AxeMenBBQ

My team, Axe-Men BBQ, just competed in our first KCBS BBQ competition at the Lamb’s Farm Barn Burner event this past weekend. At first we were a little skeptical about how well we would do, since we were competing against former champions and were one of three first-time groups. There was 44 teams competing in this event, and many were doing full BBQ competition tours. All the other teams had huge trailers, larger smokers, and banners with multiple sponsors.  We didn’t have any of that…

It was chilly, windy, and rainy.  We didn’t have walls on our pop-up tent, we didn’t have a fire pit, and we didn’t know you could trim and prep the meats ahead of time (which would have saved us a lot of work during the event). Most of our competitors who would walk by knew we were first-timers just by looking at us, however, I would bet we were having the most fun out of any team. Everyone was nice, but a lot of friendly poking at the noobs was had.

Unlike some of the competitors, we made all of our injections, rubs, and sauces from scratch. We did not have very much area to cook numerous portions of meat, so we had to make sure the limited amount of product we were preparing turned out the way we wanted it to.  We only used a smaller Pit Boss pellet smoker and a 22-1/2 inch Weber grill. This also meant it needed to be constantly monitored, so there was a definite lack of sleep.

We are proud to have received a 9th place call on our ribs and 10th place call on our chicken, along with being 26th place overall. We could not be happier and are looking forward to doing 6 to 10 competitions next season.  We will also being upping our game as far as equipment, sources for meats, and getting a sweet banner with sponsors (if we can!)

Chicken1Ribs

 

Spicy Peruvian Lima Bean Succotash  - www.nerdsteak.com

Spicy Peruvian Lima Bean Succotash – http://www.nerdsteak.com

Here is a tasty recipe using Peruvian Lima Beans. They are quite a large bean that ends up having a very creamy consistency when cooks, so be gentle when mixing.  I soaked them overnight, then boiled them for about 1-1/2 hours for this recipe.  Watch them close when boiling because they can go from cooked to a mushy mess in a few minutes.

Spicy Peruvian Lima Bean Succotash

5 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 tablespoons Aleppo chile flake
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups cooked Peruvian Lima Beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1-1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup picked cilantro leaves
1/4 cup roughlly chopped arugula

Fry bacon on medium heat in a large skillet until crispy, then remove to drain on a paper towel, leaving excess rendered fat in the pan.
Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add garlic, chile flake, salt and pepper and sauté just until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add cooked Peruvian Lima Beans, tomatoes and corn to pan, and cook just until tomatoes are tender, about 4 minutes.
Finish by adding sherry vinegar, then turn off heat, fold in cilantro and arugula and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings

Traina Foods - Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

Traina Foods – Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

The people at Traina Foods (http://trainafoods.com) were nice enough to send me a sample of their sun dried tomato ketchup to review. After trying the product, this is what I thought:

  • Packaging Apparence – The product arrived in a sturdy squeeze bottle with an overwrap label, as well as a foil/paper seal under the cap.  The overwrap on my bottles were actually a little off-centered. The Traina logo and the sun dried tomato ketchup fonts were a little fuzzy, but the black script and the tomato image looked very clear. My small concerns are that the full overwrap does not allow you to see the product on the inside, and a repeated use of a squeeze bottle with an overwrap label will eventually wrinkle and shift even more.
  • Product Appearance – As expected, this ketchup is not as smooth as the leading brands, however it held together very nice when squeezed into a bowl.  There are visible pieces of tomato, but not big enough to be a chewy nuisance. It has a rich, dark red color, and just enough thickness to adhere to foods just like its traditional counterpart. When using it as a condiment for french fries however, you will need to give it a little more scoop action to get it on the fry.

    Traina Foods - Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

    Traina Foods – Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

  • Eating Experience – This stuff tastes fantastic! I am a ketchup fan, but this definitely brings it to the next level. It has the deep, natural sun dried tomato flavor you would expect, with just the right amount of natural sweetness. It has a great acidity level, along with just a touch of onion and other spices.  I had the pleasure of trying this with homemade french fries, and on a prime beef patty melt. Again, it has just the right amount of sodium which was not overpowering, but complimented everything I ate it with.  Even after it sat in a bowl for a while, I did not see any signs of separation.
  • Value – You get what you pay for. A 16oz bottle runs about $4.99 which is much higher compared to the leading ketchup brands, however this was made to be an upscale alternative. The Traina Foods website states it takes about 4 pounds of tomatoes to make one bottle of their ketchup, and sun dried tomatoes themselves already cost more that your average tomato.
  • Overall – I personally think the packaging could use an upgrade, maybe either a printed on package label, or sticker label, but the flavor from the ketchup is outstanding. It has a much greater depth of flavor compared to the high sweet/salty/acid standard brands, a nice texture you would expect from a sun dried tomato product, and even though it is at a higher price point compared to the leading standard brands, it is well worth it! I give Traina Foods® Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup a 4.5 out of 5.

NERDSTEAK is more than happy to review any food, beverage, restaurant, CPG or equipment items you have to offer.  Feel free to contact Mike directly at chefman316@aol.com to arrange for shipping of samples, or to schedule a review. You can also follow Chef Mike on:

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Creole Rice Stuffed Pork Loin with Andouille and Collards

Cajun Dirty Rice Stuffed Pork Loin with Andouille and Collards

Here is a very easy recipe using D’allesandro Cajun Dirty Rice Blend.  You can also add more filling before you roll the loin, just make sure it is tightly tied with twine.

Cajun Dirty Rice-Stuffed Pork Loin

2-1/2 to 3-pound pork loin
1 cup cooked Cajun Dirty Rice
1 cup cooked andouille sausage, crumbled
1 cup thinly sliced collard greens, picked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Butcher’s twine

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Prep pork loin by slicing across it lengthwise, stopping 3/4 inch from the other side. Open halves, laying pork flat. Starting from the center, slice each half lengthwise, again stopping 3/4 inch from the other side. Again, open so pork is flat. You will have made one large, flat piece of pork 3/4 inch thick. Make sure to keep it in one piece.
Evenly cover flattened pork loin with prepared Cajun Dirty Rice, andouille sausage and collard greens, then tightly roll it jellyroll-style so that the loin returns to its original shape.
Tie with butcher’s twine to keep the filling inside and to cook evenly.
Rub outside of meat with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and bake until internal temperature reaches 155°F, about 1 hour.
Increase heat to 500°F and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until exterior is crispy and browned.
Slice and serve.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

OatWorks® Smoothies

OatWorks® Smoothies

The people at OatWorks® (http://oatworks.com) were nice enough to send me some samples of their new oat powered fruit smoothies to review! I received the samples a few days ago, and this is what I thought:

  • Packaging Apparence – The beverages come in nice, sturdy bottles with a matte finish plastic label. I felt that the logo and color scheme appropriately represents this health conscience product.  There was enough clear area on the bottle to adequately see the product on the inside, and the top was easy to open. All of the information was easy to read, and promotes having the addition of oat fiber (two bowls worth), along with being vegan friendly, gluten free, dairy free, non-GMO, and kosher.  They do not add any ‘boosts’ like the other brands, and rely on only the natural juices for the nutritional value. The ONLY comment I can make about the bottle is that it has a slight raised texture on the base which I though was a wrinkle in the label, but it was the actual shape of the bottle underneath…not a big deal to me.
  • Product Appearance – All of the varieties I sampled had the expected and appropriate color (Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango, Pomegranate Blueberry), but were just a tad duller than some competitive products, as well as the images on their website. They looked a lot smoother in texture than some other RTD smoothies out there which is a plus for me.  The smoothies were not overfilled and did not look like anything on the inside settled to the bottom…meaning I didn’t really have to shake it before drinking. This is most likely due to the addition of guar and xanthan gum. I also noticed there were no visible oat pieces or specs in the drink, which again is a plus for me.
  • Drinking Experience – I was pleasantly surprised when sampling each of the varieties.  I did not pick up any earthy oat flavor, just a smooth, and sweet profile like the label suggests. They are pretty much spot on with the amount of sweet vs. tart, with my favorite being the strawberry banana.  I personally like a little more strawberry flavor in my smoothies, and it delivered just that.  I did not pick up any gritty or graininess in any of the varieties, and the consistency was just thick enough to leave a refreshing, bright aftertaste…in a good way.  I also felt that the 12oz portion was the perfect size for a beverage like this.
  • Value – After doing a little research, the cost per each bottle is right between the two major brands you would find in the refrigerated section at your local supermarket, however, you have the added benefit of a longer shelf life with these since they do not need to be refridgerated. Now the per/oz cost is a little on the high side, but as previously stated, I think this 12oz size it much better for a single serving, making it a great 160 – 170 calories per bottle.  Some of the other brands have a much higher calorie count than that, but just remember this is a fruit smoothie, so you will see sugar kind of high on the nutrition panel…this is to be expected though.
  • Overall – This was a fantastic product that I look forward to having more of in the future. I felt it was the perfect size, the consistency was very smooth without having any grittiness, and the flavor was spot on.  The price is on the high side, but in-line with the competition, however you can store it longer since it does not need to be refrigerated. I give OatWorks® Oat Powered Natural Smoothies4.5 out of 5!

NERDSTEAK is more than happy to review any food, beverage, restaurant, CPG or equipment items you have to offer.  Feel free to contact Mike directly at chefman316@aol.com to arrange for shipping of samples, or to schedule a review.

Quinoa ‘Fried Rice’ Recipe

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
Quinoa 'Fried Rice'

Quinoa ‘Fried Rice’

If you are not familiar with Quinoa and are looking for a good recipe to give it a try, this is the one! Make sure you prep. all of your ingredients ahead of time, because once it is stir-fry time, the cooking process goes pretty quick!

Quinoa ‘Fried Rice’

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot
1/4 cup sliced green onions plus extra for garnish
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
3 cups cooked Incan Quinoa Blend
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons sweetened seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Heat peanut oil in a large sauté pan or wok on high heat, then add yellow onion and carrot. Sauté for about 2 minutes, then add green onions, garlic and ginger, continuing to cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Add cooked Incan Quinoa Blend and sauté for an additional 2 minutes, making sure to break up any clumps of quinoa.
Toss in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil until evenly incorporated.
Make a well in the center of the pan, and add beaten eggs, Cook just until scrambled, about 2 minutes.
Finally, toss in peas and cook just until warm and tender, about 3 minutes. Add more soy sauce if needed.
Serve topped with sesame seeds and green onions.

Makes 4 to 8 servings

Here are a few of my favorite types of Quinoa to use:
Incan Quinoa Blend
Black Quinoa Blend
Red Quinoa
Standard Quinoa 

Chilled Couscous Salad with Kale and Cucumber

Chilled Couscous Salad with Kale and Cucumber

Super easy, light, tasty, and it will make all your dreams come true.  If you can’t find Couscous, click on the link and you can get it shipped right to your door!

Chilled Couscous with Kale and Cucumber

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed Aleppo chile
2 teaspoons finely chopped mint, plus additional whole leaves for garnish
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups cooked Couscous, chilled
1 cup shredded kale, trimmed
1 cup diced baby cucumber
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Combine garlic, lemon juice and zest, crushed chile, mint, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Slowly whisk in olive oil until evenly incorporated.
Separate Couscous by rubbing between your hands, and add to bowl along with remaining ingredients.
Let sit for 30 minutes before serving, and garnish each serving with a fresh mint sprig.

Makes 4 to 8 servings