Alabama’s BBQ Scene

Alabama BBQ Trail

When you grow up in Sweet Home Alabama, a good plate of BBQ is not just dinner, it’s a way of life. You cut your teeth on rib bones, and you learn early how to look for the best bark on a brisket. Alabama has an existing and solid reputation as a food destination, but Alabama’s BBQ scene has exploded in the last few years. Our state’s BBQ restaurants and traditions are consistently featured as some of the best in the US and in national media publications. Our state’s tourism department has even declared 2015 as “The Year of Alabama BBQ.” If you’ve ever thought about a trip to the historical civil rights landmarks, the Space and Rocket Museum, or a visit to our beautiful beaches, plan to make several stops along the BBQ trail. You can find a fun list of road trips to Alabama here.

While the best BBQ joints in Alabama are rarely fancy, you will no doubt experience the friendliness and hospitality for which Alabama is widely known. We are a laid-back bunch who knows how to relax and enjoy good food and good company. Life, as they say, moves slower in Alabama, and enjoying a slab of ribs or a BBQ sandwich with friends is definitely a favorite pastime. Every Alabamian has their own personal favorites when it comes to our long list of BBQ restaurants, and I certainly have my favorite spots to meet up with friends and family for dinner.

I live in Birmingham, so the BBQ spots in our area are near and dear to me. First fave: Full Moon.

Full Moon

At Full Moon, you really can’t go wrong with the pork plate, the black angus beef brisket, or the hickory smoked turkey. But whatever you meat you choose, be sure to pair it with their famous vinegar-based slaw, top it with their chow-chow, and round it out with a half-moon cookie for dessert.

Jim ‘N Nicks is a Birmingham landmark, and it is always a crowd-pleaser. I’m a fan of the pulled pork sandwich and fries, but don’t miss their cheddar biscuits. Yeah, you’re gonna ask for another round of those!

Jim Nicks Biscuits

The newest BBQ joint in town is Saw’s, and it has quickly made a name for itself on Alabama’s BBQ scene. Saw’s serves a delicious pork sandwich, served with fried pickles. But if you aren’t in the mood for BBQ, be sure to try the pork on cheese grits, piled with greens and topped with curls of light onion rings.

Saws sandwich and fried pickles

We frequently head north to visit the US Space and Rocket Center or various other north Alabama attractions. When we are in Decatur, we never miss Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, home of the original Alabama white sauce.

Big Bob White Sauce

They have other great sauces as well, but my preference is the white sauce on smoked chicken.

Big Bob White Chicken

Football is king in Alabama, and in the fall we are a state divided right down the middle. Half of us are yelling “Roll Tide” for the University of Alabama, and the rest of us are yelling “War Eagle,” the battle cry of Auburn University.

If Tuscaloosa is your destination, Dreamland is a must-do. I’ve been going to Dreamland since the original location was the only location.

Dreamland

To get the true Dreamland experience, order ribs and white bread. You’ll get a rack of ribs and several pieces of white sandwich bread. That’s it. And you’ll be in heaven.

If you’re headed to the Plains for a ballgame, be sure to stop in at Mike &Ed’s. Like I said, we don’t make things fancy in Alabama. We serve our sweet tea nice and cold, but at Mike & Ed’s you’ll have to get it right out of a trash can. DOn’t worry… it’s clean.

Mike Ed Tea

One of the most notable attractions in Alabama is our coastline. Alabama beaches are the most beautiful anywhere around, as far as I’m concerned. They are sugar white and surrounded by the most quaint and charming small towns. They are definitely worth staying a few days! When in south Alabama, don’t miss the small town of Fairhope, home of lovely shops and fun restaurants like Ben’s BBQ. While I’ve never been to Ben’s, I have it on good authority that it’s the best BBQ in town.

Bens BBQ Fairhope

Fairhope isn’t the only coastal town with good BBQ. Mobile is home to two notable joints. The Brick Pit was featured on an episode of “Man vs. Food.”

Brick Pit Mobile

And I have it on good authority from friends who KNOW good BBQ that Saucy Q is the place to be. With a menu like this, I know the food is the real deal!

Saucy Q Menu

Planning a foodie trip to Alabama is made simple with the new Alabama Travel app, available for Android and iPhone. I’ve downloaded it, and it will notify me when I’m close to one of the BBQ restaurants that I want to try. So fun. You can follow the Alabama Tourism Department on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Y’all leave me a comment and let me know your favorite Alabama BBQ spot.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alabama Tourism. The opinions and text are all mine.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce

If you’ve ever eaten at one of the chicken finger chains like Zaxby’s or Raising Cane’s, you’ve no doubt wondered how they make their special sauce taste so good. It is, after all, the crowning glory of their chicken finger dinners. It’s the perfect dip for the chicken fingers, the fires, and even the bread. We southerners are a little crazy about dipping our food. While the actual recipes used by chains are closely guarded secrets, you can make a batch of Comeback Sauce at home that will rival any of the chain sauces.

