornstarch mixture and coat well.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 3/4 cups of flour. While still whisking, pour in the beer and create a smooth batter.
  • Fire up your grill with the Vortex. Get the coals good and hot, just ashed over.
  • Remove the chicken from the cornstarch mixture and shake off any excess. Dunk into the batter a few times and shake off any excess. Transfer to the grill around the Vortex.
  • Once the chicken hits 165 F as measured in several locations, brush several times with the sauce. Alternatively, remove the chicken from the grill and dunk into the sauce.

For the sauce

  • Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Stir until combined. Keep warm until ready to use.

Homemade Taco Salad Bowls

I cannot find pre-made taco salad bowls anywhere. I’ve checked every grocery store within 200 miles of our house. Ok, well, maybe 5 miles but still, they’re nowhere to be found! A quick Google search and I came upon a video from Food Wishes that is the best (BEST!) step-by-step approach to making your own salad bowls at home! So I did it too and they were fantastic. Perfectly crunchy, not oily and just the right size for our taco salad dinner (using my slow cooker taco meat)!

Homemade Taco Salad Bowls

I used 8″ tortillas when making homemade taco salad bowls. They fit perfectly around 4″ ramekins to get their shape. If you’re after a bigger salad bowl, you’ll obviously need bigger tortillas. And bigger ramekins. You can’t fit a 10″ or 12″ tortilla around a 4″ ramekin, so plan ahead!

Oh, and only flour tortillas will do for this approach.

Homemade Taco Salad Bowls

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 2 8" flour tortillas
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 4" ramekins

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Brush the tortillas with oil on both sides.
  • Place ramekins upside down on a baking sheet. Cover with the tortillas. Gently push down on the sides to shape the tortilla around the ramekin.
  • Tear off 2 8" x 16" pieces of foil. Fold in half to form an 8" x 8" rectangle. Place on top of the tortilla and press down all sides. The foil will keep the tortilla shaped like a bowl.
  • Flip over the ramekins. Transfer to the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the ramekins from the bowls. Bake for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove the tortilla from the foil.
  • Carefully remove tortilla from foil. Flatten out the foil and place bowl on top. Bake another 8-10 minutes or until browned and crispy.
  • Flip bowls upright and bake another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove to a wire rack to let cool to room temperature. Bowls will become crispy as they cool.

Copycat Outback Ranch Dressing

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons I love chicken wings so much (see my other blog, For the Wing) is they give me an excuse to have more Ranch dressing. I love a good, creamy Ranch dressing, and this copycat of the one from Outback is top-notch good yummy stuff. Whether you’re putting it on a salad or using it for dipping your Buffalo wings, it’s the best homemade version I’ve found.

Copycat Outback Ranch Dressing

Yes, you read correctly. The recipe for making copycat Outback Ranch dressing includes cayenne pepper. I would not leave it out even if you’re not into spiciness. It’s not that spicy, and what there is gets tamed by the buttermilk and mayonnaise. Personally, I’d add a bit more than the recipe calls for.

Also try my copycat of Chipotle’s honey vinaigrette.

Copycat Outback Ranch Dressing

Course Salad Dressing
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings 3 cups
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mayonnaise preferably not light
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1 oz package Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Whisk together all ingredients.
  • Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. If the dressing is too thick add just a a bit more buttermilk and stir.

Cedar Plank Crab Cakes

I’m a big lover of crab cakes. And the crabbier they are, the better. If I’m going to drop some big bucks on crab I want to taste it. So, don’t load me up on fillers like bread crumbs. These cedar plank crab cakes meet my criteria and then some. Fluffy, light and deliciously crabby, they cook in no time. Yeah, I could’ve pan fried them, but I love grilling on cedar planks. They add just a little something different. A slight aroma and taste of aroma, but not so strong that I can’t taste what brought me to the party: crab.

Cedar Plank Crab Cakes

To be truthful you can use pretty much any crab cake recipe. Just form them into cakes and place them on pre-soaked, pre-charred planks. They don’t take long to cook, so don’t go running off doing something else around the house while they’re on the grill. Once they hit 155 F they’re done.

I also like to cedar plank lemon wedges for my crab cakes. Grilled lemons are fantastic.

Also try my cedar plank spicy grilled shirmp.

Cedar Plank Crab Cakes

Course Main
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

For the crab cakes

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
  • 1 tablespoon green onion finely chopped
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat picked through for shell fragments
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons blackening seasoning can also use Old Bay or Creole seasoning
  • 1 large lemon quartered, for serving

Mississippi Comeback Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Creole mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 medium lemon juiced

Instructions

For the crab cakes

  • Begin by soaking two cedar planks in water while you prepare the crab cakes. Also prepare the Mississippi Comeback sauce (recipe below) and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley, and green onion in a medium bowl.
  • Fold in the crab and panko. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Fire up your grill. Place the planks on direct heat and char on both sides. Remove planks to indirect heat or turn your burners to low if using direct heat.
  • Form the crab mixture into 2 ounce cakes and transfer to the planks. If you wish, place the quartered lemon onto the planks also.
  • Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with blackening seasoning. Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the crab cakes reaches 155 F.
  • Serve with the lemon quarters and Mississippi Comeback sauce.

For the Mississippi Comeback sauce

  • Whisk together all ingredients. You can also process it in a blender until smooth.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.