Dry Chili Rubbed Smoked Wings

Dry Chili Rubbed Smoked Wings

It’s that season where I just slide open the patio door and turn up the grill. Even though the weather is trying to find its season. I really love smoked flavor, and have experimented with various ways throughout the years to replicate it, without a proper smoker. The other day at Home Depot, I just gave in and made Certain Someone purchase a Weber Smoker Box and bag of pecan wood. It will have to do until I convince him to get me the Big Green Egg, which I’m coveting after using at a clients home. I’m patient. The smoker box really is effective and proves you can get great flavor with a gas grill. It’s just about technique.

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Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw

It’s been a good bit of time since I last posted. In that time I’ve been traveling, working, catering, celebrating and creating recipes . Unfortunately it just hasn’t made it to the blog. Where to begin?


First Certain Someone spent a lovely week at Half Moon in Montego Bay to celebrate a friends wedding. It was the best experience Ive ever had in Jamaica. Imagine your own luxury villa, butlers, maids, sunshine, private beaches, and just being spoiled. We really  needed it. We will  heading to Portugal and Sweden soon for another destination wedding, and to catch up with family and friends.

I’ve been getting some great catering gigs from consulates, a European airline carrier, and just overall great clients. I’m so happy the word is spreading about Coco Cooks.

And last before we get onto the food. Certain Someone turned 40! We decided to have a belated birthday party at the house in July ( In the fashion of the Queen), as its hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules.

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I made the whiskey bottle cake, and commissioned the label and cigar from a great friend who has amazing talent. Check her out if you need customized toppers for your cakes.




Now onto the recipe! Yes it another Old El Paso post. I was commissioned to do a total of 12 recipes for them, which are figured on their new website. While I don’t normally use prepared ingredients, I’m not naive enough as chef and career woman, that sometimes shortcuts and convenience are OK, especially when paired with fresh ingredients and creativity. Not everyone has the time nor inclination to make there own spice blends, salsa, tortillas, etc. So accepting the assignment and the challenge , where what motivated me. I love a challenge to think out the box. It’s grilling season and one can create all sorts of good things on the grill, or on an indoors grill, it you don’t have a gas or charcoal grill. I love the sight of grill marks . Check out the recipe and other great ones on the site.

Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • For Cabbage Mango Slaw
  • ½ head of small green cabbage sliced thinly or grated.
  • 1 carrot skinned and grated
  • 1 mango chopped into small pieces( no skin)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar
  • ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pineapple sliced
  • 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Old El Paso Hard and Soft Taco Kit.( Contains taco shells, soft tortillas, Taco Seasoning, and Taco Sauce)
  1. Preheat oven to 320°.
  2. In a glass dish or bowl marinate chicken with 1 packet of the Old El Paso Seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil contained in kit.
  3. In a small bowl add grated cabbage, carrot, chopped mango, cilantro, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly and set aside while grilling chicken.
  4. Using an indoor or outdoor grill, preheat to higher setting to obtain a good sear.
  5. Wrap the soft tortillas in the kit in foil and place in oven. Heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken to grill and cook several minutes on each side until done.
  7. While chicken is grilling, place hard tacos shells on a placing sheet and add to the oven with soft tortillas. Don’t overcook. Turn off oven after 5 more minutes and keep warm till serving.
  8. Remove chicken from the grill and let reat a few minutes.
  9. Add pineapple slices to hot grill and sear on both sides for a few minutes. Remove from grill.
  10. Slice chicken on the diagonal and serve on platter with chopped grilled pineapple slices.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  12. Serve with cabbage mango slaw, soft and crunchy tortillas, and sauce contained in the kit.



