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Local Bounty: Bell Peppers and Tomatoes

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We are fortunate to live in a community full of colorful, flavorful, bountiful local produce.  Tomatoes, Strawberries, Asparagus, Sweet Corn, Cucumbers and Peppers……just to name a few.  Warm weather is ushering in a bounty of local produce.  Gardens are beginning to show the rewards of patience and hard work.  Markets are filling with fresh goodies, so I intend to make hay while the sun shines.  It’s easy to find recipes that will allow you to embrace these local goodies.  Why not cook up something “garden inspired” for dinner!!

Bell peppers will be making their way onto the produce stands soon enough.  I never thought that I liked peppers, eaten raw they are simply too crunchy and too bold for my tastes.  But when cooked, their flavor mellows and they soften into something else, something sweet.  I love incorporating bright yellow and racy red bell peppers into this dish.  It creates a dish that tastes as good as it looks.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

Start to finish: approximately 40 minutes

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

4 skinless, boneless Johnnie’s frozen chicken breasts (4, 6 or 8 oz. breasts, you decide….)

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

cooking spray

2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper

1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)

1 cup chicken broth

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoon oil, sprinkle rub over chicken.  Add 1  1/2 teaspoons oil to pan.  Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned.  Turn chicken over and cook 1 minute.  Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until done.

Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add bell peppers and shallots, saute 3 minutes.  Stir in broth, scraping pan to loose browned bits.  Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high again.  Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

Yield: 4 servings

Tomatoes will soon be entering the scene as they begin to ripen on their vines.  And once the tomatoes start ripening, they never seem to stop coming.  Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables I have been sucessful in growing.  Maybe too sucessful as I usually get so many that I don’t know what to do with all of them.  I can them, freeze them, make salsa, make soup….you get my drift.  Making this tomato basil soup is one of my family’s favorite summer time traditions.  Whether they’re home grown or not, the taste is simple and fresh.

Tomato Basil Soup

1 cup of chopped yellow onions

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs. of fresh tomatoes, peeled

4 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspooon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 heavy cream

1 Tablespoon basil

1 Tablespoon dried parsley

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until transparent.  Stir in the tomatoes, stock, dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Puree in small batches in a blender (Be careful, liquid will be hot!!) and return to the saucepan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cream, basil and parsley.

*Please note that all of the bold print ingredients are available at Johnnies, usually in varying sizes and/or quantities.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

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No one can argue the fact that Hamburgers are as all american as Apple Pie and Hot Dogs.  Americans eat an estimated 13 billion burgers every year.   Songs have been composed, Books have been written and Festivals have been dedicated to this juicy piece of meat.  Truly, we are a nation in love with Burgers.

But not all burgers are created equal and a new trend is sweeping the burger world.  Black Angus Burgers.  Angus is a breed of cattle preferred by breeders as they tend to put on weight and fat quickly, resulting in a high marbling content.  As far as cuts of beef go, marbling is a good thing.  A very good thing.

The USDA actually grades meat by the amount of marbling.  The cuts with greater fat (or marbling) inside the grain are awarded higher grade scores.  More fat is better in terms of beef because more fat will help keep the cooked steaks, burgers, etc. juicy and tender and will result in more flavor.  The Black Angus Burgers at Johnnies are USDA Choice Angus Beef.  Choice Beef is second only to Prime on the grading scale.  (Most grocery stores carry lower grades such as select or standard.)  Johnnie’s Black Angus Burgers are also certified 80/20.  This is not always the case at grocery stores.  Without this certification meat could be   60/40   or   70/30   and contain additives that could alter the flavor, bite and overall performance of the burger.

As the summer season continues, my family tends to eat a lot of burgers on the grill.  We grilled burgers last weekend at the beach.  The overwhelming response was that these angus burgers were amazing!!  Truly top of the line.  Juicy, tender, flavorful……all of the above.  We will most likely be having a picnic over the Fourth of July.  I plan to set up a DIY Burger Bar with all of the fixin’s.  (And knowing me, it will invole some kind of contest with rewards for the “most creative, best tasting burger”!!)

