Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends

“Bacon is just another word for meat candy!”

Right off the grocery store shelf

Traditionally, burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the “point” half of a smoked beef brisket and they are considered a delicacy in barbecue cooking. Pork belly is a boneless cut of fatty meat from the belly of a pig; bacon is made from this cut of meat. Un-traditionally, burnt ends made from pork belly are quite possibly the best thing you will every eat. They are little chewy pieces of candied bacon goodness!

Cut into cubed pieces

• 4 lbs. pork belly, cut into 1 to 1 ½ -inch cubes
• ¼ cup of your favorite BBQ rub
• wire rack or mesh mat that fits inside the smoker
• 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
• 3 tbsp. butter, softened
• 2 tbsp. honey
• 2 tbsp. brown sugar
• Apple juice for spritzing

Step 1
Slice your pork belly into cubes no smaller than 1-inch, but not much larger than 1 ½ -inch. Coat each cube with your favorite BBQ rub. You can try a homemade rub or use your favorite commercial rub. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes or prepare the day before, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

Chilling in the plastic bag

Step 2
Preheat your smoker to 225°F to 250°F

Step 3
Place the pork belly fat-side down onto a wire rack or mesh mat. This is so that the small chunks of pork belly don’t fall through the grids. Lay the pork belly out in a single layer with a little space between each chunk.

Step 4
Spritz with apple juice about every 30-45 minutes. After 3 hours transfer the pork belly chunks (they should be about IT 190°F) to a foil pan or baking pan. Add the BBQ sauce, butter, honey, and brown sugar; stir/toss until all the pieces are well coated. Cover the top with foil and return to the smoker for another hour until the internal temperature of the pork belly chunks has reached 200°F.

Out of the smoker!

Step 5
Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens and caramelizes to a sweet and sticky consistency. Remove from the smoker and allow to set for 15 minutes.

Step 6
Serve the pork belly burnt ends (at room temp or slightly warm) as little melt-in-your-mouth appetizers at parties, or as a side to a large leafy salad.

On the plate but not for long!

Holiday Sausage Stuffing Balls

“I’m sorry, your opinion wasn’t in the recipe.”

I approached this recipe with the idea that it was going to be an appetizer along the lines of my “Garlic Cheese Sausage Balls” …. well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! This turned out to be in the categories of: a brunch entree, a heavy appetizer, or even a side dish substituted for dressing. Although I’ve not tried yet, I believe it would be delicious topped with turkey gravy. It is savory but not overly so (as many dressings can be) and has a holiday spin thanks to the chopped pecans and dried cranberries.

This recipe is not for the OCD neat-niks!! It is incredibly messy when you mix it by hand and then (with your hands) when you tightly squeeze the mixture into balls so they’ll stay together.

Prepared  dressing balls about to go into the oven.

Prepared dressing balls about to go into the oven.

1 lb packaged pork sausage (I prefer Mild)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 box Stove Top Stuffing mix (for Chicken)
1 cup chicken broth (low sodium)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper or Silpat baking mat, set aside.
In a medium frying pan, brown the sausage. Drain grease from meat and add in the onion powder and cook, stirring often, an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Just out of the oven!

Just out of the oven!

In a large bowl, combine cranberries, pecans, cheese, and Stove Top Stuffing.
Stir in the cooked sausage.
Add in the chicken broth and 2 eggs. Stir well to combine. (You may want to use your hands to make sure everything is really mixed!)
Using your hands, tightly press mixture into a ball about the size of a golf-ball and set on prepared cookie sheet. (Another way to bake the mixture might be by using a mini-muffin pan although I have yet to try that.)
Bake at 375 for about 17 minutes or so, until balls are cooked through and tops are browned. (**Note – you can also prep these in the morning and simply cover on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until ready to cook the rest of the meal.) This recipe will make 24 balls.
One of the balls split open to show the savory & sweet contents!

One of the balls split open to show the savory & sweet contents!

Serve warm as a heavy appetizer, a Brunch entree, or a side dish substituted for regular dressing.

Marinated Cheese

“If we are not supposed to have midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?”

This is one of my favorite appetizer recipes.  I recently took a platter to my high school reunion potluck and it was well received.  It’s been around for awhile and I believe it appeared in a Southern Living magazine back in 2006.  The important thing to remember is to let the cheese marinate at least for 8 hours …. I typically go for 12 – 16 hours.


Marinated Cheese

Marinated Cheese

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 (2 ounce) bottle diced pimento, drained
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (4 ounce) block Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (4 ounce) block Colby-Jack
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cold


  1. In a jar combine the olive oil, wine vinegar, pimento, parsley, green onion, garlic, sugar, basil, salt and pepper. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Set aside.
  2. Cut each of the blocks of hard cheese in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices to form squares. Repeat with cold cream cheese. Arrange cheese squares alternately in a shallow baking dish with slices standing on edge. You can arrange in a single long row, or several parallel rows depending on the size of your dish. Pour the marinade from the jar over the cheese slices, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  3. To serve, remove slices to a serving platter so they are still arranged in an alternating pattern. Spoon some of the extra marinade over the cheese, and serve with crackers (I prefer Nabisco Sociables).