Grilling up Walmarts USDA Choice Steaks

I confess , when the people of Walmart pitched me to try their new category of steaks, I was skeptical. Honestly I really don’t shop at Walmart, and never for food.  The main reason is that there aren’t many around me.  But Chicago has a few and seems to be expanding.It seems Walmart has done a steak over. It’s about time, as people are getting more selective in the meats they are purchasing. Their previous offerings were a lower priced Select in the white trays. Scott Neal , the VP of fresh meat and seafood is the driving force behind the new range of  Choice T-Bones, NY Strips,Filet, Ribeyes, and Top Sirloin that meet the rigorous USDA standards assuring quality and most important safety. These steaks are different by being packaged in Black trays.

  • Only 1 in 5 steaks qualifies for the Choice program.
  • Walmart USDA Choice steaks are certified by the USDA for quality.
  • Walmart USDA Choice steaks are aged for their tenderness and flavor.
  • Walmart USDA Choice steaks are always packaged fresh.
  • Walmart’s USDA Choice steaks come with a 100% money back guarantee . If you aren’t satisfied  just bring back your steak for a full refund.

In perusing a few threads, I’m finding people like me were skeptical, and actually are giving the new steaks a try and are seeing the definite improvement. So last week I got to participate in a webinar with  award-winning Chef Eric Lackey of The Flamestone American Grill in Olsamar , Florida . He shared a few simple recipes for grilling and  steaks for the  grilling season. It’s all part of the Walmart Choice Steak Challenge. On the menu were:

  • Grilled Beefsteak Tomato with Himalayan Pick Rock Salt Crust
  • Grilled Ribeye with Everglades Rub
  • Coca- Cola Balsamic Marinated Bermuda Onion

You can see Chef here work his magic and walk through the recipes. My favorite recipe was the rub for the steaks. I didn’t have the Everglades seasoning, but used the coffee based rub recipe as a base. The flavor was awesome and really complemented the NY Strips I used in place of the favored Ribeye. I added halved leeks to the Coco-Cola Balsamic Marinated Bermuda Onions. I found the quality of the steaks very good and better than what I was expecting. Nice marbleizing , thickness and tenderness. And the value was  still there. Keep up the good progress Walmart.

Grilled Ribeye with Everglades Rub
Recipe type: entree
Chef Eric Lackeys of The Flamestone American Grill in Olsamar , FL recipe created on behalf of the Walmart Steak Challenge presented by Kingsford charcoal and Coco-Cola
  • 4 Walmart Choice Premium Ribeye Steaks
  • 1 head roasted garlic ( roast garlic in oven until golden brown and soft to mash)
  • 4 tablespoons Everglades seasoning ( available at Walmart)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon dry thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Combine all dry ingredients . Set aside.
  2. Rub each steak with an equal portion of roasted garlic paste on front and back. To prevent burning, don't let garlic paste get on the bone.
  3. Divide and rub seasoning on the four steaks and cover . Place in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. This can be done a day in advance.
  4. Preheat the grill until the perfect grilling temperature. ( if using coal until the briquettes are consistently ashed over)
  5. Remove steaks from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
  6. Place steaks on the grill and leave in one position on direct heat for 4-5 minutes, rotating to get nice grill marks and even flavor profile.Follow this timeline for medium rare.


*Disclosure . Walmart provided two $25 gift cards to try the new Walmart Choice Steaks. My opinions are my own.


Meat Fest BBQ at Coco Cooks

As I mentioned in the last post, I now have an amazing Weber Genesis grill. As a charcoal grill type of gal I was a little worried about the results of using gas. But our new home owner association only allows gas grills. So Certain Someone and I invited the guys who helped us move and the lovely Chicago newcomer and fellow food blogger Esi over  for a little BBQ. This was our 2nd gathering since we moved in. The first one was for my family. And I’m in the midst of planning a more formal like dinner for Certain Someones partners and business associates  soon.

Here is what I served up. The photos were an afterthought as we just wanted to dig in to the food.



I cured  this  corned beef brisket for about 3 weeks  and slow roasted it on the grill with indirect heat for a total of six hours. A nice crust formed and it sliced up beautifully after roasting. The only way to go with corned beef in my opinion. This was the all around favorite. It could stand alone or be topped off with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.