It would be impossible to make a complete list of the possible toppings.  Classic toppings as well as some more unique possibilities.

ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, steak sauce, bar-b-que sauce, guacamole, onions, lettuce, bacon, mushrooms, pineapple, salsa, jalapenos, relish, teriyaki sauce, tomato, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, american cheese, pickles, fried onion straws…..the list could go on and on…..

The burger bar will be open for business and my guests will get the chance to create their own, unique (and potentially crazy) ultimate burger!!

Johnnies also carries Black Angus All Beef Hot Dogs.  Again, I can attest to the top tasting quality of these dogs.  They have become my favorite dog.

 Johnnies Black Angus burgers certainly makes gourmet convenient.

And, now I’m hungry, I’m going to get a burger.




Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Brown Sugar Glaze

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Some things were just meant to go together: peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, bread and butter……..bacon and brown sugar.

 Two seemingly opposite ideas.  Put together, the perfect combination….both salty and sweet.  Anything tastes better with bacon and brown sugar.

Pork is not my first choice when making dinner.  I have a hard time finding impressive pork recipes.  I naturally veer toward chicken or beef.    I’ve made pork before with brown sugar and it’s been good, but throwing bacon on top seemed like an even better idea.

Pork is so easily overcooked and, as a result, chewy and dried out.  I’ve found the best way to cook pork is by temperature, not time.  So, dig out your “meat” thermometer, stick it in the thickest part of the tenderoin, and use that to gauge your cooking time.  The USDA recommends that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees followed by a 3 minute rest period.  (revised from an earlier guideline of 160 degrees)  This tempertaure ensures optimal flavor and tenderness without compromising health or safety concerns.

For this recipe, cook the tenderloin until 150 degrees, maybe 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your tenderloin.  Then add your glaze and cook to 160 degrees, maybe another 15 minutes.

Try to “hold your horses” when it comes to preparing the glaze.  The glaze should be made just before you spoon it over the pork.  Otherwise it turns into a sticky, unspreadable mess.  Or so I’ve heard.

Johnnie’s has a center cut pork tenderloin, sold frozen, in 1  1/2-2 lb. filets.  These filets come preseasoned with salt and pepper, so I did not include any extra in my dry rub mix.

And, for large gatherings, Johnnies offers a 10 lb. average whole pork loin.  Just double, triple, quadruple…….whatever, to fit your size pork loin.

Pork Tenderloin with Bacon and Brown Sugar Glaze

1 boneless Johnnie’s Pork Tenderloin (an average of 2 lbs), thawed

4-6 slices of bacon (slightly cooked)

rub mix:  1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

glaze: 1 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pork in roasting pan.  Rub the dry rub mix over pork.  Lay semi-cooked bacon across pork loin.  Roast until pork reaches 150 degrees, around 40 minutes.  Combine glaze in saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.  Spoon over pork and return to oven pork registers 160 degrees, another 10-15 minutes. 

Serves: 3

My sister-in-law shared this recipe with me.  She’s a great wife, a great mother and a great cook.  I must give credit where credit is due.

I think, if asked, my family would agree that this would make our Top Ten List of Favorite Family Meals!!  When cooked with the brown sugar, the bacon turns into something sweet and candied.  Delish!!


Going on a Picnic

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Memorial Day officially kicks off the start of summer.  This weekend will be the first of the season for reunions, beach trips, pool parties and picnics.

“Fill that picnic basket and take it outdoors.  Spread it on the grass and soak up the sun.”

And where should you go to stock up on goodies for your picnic basket……why Johnnies, of course.  You know that Johnnies has Shrimp.  You know that Johnnies has Steak.  But, did you know that Johnnies carries virtually everything you need for a summer picnic?  I remember taking roadtrips as a kid, in the days before we had portable DVD players, IPODs or cell phones.  We actually had to find unique ways to occupy our mind, to keep ourselves content while being trapped in a car together as a family for many hours and many miles.  One of my favorite games to play was “I’m Going on a Picnic”, humor me and play along.