Comeback Sauce is simple to make, as it only requires mixing the ingredients – no cooking whatsoever. It does have quite a few ingredients, but most of them are items most family households would have on hand anyway. If you’re in a pinch, go ahead and make it without the missing ingredients, as it will still be good. You can mix it with a whisk or in a blender, whichever you prefer.

Here’s what you’ll need for Comeback Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz 57 Steak Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or blend in blender. Store in air-tight container in fridge.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce is great on chicken, but it is also good on shrimp, steak, hamburgers, oven fries, and just about anything else you like to dip. It is a great staple dip to have on hand because you can always find something else to try it on.

I hope you all like it!

Comeback Sauce
Yields 1
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  3. 1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz Steak Sauce
  4. 1/4 cup ketchup
  5. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  8. 1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
  9. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  10. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  11. 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk, or blend in a blender until smooth.
Notes
  1. Comeback is a delicious dip that can be used on chicken fingers, steak, shrimp, or fries. It's also terrific on veggies.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Godly Mentors

Godly Mentors

Titus 2 has been on my heart a lot lately, and I wonder if the ideas laid out there might resonate with you, too. In this passage, Paul writes to Titus, whom Paul has sort of adopted as a son in the Christian faith. Paul gives Titus all sorts of life lessons in this book, but I want to zero in on his writing in chapter 2, verses 3-5:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Now, you’re a lucky gal if God has gifted you with one woman in your life that can mentor all of those things for you. If so, let me know when she takes on new proteges, because I’m signing up! However, if you’re like me, God has given you a scattering of women who each have their own way of mentoring, one in one area and someone else in another. And, at least in my life, the command above to “older” women hasn’t meant as much someone decades older than me, but rather someone just a few years ahead of me in the journey.

I have the friend that is more studied and wiser in God’s word than me that is constantly teaching me new ways of letting scripture guide my life. I have quite a few Godly friends whose children are just a few years older then mine that help guide and prepare me for the years ahead, giving hope and the occasional warning. I have friends whose marriages are a few steps farther along than ours, and they are a valuable source of insight and inspiration and they give us something to aspire to. I have people who have been writing and ministering to women a little longer than me, and they are so generous to answer questions and show me the ropes.

There are also areas where I need to seek out mentors. I can name a couple of areas where I don’t really have a good model to follow, and my wisdom in those areas suffers because of it. I’m praying God will lead me to people who can show the way clearly.

Do you have people in your life that serve as mentors, even if they don’t do so in any formal capacity? Are there spaces where you need to pray for and seek out someone who is just ahead of you to help you navigate? In which friendships are you the mentor, paving the way for those coming behind you? In what ways do you need to be more intentional about sharing your experiences with women who are just a few steps behind you?

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Sometimes I feel sorry for the pork chop. It gets a bad rap as being a boring dinner entree. And, granted, at times it earns that reputation. Without much spice, the pork chop can be dull, dry, and tough to chew. But with a little seasoning and effort, the plain pork chop can become a well-loved dinner that everyone enjoys. Kind of like life, huh? It takes a little effort to make a dull, boring life into a beautiful work of art that everyone in the family enjoys, but it is so worth the effort.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops take a little more effort than some of the dishes we present to you on The Hill Hangout, but they have become a family favorite for us. Served with homemade mashed potatoes or creamy noodles, they are comfort food. And they make my people glad they get to eat around our table.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Here’s what you’ll need…

4 pork chops (I used boneless, center cut, but you could use bone-in chops as well.)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 sleeve of crackers
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash pork chops and pat dry with a paper towel.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Add parmesan cheese, crackers, pepper, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, and onion powder in a mini chopper or food processor.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Pulverize until it has a bread crumb texture.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Beat egg with water. Pour egg wash in one dish and bread crumbs in another. Dredge pork chops in egg wash and then bread crumb mixture.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Fry pork chops in oil for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until slightly browned.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes.

Behold the beauty of the seasoned pork chop. And behold the beauty of the seasoned life. They both take a little effort, but you will definitely reap more than you sow.

Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Cross

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

With the winds of Good Friday blowing through my thoughts today, my eyes are turned to the cross. The cross, that most brutal and shameful of death instruments, became beautiful and redeeming. It was there that our perfect savior literally became sin for us so that we might become children of God.

Sin is ugly, destructive, and leads to death. It is hard to think about and even harder to admit, but our sin separates us so far from a holy God that nothing we can do or say is powerful enough or pure enough to reconcile us to Him. Our best efforts to save ourselves fall much too short. We need someone to bridge the gap, someone who can bring us to God and speak on our behalf and plead our case. We need a Savior.

In sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, Jesus became our Redeemer. He became that good and perfect sacrifice which paid our sin debt and gave us another chance with God our Father. It doesn’t make sense, really. And I’m continually confused and amazed and almost unbelieving that He would do it for a sinner like me. And yet, in His great love, He walked the road to Calvary, struggling under the weight of the cross and the sin that He carried. And He gave His life to purchase mine.

He became the founder of my faith.

It is too good to imagine, and yet it is Truth. And what’s more, He didn’t leave it at that. He knew that in my weakness I would fall away. Though He gave His life for me, I would choose to let other idols slip into my focus. He knew that I would be just like Israel, following one day and turning away the next. I would vow my devotion to Him, but continually be caught up in the things of the world. He knew that He would have to sustain me.

He became the perfecter of my faith.

The absolute relief that comes from His sacrifice is that none of it is about me. My salvation comes from His work, and His alone. He reached out to me and made me His own when I could not and would not have come to Him on my own. And He does it again and again as I go through life.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

#CamryBold Giveaway

So, remember a few months back when I told you about the Toyota Camry campaign called #CamryBold? They sent us on a fabulous #CamryBold weekend, and we took an old classic and made it new again. The purpose of the weekend was to highlight the bold changes Camry made to its 2015 model. They were gracious enough to let us drive a Camry for the weekend so we could tell you about it, and we fell in love. I’d been an SUV girl for so long, hauling around all the stuff you have to haul around when you have kids. But now that my girls are a little older, we feel like a huge SUV is a little too much car for us. We never could let go of the Camry idea, and a few weeks ago we went down to see our friends at Hoover Toyota. They fixed us right up, and we are now zipping around town in a new 2015 Camry.

Camry

The Camry was about 1/3 the cost of my big SUV. My gas bill has gone from about $400/month to about $100/month. My insurance is so much cheaper. And parking is no longer an issue for me!!! I never could get the hang of getting a huge SUV into a parking space on the first try. There is plenty of trunk room for us to throw book bags and soccer bags and grocery bags in the back. We are loving it and so far, we haven’t missed our big SUV one bit.

Camry

Here’s the really cool reason I wanted to tell you about our Camry love: The folks at Southeast Toyota have given me a couple of $1000 vouchers to give away to two of my readers who are planning to purchase or lease a 2015 Camry before 4/30/2015. (Depending on how much your car costs, that’s enough to pay around 2 car payments or 4 months of a lease!!!) Offer applies to the lease or purchase of any new Toyota vehicle in FL, GA, AL, SC or NC. Offer valid for you or any member of your household. Limit one rebate per household. Offer expires 4/30/15. This offer is non-transferable. Offer can be combined with other offers.

To be entered for the random selection of winners, just leave a message on this post. We will choose two winners on Friday, March 27, 2015. Please, please, please only enter this drawing if you are planning to purchase or lease a new Camry before then. Otherwise, you’d be taking $1000 from somebody who can really use it, and that just wouldn’t be very nice, now would it? :) Best of luck to you all!

Building and Remodeling Expo 2015

Spring is just starting to peek it’s head out in Birmingham, and that means home building and renovating is just around the corner. You’ve probably already noticed the increase in the number of houses for sale, and that’s because spring is the #1 time of the year for the real estate market. Along with that peak comes an increase in the number of people getting their homes in shape after a long, damp winter. If you find yourself in the market to redo a few things around the house, you don’w want to miss the 2015 Building and Remodeling Expo going on this weekend at the Pelham Civic Center.

When it comes to building and/or remodeling, there are so many choices of contractors and subcontractors in the Birmingham area, that it can be overwhelming. The Building and Remodeling Expo is a terrific way to meet and speak with professionals in the construction industry BEFORE making expensive mistakes on who you choose to do the work. You will be able to visit with contractors, as well as professionals who provide flooring, countertops, cabinets, siding, bricks, roofing, pest control, appliances, lighting, and iron and glass work.

The Building and Remodeling Expo is going on this weekend, Friday, March 20-Sunday, March 22. The cost is $7, but I have a half-price coupon for you. Just print it out and bring it with you to receive entry for only $3.50.

