Smokey Mo’s – Austin, TX

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, we rediscovered a BBQ joint that we first tried in Conroe: Smokey Mo’s. While I may have been enjoying them for a while and somehow never managed to blog about them, they are still producing very appetising and satisfying meals in multiple locations around Texas.

The run of side dishes is pretty standard, and everything is complimentary to BBQ meats, of course. Fries, potato salad, beans, fried okra, corn on the cob, right down to the self-serve bread, onions, pickles and jalapenos.

Trust me, I helped myself to the pickles.

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Two trays of pickles, just like this!

 

My partner helped himself to not one, but two chop sandwiches. The chop is loaded with sauce and chopped bits and pieces of meat. It’s mostly beef with the occasional turkey or sausage bits mixed in.

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Chop Sandwich before any fixin’s were added.

 

The three meat plate is an indulgent sampler of meats and sides. There’s plenty to choose from, too. I picked the turkey-sausage-sliced brisket combination with a double side of slaw. The second slaw was really for Christopher, but it sure makes the plate look as full as my belly got after eating all this.

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Three meat combo plate with two sides.

 

It’s always pleasant to find a bit of the familiar when travelling that’s not your run of the mill fast food. Visiting Smokey Mo’s was definitely a fit of comfort food in a weekend full of exploration.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

 

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Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

Slow Cooker Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

Please keep in mind that some of my Cajun friends might take exception to this recipe, and that it’s from Reynolds’ kitchens, not mine.

CHICKEN & SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours on Low or 3 hours on High
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs, boned, skinned, cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons Creole or Cajun seasoning
Salt, to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) petite-diced tomatoes with onion, celery and green pepper
2 medium red, green or yellow bell peppers, seeded, cored and cut into 2 inch strips
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium yellow squash, cut into bite size pieces
12 oz pre-cooked deveined and peeled shrimp
hot cooked rice
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Place chicken and sausage in the crock. Sprinkle with seasonings. Pour in diced tomatoes. Top with vegetables.

Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on low OR 3 to 4 hours on high, until the chicken is done.

Carefully remove the lid to allow steam to escape.

Add cooked shrimp and stir gently.

Cook 10 more minutes on low.

Spoon jambalaya directly from cooker into bowls of cooked rice.

Sprinkle with chopped celery and serve

 

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

Reuben Pie

On a road trip about 15 years ago, I had a culinary epiphany. Little did I know how well the
initial test would turn out, or how much demand there would be. I conceived something we like to call Reuben Pie.

If you like Reuben sandwiches , you’re likely going to love this one. For those not in the know, the Reuben is an American hot sandwich composed of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing, grilled between slices of rye bread. There are plenty of variations out there, but only one real Reuben.

This dish is not an inexpensive one due to the ingredients, and it’s deceptive in it’s
simplicity. Making one, let alone two of these things is a labor of love.
Rueben Pie
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 raw pizza crust or preferred dough
2 lbs corned beef sliced at 0.5

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Grated Swiss cheese

1 pound Swiss cheese, shredded or grated
1 15 oz jar of sauerkraut, drained, rinsed, and pressed
1 bottle Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing
10″ spring-form pan
Parchment paper

Directions:

Grate the cheese and set aside.

Drain, rinse and press as much water as you can out of the sauerkraut.

Line the bottom of a spring-form pan with parchment paper and lock the ring in place. You may cut away the excess paper on the outside of the ring, or leave it for a larger “handle” when removing the pie after baking. If your pans are non-stick, don’t bother spraying them olive oil. If using a cast iron or other pan, spray the sides and line the bottom as with the spring-form.

Roll out the pizza crust and fit it into the pan. Be sure to cover the bottom and sides,
pinching any seams or holes closed, and pushing the dough into the edge where the side meets the bottom. You may have to cut away corners and pinch them in to fill gaps along the sides.

Place in a 400F oven for about ten minutes to give the crust a little more definition. If you
have an extra pan that will fit to keep the sides upright, I suggest using it.

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Upon removing the crust from the oven, remove the shaping pan (if you used one) and begin layering in your other ingredients. Begin with a thin layer of dressing, spread evenly around the bottom and sides. Add a sprinkle of Swiss. Add a layer of meat, thick enough so that you cannot see the bottom crust. Spread a layer of kraut around, as thick as you like. Next is a layer of Swiss.

Begin again with the dressing and continue layering until the pan is full. Be sure that your
top layer is cheese and that nothing is hanging over the edge of the pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to ensure cheese melts and dish is heated through.

Once out of the oven, unlock and remove the ring from the pan. Using the edge of the parchment paper slide the pie onto a cutting surface. Allow to sit for three or four minutes before cutting.

Cut into eight wedges and serve with deli mustard and kosher pickles.

 
I’ve made some notes on the process and ingredients I prefer for this dish, as well as some
excellent alternatives. You might find some or all of them helpful.

DSC_0176The Pan
I use a spring-form pan for this dish for it’s ease in releasing the pie once it’s baked. A
deep dish cake pan or cast iron would do as well, provided you don’t mind it getting scratched from having the pie cut in it. This is not a dish that turns out like a cake with anyreliability, tending more to oozing cheese everywhere.

