Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Southwestern Strip Steaks with Avocado Pico de Gallo

As the summer wraps up to a close and the evenings aren't as long, I start turning to quicker recipes for everyday grilling.  Don't you?

Take last night for example.  After work, I didn't have a lot of time to get dinner together and we had things to do so I made these quick but fantastic tasting steaks in hardly any time at all.  Southwestern spice rubs pack a little heat and while the pico de gallo compliments that heat with the charred mild green chile, the avocado helps cool it out.

With all of that flavor going on, I needed a side dish that was not wimpy.  I turned to the bold tastes of Bush's Grillin' Beans for my side dish and served it with their Black Bean Fiesta Grillin' Beans.  It is probably my favorite variety of Grillin' Beans for anything with a Southwestern flare.  The black beans, yellow corn, and red peppers make a fiesta on your plate.

Best of all - minimal prep and cook time.  Spot on for everyday grilling!

Southwestern Strip Steaks with Avocado Pico de Gallo
Serves: 4
Prep time:  20 minutes    Cook time:  10 minutes


  • 4 New York strip steaks
  • 8 tsp Southwestern seasoning* divided
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced (about 2 Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 Anaheim or New Mexico chile, roasted, seeded and peeled*
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  1. Remove the steaks from refrigeration and allow to warm at room temperature.
  2. Toss the tomatoes, red onion, green chile, cilantro, lime juice, and 1/2 tsp of the Southwestern seasoning.  Add the avocado and lightly fold in.  Taste and season with a pinch or two of salt if needed.
  3. Preheat your grill to 450f (medium-high).  Once your grill has been at 450f for 5 minutes, make sure your grill grates are clean and lubricate them using tongs with an oil soaked rag or paper towel.  
  4. Season the steaks with the remaining Southwestern seasoning on all sides.  
  5. Grill the steaks until they reach an internal temperature of 125f, about 4 minutes per side, for medium rare (temp will rise up to medium rare temps during the rest period).  For medium, cook until reaching an internal temp of 130-135f, about 6 minutes per side.   
  6. Let the steaks rest for at least 5 minutes on a raised rack above a plate.
  7. Serve the steaks topped with the pico.  
  • Southwestern seasoning - Tonight I used a 1:1 mix of a green chile rub from a small bottler and a store bought red Southwestern seasoning.  Here is the Southwestern rub recipe I make from scratch but tonight I was just grabbing stuff off the shelf.
  • Roasted pepper - For heat level, Anaheim is mild.  You can use about 1/4 cup of canned green chiles but roasting them brings so much more flavor.  For more about roasting chiles, check out this post Grilling 101:  How To Fire Roast Chiles.
Don't be shy with the seasoning.  You're Grillin' Bold here!  

If you want cross hatch marks, rotate the steak a quarter turn half way through each side's cooking time.
For extra seasoning, I tossed a few small chunks of mesquite wood on the coals just before adding the steaks.

Gratuitous Egg shot.  I just wish you could smell the aroma of mesquite smoke and grilling steaks coming out of the top.

The purpose of using the raised rack is to avoid the steaming effect that happens when placed directly on a plate.  That lets all your "steaky juicy goodness" escape.   If you don't have a rack like this, steal the one out of your toaster oven or microwave.  

Instead of piling the pico all on top of the steak, I like to do it a little offset like this.  Plus push the beans right up on that steak so their sauce mixes in.  It's a fiesta dagnabit!  

Bonus Recipe
The college football season kicks off tomorrow night and tailgating season is here.  It's always good to have a quick dip recipe up your sleeve, right?   I stole this from saw this on Bush's Facebook Page.

I made a version of this before but I used Black Bean Fiesta Grillin' Beans and a Mexican cheese blend with the sour cream.  Super fast, super easy, and super good.  What else could you want?

Labor Day Grillin' Beans Giveaway!
The folks at Bush's want to help you keep your grillin' groove going and are sponsoring this great grilling gear give away on my blog:

The set includes free Bush's Grillin' Beans, cast iron skewers, spatula, fork, basting brush, and a triple LED grilling light that will light up your grill so you can keep on grilling as the nights fall earlier and earlier.

How to enter:

  1. Leave a comment below telling me A) one of your favorite grilled chicken, pork chops, or steak recipe, B) the flavor of Bush's Grillin' Beans that you would serve it with AND C) once sentence that either describes your recipe or why you choose it.  
  2. Contest period runs through Labor Day 2012 and ends at 9/3/12 at 11:59:59pm.  
  3. Drawing will be random using to draw the winner.
  4. Winner must claim prize within one week of posted notice or I will choose a replacement from the remaining entries.
If you are grillin' bold this weekend, be sure to grab a few cans of Bush's Grillin' Beans!