1.  I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking…….Smoked Ham and Oven Roasted Turkey Breast.  Sandwiches are usually my first choice for a picnic.  They are simple and can be eaten with your hands.  Johnnies carries pre-sliced ham and turkey so you can make your sandwiches to go.  Don’t forget to grab some indiviual serving packets of mayonnaise, mustard and/or relish to take along on your journey.

2.  I’m going on a picnic and I”m taking…..Tasty Tuna Salad and Chunky Chicken Salad.  As long as you store it correctly, chicken and tuna salad are perfect partners for a picnic and crowd pleasers as well.  They’re easy to make and take, easy to serve and eat.  Johnnies offers 2 different size containers of each, large or small, depending on the size of your picnic party.

3.  I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking……a pack of Moist Martin’s Potato Rolls/Bread.  The sliced meats and salads would be pointless without a soft slice of bread or roll.  Johnnies stocks local Martin’s Pastry Products to take along.  They’re baked locally and sold fresh.  They carry 8 packs and 12 packs of “burger” rolls, in addition to potato bread and hot dog rolls.

4.  I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking….All American Cheese.  I love cheese on my sandwiches, on my burgers and even on my eggs.  Here you have your choice of Sliced Yellow or Sliced White American.  (sold in 3 lb. or 5 lb. packages)

5.  I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking…………..Saucy Side Salads.  A picnic isn’t complete without a variety of side dishes.  Johnnies stocks Dutch Potato Salad, Amish Macaroni Salad and Creamy Cole Slaw in 3 different sizes.  (16 oz., 32 0z. or 10 lb. containers)  Just be sure you have the cooler space to keep everything nice and cool.  Food poisoning is never a welcome guest.

6.  I”m going on a picnic and I’m taking……………..Salty Snacks.  Johnnies stocks 4 different varieties of Utz Potato Chips.  (sour cream, regular, bar-b-que and cheddar and sour cream) and mega-sized containers of Cheese Puffs, Popcorn, Party Mix and Pub Mix.  These munchies are easy to eat, especially by the handfuls, and you don’t have to worry about keeping them cold.

7.  I”m going on a picnic and I’m taking……………..Sweet Chocolate Treats.  Johnnies carries single serve desserts as well as full size pies, meringues and cakes.  Some are pre-baked some are not, so choose wisely.  I’m drooling over the single serve Butterfinger, Snickers, M & M, Oreo and Reeses Peanut Butter Pies.  Too bad we’re also entering swimsuit season.

8.  I”m going on a picnic and I’m taking……………..Ice Cold Beverages.  Stop by for Bottled Spring Water by the case, Gatorade (Glacial Blue, Rip Tide Rush, Fierce Grape, Fruit Punch, Lemon Lime and Orange) and Iced Tea (Lemon, Lemonade, Green and Sweet).  The cases are in the warehouse so just ask one of the employees to bring it out for you.  They also stock several brands of ready to make drink mixes such as Country Time Lemonade, Country Time Pink Lemonade and Crystal Light.

9.  I”m going on a picnic and I’m taking……………..Colorful Candy.  As a kid, one of my favorite parts of a picnic or family reunion was always the candy scramble.  The adults would fill a large bag with an assortment of wrapped candy and toss it on the ground.  Then, we kids would take off like we had been sugar deprived for days and gather as much of it as our greedy little hands could hold.  Such a simple activity yet it was one thing I looked forward to each year.  Johnnies has everything from tootsie rolls and lollipops, to fireballs and jaw breakers.  Just remember to use wrapped candy since it will be tossed on the ground first.

10.  I”m going on a picnic and I’m taking……………..Portable Paper Products.  Johnnies has all of the paper products that you need for a picnic.  Divided foam trays, several sizes of foam plates, napkins of various colors, plastic cups, plastic utensils and table coverings as well.  (Don’t forget the paper towels and garbage bags too!!)  Just remember to clean up after yourselves.  No one likes a litter bug.