Naturally this half German household can not have a BBQ without beer bathed Bratwurst. I sourced my brats from Peoria Meat Market ( they sell long rolls of uncut brats frozen and fresh made in-house) and boiled them up in Franziskaner Weissbier first then finished up on the grill with periodic splashes of more beer.  We served these on Pretzel buns and a choice of mustard’s and sauerkraut.

Lighter fare of Old Bay Shrimp tossed in olive oil and generous amounts of Old Bay. Then skewered and grilled.  Chicken breast tenders  marinated in a quick pesto I made with some crushed walnuts, cilantro, parsley, garlic, lime  and olive oil. I adapted this recipe from a Weber cookbook.

Certain cuts of meat intimidate me but I feel I seared this up to perfection.  Outer skirt steak , cleaned and trimmed,rubbed in cumin, chili, paprika, garlic , kosher salt , pepper and some oil.  Marinated a few hours  and seared for approx five minutes on each side.  Cut the pieces with the grain in 4 inch cuts, and then slice thinly against the grain.  Served with Chimichurri sauce.

Assorted charred veggies marinated in balsamic , olive oil, and herbs.

A variation of my favorite recipe from Plenty. Winter Slaw. I use honey sesame , lime, sesame oil, red chili flakes, etc for a fab dressing tossed over red  cabbage and Nappa/ and or white cabbage, mango and chopped candied nuts. Certain Someone loves it.

Red, yellow and blue mini potatoes, boiled and scooped out a bit. Topped with sautéed Crimini mushrooms cooked down with cognac and sage and topped with sour cream. I adapted this recipe from a small great cookbook called 5o Great Appetizers. I have served them for catered events and love to use the multi colored potato medley I find in my Restaurant Depot. If time permits top with a leaf of fried sage.

I also grilled up pineapple and made a batch of the worst cookies ever which I threw together. They were dry puffy chocolate chip and dried cherry . However not bad the day after dunked in coffee. I cant wait to experiment some more on the grill which will become my outdoor summer kitchen as the temps rise in Chicago. Naturally we have leftover for days. I envision some pineapple fried rice with the shrimp and chicken as Certain Someone polishes off the corned beef brisket.



Kentucky Pulled Pork

I like to call this Kentucky Pulled Pork. The recipe was given to me by a genuine Kentuckian, Mel Doerr. Now Mel is what I would like to call my spiritual adviser, who I have consulted with for years. His intuition and instinct are always been dead on, so naturally I trust his recipe. He gave me this recipe for a crock pot style slow cooked pulled pork ,handed down from his grandmother.What makes it true Kentucky Pulled Pork is that shot ( or two ) of Bourbon you are going to add.Yes sir, Bourbon! No need to slave over an open pit barbecue, turn on that crock pot this summer and save some electricity while staying cooler in the process. Mel also mentioned his coleslaw, but didn’t provide a formal recipe. The draw to his coleslaw was pineapple. Pineapple and Pork are always delicious. This recipe is really easy. Yes it takes approx two days with marination and cooking, but it’s worth it and wont cause you a lot anxiety in preparation. It practically cooks itself!


Kentucky Pulled Pork

*time preparation approx 2 days. 10 hours slow cooking.

  1. Marinate all ingredients over night in a non reactive food grade container with lid.
  2. Place in Crock Pot with a little extra liquid (water) and set for 10 hours.I also added an optional few drops of liquid smoke toward the end of cooking.
  3. Serve with coleslaw.

Coleslaw With Pineapple

  • 1 head of cabbage shredded
  • 1/2-3/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 small can of crushed pineapple with its syrup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 carrot grated
  1. Mix all ingredients together. Start with the 1/2 cup of Mayonnaise and add more as needed. You don’t want your slaw too runny.
  2. Adjust to taste
  3. Chill and let set for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator