Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

If you’re into pickles like I am, you will agree that this is the best pasta salad ever. It’s packed with dill pickle flavor. Not just in the dressing. And not just from the pickle slices. Even the pasta tastes dill-y. Sorry, but yeah, it’s dill-icious. I had to say it. Because I absolutely love this dill pickle pasta salad.

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

What would I change about this dill pickle salad? Well, I’d not make such a small batch next time, that’s for sure. I’d double it at the very least.

This recipe is also another lesson in why you never, ever toss the juice left in your pickle jars once the pickles are gone. Save it. Always.

Also try my Tuscan pasta salad.

Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  • 3/4 cup dill pickles sliced
  • 2/3 cup medium cheddar cheese diced
  • 3 tablespoons white onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill or 1 heaping teaspoon dried, to taste
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice from the jar (never toss out pickle jar juice!)

For the dressing

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1.4 tablespoons pickle juice from the jar (like I said, never toss out pickle jar juice!)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

For the dressing

  • Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.

For the salad

  • Cook the pasta to al dente per the package instructions. Rinse and drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add the pickle juice to the pasta and toss gently to coat. Let sit for 5 minutes then drain (but do not rinse!).
  • Add in the dressing and stir gently to coat.
  • Place in fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. I prefer to let the salad come to near room temperature before serving so that the dressing is not quite as thick.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

I’ve made this creamy, tasty, bacony loaded baked potato salad twice now. And I’m not ashamed to admit that the second time I made it, I unintentionally made a boo-boo. I was relying on my (fading) memory, and completely forgot to bake the salad. Well, you know what? It was just as fantastic as the baked version! Either way, I felt like I was biting into a seriously loaded up baked potato (my favorite kind). So hot or cold, dig in!
Loaded Baked Potato SaladJust about any potato will do in this loaded baked potato salad, but I tend to use Yukons because they add a very buttery flavor. I also prefer to steam my potato chunks instead of boil them. Tossing and beating and bagging around in a pot is a good way to turn a nice square potato piece into a marble-looking potato in no time.

Speaking of baked potatoes, try my go-to, never-failed technique for making the perfect baked potato.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

Course Side
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes peeled, cubed
  • 4 potatoes unpeeled, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 6 slices thick cut bacon cooked, chopped, divided
  • 6 green onions chopped, divided
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until just soft. Note: I prefer to steam my potatoes so that they keep their shape better, but boiling them is just fine. Drain.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients, reserving some of the crumbled bacon, green onions and cheese.
  • Fold to combine.

To serve cold

  • Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Serve topped with reserved bacon, green onions and cheese.

To serve hot

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Transfer potato mixture to a baking dish.
  • Top with reserved bacon, green onions and cheese.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add bacon, onions and cheese (reserve some of each for top).
  • Mix with potatoes.
  • Pour into baking dish.
  • Top with reserved cheese, onions, and bacon.
  • Bake 350 for 10-15 minutes (until cheese melts).

Easy Cajun Fried Chicken using the Vortex

We both absolutely love making ‘fried’ chicken on our Weber Jumbo Joe or Performer using the Vortex BBQ. We can’t stop being amazed as to how much like ‘real’ fried chicken it is. From the crunchy skin to moist, tender, delicious meat, you cannot beat it. After trying literally 100s of recipes, this easy Cajun fried chicken one is our go-to, easy technique. The end result is incredible.
Easy Cajun Fried Chicken using the Vortex

You can use the same approach as I did for making this easy Cajun fried chicken using the Vortex for your own variation.I am partial to hot sauce, but if you’re not, you can leave it out. And I’m partial to Cajun or Creole seasoning, but any seasoning mix will work. However, steer clear of any rub or mix that contains sugars as those will tender to burn with the high heat from the Vortex.

Also try my Cajun injected fried chicken and my super-easy Krispy Country fried chicken using the Vortex.

Easy Cajun Fried Chicken using the Vortex

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk plus more, if needed
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or more, to taste
  • 4 large split chicken breasts or your favorite cuts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a resealable container. Add the chicken pieces. If the chicken isn't completely covered, add more buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.
  • Fire up your grill with the Vortex BBQ in the center. Fill the Vortex completely with coals and let them light completely before adding the chicken.
  • Combine the flour and seasoning in a large baggie, bowl or pie plate.
  • Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture and shake off any excess. Add to the flour mixture and coat well.
  • Transfer chicken to the grill and close the lid with the vents wide open. Cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 F. You may turn the lid 90% every 15 minutes if desired, but I haven't found that it matters much on a smaller charcoal grill. On larger ones I do rotate the lid.
  • Lightly brush the chicken with some oil and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove and serve.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

I could not resist when I saw beautiful, ripe red strawberries at the grocery store. As many dishes as I could use them in, my mind instantly went to creamy, yummy, delicious homemade strawberry ice cream. This ice cream is so smooth, but it also has nice little bites of crazy good strawberry. It tastes so fresh, it’s hard to stop eating it.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

I often change recipes when I make them. And I often cut back on things like, oh, cream or sugar. But not when I make homemade strawberry ice cream. This is not the time to be skimpy or try to make a dish super-duper healthy. This is decadent goodness. It’s supposed to be that way.