Of course, Johnnies has all kinds of grillable items for your picnic or backyard bar-b-que (Hot Dogs, Burgers, Steaks, etc.), many of which are on sale for Johnnie’s Memorial Day Barbeque Sale.

So, let the summer begin.

Roll out your blanket, break out the shorts and feel free to wear white, it’s Memorial Day and I’m going on a picnic.



A Meat and Potatoes Kind of Family

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We are a meat and potatoes kind of family.  When the warm weather hits, we are ready to cook up some steaks.  We usually aren’t picky.  We love  Rib Eye, Sirloin and especially Filet.  But, I think I’ve fallen head over heels for the new guy in town…..Teres Major.

Teres Major is from the shoulder of the cow and is second only to filet in tenderness.  It is a very lean, very tender piece of meat.  You have probably had Teres Major already and you just didn’t know as it is quickly becoming a popular restaurant cut.  Teres Major is not easy to find.  Johnnies is once again ahead of the game and offers 8 oz. frozen filets.

In addition to being tasty and tender, Teres Major is quite an inexpensive cut of meat.  Right now, during Johnnies’ big STEAK SALE it is only $2.99/lb.

I realize that a good steak doesn’t need any sauce.  A great steak can stand on it’s own.  I, however, love to marinate my steaks.  I don’t use steak sauce, ever, but I do like the flavor that comes from a great marinade.  I have to confess that this recipe does not belong to me.  I borrowed it from Roger Tappen.  I took one of his cooking classes a “few years ago” and this has become one of my favorites.  I’ve been making this marinade for my steaks since I was in my 20’s.  (I will let you be the judge as to whether that’s a long time or not.)  I really wanted to try a new recipe.  Something I could call my own.  But, I just couldn’t do it.  This marinade is so very, very good.  Why not stick with the best?


Black Gold Meat Marinade

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup worchestershire sauce

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, adding the oil last.  Transfer the marinade to a large bag or container and add the steak.  Marinate several hours or overnight.

Allow meat to come to room temperature before grilling.

Prepare grill on high heat.  You can get all fancy and rotate your meat every 4 minutes or so to achieve those diagonal grill marks.  We didn’t.  We didn’t feel like being fancy that night.  Instead, we cooked the steaks about 8 minutes per side , give or take, depending on how you like your steak prepared.  I will let you battle it out over the “doneness of your steak.”  Within our family, we are split down the middle between medium rare and medium well.  I have been lectured time and again that “medium well” ruins the steak.  I grew up preferring “well done” so I am making an effort to change my ways.

It is recommended that after it’s cooked you cover your meat with foil and allow to rest for a few minutes before digging in……that is if you can resist.  Waiting allows the juice to be better absorbed into the meat.  Otherwise, all of that precious juice simply runs out onto your plate.

One unique quality of this steak is that it actually appears to grow in size as it cooks.  Your finished steak will be significantly thicker when it’s all said and done.  (I wish I the answer as to why does this happen, but I don’t?)

We rounded out our meal with twice baked potatoes.  They are sold frozen and individually wrapped in packages of 4.  These potatoes could very well be the best kept secret at Johnnies.  We love them.  We audibly “ohh and ahh” each and every time we have them for dinner.  So cheesy, so creamy, and, they couldn’t be easier to make.  Just bake at 325 degress for 45 minutes.  (or microwave, but I have always chosen to bake in the oven and can’t vouch for the tastiness if done in the microwave)

It was our first family dinner served al fresco this season.  Maybe that was why everything tasted unbelievably delicious!!

Floundering For an Idea

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Johnnies just wrapped up their Spring Seafood Sale.  A bonanza of heavily discounted seafood.  Snow crab clusters, salmon burgers, breaded oysters, scallops, haddock and, of course, shrimp, shrimp, shrimp…..  I’d been wanting to try a recipe requiring both crab meat and fish fillets, a double price whopper.  So, with Johnnies Super Sale going on , I figured now was as good a time as any to give it a try.

