Bacon Habanero Ranch Burger

So here's the thing, I am obsessed with McDonald's Bacon Habanero Ranch Burger. Since they first launched it, it has become the only sandwich that I buy. I am ashamed to say that there have been days where I go for lunch and dinner in order to enjoy this delicious sandwich. As I let the food settle, it only gives me time to realize that I am gorging myself with McDonald's. It is then that I begin to second guess my love for the habanero burger. Do I really want to be eating it? Absolutely. Could I do better at home? I hope so. mcdonalds

So with this idea in mind, I did a little search and decided to develop my own version of McDonald's Bacon Habanero Ranch Burger. Here it is.


With the internet nowadays, we hear so many horror stories about the meat that McDonald's uses in their hamburger. Maybe the stories are true. Perhaps they are urban legends. Either way, as delicious as McDonald's is, I prefer knowing 100% where the meat I use comes from. In fact, it was a great practice to be aware of where all of your ingredients come from and what processes they may go through before they reach your hands.


I made the poor decision (some would say best decision) in making the habanero ranch sauce with two habanero peppers. The McDonald's sauce definitely has a strong kick to it, it would be foolish to say that it is not hot. However, the sauce that I If you are adverse to spicy things, this may not be the best recipe for you. Or if you feel like being adventurous, make the sauce with only one habanero pepper. Make adjustments based on your own personal tastes.


While I absolutely love McDonald's version of this burger, and will most likely eat it in the future, it is nice to know that you can easily take food items from restaurants and make them in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Have you tried making a restaurant meal before? Any luck that you'd like sharing?

Bacon Habanero Ranch Burger


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 slices of white cheddar cheese bacon, cooked tomato, sliced lettuce habanero ranch sauce (recipe below)


  1. Heat a gas grill to high or heat coals in a charcoal grill until they glow bright orange and ash over.
  2. Grill the burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about 3 minutes.
  3. Flip over the burgers.
  4. Cook beef burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, 4 minutes for medium rare (3 minutes if topping with cheese) or until cooked to desired degree of doneness.
  5. Add the cheese, if using, to the tops of the burgers during the last minute of cooking and top with a basting cover, close the grill cover, or tent the burgers with aluminum foil to melt the cheese.
  6. Remove patties from grill, serve on bun, topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and habanero ranch sauce.

Habanero Ranch Sauce


1/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 habanero pepper, stemmed and seeded (I used 2 habaneros. It was delicious but very hot!) 1 clove garlic 1 green onion dash white vinegar salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth.

A Few of My Favorites - 09.05.14

090514 1. Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt: I've been on a huge Mast Brothers kick lately. And it is definitely something that I need to curb! The cost of these chocolate bars aren't that of the dollar store, but they are a treat worth having from time to time. My favorite that I've had so far is their dark chocolate with sea salt. In fact, I'm eating a piece right now. Yum.

2. Orrefors Sadeh Child sculpture: I am extremely Swedish. And damn proud of it! My mom started buying my siblings and I Swedish crystal when we were young and I am so grateful to have a wonderful collection. From classic tea light holders, to contemporary sculptures, Orrefors has just about anything you could want.

3. Hardwood Lump Charcoal: This one goes back to the Caveman Porterhouse recipe. I've tried cooking other steaks (filets) with this method it is superb. I implore you, please try grilling directly on hardwood lump charcoal. The flavors are out of this world.

4. Marc Jacobs water bottle: I bought this water bottle when I lived in NYC for $10. I use it on a daily basis. Doing yoga. Watching TV. Writing for SMAK.

5. Method Green Tea + Aloe soap: Every time I go to Target I purposely walk by this soap. I don't buy it every time, but I want to. My favorite scent is green tea + aloe.

Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Rum Sauce

grilledpineapple Desserts. I grew up in a family that very rarely had desserts after meals. Instead, they were reserved for special occasions - birthday, dinner parties. The extent of our dessert on any "normal" day was a big bowl of ice cream. Sometimes we would jazz it up with fresh raspberries from the garden. I know people who feel the need to include some sort of treat after every meal. In my opinion, it's completely unnecessary.

That being said, when you find a good recipe, hang on to it!

