Pappy’s Smokehouse: BBQ that rocks

Disclaimer: I am not a barbecue expert. I’m not even a barbecue amateur. I did not grow up around barbecue, but I do find it tasty.

We took an impromptu trip to St. Louis for a long weekend, and while there we figured we were close enough to Kansas City and Memphis that we should find some good barbecue. After settling into our hotel, we used Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor (aka my traveling godsends) to find a good barbecue place nearby. One place appeared to be one of the best in St. Louis, but reviews had accompanying photos of people lined up far outside the door, which deterred us.

We ended up at Pappy’s Smokehouse, which also was ranked among the best in St. Louis. Although we weren’t warned of a line, we quickly learned that to get good barbecue in St. Louis, one must wait in a line. So, we waited. It was part of the experience, with signs posted along the way saying, “Halfway there!” and prodding that you probably should have figured out your order by now. Waiting in line gives you the opportunity to soak in the scenery inside the restaurant.The walls are lined with bottles of different BBQ sauces and autographed menus from famous athletes and actors.

Pappy's Smokehouse |

When you finally get the food (and they do sell out), it’s worth the wait.

I settled on the turkey breast platter with potato salad and green beans. The turkey was flavorful and tender enough that it didn’t need BBQ sauce, but I sauced it anyway. The potato salad was exactly what I’d want at a BBQ joint. The green beans were good but nothing to write home about.

Pappy's Smokehouse |

The fiance ordered the pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries and fried corn on the cob. The pork was very good, but we both agreed the turkey was better. The sweet potato fries were outstanding — a great blend of salty and sweet. The deep fried corn is hard to describe. It seemed unnecessary to fry it, as it didn’t do a ton for it other than make it taste like oil. But, it was still delicious.

Pappy's Smokehouse |

Pappy’s offers four different BBQ sauces. My favorite was the traditional Kansas City sauce. The house sauce was good, but not as sweet as I prefer.

In addition to standard soft drinks, Pappy’s sells bottled drinks from a local company, Fitz’s. Their Cardinal red cream soda was one of the best red cream soda’s I’ve had. Just don’t look at the sugar content!

Pappy's Smokehouse |

Pappy’s oozes with character. Its employees are passionate about what they’re doing, and they’re good at their jobs. The food is the best part, though. It’s clear why people are willing to wait in line for it.

Simple split pea soup

I have been on a major soup kick lately, probably because winter is lingering longer than I’d like. A couple years ago after making my first ever ham, a friend suggested I use the ham bone for split pea soup. I was, as I often am, skeptical. But it’s a quality soup worth trying.

One of the best things about split pea soup is how affordable it is to make. I normally find a bag of split peas reduced at Aldi around holidays, and I’ll grab it for whenever I decide to make some soup.

First things first, get your veggies chopped up and ready to go. As with many soup bases, this recipe has the norm: carrots, celery and shallots (or you can use onion). I chopped mine to a pretty fine dice. The result: the celery and onion basically dissolve into the soup.

Split peas require some sorting. Be sure you go through them to take out any pebbles or oddities. Then, rinse them well. Aren’t they such a pretty green?

Split pea soup |

Once everything is ready to go, put your butter and oil into a large pot at medium heat and toss in your carrots, celery and shallot. I used a cast iron Dutch oven, but a large pot works as well. You’ll want to put the lid on for this.

Split pea soup |

I accidentally bought a red onion instead of a shallot (It was a weird red onion. Seriously, the similarities were remarkable!), and it still worked. But, I’d recommend using a shallot or a white onion for the recipe. Sweat out the veg until the shallots are translucent. Then, add the ham hocks, broth, vegetable bouillon, seasoning and split peas to the pot.

The vegetable bouillon can be swapped out if you don’t have any and don’t want to buy it. I needed it for another recipe a while back and fell in love with it. The one I have is heavy on herbs, so it’s a good way to flavor soup without using fresh herbs.

Split pea soup |

After everyone is in the pot, you get to mostly forget about this for about an hour. I checked on it every 15 minutes and turned the ham hocks since the liquid wasn’t covering them. After an hour, the peas should be pretty much dissolved and your consistency will be like the photo below. This is also the time you should remove the ham hocks.