Parchment Paper
Parchment paper in the bottom of the pan will make it easier to remove. With a spring-form, you simply unlock the ring and lift it away, then slide the parchment paper and it’s burden onto a cutting surface. With any other type of pan, the corners of the parchment paper may be used to lift the pie out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Parchment paper also helps give the bottom crust a crunchier texture, reminiscent of the grilled bread of a Reuben sandwich.

DSC_0180Pizza Crust
A pizza crust found in the canned biscuit case is readily available and easy to use. If you
have other breads available (at one time I could get pre-made rye bread dough at the grocery), or prefer to make your own, it’s entirely up to you. Be sure that with whatever crust you choose, the flavors will be compatible with the filling ingredients. We have tried pizza crust, rye, sourdough, and pumpernickel over the years and found them all to be quite tasty.

DSC_0192Corned Beef
Corned beef is typical of the Reuben sandwich, though you may prefer pastrami. Pastrami or even a mix of the two meats is perfectly acceptable. While I have always preferred corned beef sliced extremely thin, you may choose to use thicker slices (tougher) or even chunks/strips if you have home-cooked a corned beef and have leftovers. I know – such leftovers are not likely. Thinly sliced meat will not only allow fats to more readily cook out to combine with the other ingredients, it will give you a more tender texture overall, and allow your cheese to melt into the meat as well as the kraut layers.

Turkey also makes a decent Reuben style sandwich, though I have yet to try it in a Reuben pie. White meat especially is rather dry on it’s own and should be compensated for by adding a bit of an oilier cheese such as Mozzarella to compensate.

DSC_0184Sauerkraut
There are actually several styles of kraut on the market. There is a sweetish kraut (Bavarian style), a red kraut, and the generally well known white sauerkraut. Most people are unaware that when buying commercial kraut, it should be drained of the can/jar fluids, and rinsed before being used. That’s a trick I learned from my father after he had spent some time in Germany. For this recipe, the less fluid in the kraut, the less fluid will run off and move down to make the bottom crust mushy, so be sure to press it well after rinsing.

Swiss Cheese
I recommend buying your cheese in block form and grating it yourself. You may slice it if you prefer, but you will not get the same coverage in the end. Pre-grated or shredded cheeses are commonly coated with an anti-caking agent such as corn starch. If you don’t want those extra calories and carbs, you might consider avoiding the temptation. Besides, pre-shredded Swiss is more expensive per pound than the block.

 

DSC_0200The Dressing
Russian dressing is reputed to be the original dressing used for the Reuben sandwich. Many restaurants over the years have switched to using Thousand Island due to it’s accessibility and popularity on salads. I like either dressing, though this time around Thousand Island was requested.

 

Pickles
Reuben sandwiches, being a deli creation, are generally served with a pickle spear or a whole kosher dill on the side. The same is true for the Reuben Pie. I do not recommend putting slices of pickle into the layering of the pie for a couple of reasons. Pickles hold a a lot of liquid, and it will bake out into your pie. While the flavor may be delicious, the potential for a mushy crust is not. Pickles also change texture somewhat when baked or otherwise heated, losing the lovely crunch and often becoming mushy themselves, rather like sliced squash.

If you like the recipe, experiment with different flavor combinations and let us know what you come up with.

Here are a couple of extra photos of the no-sauerkraut pie and the crust-less pie that I made at the same time. One was a special request, though not strictly in the Reuben tradition, while the crust-less pie was simply a test of the ingredients without bread.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

What’s Hiding in Your Freezer?

Have you peeked into your freezer or deep freeze, lately? If you are like me, no matter how organized you try to keep it, things will hide away from you. You mgiht be surprised at the wonderful potential that’s hiding in there, too.

Burger patties are good for more than just burgers. Whether they are beef, turkey or veggie, they can always be cooked up and made into wraps for a quick meal. Simply cook the patties in your preferred method, slice them up, and wrap them in tortillas with wil lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo and shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese. With the side of beans and rice, you have a quick and hearty meal.

With the colder weather imminent, soups and stews are always a good meal plan. A variety of meats and veggies that are likely hanging out in your freezer can be utilised towhip up lovely dishes such as chicken noodle soup and beef stew.

Chili if also a great way to warm up your family and meats may be mixed in this dish traditionally made fromt he poorest cuts of beef. Diced or ground venison, lamb, fowl, pork, and beef are all great starts for a big pot of chili. Have onion and chili powder? You’ve got the start to an awesome one pot dinner.

Frozen tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and other pasts provide a basis for numerous dishes including traditional pastas with sauce, pasta bakes (layered like lasagne but with different pasts varieties), and even soups. Chicken broth and three cheese tortellini with a bit of garlic and spinach turns into a lovely soup that’s a fun twist on chicken noodle.

Frozen meatballs on hand? Stuff them into bell peppers with a bit of pasta sauce (tomato based or Alfredo), top with cheese and bake. Serve with a small side of pasta and a green salad for a convenient meal.

For a quick side to many of these menu choices, try this:

Romaine Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 bag Romaine lettuce
1 apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp fresh chives, rough chopped
Your favorite vinaigrette, for serving

Wash and core the apple. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Dice cheese into 1/4 inch cubes.

Toss the lettuce into a large salad bowl. Add apples, cheese, walnuts and dressing. Toss to distribute dressing.

Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

 

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Lighten Up Your Lunch!

Sandwiches are a staple for a lot of people for lunch. They are quick and convenient, easy to carry, throw together, and consume. The bread used is the main source of both carbs and calories for your average sandwich. Swapping out the bread for broad leaf lettuce to make wraps can add more crunch to your lunch, as well as a vegetable serving in your busy day.

Using a broad leaf lettuce, such as the outer leaves of iceburg, butterleaf, Romaine, or red-leaf lettuces, simply layer your sandwich fixings in the middle, roll it all up in the leaf, and eat.

Sound deceptively simple? It is! Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

TURKEY
Butter leaf lettuce
2 slices of turkey
a teaspoon of shredded beets
a teaspoon of fresh goat cheese
a teaspoon of chopped walnuts

Lay the turkey out on your lettuce leaf. Spread the goat cheese lengthwise along the meat so there will be some cheese in every bite. Add the beets and walnuts along the line of the cheese. Starting on one side, roll up the lettuce leaf around the other ingredients. Enjoy.

HAM
Iceburg lettuce
2 ounces ham, sliced or shredded
1 ounce Swiss or Emmenthaler
3 slices of fresh apple
1 teaspoon of chopped pecans

Follow the same procedure above in building and rolling your wrap.

BEEF
Romaine lettuce
2 ounces roast beef, corned beef or pastrami
1 ounce cheese, cheddar or provolone
1 kosher pickle spear
Brown or deli mustard

Beef is a hardy meat. Pile the beef and cheese on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30 seconds. This will soften the cheese but not make the meat hot enough to wilt the lettuce. Lay out the lettuce, add the meat and cheese. Run a line of mustard to taste down the length of the meat and cheese, an add the pickle spear. Wrap as instructed above.

Wraps are a wonderful way to use up leftovers that may be hanging about in the fridge. We always have broken meats, ends of cheese, a little of this or that available and have found this to be a good way to use them up.

You will also find that some restaurants now have lettuce wrap alternatives available for sandwiches on their menu. Five Guys Burgers & Fries now offers any hot dog or hamburger on their menu as a lettuce wrap. It’s a messy way to eat a burger, but it’s tasty and comes with any or all of their toppings.

I tried a double meat, double cheese wrap with pickles, mayo and sauteed mushrooms at Five Guys here in Conroe. It was so delicious that I smiled all the way through the meal, in spite of the slippery mess those mushrooms caused. I was licking my fingers afterward, too. They use two overlapping leaves of iceburg lettuce for that wrap, and the lettuce held up well enough in the beginning. It started getting messy about halfway through as the slippery ingredients started sliding to the relative bottom.

This taught me like nothing else that condiments such as mayo, mustard, and ketchup should be used sparingly in lettuce wraps, and to keep napkins handy!

Give wraps a try. The different combinations of ingredients are nearly endless, and can be tailored to individual diets. Remember not to over stuff your lettuce, go easy on the condiments, and have fun with it.

Bon appetite!

–Ann Cathey

Broken Meats

What, you may ask, is a broken meat? This is what’s left over when you have roasted a turkey and served the bird, or cooked up a ham that you served sliced for game day, or what’s left after you had a dinner party and served a loin of beef. Typically, these leftover meats are “broken” or removed from the bone and wind up in slices, chunks, and shreds.

Broken meats can be used so many ways. They can be diced for salads, sliced or shredded for sandwiches or wraps, used in stews, soups or chili, and so on.

Turkey might wind up in a lettuce wrap with leftover cranberry sauce or a tablespoon of fruit salad. It can also be diced or shredded and used as the meat in a pot pie.

Any meat can be shredded and used in making tamales or chili. These two dishes were originally intended for “trash” meats, using tough cuts or leftover ends. Broken meats will make them incredible.

Toss broken meats into tortillas with a bit of refried beans, cheese and diced tomato for tacos, burritos or quesadillas. They can also be used as pizza toppings and lasagna fillings, and be tossed into salads for an extra jolt of protein.

Stews, soups and chowders all benefit from some extra meat. Beef, pork, and chicken are all good for these applications.

Ham, being very salty in general, and often having a sweet glaze applied, is great for dicing and scrambling in eggs for breakfast. It’s also good sliced or shredded for sandwiches, and even for tossing with diced yams (sweet or savory) for a new baked dish.

Pigs-in-blankets are great. Any leftover meat with a little bit of an appropriate cheese can be wrapped up in pre-made biscuit or croissant dough and baked up into a warm treat.

Leftover steak (like that ever happens!) can be sliced up and tossed into a stir-fry or served as a breakfast side. It can also become a new main dish when sauteed with onions and mushrooms to be served over noodles or rice.

Broken meats just require a little imagination to become interesting and tasty meals rather than just sitting in the fridge being forgotten.

Drop us a line and let us know how you use your broken meats!

–Ann Cathey