Dadgum That’s Good!… A Barbecue’s Best Friend

a review of John McLemore’s latest cookbook “Dadgum That’s Good! And Healthy”

dadgum FINALFRONTCOVER (2)When this book came my way, I had no idea how things would go. With no grill, zero experience with a smoker and minimal comfort deep frying foods—I was convinced that I would either ruin the food or severely injure myself (and maybe both). To my surprise and delight—neither horror occurred. In fact, I was lauded for my” mad skillz on the grillz”…. (yes, that’s a direct quote).

John McLemore has written more than a couple of cookbooks. But this time he decided to take some of his family’s signature dishes to a new level with healthy eating as the main focus. He proves that you can have an amazingly flavorful meal and still maintain your figure!

In flipping through the book you may not immediately notice, but majority of the recipes require a smoker. A VAST majority. So unless you own or intend to own a smoker—this ain’t the book for you. However, there are some good recipes for grilling and frying—and that was the direction I chose.  You may also want to make sure your kitchen is stocked with a few other tools as well. A food processor is not listed as a necessity, but I noticed that this was needed for more than one recipe. So just take your time looking through to make sure you can actually make the dishes.

Flipping through you may also appreciate the ground that the book covers. From details about smoking temps and times to the nutrition. In addition to calorie count for each recipe, he also includes tips for how to make some of the recipes even healthier. I can dig that!

My homie DJ Bigg H threw a Fall Shindig and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try a few of the recipes I was set to review. He has a slow-cook grill as well as very cool family and friends. I chose three recipes; one vegan, one vegetarian and of course, MEAT.  I won’t pretend there are many vegan options but I was pleased to see grilled brussel sprouts alongside salsa verde skirt steak. I decided to go with grilled balsamic portabella mushrooms, grilled zucchini and jerk chicken. Not exactly cheap eats, but more affordable than the brisket I considered.

I almost never follow recipes exactly, giving everything I prepare a little DineWithDani flavor. But for this, I wanted to remain true to John McLemore’s vision. So instead of settling for the dried rosemary in my cabinet or the frozen chicken thighs in my freezer, I bought fresh everything at the market on the morning of the barbecue.

The prep wasn’t hard or lengthy really. The marinades were almost too easy. Authentic Jamaican jerk has a reputation for being laborious. While preparing the marinades, I’ll admit that I was underwhelmed with what I tasted. But I let the jerk chicken and balsamic mushrooms marinate while I got dressed. Shortly thereafter, I packed my icy cooler and got on the road. The whole way driving I was thinking, ‘please God let this be good. I don’t want these people to think I can’t cook.’

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Where I Shop in Atlanta… Markets, Grocers, Vendors and more!

groceryI’ve always loved grocery shopping. It could be because it combines two things I love– picking out new things AND food.

And as a child I remember my mom (the consumate educator) would test my math skills by making me add up totals in my head while we shopped– a habit I’ve lately abandoned. And if i was on point I’d get a treat! ANY. THING. I WANTED. AT THE STORE! Usually tomatoes or swiss cake rolls. I know those are random options, but I would eat all of the tomatoes before my mom had a chance to cook with them– so she started buying me my own. I still love them today.

Outside of that, I had loads of other opportunities to earn sweets because my older cousins hated going to the store with their mom. So I would volunteer to go with my aunt when I was little. She would test my memory by verbally giving me a list in the car and pretending to need my help remembering. No matter what, I came home with a treat from the Kroger bakery when I went with her. #spoiled. So it was always good times!

Anyway, there is no one rewarding me for randoms tasks while grocery shopping these days, BUT i still enjoy going up and down the aisles, considering meal options and comparing prices. Over time I’ve learned where to go for certain things. And I want to share that with you guys!!! If you live in Atlanta– these are the places that I like to shop.

BEST PRODUCE: Any Metro-Atlanta Farmers Market!

I’m not going to say one farmers market is better than another for produce. It kinda depends on the produce you’re looking for, but I’ll say that farmers markets generally have better options than traditional grocery stores! I love checking out small pop up markets too. They usually feature locally grown organic items. I’ll splurge for that!

Side note: Dekalb and the Sandy Springs pop-up have great greens, but Buford Hwy has great potatoes and tomatoes.

BEST SPICES: Your Dekalb Famers Market!

HANDS DOWN. They have a wall of spices packaged in a variety of weights for the lowest prices you can imagine. I buy big tubs of coarse salt and peppercorns for less than $1.00 every time I go. And if you’ve ever tried to buy nutmeg at a traditional grocery store, you know that it’ll cost you a smooth $5 for nearly none. And at Dekalb, you can get an eff load it for under $2.00. That’s just an example. But think of a natural herb– and they have it for the low!



IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN… Taste of Atlanta!

Taste of Atlanta

I always get really excited about Taste of Atlanta! When I started this blog, I ate out all the time! But these days, I’m planning a wedding and cook more frequently than ever! This year I look forward to restaurants bringing the crowd favorites and hopefully some new bites too! I’ll probably get the VIP Experience again because wine makes everything better.

For more information about Taste of Atlanta, click HERE. I’ll see you there!

Rio de Janeiro… Salgueiro Samba School

This is the first in a series of posts related to my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil. It was an amazing experience. And I look forward to sharing it with you all.

On August 16, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the popular Samba School Salgueiro in Rio de Janeiro with friends. It was so much fun! The music, the dancing, the pageantry, the drinks, the food, the people… All of that together nearly sent me into sensory overload.I hope you all enjoy this extended compilation of clips!

For other images and information about my trip, be sure to like the page on Facebook!

Ugly Fruits and Veggies Find Love in France

I am guilty of skipping over the ugly fruits and veggies at my local grocer and farmers market. But I never thought about the amount of food waste that creates. French super markets have found a solution for this problem! It eliminates waste AND save families money in the process. Check out the video below! Maybe the U.S. should take a queue from the French on this one!


Try This… Lemon Meringue Pie Cocktail

I like to remind myself that somewhere its Happy Hour! So get your shaker ready!

You all may know by now that I LOVE Alie & Georgia. Their cocktails have as much personality as they do. PLUS they know how to turn my favorite desserts into drinks! I hope you’ll try this. And even if you don’t– just enjoy the video. They remind me of me with the BFF.

The Secret of My Success… Sweet Auburn Desserts

Sweet Auburn Desserts by Chef Sonya Jones

This was the first cookbook I was ever asked to review and I took that very seriously. So I’ve had the book for a long time and I’ve tried several of the recipes. And I have to say this book is the REAL DEAL. If you want to learn how to make moist pound cakes, southern style banana pudding, bread puddings, pie crusts and classic cookies– you’ll want to invest in this book. Sweet Auburn Desserts.

The author, Sonya Jones, and her bakery on Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta are known for a delicious sweet potato cheese cake. Yes, you read that right. And yes, it is everything you think it is! This treat was my introduction to the Sweet Auburn Bakery.

While hanging out at the Sweet Auburn Festival, I heard a young man yell “Girl, you know you want this!” I turned my head laughing, sure he wasn’t talking to me. He was. But he was right. He was holding up a slice of a dessert. I rarely give in to my sweet tooth, but I found him so funny that I decided to see what he was talking about.

It turned out that his mother owned the bakery he was sitting in front of and she had made this particular dessert, for which she is “famous”. Of course I questioned what he meant by famous. He then showed me photos of his mother with all manner of celebrity; politicians, musicians, actors, etc. I asked if I could have a sample. I was denied. As there were no samples, I bought a $5 slice of the famous sweet potato cheesecake. I ate it about 30 minutes later while walking around the festival.

The thing is, I’ve never really been that into desserts. Of course I like something sweet, but I’ll choose a chocolate martini over chocolate cake any day. I like pies (especially cherry and sweet potato), but cakes never really moved me. And cheesecake only served to confuse me. Its cheese, its cake, but kinda like pie. I left it alone usually. Only once in my life have I ever had that ecstatic experience with a dessert that so many women describe, but that came many years later. Another post.

My experience with Sonya Jones’ sweet potato cheesecake was like no other. I ate my slice slowly. I even considered saving half of it for later, but I proved completely undisciplined by eating the remainder in my car. I sat there wondering when I’d return to Auburn Avenue. I had to have more. I had to share it with my mom. I went back to purchase a few more things. And I fell in love.

A few months later, I got an offer from the publisher to review her cookbook. And here we are. If you want to impress your friends and family– GET. THIS. BOOK. My family thinks I’ve mastered the pound cake. I’m constantly asked to make them. And I don’t mind!!

One tip: Read the entire recipe before beginning. Some desserts require two recipes; one for the crust and the other for the filling. I wish you happy baking. Thank you Pelican Publishing! I look forward to more!!

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