The pairing of flavors in this recipe is outstanding. The sweetness of the pineapple with the richness of the rum sauce. Be ready to serve this dish immediately - the ice cream will quickly melt. I think I've found a new favorite summer time treat - grilled fruit!

Grilled Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Rum Sauce Recipe from Food Network Serves 8


1 (3 to 4 pound) pineapple Cooking spray 2 teaspoons butter 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup rum 1 pint vanilla ice cream


  1. Cut the top and bottom off of the pineapple, peel and cut it crosswise into 8 rings, about 1/2-inch each. Use a spoon or apple corer to carve out the center core of each ring.
  2. Spray a large grill pan with cooking spray and heat over a medium flame.
  3. Grill the pineapple, in 2 or 3 batches, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until it is nicely brown and grill marks have appeared. (You can also grill this on an outdoor grill sprayed with cooking spray before being heated.)
  4. While the last batch of pineapple cooks, heat the butter, sugar and rum in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  5. Place a pineapple ring on each plate, scoop 1/4 cup of ice cream into the center of the ring, and drizzle about 2 teaspoons of sauce on top.

Grilled Vegetable Medley



Looks like we're a little later than usual on today's post, for a number of reasons:

  1. Today is Labor Day, which means no work and more sleep time for Tommy.
  2. I have within the last week started catching up on Season 2 of Chicago Fire. In an attempt to be all caught up before the September 23 premiere, I have been watching incessantly. Yesterday consisted of Chicago Fire, laying in bed, eating roasted gorgonzola crackers, one 30-minute trip to Trader Joe's, and eating dinner in bed while watching Chicago Fire. Clearly my mind was not quite focused on SMAK...

Grilled vegetables are one of my favorite summer dishes and this recipe is incredible. Feel free to substitute any of the vegetables for ones of your own choosing. I found that asparagus, carrots, red peppers, summer squash and onions provide a great array of options and make for a beautiful vibrant presentation.

I wanted to keep today's post quick so you are all able to enjoy this holiday with family and friends. Happy Labor Day!

Grilled Vegetable Medley 


1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons honey 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/8 teaspoon pepper Dash salt 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed 3 small carrots, cut in half lengthwise 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch strips 1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices 1 medium red onion, cut into wedges


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients.
  2. Place 3 tablespoons marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add vegetables; seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate 1-1/2 hours at room temperature.
  3. Transfer vegetables to a grilling grid; place grid on grill rack.
  4. Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat 8-12 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
  5. Place vegetables on a large serving plate. Drizzle with remaining marinade.


Caveman Porterhouse with Poblano Pan-Fry

thegrillingbook I mentioned this book a few weeks ago in my How to Build Your Cookbook Library post. It's a great cookbook with great recipes for poultry, beef, seafood and vegetables. I was skimming through the pages looking for a recipe and fell upon this recipe. Glancing at the recipe and picture, it looked fairly straight-forward. There are a few different ways of grilling - gas grill, charcoal grill, grilling directly on the hot embers of hardwood lump charcoal. We all know that I am desperate to learn how to master the art of grilling. But never did I think I would be grilling a porterhouse steak directly on hot charcoal.


I love photographing peppers. They always remind me of Pepper No 30 by Edward Weston.


I was surprised to see that the only seasoning used on the steaks was sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. I love a good steak, but I am known for adding a little A1 to my steak. Please do NOT add any other flavors to this recipe! Let the steak sit in the salt and pepper for an hour before cooking it. Where the real flavors start to show is through the charcoal -the meat gains incredible smoky flavors that are like nothing I've had before.


A note to anyone who plans on making this recipe: the hardwood lump charcoal takes a long time to heat up and get to the point where they are ready to use. Be sure to start the grill about an hour before you plan to start cooking, that way it will have plenty of time to heat up.




This recipe is hands down one of the best that I have tried in quite some time. Besides that fleeting natural light that I experienced (excuse the less than impressive picture above...), it was incredibly easy once reading through the instructions.

Have you ever tried, or even heard of, grilling meat directly on the charcoal? What is your favorite grilling method?

