Bernie’s BBQ Sauce (With a POM Twist)

So I got this case of POM juice last week, and in my email from Janny, he asked that I try to cook with it and see what I can come up with. I was at a complete loss. Sure, I could’ve put it in oatmeal like some bloggers did, but since I do a dinner blog, it wouldn’t be featured. I could make a cocktail, but I don’t really drink… so I ran my dilemma past my best sounding board: my mom!

She suggested that I use a bottle of the POM juice in what was my grandfathers “famous” BBQ sauce. I think I said “wait, hold on, I can MAKE BBQ sauce? Doesn’t it just come in a bottle?” Of course, my mom laughed and proceeded to tell me how to make it, and where to incorporate my POM juice . Without any further adieu, for the first time on the internet, my grandfather Bernie’s BBQ sauce:

Just like Papa used to make.

Just like Papa used to make.

Papa’s BBQ Sauce


5 slices center cut bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. Worscestshire sauce

1 c. ketchup

8 oz. POM Wonderful Juice

1 Tbsp. brown sugar


Heat a large pot, and add the bacon and onions. Cook until the bacon is very crispy and the onions are near caramelized. Add the green peppers and cook ten minutes. Add ketchup, hot pepper, Worcestershire sauce, POM Wonderful juice,  chili powder. Mix well, then stir in brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook until it tastes like BBQ sauce. Puree with a stick blender, and serve with your favorite meat.  Makes at least 10 servings, only 1 Point® per serving.

Just like my mom had said, most bottled BBQ sauce has a fake smoke flavor. This one though, has the subtle smokiness of the bacon, combined with the sweet and tart flavor of the POM, and the spiciness of the pepper. I’m really glad that I have a bunch of extra servings of this, mostly to try it on other meat, and on actual outside grilled steaks! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make my own BBQ sauce… it’s hard to say if I’ll ever buy bottled again!

You couldn’t have noticed the 2 side dishes with my heavily sauced chicken. One of them was pan-roasted cauliflower and broccoli and the other was something that’s sure to be a new favorite.

dscn2037I roasted some frozen butternut squash, sprinkled it with reduced fat coconut (just found it yesterday and I’m a HUGE fan!0 and a little Splenda. SUCH a good treat! I can see how something like that could be a great breakfast as well.

My BSI Announcement was my 100th post, and I had all these plans for a cool giveaway for my 100th post… alas, you will have to wait until TOMORROW for my cool giveaway post! In the meantime, be sure to check out Beadie’s giveaway! She’s giving away a bottle of Country Bob’s all-purpose sauce… looks like good stuff!

Make sure to keep those BSI entries coming!


Steak and Spinach Almost Rolls

I don’t know if my iron levels are low or something, but all I’ve been wanting the last couple days is steak. Ground beef just wouldn’t cut it! I searched around today for ideas with steak, and I found a couple interesting recipes, most featuring steak and spinach. Being the weirdo that I am, I of course couldn’t just follow a recipe, so I took a few bits from a few different recipes and created my own. Alas, mine didn’t look as pretty as the ones I found online, but it was still a delicious dinner! I call them “almost” rolls because the steak didn’t quite stay rolled up. It was more like 2 layers of steak with spinach between them…

Definitely not my prettiest meal

Definitely not my prettiest meal

Steak and Spinach Rolls


1 lb. sirloin steak

1.5 c. chopped cooked spinach, kept warm

3 wedges Laughing Cow Light Cheese

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 c. tomato puree

salt and pepper to taste


Pound the steak to a 1/2″ thickness. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix the cooked spinach with 2 of the laughing cow cheese wedges and 1/2 of the garlic powder. Spread the spinach mixture in a thin layer over the steak. Gently roll up. (Here’s where I went wrong!) Secure with toothpicks or skewers or string. Heat a large pan and gently lay the rolled steak into it. Cook about 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove the steak from the pan but leave the heat on. Pour the tomato puree carefully into the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the drippings into the sauce, then lower the heat. Add remaining garlic powder, Laughing Cow, and salt and pepper. Slice the steak roll into slices, serve with the tomato sauce.

I also made garlic roasted potatoes to go on the side. It was, all in all, a very delicious meal… in fact, one of the first in a while that upon first bite, both Adam and I went “mmm yum!” I’m hoping for a few more of those this week, since I’m breaking out some recipes I haven’t made in the LONGEST time!