Also try my chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries hulled, diced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Place the diced strawberries into a large bowl. Add the honey, sugar and lemon juice. Stir to coat then let sit on the countertop for 15-20 minutes or until the juices from the strawberries has been released. There should be a good bit of juice in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Use a potato masher or fork to mash the strawberry mixture until all of the larger chunks have been mashed. But don't go crazy on it if you prefer some occasional strawberry pieces in your ice cream.
  • Stir in the heavy cream, half and half and vanilla extract.
  • Transfer to your ice cream maker and process per manufacturer's instructions. Freeze overnight. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before serving.
  • Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Green Enchilada Sauce

Hatch chiles can be hard to come by here in Indiana. And when they are here, I grab a big batch of them. I love roasting them. They are great in lots of lots of dishes, and specially in green enchilada sauce. The flavor the chiles add is amazing. This is not an ordinary enchilada sauce. It’s fantastic!
Green Enchilada Sauce

If you are unable to find and roast Hatch chiles, roasted green chiles from a can are a fine substitute in this green enchilada sauce. You may want to drain the chiles first if they come in a lot of liquid.

As far as the amount of cumin in this recipe goes, I’d say use your own tastes as a guide. I rather like cumin, but Anita does not so I cut back on it quite a bit. The sauce was still fantastic.

Green Enchilada Sauce

Course Sauce
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Hatch Chiles roasted, stems, skin, membranes and seeds removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 jalapeños stems, membranes and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 head garlic cloves peeled, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin I used 1/2 tablespoon
  • 3 cups water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in the large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and jalapeno and cook until just starting to soften.
  • Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Add the chiles, cumin and water. Stir and let simmer 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  • Working in batches, blend the mixture in a blender or food processor until the desired texture is achieved.
  • Store in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze for later use.

Copycat Max and Erma’s Santa Fe Chicken Salad

There’s a Max and Erma’s restaurant right next door to the Premium Outlet Mall in Edinburgh, Indiana. We make it a point to stop by for lunch or dinner there whenever we can. Plus, you get to sit while you eat and after a few hours at the mall, you need that. Nine times out of ten I order the Santa Fe chicken salad. It’s a huge salad, with just the right toppings, and really, really good chicken. And when I’m not at the outlet mall, I can make a pretty darned good copycat of the same salad at home without a lot of fuss.
Copycat Max and Erma's Santa Fe Chicken Salad

You can substitute chicken tenders for the chicken breast if you wish. I like my chicken a bit spicy so I load up on the hot sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste. The chicken itself is outstanding.

To get the fancy dressing swirls on my copycat Max and Erma’s Santa Fe chicken salad I put some Ranch in a squeeze bottle with three nozzles and go to town on it. Hey, it’s fun.


Also try my Southern Fried chicken salad.

Copycat Max and Erma's Santa Fe Chicken Salad

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

For the salad

  • Your favorite greens iceberg, green leaf, and/or red leaf lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • Fried chicken, from below
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • tomatoes chopped or sliced
  • fried tortilla strips
  • Ranch dressing

For the fried chicken

  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 large
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • hot sauce to taste
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

For the salad

  • Divide lettuce between two large plates. Add the chicken, cheeses, tomatoes, and tortilla strips.
  • Drizzle with Ranch dressing and serve.

For the fried chicken

  • Cut the chicken into small bite-sized pieces or strips, as desired. Transfer to a bowl or pie pan.
  • Stir in the buttermilk and hot sauce. Let marinate for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
  • Combine the flour, salt, black pepper, chipotle chile powder, oregano and cumin and place into another pie pan.
  • Heat 2" of oil to 350 F in a deep fryer or Dutch oven.
  • Working in batches, remove chicken from the buttermilk. Shake off the excess and then coat well in the flour mixture. Return the chicken pieces to the buttermilk and turn to coat. Shake off the excess and again coat in the flour mixture.
  • Fry 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown, turning once.
  • Remove to a wire rack or paper towel-lined to cool slightly and drain.

Cedar Planked Spam

Oh sure, somewhere there’ll be someone that’ll say ‘ewww’ when they see Spam. But oh, do not poo-poo cedar planked Spam. Ever! The cedar imparts a special lightly smokey different flavor to the Spam slices. A little rub and a little time on your grill is all you need. Make them sweet, make them spicy, however you prefer. Watching your sodium? Just us a low-salt or no-salt seasoning. You don’t need anything strong, as the cedar will add a special flavor that you do not want to hide.

Cedar Planked Spam

My favorite thing to do with cedar planked Spam (besides munching on it right off the grill) is to get a nice crust on it using a super hot skillet or griddle and put it on a sandwich. I treat it much like I do my grilled or smoked bologna. One of my favorite sandwiches is a pool room burger. Try it. You’ll never look at Spam the same way again, specially after you’ve cedar planked it

Also try my smoked Spam.