Caveman Porterhouse with Poblano Pan-Fry Serves 4


4 1¼-inch-thick porterhouse steaks coarse sea salt coarsely cracked black peppercorns ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 fresh poblano chiles, seeded, cut into strips 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro 2 large shallots, thinly sliced


  1. Season steaks generously with coarse sea salt and cracked peppercorns; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Build a hot fire in a charcoal grill using hardwood lump charcoal. When charcoal is orange, spread out in an even layer on lower grill grate. Use newspaper to fan excess ash from coals.
  3. Arrange steaks in a single layer directly atop hot embers and grill until an instant-read thermometer registers 120°F for rare (steaks will carry over to 125°F, or medium-rare, as they rest), about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Using long tongs, transfer steaks to a plate. Using natural-bristle brush, remove any embers and loose ash from steaks.
  5. Tent steaks with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Add oil to 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Place skillet directly atop embers in grill.
  7. When oil begins to smoke, add chiles and all remaining ingredients to skillet. Sauté until vegetables begin to brown, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on heat remaining from embers.
  8. Using oven mitts as your aid, carefully lift skillet from grill.
  9. Season pan-fry to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve over steaks.

Grilled Peaches with Greek Yogurt & Gingersnaps

After three months of summer, I finally made my first trip to Lauderdale Lakes in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Bummer that it happened just as summer is coming to a close. Perfect weather. Amazing food and beer. Wonderful conversation and laughs with family. A run of slaloming on less than ideal water. I couldn't have asked for a better Sunday. peaches

While browsing the Men's Health website the other day, attempting to get my life together and eat healthier and workout more often, I fell upon a recipe for grilled peaches with Greek yogurt and gingersnaps. The idea of grilling fruit seemed rather strange, but I have friends who have done it before and swore by it. So, I allowed my curiosity to get the best of me and I purchased a few white peaches.


The bourbon glaze is a nice subtle addition to the natural flavor of the peach and Greek yogurt. It's not overpowering, but strong enough to add that extra something. I would suggest that you use plenty of gingersnap crumbs when topping the fruit. The more the better. Plain Greek yogurt can be rather tart and the gingersnap helps cut the intensity of the yogurt.

grilled peaches

Do you have any favorite healthy treats? What's your take on grilling fruit? Any fruits that you'd like to see grilled? Let me know and I'll come up with a recipe.

Grilled Peaches with Greek Yogurt & Gingersnaps Serves 4

Ingredients: 4 peaches 1 tablespoon bourbon 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 2 teaspoons vegetable oil 1/8 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt crushed gingersnap cookies


  1. Prepare grill for cooking at 400°F to 450°F.
  2. Halve and pit 4 peaches.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon bourbon, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger.
  4. Whisk in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.
  5. Lightly brush bourbon mixture onto cut sides of peaches.
  6. Grill peaches, cut sides down (be cautious; bourbon may flare), for 2 to 4 minutes, until dark grill marks appear.
  7. Top each half with 1/8 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt and a crushed gingersnap cookie.

How to Grill Asparagus

How is it that after an amazing weekend you need another weekend to recover? It's been so great but my exhaustion level is through the roof. Can't we just have 4 days weekends every weekend? I always say that more time during the day would be nice, but perhaps I just need to get better at time management - work, blog, social life, chores. It is all doable, it is just a matter of how and when I make time to do said things.


Grilling during the summer, throughout the entire year for that matter, is an absolute must. In my opinion, there is nothing better than enjoying a steak or fresh vegetables cooked over the grill. In the summer, it just so happens that we are able to make an event out of it, inviting friends over for some beer and conversation. One of my favorite vegetables on the grill is asparagus.

grill topper

There are a number of ways to cook asparagus - roasting, sautéing, blanching, boiling. But I've found grilling gives the vegetable just a hint of a charred flavor without sacrificing that flavors of the asparagus. I use a grill topper, seen in the picture above, to help prevent the asparagus from falling through the grates.


What's your take on grilled vegetables? Any favorites?

Grilled Asparagus


bunch of asparagus olive oil sea salt freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place asparagus in gallon sized bag and coat with olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. Allow asparagus to sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Spread asparagus on grill topper over high heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes, flipping once or twice during this time, or until desired tenderness is achieved. Asparagus will start browning in some spots but should not be allowed to fully char.
  3. Removed from grill and serve.