Roasted Salsa for Canning

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Harry S Truman

This recipe comes from Monica at This website is unbelievably great and, if you are new to canning like I am, it is a must. Many outstanding recipes are clearly defined step by step along with great photos and even tutorials!

Hopefully Monica won’t mind, but I made just a few minor tweaks to her original recipe. First, I cut the original large batch recipe in half. Second, I substituted shallots for onions. Third, for her ½ cup of cider vinegar, I substituted a ¼ cup of lime juice and ¼ cup of cider vinegar. Last, I added 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar to offset the bite of the peppers and vinegar.

For Monica’s detailed instructions and step-by-step photos, see the full post and the original recipe at

I’ve only made this recipe once and, even with my subtle substitutions, it was very hot. I’m a wimp and it was way too hot for me. Next time I plan to cut back on the peppers by substituting shallots and I will eliminate the red pepper flakes altogether.

Makes 4 Pints

• 4 lbs. (approx. 16-20) roma/plum tomatoes
• 1 lb. Anaheim peppers (approx. 5 to 6) (add jalapenos for added heat and adjust quantity to equal 1 lb)
• 2 medium shallots (or substitute 2 med. onions)
• 4 garlic cloves
• ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
• ½ tablespoon + ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup bottled lime juice (for canning safety, don’t use fresh)
• ¼ cup bottled lime juice & ¼ cup cider vinegar (or substitute 1/2 cup cider vinegar as in the orig. recipe)
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 ½ teaspoons sugar (not included in the original recipe)
• ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional (add to taste for a hotter salsa)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Core and cut tomatoes in half. On large baking sheets, place tomatoes cut side down, peppers, quartered onions, & garlic cloves. Roast in preheated oven 30 min., removing garlic after 15 min. Skin of tomatoes and peppers should be blistered and partially blackened. Cover pan for 10 minutes; steam will make peeling skin easier. Remove tomato skins. * Wearing plastic gloves, remove skin, seeds and stems from peppers (or leave seeds if you want hotter salsa). In batches, place onions, garlic, cilantro, peppers & tomatoes in food processor and chop to desired consistency; transfer to 5 quart pan. Add lime juice, vinegar, water, cumin, oregano, salt, & pepper. If any juices remain in roasting pan, add those, too. Stir together. Add crushed red pepper flakes to taste, if more heat is desired.

*Note: If you prefer, you may leave the skin on the roasted tomatoes. Be sure to puree them in a blender or food processor before the other ingredients in order to finely chop the skin.

FOR WATER PROCESS CANNING: Bring salsa to boil on stove top; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add to hot sterilized jars leaving 1/2″ of headspace, and water process in water canner 15 minutes for half pints, 20 minutes for pints. Turn off heat, and leave jars in hot water for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and let rest undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

For canning safety:
–In order to ensure a safe pH level, do not alter the ratio of tomatoes to peppers, onions, lime juice, and vinegar. Seasonings may be adjusted, if desired.
–Follow jar preparation and processing recommended by the USDA; see canning safety guidelines at

Chipotle Fig Jam


2 lbs figs, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons lemon juice, plus a few lemon slices if desired
1-1½ canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped — to taste, depending on your desired spice level


Chop your figs according to how chunky you want your jam, and place in a large non-reactive pot. Cover with sugar and let macerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Add water, lemon juice, and lemon slices if using, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and stir regularly to prevent scorching.

After an hour, if needed, use a potato masher to break up the figs. Stir in the chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce.

Cook another 15-20 minutes, or until the jam has reached a consistency you like.

Ladle into hot jars, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Yields 4 half pints

Fuzzy Navel Jam


3-1/2 cups peaches, peeled and chopped

1 large orange

2 cups sugar

3 T. Peach Schnapps

3 T. Ball Flex batch low sugar/no sugar pectin


Using a vegetable peeler or a knife cut away just the outer rind of the entire orange without taking too much of the pith (white part). Using a knife cut the rind into slivers and set aside. Using a knife or your hands peel away the pith and segment the orange. Cut off any of the white part inside the orange as that is bitter and will leave an unpleasant taste to your jam. Chop the orange and set aside. Cooking: In a stainless steel pot combine peaches, orange, and rind. Simmer, for 10 to 15 minutes or until peaches are tender. Add sugar and peach schnapps and bring back to a boil.

Add pectin stirring in completely. Bring it back to a boil and do not stir for one minute. This will help activate the pectin. Remove from heat.

Ladle jam into hot, sterilized half pint canning jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Remove air bubbles and refill if necessary. Wipe rims, and add hot lids and rings. Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. You will start timing once the water comes to a full boil.

Makes 5 half pints.

Balsamic Fig Jam

“A messy kitchen is the sign of happiness.”

Figs are beginning to ripen in East Texas and luckily we have friends with fig trees on their properties. I’d never done any canning before so this first time was rather laborious and time-consuming but I’m now looking forward to trying out additional recipes. Without patting myself on the back too much, I must say that this is the best fig jam I have ever tasted … the aroma and tastes of the vanilla and balsamic vinegar really make it unbelievably pleasing.

This recipe was adapted from It makes six half-pint (8-oz) jars.

(PS … Since originally posting this recipe, I’ve been able to repeat it several times and it is undoubtedly the best canning recipe I’ve made.)

Beginning to simmer in the pot

Beginning to simmer in the pot

3 pounds fresh figs
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns, tied into a sachet
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons vanilla
A great breakfast or snack!

A great breakfast or snack!

1. Wash the figs, remove the stems, and coarsely chop them.
2. In a large saucepan, add the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, peppercorn sachet, and lemon juice. Bring them to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring to break up large pieces of fig, until the jam reaches 220°F, about 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir well. Depending on your preference, you can use an immersion blender to puree the jam.
4. Ladle into sterilized jars, wipe the rims, add lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Deviled Egg Spread

“Wicked chickens lay deviled eggs.”

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, The Cutting Edge Of Ordinary. Originally it had appeared in Food & Wine Magazine and was credited to Katie Lee (Billy Joel’s ex-wife). As with most of the ‘borrowed’ recipes I use, several modifications have been made to the original.

I almost always cut this recipe in half and it still serves four to six people. Although I’ve used several different kinds of crackers and chips for this spread, everyone’s favorite seems to be ‘Sociables’ crackers by Nabisco.

1 dozen large eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar (only to boil the eggs)
1 cup mayonnaise (I use Kewpie Japanese Mayo)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard (or whole grain or just yellow)
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
Salt & pepper to taste
Paprika for dusting

For Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Deviled Egg Spread

Deviled Egg Spread

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water; make sure the water is a good inch above the eggs. Add in the vinegar. Bring to a rapid boil. Cover the saucepan and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for 15 minutes. Drain the water from eggs and cool them under cold running water. Shake the pan vigorously to crack the shells. Let the eggs cool in the water.

Shell the eggs and halve them lengthwise. Coarsely chop half the egg whites and transfer them to a large bowl. Add the remaining white and all of the yolks to a different bowl along with the mayo, mustard and seasonings. Using a potato masher, process until smooth (a few lumps are okay). Spoon the mixture into the first bowl and blend with the chopped egg whites. Can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

“The secret ingredient is always love.”

Our oldest, Bradford, is a Navy SeaBee. When he is deployed overseas Karen tries to send him these Oyster Crackers as often as possible because it is his favorite snack/appetizer.

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

30 oz. oyster crackers (Nabisco in bags)
2 cups canola oil
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix or dry Italian dressing mix
2 T lemon pepper
2 T dill weed
2 tsp. red pepper (I use less)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Place oyster crackers in a large container. Mix remaining ingredients in a large measuring cup. Pour over crackers and gently toss well. I use a large plastic container with a lid that I can turn the crackers in to help distribute the mixture. Turn crackers several times the first few hours. Let sit in sealed container for 24 hours before consuming. These will keep for months.

Roseville Tomato Pie

“Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art.”

Several years ago we attended a New Year’s Party where everyone brought a dish for the buffet. It was quite a buffet with everything from venison backstrap to smoked alligator sausage. Having loaded my plate, I sat down and began to indulge myself; about the second goody that I took a bite from turned out to be one of the best mouthfuls of anything I’ve had recently. It turned out to be an individual serving of Roseville Tomato Pie. When I mentioned the delicacy to my wife, she reminded me that the owner of the Roseville Bed & Breakfast (Click Here to visit their website) had given her a copy of the recipe several years ago and we’d just never gotten around to preparing it … Duh! Since the recipe has appeared in a local community cookbook and is freely distributed at the B&B, I am assuming it is okay to reprint it here. Since I was first introduced to Roseville Tomato Pie as an appetizer, I have listed it as such, however, after preparing it myself and then doing a little research about how it is served at the B&B, I am convinced that it is primarily a breakfast or a brunch dish because two (or maybe three) of these little pies will easily make up a meal.

Into the oven

Into the oven


1 can cheap biscuits
1 tomato
Italian seasoning
1/2 cup each of Monterey Jack and Colby cheese, shredded and mixed
Salad Supreme (this is a McCormick salad seasoning)
1 cup real mayonnaise
Parmesan cheese

Out of the oven

Out of the oven

For individual servings, in a large baking pan, flatten each biscuit and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, then top each biscuit with a 1/4 inch thick tomato slice. Sprinkle with Salad Supreme. Mix cheese and mayonnaise and spread 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture on each biscuit. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then lightly sprinkle with Salad Supreme. Bake at 375-degrees F until the crust is done; about 15-17 minutes.

(Cook’s Note- Use the exact ingredients above. Cheap biscuits are those generic ones that cost around 25-cents a can that you might be embarrassed to be seen with in the checkout line. However, that’s what you’ve got to use because you don’t want something that will rise too much, instead, you want each biscuit to be pretty flat!)

Ready to eat

Ready to eat