Just like last year, I’ll be there with the B-Metro Magazine team telling you about all the great products you can find at the Expo. Be sure to follow along with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also follow B-Metro on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Building and Remodeling Expo

Lemon Dill Aioli

Lemon Dill Aioli

There is nothing better in this world than a pan of piping hot roasted oven fries with sea salt. And there is nothing better on those oven fries than a good sauce. Last night we’d had enough of the meat and three meals, so I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes and a pan of sliced red potatoes, both coated in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I made a batch of Creamy Sriracha Dipping Sauce for the sweet potatoes and a bowl of Lemon Dill Aioli for the red potatoes. My stars, I think it was the best meal we’ve had in ages.

This was the first time I’ve made aioli, and it was super easy and so, so delicious. The lemon and dill work perfectly together, and they set off the taste of the roasted oven fries in a way that might bring a tear to your eye.

All you’ll need is about a cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of lemon juice (I used bottled this time around, but fresh-squeezed would be great, too), 1 tablespoon grainy mustard, 1 tablespoon dried dill, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Mix them together, let it sit for a minute so the flavors get to know each other, and serve it up. So easy. So delicious.

Lemon Dill Aioli

Lemon Dill Aioli is also commonly served on grilled fish like salmon, but it would also be terrific on chicken or beef. It’s a good all-purpose sauce.

Hope you guys enjoy it!

 

Lemon Dill Aioli
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup of mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup of lemon juice (I used bottled this time around, but fresh-squeezed would be great, too)
  3. 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  4. 1 tablespoon dried dill
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients together, let it sit for a minute so the flavors get to know each other, and serve it up. So easy. So delicious.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot Chocolate Mix

We’ve been fighting off snowy weather for the better part of two weeks around here. Schools have had late starts more than regular starts lately. Today’s weather called for 2″-4″ of snow, so there’s not a school around in session today. I do think some places north of us are getting a little dusting, but so far, we haven’t gotten the first snow flake.

Anytime it’s cold outside, my girls want a big mug of piping hot chocolate. For years, I’ve bought Swiss Miss or some other national brand, but I’ve always wanted to make my own. Fortunately, Mary Anneliese was game for making the homemade hot chocolate today. After a little searching around on ye olde interwebs for some ideas, she landed on a combination that was natural, inexpensive, and delicious. The good thing about this hot chocolate mix is that the dry mix stores beautifully in an air-tight container. When you’re ready for a warm cup, just warm a cup of milk in the microwave and stir in the dry mix. Voila!

You’ll need 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix with a whisk and store in an air-tight container. I used a mason jar, and it worked perfectly. When ready to make a cup of hot chocolate, warm a cup of milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons of hot chocolate mix for each cup of milk. And, of course, no cup of hot chocolate is complete without a big dollop of real whipping cream.

Enjoy and stay warm on this cold, winter day!

Sausage Pastry

Sausage Pastry

We’ve been making Jonathan’s Sausage Pinwheels for years around the Hill Hangout. They are one of our go-to breakfasts. We probably make them about once a week, and for whatever reason, that job has always fallen to Jonathan. He’s more patient about spreading the filling on the dough than I am, and he’s a better roller-upper than me. A few weeks ago, however, one of our friends brought a similar dish to Sunday school but it was baked in a pan. I’m not sure why I never thought about how much easier that would be, but it was my first introduction to Sausage Pastry.

To make Sausage Pastry, you’ll need:

1 roll of breakfast sausage, browned and drained
2 cans of crescent rolls (You can use the new non-perforated sheets, but my grocery didn’t have them.)
1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
1 8-oz block of cheddar cheese, grated

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and roll out one can of crescent rolls to form the bottom crust.

Sausage Pastry

Brown, crumble, and drain the sausage. Return it to the warm pan. Mix with cream cheese to make the filling. Spread the filling over the crust dough.

Sausage Pastry

Cover filling with the grated cheddar.

Sausage Pastry

Make a top crust out of the remaining can of crescent rolls.

Sausage Pastry

Bake on 350 degrees until top is slightly golden, usually about 15 minutes.

Sausage Pastry

Slice into squares to serve.

Sausage Pastry

This one is a crowd-pleaser, so you can feel good about taking it to church, school breakfasts, or even as an appetizer.

Sausage Pastry
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Ingredients
  1. 1 roll of breakfast sausage, browned and drained
  2. 2 cans of crescent rolls (You can use the new non-perforated sheets, but my grocery didn't have them.)
  3. 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
  4. 1 8-oz block of cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and roll out one can of crescent rolls to form the bottom crust.
  2. Brown, crumble, and drain the sausage. Return it to the warm pan. Mix with cream cheese to make the filling. Spread the filling over the crust dough.
  3. Cover filling with the grated cheddar.
  4. Make a top crust out of the remaining can of crescent rolls.
  5. Bake on 350 degrees until top is slightly golden, usually about 15 minutes.
  6. Slice into squares to serve.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/