In case you haven’t already, you HAVE TO check out my friend Beadie’s Bead Page. She makes the most gorgeous beaded jewelry, and is finally showing it off! Also, go to this post on HangryPants for an almond butter giveaway!

Have a great evening!

Aunt Della’s Meatballs

This whole going back to work thing is NOT getting any easier! When my alarm went off at 5 a.m. today, I just about threw my cell phone across the room! Luckily, the kids are getting more used to being back, as are the teachers, so the environment at work is much more “up” than is was the last 2 days.

After watching far too many episodes of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on Food Network, and watching dozens of cooks make amazing-looking meatball sandwiches, I decided tonight was meatball night! Then I remembered, Adam’s Aunt Della gave me her meatball recipe after I raved about them at Thanksgiving! I’m not sure I remembered it exactly, but I knew it was simple, and we had all the ingredients. Her original recipe uses all kosher ingredients, and does not mix milk and meat. My meatballs tonight would not follow these rules, but they were still good! Adam said they tasted like Aunt Della’s, so I think that’s a seal of approval. I also made some sweet potato fries and creamy polenta to go with the meatballs.

Meatballs, on top of creamy polenta, topped with sauce, and surrounded by SP fries

Meatballs, on top of creamy polenta, topped with sauce, and surrounded by sweet potato fries

Aunt Della’s Meatballs (or close enough!)

2 lbs lean ground beef (90% lean or more)

1 c. seasoned bread crumbs

1 c. jarred tomato sauce

2 eggs


Pre-heat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined. Form into 24 (or so) meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tops are brown and the juices run clear. Serve as desired.

Yup. That’s it. Seriously a simple recipe! It works well with turkey, and I’d be willing to bet it would work well with TVP or other “meat”.

So, Aunt Della, if you’re reading… Thanks for the recipe! I’ll be making these again for sure!

Peanut Noodles: Take 2

After yet another long and hectic day at work today (got there early, a pregnant teacher passed out and an ambulance was called, I covered an extra class during lunch, then supervised after school study hall… the teacher is fine, by the way! It was scary!), I got home and wanted noodles. I didn’t care what kind, but I wanted NOODLES DARN IT!

I asked Adam what kind of noodles he’d like, and he said that if I didn’t mind, could I make peanut noodles again? Um, lets see, long hard day, noodles, peanut butter… yes! I decided to take the opportunity to perfect the peanut noodle recipe, and I think I’ve got it! These were creamy and spicy and sweet, and I added peas this time!

I only had one piece of chicken... I wanted more noodles!

I only had one piece of chicken... I wanted more noodles!

PERFECT Peanut Noodles


1 lb. whole wheat or high-fiber pasta, cooked and kept hot

1/3 c. creamy peanut butter

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. dark sesame oil

1 tbsp. red wine or rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Sriracha (Rooster sauce) to taste

cooked vegetable of choice (peas, broccoli, red peppers, etc)


Mix all ingredients from peanut butter through Sririacha in a small bowl. Stir until well-combined. Mix pasta with the vegetables, then add the peanut mixture. The heat from the noodles will melt the peanut butter. Stir to evenly coat the noodles. Add more sriracha if desired.

OH MY GOODNESS were these good noodles! I could eat them every day…which is why this is probably the last time I’ll make them for a while! Once this batch is gone, no more! I think I have a peanut butter problem…While I was eating these noodles, I had a flash. This recipe is remarkably similar to a recipe my grandma used to make with tiny tube pasta, baby peas, and a slightly spicy peanut sauce. I remember trying to shove as many peas as possible into each tube noodle, and then eating the stuffed noodles.

QOTD: Are you going to watch the new season of Biggest Loser? I think I am, though I think it creates unrealistic expectations for many overweight people. I find myself to be truly motivated by the contestants’ success, even though I’m usually eating dinner during the show!

Super Sunday Supper

Oh I’m so glad to have cooked dinner again! I went to the grocery store today and was so excited to fill my cart with loads of produce and fresh meats instead of the random necessities for an appetizer here and there. There will be great eats this week!

Tonight’s dinner was simply comfort food. I made a simple roast chicken and mashed sweet potatoes, both using favorite recipes. The big difference between tonight’s dinner and the previous time I made each of these things is that tonights came out BETTER! The chicken was gorgeously brown, and because I let it cool before I carved it, it was super juicy. The mashed potatoes were smooth and creamy and very rich tasting without being very rich! Needless to say, I made a smaller batch than the original recipe too!



I'm practicing leaving spaces between my different foods at dinner

I'm practicing leaving spaces between my different foods at dinner

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Adam and I are both off all day, and then at 4 p.m. we’re going for acupuncture/massage appointments that were a gift from my dad. I think we’ll end up hanging out in the city for a while after our appointments, and maybe get dinner, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing day that DOESN’T involve shopping!
OH speaking of shopping… my friend and I went to an outlet mall on Friday, and I scored the deal of the century!! Just look at this gorgeous bag I got for less than 1/4 of its original price!

Photo courtesy of eBay, I couldn't get a good one

Photo courtesy of eBay, I couldn't get a good one

Pizza Chicken

Growing up, my mom used to make a delicious thing that she lovingly called “pizza chicken”. Once I was older, I realized that pizza chicken was just a kid-friendly name for chicken parmesan! I can remember very vividly the day in college when I was determined to make “pizza chicken” for my group of 5 friends. I called my mom and asked her how she did it, and when she told me, I didn’t believe her. I thought it had to have been SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED than she let on! I followed her instructions and mastered it on my first try.

As my weight climbed in the following years, I adjusted the recipe to be MORE fattening, MORE heavy, and FAR LESS good for me. Once I joined Weight Watchers, I took a hiatus from making my mom’s pizza chicken. I realized today that not only could I make the original recipe, but it would be darn good and healthy!

I mistakenly bought pre-cut chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts, but the general process is the same.

Just like mom used to make!

Just like mom used to make!

Pizza Chicken


1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

1 jar marinara sauce

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese


First, mix breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Pre-heat oven to 350*. Then, heat oil in a large frying pan. Coat the chicken with the breadcrumb mixture, and place in the frying pan. DO NOT discard the extra breadcrumbs! In a 9×13 baking dish, pour about 1/4 c. marinara sauce and shake to evenly coat. Brown the chicken on both sides, but don’t worry if its not cooked through. Place chicken in the baking dish, then top with remaining breadcrumb mixture. Pour remaining sauce on top. Top with cheese and bake until chicken is done and cheese is brown, about 20 minutes.

I served this tonight with some pan-roasted broccoli and cauliflower. It was a very nostalgic taste to have pizza chicken and broccoli!

So, my mom’s secret? USING those extra breadcrumbs! It makes more of a “crust” for the pizza chicken, and makes it a very substantial meal. The equivalent of about 2/3 of a chicken breast was enough for me for dinner! I am, however, treating myself to something delicious:

I will only have one, I will only have one...

I will only have one, I will only have one...

That’s all for tonight… I’m going to do nothing productive and watch House and Fringe.

QOTD: What’s your favorite “mom” dish?? I have so many of her favorites I can’t choose just one!

There’s Nothing Like Truly Homemade…

I had an incredibly lazy Sunday. So lazy, in fact, I never even got dressed! As I sit on the couch writing this, I’m wearing the same pajamas I had on this morning, and it is good.

I made the decision at the grocery store yesterday that I was in the mood to make truly homemade meat sauce for a couple dinners and to freeze for later use. Now mind you, when I say “truly homemade”, I still use cans of tomatoes, as the tomatoes in this area are fairly lousy (read: not red) this time of year, but hey, I open the cans myself!

Mara’s Meat Sauce

I could eat 4 bowls like this...

I could eat 4 bowls like this...

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 large onion, minced

1 large green pepper, minced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 32-oz. cans crushed tomatoes

1 32 oz tomato sauce

the following are to taste, but measurements are what I used:

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

2 Tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

2 bay leaves


In a large pot, heat the olive oil. When it is hot, add the garlic, onions, and green pepper, and sautee until onions and garlic are transluscent. Add the ground beef and brown thoroughly, breaking up into small pieces. Add tomatoes, herbs, and spices to taste. Reduce heat, stir well, cover and simmer at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours. Continually taste and adjust seasonings. Uncover, and simmer another 20 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes. Serve over pasta or polenta with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

I’m quite proud of myself! This came out as good, if not better, than most meat sauces I’ve had in restaurants, and I know that it’s good for me. I used 93% lean ground beef, and only 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, so I tasted the vegetables and meat rather than loads of oil.

*A side note: The green striped bowl I ate my pasta out of was my grandmother’s, and I grew up calling them “surprise” bowls. She would serve us things in these shallow bowls, and we didn’t know which flowers were printed on the bottom, hence the surprise. When she passed, I got these bowls, and plan on telling my future children about the “surprise” at the bottom of the bowl.*