First up on my grocery list, flounder fillets.

We spend a lot of time on the Eastern Shore and, much to my chagrin, we do a lot of fishing.  (I’m more of a “beach girl” than a “bait hooks and net stinky fish girl”.)  One of the most common species that we catch is Flounder, a funny looking fish as both eyes are situated on the same side of it’s head.  I found a value pack of Icy Ocean Flounder Fillets at Johnnies that contained 8 servings of fillets, each individually wrappedFlounder is an extremely delicate fish with a nice, mild flavor, making it quite the crowd pleaser.  But, you could always substitute your preferred fish into this recipe.  Johnnies also carries tilapia, haddock and cod…..just to name a few.

My flounder actually had one of those scannable barcodes on the packaging.  With a quick scan from my phone, I had access to product information and more recipes.  Technology, what would we do without it?

Next up on the list, crab meat.

Crab meat comes in 6 different grades depending on which part of the crab’s body it comes from and the overall size of the crab the meat is taken from.  It can get confusing and technical, but all grades are white meat and have the same taste profile.  (Except for claw meat which is considered brown meat and has a stronger flavor.)  Johnnies offers a variety of options.  For my stuffed flounder, I chose Regular Lump Crab Meat.   This product is a combination of super lump and special (grade) crab meat and perfect for crab cakes, dips and soups.  Lump (or backfin) crab has the same flavor and texture as the prized Jumbo Lump meat but in smaller size pieces/flakes and lower prices.  (And, I just found out that it’s going on sale for the next two weeks, so stock up!!)

With my shopping complete, it was time to start cooking.

Crab Stuffed Flounder

Ready in: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 1/2 pounds flounder filets

1 cup of crab meat (half your can of crab meat, unless you plan to double the recipe)

1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

ground white pepper, to taste

3 crushed “saltine” crackers (but any cracker will do…)

1 egg white

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/4 cup melted butter

1 egg yolk

5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  It’s usually recommended to rinse your most fish before cooking.  So, please rinse the fillets and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine crab meat, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, white pepper and the crushed saltines.  Combine the egg white (don’t get rid of the yolk, you will need it later….) and 1 T. mayonnaise.  Stir this into the crab meat mixture.

Brush the flounder fillets with melted butter.  Place in a greased baking dish and spread the crab “stuffing” over the fillets.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

While the fish is baking, lightly beat the egg yolk in a small bowl.  Stir in the 5 T. mayonnaise.  Remove the fish from the oven and spread this mixture over the crab stuffing.  Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake about 6 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

This dish was a pure delight, and so easy to make.  (And so picture perfect!)  The only thing that could possibly have made this delicious dish even better would be topping with shredded cheese or adding some Old Bay Seasoning somewhere along the way.  The fish was tender and moist, the flavor was mild and the creamy crab stuffing was the perfect topping!  Why go out for seafood, when you can make something so comparable and spectacular at home?  I will definately be making this dish again soon.




To Fight off Vampires

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Vampires are a hot topic right now.

Vampires have been a mythical part of our culture since Brams Stoker published Dracula in the late 1800’s.  I vividly remembeer Dracula.  He wore a cape, had some creepy fangs, slept in a coffin during the day and lurked around by night drinking the blood of his unspecting victims.  He also had this strange ability to turn himself into a bat at will. The vampires of today’s world are quite different.  They appear to be much friendlier and are often found living anonomously in society…..both the teen vampires caught in a love triangle with a werewolf and the adult vampires coexisting in a world with witches, demons and telepaths.  (just to name a few….)

But, there remains a common thread running through all of these fictional stories, the process of killing a vampire.  These weaknesses I once committed to memory in case I ever needed to fight off a vampire.

