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Monday, December 28, 2015

How do you say Moink in Italian?

Monik Balls have been a competition BBQ staple for as long as I can remember.  There really is not a right or a wrong way to make them.  Generally, they are a meatball made with pork and beef (hence the "monk"), seasoned with BBQ rub, then wrapped in bacon and cooked in a smoker until the meatball is cooked and the bacon is cooked.  I have seen them served with a BBQ sauce glaze or with dipping sauce on the side.  Creativity is encouraged and the sky is the limit.

A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for some Moink Balls, but not in the mood for something with a BBQ taste.  So, after digging through the ice cave, I found some ground meat and sweet Italian sausage.  Italian Moink Balls?  Why not.

After thawing the ground meat and sausage, I mixed one pound of each in a bowl with two cloves of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  If your Italian sausage lacks pizzaz, you could also add oregano, thyme, and basil to your liking.  But, the Italian sausage we have is made by authentic Italian Grandfathers from an Italian Club around Windber, PA.  No added seasoning needed.  Once the meat was mixed thoroughly, I pulled out about 1/4 cup pieces and rolled into flat rounds.  Then, I added some shredded mozzarella cheese, closed the ball, and rolled until sealed to keep the cheese from oozing during cooking.

Next, I wrapped each meatball in one slice of thin sliced bacon.  Then, I let the bacon wrapped meatballs sit on the counter to come to room temperature while I brought my smoker up to 350 F.  Once the smoker reached temperature, I placed one piece of hickory in the ash pan for flavor and placed the Moink Balls with the rack onto the top shelf of the smoker.  After 30 minutes of cook time I rotated the rack 180 degrees to promote even cooking.

I was thinking of painting the meatballs with a spicy tomato sauce to form a glaze.  But, I remembered this great sauce is inspired by a friend of ours from the BBQ competition world.  I whipped up a Garlic Parmesan Aioli for dipping.  I took one cup of mayonnaise, 2 minced garlic cloves, the juice from one lemon, 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and enough olive oil to get the mixture somewhat mobile.  This sauce was good, but wasn't anywhere near what she makes.  But, this was good for a first pass.  I will have to experiment with this sauce further.

After one hour of cook time in the smoker, the meatballs were cooked and the bacon was crispy.  Ready to serve.

Not bad for an Italian style Moink Ball.  I was thinking of wrapping in prosciutto instead of bacon.  Next time I will.  I just didn't have any in the refrigerator.  Maybe that is something you can try.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, December 20, 2015


This past week another member of the Three Dogs family, Jed, took that journey across the Rainbow Bridge.  So, sit for a spell and let me tell you about a dog named Jed...

Jed was the impulse buy at PetSmart almost one year after we adapted Jethro and Ellie Mae.  I was golfing and called Hope to tell her that I was on the way home.  I asked what she did during the afternoon and she proceeded to tell me that she picked up dog food, crickets for Henry, and a puppy.  "A what?"  I said?  A puppy she confirmed.  It was adoption day again at PetSmart, and he was so cute, and he whined when I walked away after petting him, etc...  All of you dog adopters know the drill.  So, now we had a 10 week old puppy named Scrappy.  But, with a Jethro and an Ellie Mae in the fold, the obvious choices were Jed and Mr. Drysdale.  Obviously, the better choice won.

Jed was born in the kennel after his mother was rescued off the street.  So, technically he was a rescue himself, but he never acted like one.  He was never centered on where the next meal was coming from, never begged for food, and while he was a loving dog, he only pushed you for ear scratching and was just as happy to nap in the sun.

Jed was a chocolate lab/weimaraner mix.  When he was younger he had those blue gray eyes and the smoky tint to his coat.  But, as he left puppy hood behind the eyes turned to brown and the smoky tint turned into a full chocolate tint.  The only weimar traits he kept were the long legs, the skinny chest, and the attitude.

While Ellie Mae was my dog, Jed was 100% Hope's.  Jed loved car rides, so if we went anywhere, he expected to sit in the front seat with Hope.  I kicked him to the back seat, but The Oldest two legged kid sat in the back seat more than once after loosing that battle with Jed.

Jed was also the inspiration for our team name.  People have asked where we came up with the name.  The obvious answer is that we have three dogs.  But, this picture was the spark for the name.

I looked out the back window one day and there was Jed.  A built in security system for the smoker.  Nobody was getting into the smoker for some smoky treats unless he let you.  Period.  At that point, the name was settled.

As I mentioned, Jed liked getting his ears scratched,

and laying in the sun.

But, he absolutely loved to play in the snow.

He would go outside and run around like a fool, chasing snowflakes until he was tired.  Then he would lay down in the snow and we would have to go drag him inside so he didn't freeze to the ground.

Unfortunately, the one lab trait that Jed developed over time was arthritis.  His hips were stiff and the act of walking, sitting, and getting up became harder and harder.  But, we got him some pills and he started moving around better.  Unfortunately, when Ellie Mae passed three months ago, Jed started to give up.  You see, Jed and Ellie Mae were thick as thieves.  They did everything together.  Jed knew that Ellie Mae was sick and laid with her until the end.  He never did accept her passing.  He ate less and less and moped around the house.  Fortunately, we had some warm weather these past few weeks and Jed was able to lay in the warm sun a few more times.

In hindsight, Hope and I truly believe that Jed died of a broken heart.  I know it sounds cliche, but it is unfortunately true.  So, now Ellie Mae and Jed are together again.  They get to lay in the sun and run together without any pain.  Someday, I will get to see them again and Jed will kick me to the backseat.  I will gladly sit in the back, scratch his ears, and smile...

