I was sent a copy of John McLemore’s latest cookbook “Dadgum That’s Good! And Healthy” for review. It took me a while to review it because I like to try more than one recipe to make sure that I’m giving you the real. This cookbook offers recipes, tips and suggestions for ways to grill, smoke and fry your way to healthier you!
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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When I arrived Bigg H had the grill ready for me. Within the hour, the chicken was ready to be served. I was SO nervous, but the feedback from everyone was amazing. I even got a few hugs!! Even after all the chicken was devoured I heard people asking newcomers if they had tried the jerk chicken. I was all smiles. Things were off to a good start!
The zucchini was next, basically grilled veggies (zucchini, yellow squash and onions) with feta, rosemary and good olive oil. The vegetarians at the party GOT THEIR LIFE. They killed the entire pan right off the grill. Yessssss! One very young party-goer described the flavors as layered. “At first you taste the squash, but then you get the sweet onion flavor. The last thing is the spice that kinda burned my mouth.” Every nine year old isn’t into fresh rosemary, but she did say she’d eat it again if I brought it!! Success!
And finally the grilled balsamic portabella mushrooms. If no one else ate these—I would have dove face first in the serving dish! These were my absolute favorite. And I didn’t feel particularly bad about eating them because the recipe called for stevia and not sugar. OH YEAH! They were delicioso. And they will be my contribution to barbecues from now on!
I could go on and on about how people gushed about the food, BUT I’ll just say this: Run to your local bookstore. I’m so pleased to now own this book. I’m convinced that John McLemore knows his stuff, because with one taste of his recipes you will know the title is completely appropriate. Because Dadgum. It. Was. GOOD.
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I’ve never done it, but I will try my hand at one of his smoked meat recipes soon. I can’t wait. This book has given me confidence to cook outdoors! You can do it too!
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