I knew that I had two choices…..1) I could drive a wooden stake through his heart.  If Dracula were coming at me and I had seconds to react, the chances of me finding a wooden stake and ramming it directly through his heart were unlikely.  2) Wearing Garlic around my neck.

I think I’ll take my chances with garlic.  (I do have a point, keep reading….)   As vampires myths and legends have changed over the years, I am going to alter my method of garlic protection.  I found a roasted garlic butter sauce and thought it would be a nice alternative from minced, chopped or roasted.  It’s actually a gourmet wing sauce and bar-b-que sauce, Buffalo Gill’s Roasted Garlic Butter Sauce.  I love wings, (who doesn’t love wings) but I’ve never considered garlic as a wing topping before.

Hit up any bar or saloon on a Monday night (especially during football season) and I guarantee you will find someone with “sticky wing fingers”.    Johnnies carries a variety of wings: regular, boneless, breaded, non-breaded, seasoned, unseasoned, cooked and/or uncooked.  As I can be lazy sometimes, and a lady sometimes, I prefer boneless wings.  Less mess.  I also feel I’m getting more bang for my buck with less work, so I chose the (fully cooked, breaded, unseasoned) Boneless Wing Dings.

As these Wing Dings are precooked, I had two choices for reheating.  Conventional Oven: 20 minutes at 375 degrees or Deep Fry: 3-4 minutes at 350 degrees

A certain someone in my family can’t handle garlic, so I knew I wanted to divide the package in half and offer 2 choices of sauce.  Before I knew it, I had a wing ding bar!

We were out of town for the weekend, so I didn’t have my deep fryer.  I divided the wings into two baking dishes.  I covered one half with Buffalo Gil’s Roasted Garlic Butter Sauce.  I covered the other half with a mix of butter and Hot Sauce.  (2 T. hot sauce to 1 T. butter, but adjust if you prefer a milder wing sauce…..this combo is a bit on the spicy side)  Including the Roasted Garlic Sauce, Johnnies offers 6 varieties of Buffalo Gil Sauces: Mild, Hot, Cajun, Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic, Hot and Spicy BBQ and Toxic Waste.

I baked the wings in the oven, straight from the freezer and still frozen, for 30-45 minutes.  Until hot and bubbly. The wings came out tender and tasty.  (If you want a crispier wing, you will probably want to deep fry.)  I was hesitant at first, as Buffalo Gil’s Sauce had a very strong garlic smell, but the actual taste of the sauce was mild and buttery.  I think this sauce would work well as a dipping sauce for breaded chicken and/or as a marinade for skinless chicken breast.  The bottle was 32 oz., so I have plenty leftover to experiment with…..and to keep the vampires away.


Let the Grilling Season Begin-Ribs

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The weather has been unseasonably warm.  I say unseasonably warm because it’s March, it’s not supposed to hit the 70’s and 80’s this early in the year.  Unfortunately, some people are starting to think it’s here to stay…..the sound of lawn mowers running, flower pots being filled with color and the air smells of food on the grill.  I must admit,  I too have come down with this fast spreading, highly contagious spring fever.   I was craving something barbequed, something cooked outside on the grill, something eaten on the deck.

The more I thought about, Ribs seemed the obvious answer.

When you’re craving ribs and you need them now, Johnnies has the selection and the prices can’t be beat.  Currently, they have 2 offerings of ribs: Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs (rib pieces) in BBQ Sauce and Smoked Rib Bits in BBQ Sauce.  The rib bits are trimmed from the spare rib section of the rib cage while the rib pieces are cut from the back rib section.  Both are bone in, sauced, and fully cooked……making them quick to prepare products.   I chose to give the (Farmland) Rib bits a chance.

As I said, the Ribbits are basically ready to go, fully cooked and marinated in a smokey BBQ sauce.  But, if you feel the need to personalize your ribbits with a dash or sprinkle of garlic powder or your award winning secret sauce, it’s not going to affect the outcome.  I know some people like to introduce different tastes and unusual ingredients into their ribs, things like coffee, root beer or  chocolate.  And, of course, Johnnies has several varieties of sauce on hand in mega size containers.  (Open Pit, KC Masterpiece Original and Grill Blazin BBQ Sauce)   In my humble opinion, these ribs were perfectly tasty and saucy, straight from the bag.

There are multiple ways to prepare these precooked ribs.  And most of the choices require less mess and quicker clean up than usual.  But, as ribs are supposed to be messy, I assure you that they are saucy enough to ensure sticky fingers, messy faces and dirty white shirts.  Be sure to grab an extra napkin.

Grilling.  As I said, I was looking forward to ribs on the grill.  We chose the path less taken as there were no “official directions” for grilling these ribbits.  So, through process of trial and error, we were able to successfully grill the ribs by covering our (grill) grates with aluminum foil.  This prevented the ribs from slipping through and falling to a fiery death.  It took us a little while, as we didn’t thaw beforehand, maybe 30 minutes to thoroughly heat.  Next time, I would definately thaw the ribbits first

Boil.  You can boil them in the bag.  Place the ribs (still in their packaging) in boiling water, making sure that they are covered with water.  Boil 55-65 minutes or until meat reaches 140 degrees.

Bake.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove thawed ribbits from bag and arrange in a single layer in a pan or baking sheet.  Bake 35-40 minutes.  I also think these rib bits would do well in a crock pot or slow cooker.  Again, there are no “official directions” on the packaging for this method, but I assume it would take about the same time as in the oven if thawed.

Microwave.  Place thawed ribbit bag in microwave safe dish.  Cut 1 slit in center of the bag for venting.  Microwave on High for 9-11 minutes.  Stir and let stand 3 minutes before serving.

Thawing Directions:  It is not recommended to thaw the ribbits at room temperature.  Allow to thaw for several hours in the refrigerator before using.

Either way you have it, these Rib bits are a quick meal time solution for a busy time of year.  Once again saving you time for the things you love to do……maybe mow the grass, stop and smell the roses……or get your taxes done!!  (ewww, I hope not…..)


On Top of Spaghetti…….not always

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Italian food is one of my favorites.  I think I could eat it everyday.  I love the sauce, the cheese, the pasta, the bread……the meatballs.  Meatballs for appetizers, spaghetti and meatballs and meatballs topped with cheese, covered in sauce and baked in a roll.  (napkin required, of course!!)  I have experimented before in making my own meatballs.  It was time consuming and, honestly, the meatballs didn’t taste as good.  ( I expect some of you will disagree with me on this subject.  I apologize in advance.)  So, now I save myself some time and go to Johnnies to buy premade meatballs.

And……Johnnies is the absolutely the place to buy them.  They have various sizes, brands and prices.  I found it a bit overwhelming, so I will attempt to lay out the choices for you.  Johnnies offers 4 different brands of meatballs.  ( Devault, Mrs. DiFillippo’s, Fontanini’s and Colonial Traditions.)  Each brand is a bit different in composition.  Some are all beef, some are a combo of beef and pork or a combo of beef and turkey.  Generally, the more beef or pork in a meatball, the higher the price.

Johnnies carries two sizes of meatball for each brand mentioned, 0.5 oz or 1.0 oz. size meatballs.  (Which is most likely an issue of personal preference.)  And depending on the size of the crowd you are planning to feed, you will find both smaller (2.5 lb.) and larger (10 lb.) size bags.

I find meatball subs to be an “easy to put together” weeknight meal.  With 5 basic steps and ingredients, you’ll be chowing down before you know it.

1.  Meatballs

I used a bag of 1 0z. Fontanini’s (beef & pork) Meatballs

Heat in Sauce

2.  (2) cups of Prepared Sauce

This sauce is my favorite and can be used for spaghetti and lasagna in addition to the meatballs.

(However, if you are short on time, you could substitute with a premade sauce of your choice.  Johnnies offers 2 kinds of premade sauce, Bella Roma Pasta Sauce and Red Pack Marinara/Spaghetti Sauce.  Both in a large #10 size can.)

1 (14.5 oz.) cans of whole tomatoes

1 (6 oz.) cans of tomato paste

1 T. dried parsley

1 T. dried basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.  (“Crushing” the whole tomatoes as they simmer.)

3. Carmelized Onions (actually an optional ingredient, but adds an extra pop of flavor)

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Heat butter and olive oil in skilled on medium-low.  Add onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook until tender, sweet and a deep golden brown.   Approximately 30 minutes.

4. Sub Rolls

Again, your choice.  Hard rolls, soft rolls, potato rolls, french rolls.  Any and all will work just fine.

Split rolls and scoop out one side of the roll to make room for the meatballs.  The meatballs will fit easier and the process of eating should be less messy.

5.  (2) cups of Shredded Cheese

(mozzarella, swiss, cheddar, gruyere…..your choice)


Place Meatballs with plenty of sauce in rolls.  Top with carmelized onions and cheese.

Place under broiler for several minutes, until the cheese is melted.


While I was researching options for my next round of recipe posts,  I spied a new item innocently sitting on the shelf at Johnnies.  A jumbo box of Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs!  I love peanut butter eggs!  Don’t forget that Johnnies stocks many of your favorites candies and sugary treats.  Perfect for filling Easter Baskets large and small!

Fit for a Queen

By RecipesNo Comments


Feast (noun) a large meal, typically in celebration of something….

              (verb) to eat and drink well…..


My definition of a feast is simple, it’s a reason to gather, to eat and to celebrate.  Most often celebrating life, happiness and the fellowship of man (and woman)….the simplest and most important reasons of all. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful friends  and we feast together often.

Valentine’s Day was February 14.  Valentine’s Day also happens to be my birthday, a doubly-sweet treat.

Usually, we prepare a homemade feast for my birthday.  Restaurants tend to be too crowded and congested for our family of four.  We’re singing an off key rendition of “Happy Birthday”, while everyone else wants to hear sweet, romantic love songs.  It’s a tradition several years in the making, with everyone having a hand in the preparation.  There’s always a cake topped with an increasing number of lit candles.   There’s always a table set with fancy dishes, cloth napkins and lit candles.  And there’s always a special menu that includes our favorite things…….

I’ve raved before about Johnnies Brisket and I’ll do it again. It’s my go-to dish for any feast or special occasion because it’s absolutely delicious and fool proof to prepare.

But another family favorite is Johnnies Snow Crab Clusters.  My husband and son, especially, go nuts over these things. I think we went through 15 pounds this time!   They’re easier to eat than hard shell crabs because they have more meat, making it worth the cracking and picking.  We’re pretty traditional when it comes to preparing them, we usually choose to boil the clusters for several minutes and serve with lots of melted butter.  Some people use Old Bay to season the crabs.  The flavor is not necessarily absorbed by the crab itself but picked up by your butter fingers.

I was amazed to find out that you can also bake, steam, grill, broil and even microwave these monsters.  That’s because the crabs are already cooked, and you’re basically thawing and reheating the clusters.  Either way, heating takes only minutes.

Snow Crab Clusters are regularly priced around $10.00/lb. at the grocery store.  I bought my clusters on sale at Johnnies for $6.99/lb.   And, word to the wise, they go on sale often.  Pay attention to your Johnnies’ sale circulars!

The process of eating snow crab clusters is an experience, and often a messy one as well.  Johnnies has any and all equipment necessary to cook,eat and enjoy your crabs.

                 *Crab/Lobster Crackers

                 *Seafood/Shellfish Forks

                 *Oversized Stock Pots

                 *Candle Lit Warmers for Melting Butter


Johnnies has so many wonderful products, products that can take an ordinary meal and turn it into a feast fit for a king or queen.  And, most of the time, the products are quick to prepare leaving time for you to “have your cake and eat it too”!!