Grilled Bacon, Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza

I have been meaning to attempt a grilled pizza for longer than I can remember. For some reason or another it just has not happened. Until this past week. My brother is home from college for the summer and has been bugging me time and time again to make pizzas on the grill. So while I was out getting groceries for the week, I bought the ingredients for a few different pizzas and the decision was made. We were grilling pizza.
 If I am being honest, I had no idea what I was doing. Putting pizza dough on the grill seemed like a terrible idea. Wouldn't it just go limp between the grates? Another skill that I have lots of room for improvement upon is my pizza tossing skills. From the picture below, it is clear to see that Tommy cannot toss pizza dough into a circle.
 While I've never grilled pizza before, I have made it from scratch and cooked it in a conventional oven. My favorite thing about pizza is the infinite amount of topping options. Green olive and onion. Shredded chicken with buffalo sauce and bleu cheese. Arugula, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. You can cater your toppings to whatever your tastes and favorites flavors are.  For this pizza I used the pesto sauce I had previously made and combined it with bacon, asparagus and goat cheese.
I chose to cut a few corners due to lack of time (and natural light). I purchased a pre-made pizza dough at my local grocery store and chose to go that route. More often than not this tastes just as good and is considerably easier and time conscious. I will however make another pizza with a homemade dough.
Have you ever tried grilling pizza? What are your favorite toppings or combinations of ingredients?
Grilled Bacon, Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza
8 ounces asparagus, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick coins pizza dough (I used fresh pre-made dough from the store) olive oil, for brushing Kosher salt 1/4 cup basil pesto 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 6 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Heat half of a gas or charcoal grill to high (about 400°F) and the other half to low (about 300°F). Fill a large saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Strain and rinse with cold water, drain well, and set aside.
  2. Divide dough in 1/2 and roll into 2 rounds about 1/4 inch thick and 10 inches in diameter. Brush the top of 1 round with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Lay dough oiled side down on the hotter half of the grill and brush the top with oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill dough without moving until grill marks form on the bottom, about 2 minutes.
  4. Flip dough with a spatula or tongs to the cooler half of the grill, spread with 1/2 of the pesto, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan, 1/2 of the bacon, 1/2 of the reserved asparagus, and 1/2 of the goat cheese. Cover and grill, rotating if necessary to avoid any hot spots, until dough is lightly charred and cheese is melted, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer pizza to a cutting board, sprinkle 1 tablespoon more of the Parmesan over top, slice, and serve. Repeat with second round of dough and remaining toppings.

Tequila Lime Chicken

Thank goodness for technology! Just as I decided to sit down and write today's post, my MacBook Pro decided to act up and not connect properly to the internet. So, thank my lucky stars, my iPad was fully charged and I am typing away using only my thumbs. Am I texting this entire post to the world? Limes

My mom has quite the Ina Garten cookbook collection, so needless to say, I've grown accustomed to her style of recipes and food. I have a friend who is a chef at a local restaurant and has told me on multiple occasions, quite bluntly, that she cannot stand Ina Garten. Why? I'm not sure. In Ina's defense, she without a doubt knows how to create delicious recipes, especially for gatherings or parties.


This recipe was quite simple - just the instructions on how to make this chicken. It was a great opportunity to think about the flavors and ingredients and create an entire meal around it. I chopped up some vegetables - peppers, onions, etc, and grilled them with the chicken. I chose to serve it all in top a bed of brown rice, providing a protein, starch, and vegetables.

Tequila Lime Chicken


Today I am off to Door County for 10 days! We will still be having regular updates, so don't worry, you will still be able to get your daily SMAK fix!

Tequila Lime Chicken Recipe from Barefoot Contessa


1/2 cup gold tequila 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes) 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges) 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeño pepper (1 pepper seeded) 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (3 cloves) 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3 whole (6 split) boneless chicken breasts, skin on


  1. Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeño pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Add the chicken breasts. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat a grill with coals and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking.
  4. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, sprinkle well with salt and pepper, and grill them skin-side down for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned.
  5. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through.
  6. Remove from the grill to a plate. Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature.