Spicy Garlic Aioli

A lot of the cooking shows have someone preparing an aioli and it always seems risky. I know there are only a few ingredients but they frequently separate and it seems intimating to home cooks like us. This recipe comes from a necessity in that we ran out of mayo and I wanted a sauce to go with roasted brussel sprouts and grilled asparagus. I found a bunch of recipes online but the “simple” aioli recipes used mayonnaise as a base. I found a recipe that said it is a simple 2 minute aioli, so I went for it. I did spice it up with Sriracha sauce but everything else is the same. I always thought making an aioli was complicated and risky but doing it this way makes it so easy.

The original recipe states that you shouldn’t use the immersion blender with the extra virgin olive oil because it can become bitter. The other note is that for the 1/2 cup of lighter oil, you can use light olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. We chose to use vegetable oil because that’s what we have most at hand and it turned out great.

For this recipe, you will need an immersion blender with a cup attachment in order for this to turn out right. The original recipe has instructions for using a blender but I haven’t tried that method so I can’t endorse it.


  • 1 whole egg
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of light oil – use light olive oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon  Sriracha pepper sauce
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Put the egg, garlic and lemon juice in the mixing cup and let it settle for a few seconds. Then, add the light oil. Put the immersion blender in the cup at the bottom and turn it on. As the cream forms, tilt the cup to make sure all the oil gets emulsified. This happened a lot faster than I was expecting.

Transfer the aioli to a medium bowl. Start whisking the aioli and slowly drizzle in the exra virgin olive oil and then the Sriracha. This should just take a few seconds. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

We drizzled the aioli over grilled asparagus and then the next day, used it as a spread for sandwiches. You can cut back or completely eliminate the Sriracha sauce depending on how you’ll be using it.


Fusion Hot Pepper Sauce

Here’s an interesting hot sauce from one of the bloggers I follow in Italy. I can’t wait to try this one out.

Being Britalian

Each year I grow hot Italian chillies and as I harvest them I sun-dry them in batches for use throughout the year. Once dried they store in an airtight jar for a year or so. Just make sure when you pick some out that your fingers are dry, a tiny drop of water in the jar will spoil them. As my chillies in the orto are almost ready to harvest I decide to use up some of last years to make way for the new crop.

I’ve also been growing some Jamaican Scotch Bonnets, the plant is in its second year and after a not so good season last year, I took advice and potted it up to restrict the roots and it’s bearing lots of bright orange fruits this year. So using these two varieties I thought I’d create a Caribbean-Italian fusion hot pepper sauce.

The ingredients I used…

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Smoked Doña Sauce – a Texas twist on a jalapeño sauce

A couple years ago I posted a jalapeño sauce called the Doña Sauce.  It’s a local favorite and can be found in some variation at most of the Mexican food restaurants in Austin. Once we got our smoker last summer we started smoking the ingredients, and wow does this twist make a difference. We ALWAYS have at least one container of this sauce in our refrigerator! The smoke flavor is a great addition to this sauce.

This recipe makes about 1 liter of sauce and takes about 2 and one-half hours to complete. The majority of the time is in the smoker so the active preparation is only about 30 minutes. If you don’t have a smoker, you can grill the peppers or use our original Doña Sauce recipe.

For our wood chips, we use a 50/50 ratio of mesquite and hickory. When we use the smoker, we take advantage of it and add vegetables. For example, today we’re smoking a chicken to take over to my cousin’s for dinner in his backyard. We just added a tray of the peppers and garlic above the chicken to the smoker.

Here’s a tip for variations: you can use any pepper you want or have available. In our original recipe, we only used jalapeño peppers. In this recipe, we substituted some of the jalapeño peppers with 2 poblano peppers. This reduces the heat somewhat and gives it a slightly sweeter flavor. You can also substitute hatch chili peppers, Anaheim peppers or even sweet bell peppers to reduce the heat and make it sweeter. Austin’s HEB grocery store hosts an annual Hatch Chili Pepper Festival in mid-August so we’ll be preparing some hatch pepper sauce as soon as the pepper start showing up in the stores.


  • 10 medium jalapeño peppers
  • 2 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, divided


Heat your smoker to 250 F and get your wood chips ready. Once your smoker is hot and the chips are putting off smoke, place your whole jalapeño peppers, whole poblano peppers and garlic haed on a tray and put in your smoker. Smoke the peppers and garlic for one and one-half hour. After the 1.5 hours, the pepper skin will have started pulling away from the pepper and they’ll have a duller green color, kind of like an olive green color. This is what you’re looking for. Put them in a container to cool until they are able to be handled, about 15 minutes.

Smoked peppers and garlic.

Smoked peppers and garlic right out of the smoker.

Once the peppers and garlic have cooled, prepare the vegetables. For the jalapeño peppers, cut in half and then pull out the seeds and inner membrane. To make it spicier, leave some of the inner membrane and seeds. We usually leave about half of the seeds and membrane, but we like it hot. For the poblano peppers, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Finally, break the garlic head apart and separate out the garlic cloves. I know it seems like a lot of garlic, but trust me, it’s not too much. When you smoke them, they get a sweet, creamy flavor and lose the bitterness of raw garlic. The skins should come off the garlic cloves very easily. You don’t need to cut up the cloves of garlic.


Peppers and Garlic ready to be blanched.

Peppers and garlic after they have been prepared.

Put the peppers and garlic in a large pot like in the picture below.

Peppers and garlic in pot

These are the peppers and garlic before the water is added.

Add enough water to cover the peppers and garlic and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Peppers and garlic covered in water.

These are the peppers and garlic covered in water.

Now, use tongs to move the peppers and garlic to your blender. Add the 1/2 cup olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt to the blender . Add about 1/2 cup of the water that you used for the peppers to boil in. Keep the rest of the water to use to get the consistency you are looking for.

Peppers, garlic & olive oil in blender.

The peppers, garlic and olive oil have been added to the blender.

Use the food processor mode to blend the ingredients into a creamy smooth sauce. At this point, taste the sauce and check for flavor and consistency. we usually add the rest of the salt and another 1/2 cup of water. Depending on your peppers and how thin you want your sauce, you can adjust the flavor with additional salt and water to your preference. Use the blender to mix the additional salt and water until smooth and creamy.

Here is the final stage of the Smoked Doña Sauce. If you look close, we are almost exactly at 1 liter of sauce. Put the sauce in a non-reactive container (we use glass) and store it in the refrigerator. You can use this as a sauce for chips or add it to anything you want.

Blended Doña Sauce

This is the blended Doña Sauce.

Chipotle Pasta Salad

I’ll be honest, this is my FAVORITE pasta salad. I think of this salad as the perfect summer pasta salad, but to be honest, we make it year round because we like it so much. I posted the recipe for the chipotle paste that is used in this salad in a post yesterday. This is the punch that gives this pasta salad a great flavor.

You can use any type of pasta that you like this. We used to get a big bag of multi-colored garden rotini from Sam’s Club but we haven’t seen it at our location lately. This was a great noodle for this salad because it holds up great and the color makes it fun. The Sam’s  website shows it should be in stock at our location so we’ll have to look for it again. In the pictures, we’re using a fusilli pasta from Trader Joe’s. We’ve also used farfalla pasta in the past but it broke apart so I’d stick with a thicker pasta with more grooves on it.


  • 1 pound dried pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chipotle paste (see recipe)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (can substitute parsley)
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced (optional)
  • 1 tsp  sea salt, or to your preference


To start, cook your pasta noodles according to the directions on the package. Definitely pay attention to the time and don’t over cook this pasta or it will fall apart while you’re mixing it. Read the next step before you finish. You’re going to put the hot pasta water into a bowl with the red onions and carrots to soften them.

While the pasta is cooking, get your vegetables ready. Once they’re cut, put the red onions and carrots into a small glass bowl. When the pasta is finished cooking, pour the hot water into the bowl with your red onion and carrots. Let this soak for about 10 minutes. Then, drain the carrots and onions and rinse well.

Now, mix the mayonnaise with the chipotle paste until it’s well mixed. It should turn a pinkish color.

Pre-mixed Pasta Salad

Pre-mixed pasta salad with the onions, carrots, parsley and jalapenos and noodles

Add the pasta noodles, tomatoes, carrots, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and the mayonnaise chipotle paste mixture into a large bowl and gently fold the ingredients together.

If you look close, you’ll see that the picture actually uses parsley instead of cilantro. It gives the salad a different flavor but it’s just as good. If you have family members who don’t like cilantro, just substitute the cilantro for parsley and it will turn out great.

Once the noodles are well coated with the mayonnaise chipotle mixture, you are good to go. You can eat it right away or “sample” it just to make sure😉 – however it’s best if you put it in the refrigerator and let it cool for at least an hour.

Chipotle Pasta Salad after it's been mixed.

Chipotle Pasta Salad after it’s been mixed.

Obviously, this makes a bunch of pasta salad and way more than 2 people can eat in one meal. It’s a perfect side to take with you to a BBQ or summer cookout. It also likely means leftovers! This salad will last a week or so in the refrigerator. When we serve it, we’ll sometimes put it over a bed of lettuce which adds a nice texture to it. For lunch, I’ll sometimes take a small bowl of this pasta salad and mix in some tuna for a tuna salad – this is so great and easy for a lunch at work.


Chipotle Paste

This is a paste that we use year-round. We found this in a recipe for grilled salmon and now we use it in many other dishes. My favorite is to use it in a summer pasta salad.


  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (7.5 oz can)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano


This is really simple, just put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix it until it is a creamy paste.

I’ll be using this paste in future recipes so I thought I’d go ahead and post it on its own so I can refer back to.


Grilled Salmon with Basil & Mint Pesto

We have a mint plant that is very generous with its leaves. Meaning, we can’t use it fast enough. We also have a basil plant we got from Trader Joe’s which needed to be cut back a bit. So, I started looking for new ideas of uses for them. It just so happened that we also bought a large salmon steak earlier in the week. After searching the internet for inspiration, I settled on this simple recipe.


  • 1 piece of salmon (or steelhead trout)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


Make your pesto by chopping your mint and basil leaves and put into a food processor. Add the chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together until you have a pesto consistency.

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Salmon coated with basil and mint pesto

Coat your salmon with the pesto and let sit for at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to high heat.

Place the salmon on a cedar plank or a grill plate. We don’t have any cedar planks so we just lightly sprayed non-stick oil on a grill plate and put the salmon on the plate in the center of the grill. Cook the salmon for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

After a few minutes, our grill started to flare up, which is common for our grill. To resolve this, I turned off the heat directly under the salmon and then turned on the outer burners to high. Our grill cooks very hot so this was more than enough heat for our salmon.


We  didn’t use all the pesto on the salmon and had some leftover. We used it to coat some zucchini noodles as a side dish. We also served it with some lentils. It was a great, easy dinner.

Smoked Corned Beef Brisket

This is a pretty simple variation of the standard St. Patrick’s day meal. We bought an electric smoker last summer and we’ve been using it pretty regularly. When Curt was getting his corned beef ready for St Patrick’s day, he noticed that the package had an alternate method of cooking the meat. It was for cooking it in the smoker. He couldn’t pass up this new option.

Smoked Corned Beef

Smoked Corned Beef


  • 1 package of corned beef
  • Wood chips for your smoker
  • BBQ beef rub (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water


Here's a picture of the package that had the cooking instructions.

Here’s a picture of the package that had the cooking instructions.

Heat your smoker to 275 F.

Prepare your corned beef by removing it from the package and rinsing with water. Pat the meat dry and then season with your favorite beef rub.

Add your favorite wood chips. We used a mix of Hickory and Mesquite. Smoke the corned beef fat side up until the internal temperature reaches 160 F. This should take about 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours.

Preheat your over to 350 F for the final step before you remove the corned beef from the smoker.

Remove the corned beef from the smoker and wrap in foil, adding 1/2 cup of water.

Place the foil wrapped corned beef in the oven. Cook until the internal temperature is 195 F, which should be about 45 minutes to 1 hour.