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Beer Brined Cornish Hens with a White Sauce Glaze and Bacon Cornbread Stuffing

Stuffing is one of those coking topics that can be very personal.  Most people remember how Mom made their stuffing at the holidays and there can be no better.  Period, end of story.  The debate rages on in our house.  My stuffing, which is a hybrid of my Mother's recipe and Hope's stuffing, 100% her mothers method.  Where is this leading?  Well, I picked up a few cornish hens last weekend and wanted to experiment with the stuffing.  Hope wanted none of that.  She wanted her Mother's stuffing, end of story.  The good thing about cornish hens is that there are two birds, so everyone can be happy.  Once that was decided, I happily set to experimenting in the kitchen.  These hens would take a long, lazy spa treatment via a six hour beer brine.  Then, with some leftover homemade cornbread, I prepared some stuffing.  Once the birds were seasoned and in the smoker, I finished mine with a Alabama White Sauce glaze.  Off to the kitchen we go.

For the brine, I used my standard recipe, with a twist.  For the liquid, I removed 48 oz of water and substituted four bottles of beer.  You could use any type of suds.  I used Yeungling lager.  After preparing the brine and allowing it to chill overnight, the hens hung out at the spa for about six hours.

Next, I whipped up a batch of Alabama White BBQ sauce from  My only changes to this recipe are:

1.  Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
2.  Remove the sugar and substitute half of the water with apple juice for the sweet component.

For the stuffing, I decided on a bacon, mushroom, cornbread concoction.

1 day old wedge of cornbread, crumbled
1/2 rib of celery, diced
2 tbsp of sweet onion, diced
2 strips of bacon, diced
1/4 cup of mushroom, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp sage, depending upon your taste
Salt and pepper to taste

I started to brown the bacon, then added the celery, onion, garlic, and mushroom to sauté.  Once the mushroom had started to caramelize, I removed from the stove, placed in the bowl with my crumbled cornbread, added my sage, salt, and pepper, and mixed well.

Once the six hour spa treatment was over for the hens, I rinsed them well with cold water and patted them dry.  I then stuffed mine with the cornbread stuffing mixture, massaged the outside with some olive oil, and seasoned with some Dizzy Pig Raging River rub.

The hens went into a smoker that was rolling along at 350 F with a mix of apple, pecan, and hickory wood in the ash pan.  After one hour, I applied the Alabama White Sauce to my bird twice to make a nice even glaze. After thirty more minutes, the hens were at 165 F internal temperature.  Ready to remove from the smoker and eat.

Overall, I like how this hen turned out.  The sauce mixed well with the rub.  The meat was tender and juicy.  I was surprised at how much flavor the beer added to my standard brine.  It wasn't over powering, but it was detectable.  I just may have to try a variation on this recipe in the future.

Hope, on the other hand, liked her plain stuffing and unsauced bird...

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Smoky French Onion Dip

Back in October, Hope and I were out for dinner one evening.  In the appetizer section of the menu was a listing for Caramelized French Onion Dip.  I was transported back to those times when Mom would whip up a batch of French Onion Dip with sour cream and the Lipton onion soup packet.  It was a good Saturday night when you were watching Chiller Theatre with a bowl of chips and dip.  Even better when you came upon a lump of undissolved soup mix or perhaps a dehydrated onion or two.  Memories...

Anyway, we ordered the appetizer to start our evening in anticipation that this dip would be an improvement upon a childhood favorite.  The menu said that the dip would be rich, creamy, and loaded with caramelized onions.  Unfortunately, it was none of the above.  Not nearly enough onions and they were nowhere near caramelized.  The base was rather bland, consisting of salted sour cream and lacking in other seasonings.  So, I decided, I can make this and I can make it better.  Off to the R&D labs we go.

Three Dogs Smoky French Onion Dip

1 small sweet onion, sliced then diced
2 large garlic cloves, roasted
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1.5 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried parsley (this was a substitute for the chives I didn't have)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Olive oil for caramelizing your onion and roasting your garlic

First, I lit my smoker and brought to 250 F with a medium sized piece of hickory in the ash pan for flavor.  While the smoker was coming to temperature, I peeled, sliced, and diced my onion.

To dice my slices, I cut each slice into wedges like a pizza.  This way the smaller pieces would be completely caramelized and the larger pieces would be caramelized and add some crunch to the final product.  I mixed the onion with one tablespoon of olive oil and a healthy grinding of pink salt and ground pepper.  I also placed my garlic into a foil packet with a drizzle of olive oil and sealed the foil for roasting.  All of this was placed into a foil pan and then into the smoker.

After thirty minutes I went out and gave the onions a stir to promote even caramelization.

After one hour I checked the onions and decided they needed 30 more minutes.  So, I tired them and removed the garlic as it felt soft in the foil packet.

While the onions were smoking for their last 30 minutes, I removed the garlic cloves from their skins and placed in a large mixing bowl with all of the other ingredients.  I blended thoroughly with my trusty hand mixer until the mixture was smooth and the roasted garlic was distributed evenly.

When the onions were done, 1.5 hours at 250 F total time in the smoker, I brought them inside and folded them into the dip.

Then, I grabbed a chip to taste.  Did I succeed?  Oh yeah.  Better than what Mom made or the dairy aisle tubs of mass produced dip.  Great flavor and lots of caramelized and slightly crunchy onions.  New Years is around the corner.  If you want to try this out and don't have a smoker, no problem.  Just caramelize your onion in a skillet at low heat.  Mix it up, put out some chips, and stand back.

Thanks for stopping by,