Cedar Planked Spam

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Author Mike

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Soak a cedar plank in water for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, season the Spam slices liberally with the rub.
  • Fire up your grill for direct and indirect cooking. Once it gets hot, place the plank over the flames and char it on both sides. Keep a spray bottle of water on hand in case the plank catches on fire.
  • Transfer the Spam to the plank and move it to indirect heat. Cook 20-25 minutes or until lightly charred along the edges. Cook longer if eating directly from the plank.

Easy Grilled Creole Potatoes

You’re throwing some burgers on the grill. You need a quick and easy side. One that uses ingredients you already have on hand. These easy grilled Creole potatoes check all the boxes for a tasty but simple dish that’s ready in no time. I like to cook my veggies in a grill basket. I find it easier than using skewers and I don’t have to worry about the potatoes splitting when I skewer them. Easy, each and every time.

Easy Grilled Creole Potatoes

You can substitute a Dijon mustard for the Creole if you prefer. Just make sure to get a good hearty mustard. You know, one with ingredients you can see. Not that creamy stuff. For me, Creole is the way to go when making easy grilled Creole potatoes. And I’m not shy with the mustard, either.

Also try my grilled potatoes with mustard-garlic dressing.

Easy Grilled Creole Potatoes

Course Side
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red potatoes about 8, all about the same size
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Creole mustard I prefer Zatarain's
  • 1/2 teaspoon. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Stab the potatoes with a knife or fork. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the water and cover. Microwave for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let cool.
  • Quarter the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and pepper. Add to the potatoes. Stir to coat and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • Fire up your grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a vegetable basket (or thread onto skewers) and grill 8-10 minutes until lightly charred and tender, turning a few times.
  • Remove, transfer to a platter, sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Old Colony Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy

I’ve said it hundreds of times. Chicken cooked on the Char-Broil Big Easy is a fantastic thing. It doesn’t take much effort and no fancy ingredients are required. I like to peruse the marinades at the grocery store, grabbing whatever strikes my fancy. This time my fancy had me using Old Colony Sauce. Often used for steaks, it’s also a fantastic marinade for chicken, adding a light Worcestershire-like flavor and tons of juiciness.
Old Colony Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy
Old Colony sauce isn’t loaded up with sugar or honey, which is important when you are cooking on the Big Easy. Since the Big Easy cooks at a high temperature, marinades or sauces containing sugar or honey will tend to burn. You have to save those for saucing at the very end of your cooking, once the meat is almost done, so you don’t risk charred food.

As you can see, Old Colony sauce produced some mighty fine looking chicken (I used split chicken breasts), with great color and flavor throughout.

Also try my State Fair chicken, also made on the Char-Broil Big Easy.

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

Old Colony Chicken on the Char-Broil Big Easy

Course Main
Cuisine American
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Mike

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place the chicken into a resealable bag or container.
  • Add marinade to taste. Toss to coat.
  • Seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning occasionally.
  • Fire up your Big Easy.
  • Transfer the chicken to the Big Easy basket.
  • Cook for approximately 20 minutes per pound or until it reaches 165 F as checked in several places.
  • Remove and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Red Chile Smoked Bologna

This isn’t my first time smoking a bologna chubb (often called a log). But it is by far the best I’ve ever made. I used Albukirky Seasoning’s Red Chile BBQ rub (you can use any rub you want, but I highly recommend theirs) and it added a fantastic flavor (and a slight spiciness) to the bologna.

I sliced my smoked bologna about 1/2″ thick and then fried it up to get a bit of a crust on it. It was absolutely crazy good on a bun with lettuce, onion and mustard for the world’s best bologna sandwich!

Red Chile Smoked Bologna

Just about everyone can score a bologna better than I can. I’ve seen all sorts of fancy fru-fru angled scoring works of art. Me, I’ve had to resign myself to a simple checkerboard pattern. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, but you do need to do it or the chubb will crack or even blow open while smoking.

I went with a mellow wood (apple) when smoking my red chile bologna. I wanted that smoke flavor, but I didn’t want it to be so strong that I couldn’t taste the rub or the bologna. Feel free to use whatever wood you prefer, of course!

Also check out my traditional smoked bologna.

Red Chile Smoked Bologna

Course Main
Prep Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Author Mike

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Fire up your smoker for smoking at 250 F. I prefer a lighter wood, such as apple or peach, but you can use a stronger wood such as hickory.
  • Score the bologna chubb using a sharp knife. Make the cuts 1/4" – 1/2" deep. Use any pattern you want. If you don't score it the bologna will crack or pop open as it smokes.
  • Rub the chubb liberally with mustard. Get in there, get your hands dirty. I find it easiest to stand the chubb on one end (which is why I don't use a full-sized one).
  • Sprinkle the rub liberally all over the chubb. More is better here, so don't be shy with the rub.
  • Transfer the chubb to your smoker and smoke for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
  • Remove the chubb and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.