Backyard Pizza Oven

With the growing interest in expanding the indoors outside with added living space, it is no wonder why cooking outdoors has become even more popular.  I recently used a wonderful product called the Pizza Que pizza kit for Kettle grills. Most kettle grills can accommodate this expansion which turns the grill into an amazing pizza oven.  The temperature of my oven reached over 700 degrees in less than 30 minutes and kept that temperature for one hour, without any other assistance.  At that point, we wanted the oven to cool down, so it could have stayed hotter even longer!

Since our pizza cooked in less than eight minutes, we could have made at least 7 more pizzas in rapid succession during that time period.  The result was an excellent tasting pizza which was equal to any wood fired pizza I have sampled at any restaurant.  And, all of this in my own backyard for a fraction of the cost.

This was a really fun time as well, and could be turned into a super fun pizza party for friends and other guests.  I used my favorite frozen pizza crust, with my technique of using corn meal on the pizza paddle for ease in transfer into the oven and out. A mix of flour and corn meal could also be used.  Too much corn meal will start to smoke or burn if left in the hot oven for too long.


Midway through the cooking time, I rotated the pizza as recommended with the included stainless steel paddle with ease.  The crust was already almost done at that point, so the pizza easily moved on the ceramic pizza stone.

The kit assembled in less than 30 minutes and also comes with a thermometer which determines when the pizza should begin cooking. The oven must be up to temperature to achieve the best and fastest results. I followed the directions that came with the kit and had outstanding success. Thanks to the Charcoal Companion again for another great product.

The kit is sold on, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and online at


Herb and Bacon Red Potato Salad

Small red potatoes are very easy to work with when preparing summer potato salads. I like to use them because of their quick cook time, and tasty skins.  Almost all of my favorite potato salads leave the skins on the potatoes for that added texture and flavor profile.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a Picnics cookbook, which over the years, I have adapted for my family. This one uses bacon, which is unique for the rest of my potato salad recipe collection. For those guests who like bacon, this is a great recipe and one that could be prepared for summer holiday weekends.

To make the salad,  gather these ingredients:

8-9 small red potatoes, 6 slices of microwave bacon cooked, 1/2 of a medium red onion, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1 tablespoon dried basil, fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Scrub clean and boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and cool until warm.  Chop into bite-sized pieces for the salad. Chop the cooked bacon.  Add bacon and onion to the potatoes.  Mix well.


In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing on the salad and mix well, while the potatoes still have some warmth to them.  This will give the salad the blended consistency.


Greek pasta salad

Adding to my list of wonderful pasta salad recipes has to be this one for Greek pasta salad.  I love a Greek salad, so substituting pasta for the lettuce seems almost too easy.  This one comes together quickly, because as the pasta is cooking for about 11 minutes, the chopping of the other ingredients can easily be completed.

I like to use 3 cups of either a spiral, penne, or shell pasta for this recipe.  Any other noodle type just doesn’t seem to work as well with the other ingredients.  I add chopped cucumber, sliced grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, and red onion.  I estimate how much of these ingredients are needed for the amount of cooked pasta.  This recipe can be sized up or down for the number of expected dinner guests.

For the dressing, here is the recipe: Mix 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.  Add freshly ground pepper to taste and about 1 teaspoon dried oregano.

I usually cook the pasta, drain and allow to cool.  Run cold water over the pasta only briefly.  When almost totally cool, it is fine to add to the bowl with the other chopped ingredients. Often, I reserve the feta cheese and place on top of the salad for presentation.  Mix the ingredients together, and add the dressing.  Chill until ready to serve to guests.

This is a wonderful picnic salad, Memorial day salad, and perfect for summer entertaining.

appetizer presentation

An easy appetizer menu is one that is handy for summer entertaining.  Here is a quick appetizer that looks perfect and takes five minutes to prepare 20-30 bites.


I use grape tomatoes and Monterey Jack cheese cubes.  I usually purchase in the block, and cut my own to size.  It is nice if the cube size is similar to the tomatoes.  Alternatives would be to use feta or swiss, or even pitted olives.

Super quick and easy and fun for summer!