Split pea soup |

Some people will try to take meat from the ham hocks and return it to the soup. I took the lazy and somewhat wasteful route, here. I tossed the ham hocks in the trash and added some package diced ham on top. The pot made about 5 lunch servings for me.

Split pea soup |

Split pea soup
Serves: About 5

1 lb. split peas
3 c. low-sodium chicken broth
3 c. water
1 1/2 lbs. ham hocks
1 c. diced ham (more or less to taste)2 medium carrots
2 celery stalks
1 large shallot (or half a white onion)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1/2 vegetable herb bouillon cube
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Sort through and rinse split peas.
2. Chop carrots, celery and shallot into a small dice.
3. Heat butter and oil on medium in a large pot on the stove. Add carrots, celery and shallot. Cover, stirring occasionally until shallot is translucent.4. Add all other ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat down to a simmer.
5. Simmer for one hour, turning ham hocks (if exposed) every 15 minutes.
6. Remove ham hocks. Top served bowls of soup with chopped ham.

Savory butternut squash

On this site, one of my goals is to discover new foods. And I can occasionally be a picky eater, so I’ll be honest if I dislike something.

Enter butternut squash.

Savory butternut squash |

I had never had the autumn squash when one September I walked into Panera and asked for a sample of their butternut squash soup. HATED it. Not for me. A friend convinced me to give butternut squash another chance.

While I know butternut squash is often used in sweeter dishes, I tend to favor savory foods, so I went that direction.

After peeling the skin and cutting the squash into squares (be sure you have a sharp, strong knife!), I covered the squares in garlicky butter. Side-note: there are people who say bacon makes everything delicious. For me, it’s garlic and butter.

Savory butternut squash |

Then you toss some Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan on top.

Savory butternut squash |

When it bakes in the oven the squash gets nice and soft, and the topping gets crunchy. The differing textures are divine.

Savory butternut squash |

I’m still not sold on butternut squash. But I would serve this as a side again in the future.

Savory butternut squash
1 butternut squash
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Chop the top end off the butternut squash, and then peel off the skin with a peeler. Cut the squash in half length-wise. Remove seeds and such. Cut the butternut squash into 1-inch cubes.
3. Spray oven-safe dish (I used a 9×9 pan) with non-stick spray. Toss in cubed squash.
4. Melt butter in small pot. Add minced garlic, letting it flavor the butter without browning the mixture.
5. Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Add 1 tbsp of the butter garlic mix. Pour remaining butter and garlic over the squash, coating as evenly as possible. Mix up the Parmesan and breadcrumb mixture before evenly spreading it on top of the squash.
6. Roast for 30 minutes, until the top gets a little brown.

Cast iron skillet cookie

I don’t make a ton of desserts, but the moment I tried this one, I knew I had to share it.

It’s easy, decadent and high in calories — three things I look for in a dessert. Meet the skillet cookie!

skillet cookie |

Maybe it was because of Valentine’s Day, but I was craving chocolate. I also wasn’t interested in running to the store for any specific ingredients I didn’t have, so I started Googling what I could do with dark chocolate chips. That’s when I found this recipe from Lemon Sugar. I have made some very small tweaks to it.

Lemon Sugar’s recipe calls for starting by melting butter in a cast iron skillet on the stove. There’s one major problem with that: I can’t use cast iron on my stove top. So, I improvised and found that I could still make this recipe without a problem.

I preheated the oven to 335 degrees with convection (if you don’t have convection, go for 350 degrees), and I had the cast iron skillet in as I preheated. When the skillet was fairly hot, I took it out of the oven and melted the butter in it.

skillet cookie |

When everything was melted, I added the brown sugar and granulated sugar, stirring until it was well combined, like so:

skillet cookie |

In a very small bowl, I combined the egg, vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of the slightly cooled butter and sugar mixture, to temper the egg. Then, I added the egg mixture to the skillet and worked to combine. Then the flour, baking soda and salt joined the party. Combining with a wooden spoon, it became a bit of a large dough ball — which I was amused with but forgot to photograph!

Anyway, then it was time for chocolate chips. I went for 70 percent dark chocolate chips. Once they were mixed in, I had to sort of force the dough to the edges of the skillet, and I flattened it a bit so everything was the same thickness. Don’t be worried if some of the chocolate chips get melty at this point.

skillet cookie |

It all went into the oven uncovered, and it took 15-18 minutes to bake.

Then, it was ooey gooey chocolate heaven — and 437 calories per serving. OK, so this is definitely a “sometimes” food. But it’s really darn good!

skillet cookie |

If those calories aren’t sufficient, you could always serve this dessert with ice cream. I cut it into eight pie-shape pieces, but if you wanted a smaller serving you could spoon it out or cut it smaller.

skillet cookie |

Cast iron skillet cookie
Serves: 8-12

Ingredients:1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven with 10 inch cast iron skillet inside to 350 degrees.
2. Just before the oven is preheated, remove cast iron skillet and place on temperature-safe surface. Add butter and melt completely.
3. Stir in the white and brown sugar until completely combined. Allow to cool for a few minutes.4. In a small bowl, whisk together one egg, the vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of the egg and sugar mixture. Add egg mixture into the skillet, combining completely.
5. With a wooden spoon, add flour, baking soda and salt to the skillet, combining until it becomes dough-like.
6. Stir in chocolate chips, then shape the dough into an even layer in the skillet.
7. Bake 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cheddar pork chops

Despite a long hiatus from blogging, I’ve still spent a lot of time in the kitchen. There’s one recipe I have fallen in love with that I’ve got to share!

I must admit I was super skeptical, so if you’re reading, “cheddar pork” and can’t picture it working, I urge you to just try it once. The recipe is quick and easy, so it’s perfect for a weeknight meal.

I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for something different to do with pork chops. It seemed too good to be true, but the reviews on the recipe were glowing. I made some tweaks but nothing major.

First, take four boneless, skinless pork chops and place them in a square baking dish that’s been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Then, in a small bowl combine the butter and mayo. I’m a fan of Land O’ Lakes Light Butter with Canola Oil (they didn’t pay me to say that). Use whatever butter product you prefer, but if you use normal stick butter you’ll want it to set it out at room temperature for a while to soften it.

Season the pork chops with pepper, dried sage and garlic powder. Add a glob of the mayo-butter mixture on each pork chop, spreading it out to cover the top of the chop. I realize how unhealthy this looks. But it’s delicious!

Cheddar pork chops |

Then, season with seasoning salt and top each chop with about 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.

Cheddar pork chops | EatWithAJ.comYep, still not looking very healthy.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chops. A thermometer is your friend here.

Cheddar pork chops |

Please ignore my messy plate. I was too hungry to clean it!

If I’m being honest, I don’t do a whole lot of measuring when I cook this. So, feel free to adjust to your liking (or your concern for fat and calories).

Cheddar Pork Chops
Serves: 4

4 boneless pork chops1/4 cup Light Butter with Canola Oil
1/4 cup light mayonaise
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon seasoning salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray 9×9 glass, square cooking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place pork chops inside. It’s OK if they touch.
3. Season pork chops with pepper, garlic powder and dried sage.
4. In a small bowl, combine mayo and butter until it reaches an even consistency. Spread evenly on top of the four pork chops.
5. Top pork chops with seasoning salt and 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese for each chop.
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Mini meatloaf my way

I have an odd relationship with meatloaf.

I was raised on my sister’s meatloaf. She did her best, and I ate it. But I wouldn’t say it was something I absolutely loved. Then when I eventually graduated college and moved out on my own, a friend of mine made a meatloaf that I thought was insanely good.

She, of course, didn’t have a recipe. She wings it.

Another friend gave me a cookbook that contained “meatloafies” but I thought the recipe wouldn’t satisfy the fiance, so I drew inspiration from both friends. My mission: the fiance wanted meatloaf that wasn’t too mushy.

Mini muffin tin meatloaf |

Since I cook for two, I try for smaller quantities. But, this recipe could easily be doubled for a larger family.

I started with a pound of ground beef and added an egg, ordinary store-bought breadcrumbs, two cloves of garlic finely chopped (nearly minced), ketchup (because America), onion powder, black pepper, thyme and marjoram.

My sister always mixed her meatloaf by hand, so I did the same. Sometimes it’s fun to get the hands dirty! Mix until everything is evenly incorporated but try not to over-mix, or it can mess with the texture. Then you simply divide the meat into four even parts and fit them into a greased muffin tin.


The bacon on top — one strip per mini loaf — is a nod to my friend Andrea’s recipe.


It took about 40 minutes at 350 degrees to get the meatloaf up to temperature (160 degrees, use a thermometer. If you don’t have one, stop reading this right now and go get one! Everyone should own one.). Then I turned on the broiler to help crisp the bacon. Keep an eye on it so you don’t burn it.

The mini meatloaf got fiance approval. I haven’t tried warming up leftovers yet, but I’m crossing my fingers that they’re as good as dinner.


Mini meatloaf my way
Serves: 4

1 lb. ground chuck (or your preferred ground beef)
3/4 C. breadcrumbs
1 egg
4 Tbsp. ketchup
2 Tsp. black pepper
1 Tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tsp. dried thyme
1/2 Tsp. dried marjoram
Salt to taste
4 slices bacon, halved

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients except the bacon in a medium-sized bowl. Mix by hand.
3. Spray four spots in a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
4. Separate meat mixture into four even parts and fit them into spots in the muffin tin.
5. Place two halves of bacon on each mini meatloaf.
6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, or until internal temperature is 160 degrees.
7. Turn on broiler until bacon is crisp.

Crowd-pleaser: Breakfast casserole

If you’ll believe it, I have another Indianapolis 500 connection to a favorite recipe. This one is savory breakfast casserole. I’ll give you a moment to salivate over this picture before I explain.

Breakfast Casserole | EatWithAJ.comOK, all set?

My mom used to go to the Indianapolis 500 when I was younger. We lived in the Chicago area at the time, and she would make a weekend of it with friends. One of those friends would prepare a breakfast casserole the night before the race, keep it in the fridge and put it in the oven when they woke up.

This is my mom’s recipe adapted from that. Although, it’s a pretty common breakfast casserole recipe.

We have used this recipe for Christmas morning, because it can bake in the oven while opening presents. Then you can eat! It’s great for a crowd, but if you have a smaller household, the leftovers reheat really well.

Here’s what you need (rooster shaker optional):

Breakfast Casserole Ingredients |

I prefer the sage breakfast sausage because of the flavor it offers, but you can use your favorite breakfast sausage. Any will do!


Brown the sausage in the pan, then drain it on paper towels to get rid of some of the grease.

While the sausage is browning, whisk together the eggs, milk and mustard. Note that the original recipe calls for dried mustard, but I normally just use yellow mustard because I’m cheap. After that mixture is combined, fold in the bread cubes. Don’t use a whisk like I did when I took these photos. That was a bad move.breakfast-casserole-whisk

Carefully fold in the sausage, making sure it’s not piping hot or you’ll get scrambled eggs. Then, put the entire mixture in a 9×13 glass baking dish greased with non-stick cooking spray. This bread was a little different than my norm, so don’t be worried if yours looks soupier than this photo:

Store it in the fridge overnight, or make it right away. It’s fine both ways! Then bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so, and you’re all set.


Breakfast casserole
Serves: 9-12

4 slices sandwich bread
6 eggs
1 tsp. mustard (dried or yellow)
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound breakfast sausage
2 cups milk1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown breakfast sausage in large skillet, breaking it into small pieces. Drain on paper towels
2. Beat eggs with milk, mustard and salt. Cut bread into cubes (about 1 inch).
3. Fold bread, cheese and sausage into egg mixture.
4. Pour mixture into 13×9 glass baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Store overnight or immediately put into oven, baking for about 45 minutes or until top begins to brown.