Anita and I recently spent a few days at the Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa. We had such a wonderful time there. One of the biggest highlights was the buffet. Normally when you think buffet you think low quality food, mostly pre-made. Oh that’s definitely not the case at the DreamMore. Everything was made from scratch and everything was out-of-this-world delicious. One of the things I loved the most, interestingly enough, was the house-made dill Ranch salad dressing. It was delicious. I could’ve just drank it out of the bottle. I knew instantly that I had to make some when I got home. Now, this version is mighty good, too, but I’m pretty sure that the DreamMore version used fresh herbs (they had a nice herb garden right outside of the restaurant). Even still, this is delicious and a perfect alternative to ‘normal’ Ranch. Do not be tempted to rush the 1 hour rest time that this dressing needs. Those dry herbs need time to make the dressing happy. I really love dill so I added a bit more than the recipe calls for.
A lot of restaurant signature sauces start with simple, off-the-shelf ingredients. A restaurant near us starts with BBQ sauce and Ranch, just like with this quick fix BBQ Ranch dressing, and then adds a few other ingredients (such as crumbled cooked bacon) to make it different for different dishes, such as for dipping onion rings or chicken wings. This quick fix BBQ dressing isn’t just for salads, that’s for sure. I squirted it on a big plate of French fries. I dipped grilled chicken wings in it. Just make sure you start with good, quality BBQ sauce and Ranch dressing. And don’t hesitate to use a spicy BBQ sauce, or one with a bit of smoky flavor to it.
Wedge and Cobb salads are always my favorites. I can throw either one together in no time at all with a variety of ingredients, whatever I have on hand. If I’m in a hurry I might grab a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing out of the pantry, but if I have a spare minute or two I like to make my own. Like this blue cheese vinaigrette. Easy to make using ingredients I almost always have on hand. It packs that nice blue cheese twang, along with a little hit of mustard. It was perfect on my simple wedge salad.I like to use smoked pepper and salt when making this blue cheese vinaigrette. It adds a nice unexpected flavor. Subtle but definitely different than ‘normal’ salt and pepper.
“Don’t mess with my ketchup” is what Anita told me. And yeah, usually I do listen. But not this time. I was going to make ketchup leather no matter what. And you know what? When we’d finished off our hot-off-the-grill burgers topped with ketchup leather Anita said “Ok, you can mess with my ketchup anytime.”
Ketchup leather makes ketchup on burgers an even better thing. Tastes like ketchup. Looks like a Fruit Roll-Up. But here’s the cool part (besides the wow factor). It doesn’t leak out of your burger. If you’re like me, you’re not shy when squeezing ketchup onto your burger. But the more toppings and the more ketchup, the more that squeezes out. Dripping all over the place and eventually leading to a burger disaster. Not with ketchup leather. Everything stays right where it belongs.
Oh, what a wonderful BBQ sauce this hot pepper jelly sauce is. It has the perfect consistency. Not too runny, not too gloppy. A small bit of heat and a little tang from vinegar and mustard. Perfect for any pork BBQ dish. For me that means smoked baby back ribs. You can substitute any kind of jelly for the hot pepper jelly, really. But don’t be afraid of hot pepper jelly. Out of the jar, sure, it’s got some kick. But in this sauce that heat gets a little mellowed. You still get great pepper flavor though. It’s still a great sauce!
Sometimes you just need a little reminder to step outside of your box of usual sandwich spreads and use something you might not think of. This copycat of the avocado sandwich spread from Jimmy John’s is essentially guacamole with a few twists thrown in. It’s fantastic on a sandwich and for that matter, equally as great as a dip for tortilla chips. That’s why I doubled the recipe. Sandwiches and chips. Lunch is done. Every sandwich needs a little spiciness in my opinion. Which is why I was happy that this avocado sandwich spread includes a jalapeno. Now, granted, it’s a small jalapeno so you’re not going to get overwhelming heat. But you don’t want that kick to be front-and-center. Just there, in the back. Noticed but not overwhelming. This spread is excellent on my copycat of Jason’s Deli California Club sandwich.
I love when avocados are in season here. They’re perfect on a salad, be it sliced, chopped or in the dressing itself. This avocado Ranch dressing is quite easy to make. It packs a nice subtle avocado flavor, with the wonderful creamy herb flavor of Ranch. Avocado Ranch dressing isn’t just for salads either. It’s perfect as a dip, or use it as a substitute for sour cream on tacos or nachos.
When I make a batch of this basic BBQ rub I don’t just make a little ole container full. No, I make a bunch of it. A whole lot. That’s because I use it on just about every piece of meat that I throw onto my trusty old smoker. It shines best on beef and pork, adding a bit of sweetness and a bit of heat. And though it contains coffee and lemon pepper the flavors from those two ingredients don’t jump out and scream at your taste buds. They’re there though, working perfectly with the rest of the flavors. This is truly a great all-around rub. The idea for this basic BBQ rub came from Ray Lampe’s book, Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip Smacking Barbecue. The book is full of great recipes and stories and ideas, just like this one. This rub can be used as-is or as a great jumping-off point for making your own rub. Play with the ratios to suit your tastes. For example, don’t use regular paprika just use only smoked paprika for a much stronger smoke flavor, perfect for seasoning foods cooked in doors where you won’t get a strong wood flavor. Or add more heat. Or leave out the heat. It’s a very versatile rub.
Also try my basic BBQ sauce. Like this rub, it’s great as is or use it as a base for your own flavors.