Giveaway closed:  Winner is Marilyn!

[Standard Disclaimer]  I have a partnership with Bush Beans and received compensation for producing 5 recipe posts.  You might notice I've used various Bush products in way more posts that that this year.  It's because our family really likes and uses Bush Beans that much.  We have used their baked beans and ingredient beans for long before I had a blog.  We have loved the Grillin' Beans since they came out a few years ago.  Bush has always just been the gold standard when it comes to bean products for us.  I'm proud to partner with them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bratwurst Stuffed Peppers - Brat Days Part 2: Entertainment

In my last post, I mentioned some of the "bratxotic" foods that we had at Brat Days in Sheboygan, WI.

bratxotic - adjective - of foreign or unusual character for a bratwurst, of uniquely new or experimental nature.  Country Town of origin:  Sheboygan, WI.  

The thing that I learned from that was to be creative and use bratwursts in ways other than just link sausage.  Dice it, slice it, or use it as bulk sausage.  Brats - they aren't just for buns anymore!  With that in mind, I tried something bratxotic this weekend.  

Fire Roasted Bratwurst Stuffed Bell Peppers


  • 4 links Johnsonville Original Brats
  • 4 ea green bell peppers
  • 1 cup pearl couscous, cooked according to directions*
  • 1/4 cup onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella 
  1. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat to 350f.  
  2. Cut the top off of the bell peppers, remove the core and blanch the peppers for 3 minutes.  (Drop in boiling water and then remove them to ice water.)
  3. Remove the brats from their casing, break up into small pieces and brown in a saute pan over medium high heat.  As the bratwurst just starts to brown, add the onions and garlic.  Finish cooking until the sausage has browned.
  4. Stir in 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce and Italian seasoning, cooking for another minute.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.
  5. Stuff the meat and couscous mixture into the bell peppers.  Top the stuffed peppers with the remaining 1/2 cup of marinara sauce.  
  6. Place in a grill safe dish (we like stoneware) and roast on the grill for 45 minutes total.  Top with the remaining cheese in the last 10 minutes.  
  • Couscous measurement given is the precooked amount.  
Using the bratwurst as bulk sausage was excellent.  I can't believe I've never tried it like that before.  It cooks like Italian sausage but brings a different taste profile that we really enjoyed.  

Brat Days - Entertainment
When Johnsonville invited Alexis and me to attend Brat Days, I knew that the food was going to be good.  What I didn't know is how entertaining it was going to be.  The Sheboygan Jaycees packed some fun stuff for this festival.

Saturday started off with the Brat Days parade.  It starts off in picturesque downtown and ends three miles later at the festival.

Where does a 13 foot tall Bratmeister grill his brats?  Anywhere he wants to!
I didn't get a lot of parade pics because I was busy.  I was lucky enough to get to be the Grand Marshal of the parade!  We had a great driver (more about him next post) and joked about pulling off the scene from the end of Animal House but we mostly behaved.

When we finished the 3 mile parade route, the tail end of the parade was still just starting, so it was a LONG parade.  I got to keep the two door signs so I now possess the world's largest refrigerator magnets :)

Then there was the Brat Eating Contest.  Contestants had 10 minutes to eat as many brats (no buns or condiments) as they could in an attempt to split a $1,000 prize with the local charity of their choice.  
On your mark.....get set.......


The big crowd cheered them on as they chowed down.

The rules is that whatever is in your mouth at 10 minutes AND you swallow, counts.  The state Wing Eating champ Andrew Contois was 1 brat behind the leader and crammed 3 brats into his mouth to get to 15.  After 5 suspenseful minutes, there was an "incident" and he did NOT win.  When the smoke cleared, the magic number was....

Wally Jacoby (2010 Champion) was the 2012 Brat Eating Champ!  He ate about 3 1/4 lbs of bratwursts in 10 minutes.

Yes, Wally shows off his iron stomach by chowing down another brat during his radio interview.

The midway rides provided fun for all ages.

The park has a nice skateboard & bmx park.  The local kids kept it busy all weekend.

The event had three entertainment stages and there was always a band playing somewhere.

The Storm is a band of four 12 year olds and they did really well, playing a mix of older alternative songs and current hits.
Two bands that I had never heard of but really impressed us were...

Daphni - they did some fun 80's covers but their original stuff rocked even more.

Shaker and the Egg - a funk band that .... well....played that funky music, white boy.  
A band called Hairball was the festival's closing act.  The way Hairball was explained to me, I thought, "Oh, it's a cover band."  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Their tagline is "A bombastic celebration of arena rock".   They do cover rock classics but do it in the most entertaining way I have ever seen.  They swap out lead singers and each one is dressed in full costume for whatever band they are covering every other song.  So their performance is a rapid fire, revolving door of artists punctuated with arena style special effects like explosions, smoke, and fire.  One second Van Halen is up there performing, the next Prince, then Alice Cooper, then......I lost count of how many "bands" we saw that night.

Is that a pledge pin on your uniform?  Twisted Sister

Guns N Roses
The crowd had a blast with the high energy show.

At the end of the event, there was more entertainment than you could shake a brat-on-a-stick at.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Oostburger - Brat Days Part 1 - Food

Aren't food festivals fun?  The wafting aroma of cooking food, smoke dancing in the late afternoon sunlight, and the sizzling of grills fill the air.  

Alexis and I had the great pleasure of attending Brat Days in beautiful Sheboygan, Wisconsin a few weeks ago courtesy of Johnsonville.  The folks at Johnsonville, the Sheboygan Jaycees, and the people of Sheboygan know how to throw a great party food festival.

One of the things we found at Brat Days is the Oostburger.  It is a simple, delicious, and gluttonous behemoth of a sandwich composed of a Sheyboygan hard roll, a burger, and a couple of brats.  It is named after the village of Oostburg, just a bit south of Sheyboygan.  My version only uses one brat per Oostburger.

The Oostburger

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 4 Johnsonville Original Bratwursts
  • 4 slices Wisconsin cheddar cheese
  • 4 Sheboygan hard rolls*
  1. Preheat a grill with two heat zones, one medium-low heat and one medium-high*. 
  2. Mix together the beef, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Form into four 6 ounce burger patties about 1/2" thick.  
  3. Grill the brats on the medium-low side for 15-20 minutes, turning often, until cooked through and browned.  Keep the grill lid closed when not turning the brats.
  4. Put the burgers on the medium-high side after the brats have been on for 10 minutes.  Grill until the burgers reach an internal temp of 160f, about 5 minutes per side. 
  5. When you flip the burgers after the first 5 minutes, top each with a slice of cheddar cheese.
  6. Remove brats and burgers from the grill.  Toast the inside of the buns.
  7. Place the burgers on buns.  Slice the brats in half lengthwise and place on top of the burgers.
  • Sheboygan hard rolls are Semmel rolls.  We tried making them twice and failed.  Too crunchy and too dense.  I read that Semmel rolls are similar to Kaiser rolls so I just bought some.  We'll keep working on a good Sheboygan hard roll recipe.  If anyone has some good tips for that, let me know.
  • Two zone fire.  There's a couple of ways to do that.  For gas grills, you can just adjust your burners to different temps.  For charcoal grills, I preheat a whole chimney of coals.  Place 2/3rds on one half of the grill's charcoal tray and 1/3rd on the other half.   For a kamado grill, I cook the brats at first, then raise the temps to cook the burgers.  
  • Toppings.    Not much at all.  You already have a ton of flavor in this burger.  Most of the Oostburgers I saw only had a some spicy brown mustard.  But if you want to add to it, knock yourself out! 

One of our failed attempts at a Sheboygan hard roll.
It was hard, for sure.  A work in progress.

2012 Brat Days - The Food
The crowds at Brat Days can reach upwards of 30,000 people so how do you feed them all?  The bulk of the work falls on Mike Schavee and a half dozen volunteer cooks.  Yeah, just 5 or 6 people.   Mike has been the Grill Master of Brat Days for the past 13 years.  

The cook team prepping more food for the throngs.  These guys were always on top of demand.

Refueling the coal with Grove Charcoal.  No relation.  

The grills and cooks work non-stop.  

Instead of turning individual brats and burgers, the crew uses an empty grate to flip an entire grate at a time.
Very efficient.  It reminded me of flipping a whole pig on a pig cooker.  

Mike temp checking brats.  With his years of experience, he KNOWS when they are done by sight and feel.  But  cooking for the public dictates following careful food safety practices.

Here are some of the bratxotic foods we enjoyed during our weekend in Sheboygan.  

bratxotic - adjective - of foreign or unusual character for a bratwurst, of uniquely new or experimental nature.  Country Town of origin:  Sheboygan, WI.  

Local vendors and community organizations vended their spins on bratxotic dishes and it really shows how flexible an ingredient the bratwurst can be.   All proceeds for this entire event benefit the Sheboygan Jaycees, an outstanding civic organization.

Brat eggrolls - the brat was cooked and finely diced.  Alexis had her doubts on this one but we both loved how it turned out.

Brat taco - exceptional taste! 

Brat gyro - spectacular with the tzatziki.

Brat chimichanga!  
Not a bratwurst, but you can't turn down a fried onion blossom at a festival, can you?
The food alone was worth the trip but there is so much more to share coming up in the next few days.   

Have you ever been to a food festival?  What was your favorite part?

[Standard Disclaimer]  Johnsonville is one of the key partners of this blog and sponsored our trip to Brat Days.  But there are no subliminal messages about bratwursts in this post.  stsruwtarb yub og.  surlaw eht ma i.  stsruwtarb yub og.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bacon Payday and A Giveaway

Would you like to be paid with bacon?  No not that kind of bacon payday.

Recently, the editor, Clint, challenged us folks in the highly compensated* writing department to come up with some outrageous or best bacon recipes for the upcoming International Bacon Day.  I was standing at the dry erase board in our kitchen brainstorming ideas when Alexis said something brilliant.

"What about a Bacon Payday?" 

Her idea was to take candied bacon (aka "pig candy") and combine it with her version of a PayDay candy bar.  Game on!

The Bacon Payday

  • 16 oz jar of dry roasted peanuts
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 of a 10 oz bag of peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 can  condensed milk
  • 1/2 16 oz bag miniature marshmallows
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp bbq rub*
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar*
  1. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat to 375f.
  2. Mix the brown sugar and bbq rub together.  Toss with the bacon to coat.  Drizzle with the agave nectar and toss again.
  3. Cook the bacon on the grill until brown and crisped, about 18-25 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Finely dice enough bacon to make 1/2 cup.  That will only take 2-3 slices and I told you to cook a WHOLE package?!?!  Yeah, you now have a lot of extra candied bacon.  I did that on purpose because your family will want to eat it all right on the spot.  You can thank me later ;)
  4. Place the can of condensed milk in hot water for 5 minutes.
  5. Preheat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and melt the butter and peanut butter chips together.  
  6. Stir in the condensed milk, reduce heat and then stir in the marshmallows.  It will start out like a hot mess but keep stirring and it will blend.  Remove from heat.
  7. Grease the bottom of an 8" by 8" baking pan*.  Pour one half of the peanuts on the bottom of the pan and then top with half of the diced bacon bits (1/4 cup).
  8. Pour in the gooey nougat mixture and spread evenly.
  9. Top with the remaining bacon bits (1/4 cup) and peanuts, pressing down with a spatula.
  10. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  
  11. Use a metal spatula to free the edges from the pan and invert.  Slice into 1" x 4" bars with a sharp knife and enjoy.
*Source - The Payday portion adapted from a widely repeated clone recipe on the Internet but we can't find the original source.  So many places have a version of this recipe but none that we found can establish themselves as being the original source.
*Highly Compensated - just kidding....we're paid in bacon.
*BBQ Rub - I used Mike Davis' UnBULLevable rub but you could use your favorite.
*Agave nectar - I used a vanilla flavored agave nectar.  You could substitute honey.
*Pan size - This size makes an extra thick, nougaty (just made that an adjective) candy bar.  You can use the same recipe in a 9" x 13" pan for a thinner and more like the original candy bar.

Benton's bacon is widely recognized as one of the best in the nation and it is produced locally.

A grill pan helps keep the mess down.
I was out front grilling the bacon when a neighbor asked what I was making.  When I said "Candy bars" you can imagine the befuddled look that I received.  I didn't bother to explain :)


More bacon.

Ready for slicing.

They are so filling that I can only eat one at a time.  
With my first bite, I knew we had nailed it.  I had thought about adding more bacon when first making it but the 1/2 cup was perfect because the sweet, smoky bacon flavor really shines without being overbearing.  The bacon adds to this candy bar instead of just being thrown in for bacon's sake.

Check out for grilling recipes and inspiration.

National Pork Board Giveaway
This is actually two giveaways in one and is sponsored by the National Pork Board.  It is a follow up to the series I did regarding sustainable pork farming.  Teresa and the gang at the National Pork Board gave me two wooden cutting boards and two grilling tool sets to give away.  The tool set carry bag doubles as an apron, how cool is that?

I am awarding the first board and tool set to the first person who gives the correct answer to the question:  At what time do narwhals bacon?  (Yes, that is bacon as a verb.)

The second set is going to the winner selected as follows:
  1. Leave a comment that includes whether or not you knew that hormones are not permitted for use in American pig farming.   
  2. Contest period runs from the time this is posted until Sunday, August 26, 2012 11:59pm.  
  3. If you use an anonymous option for commenting, be sure to leave a way for me to contact you (email, forum name, etc).
  4. You have one week to respond to prize announcements.  After that I will pick another winner.
  5. Winner will be selected by random draw.
  6. National Pork Board is sponsoring prize.  I am running the giveaway and set the rules, so I have final say on any contest matters.
  7. I'm paying for shipping so prize winners must be in the continental US unless you want to pony up for the extra shipping charges.
Winners Announcement:  The first to reply with the correct answer was Syscokid and the random comment winner was Sleepy Headed Mom.  I have sent you two emails.  Congrats!