Ainsley or something you find in dirty diaper. We aren't sure.


Never Neglect The Sides: Sides That Will Revamp Your BBQ Gameplan

Summer’s here and the grill is hot. But even the staunchest of grillmasters will tell you: a BBQ may be carried by meats and main dishes, but it’s nothing without good side game. And while mashed potatoes are amazing, a bowl of starchy carbs isn’t always ideal for a hot day in the backyard.

Side salads, once the most boring of pot-luck options, deserve a fresh new look to complete your cookout spread.  We’ve teamed up with Simple Truth® to put together some side dishes that avoid the post-meal slog with pure, simple ingredients and vibrant flavors. These dishes are all super easy, super affordable, and most importantly: they’re delicious.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Nothing says summer like watermelon; they taste like vacation. Gourmet Chef Brooke Williamson helped us elevate our favorite fruit by tossing with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The result is a refined salad that will have the whole family smiling like it’s the first day of a three day weekend. Check out Brooke’s 1-minute method here.

Total time: 30 MIN Serves: 10


  1. In a small bowl, whisk oil and vinegar. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, watermelon, red onion, mozzarella and basil. 
  3. Add the vinaigrette and combine it well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, refrigerating any leftovers. 

Fajita Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a staple of the picnic table, but if you’re just drenching penne noodles in that white creamy stuff, people will pass it over. Spice it up with some Tex-Mex inspired spins for a more exciting option. This recipe is great because it’s flexible. Swap the chicken for more beans or throw some bell peppers in there. It’s all delicious!  

Prep time: 20 MIN Cook time: 30 MIN Total time: 50 MIN + 1 HOUR MARINATING TIME Serves: 8


  1. Season chicken with salt and Seasoning Rub on all sides. Place inside a large, zip-top bag. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound chicken to about 1⁄4 inch thickness.
  2. Squeeze juice of 1⁄2 lime into the bag. Add oil. Seal and massage liquid into the meat. Marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
  3. Heat grill to medium-high. Discard marinade and grill chicken approximately 6 minutes per side, ensuring a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Set aside; keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and immediately add frozen corn to hot pasta. Transfer back to pasta pot. Add beans, tomatoes, and onions. Stir to combine.
  5. To make the dressing, blend yogurt, 1⁄2 avocado, cilantro, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, cumin, and juice of remaining 1⁄2 lime in a blender until completely smooth.

Gently heat pasta mixture on stove until warm. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Add chicken. Toss with dressing. Top with remaining 1⁄2 avocado. Serve, refrigerating any leftovers.

Crispy Chickpea and Orzo Salad

Speaking of pasta salad, Chef Brooke showed us a more gourmet upgrade that uses orzo for a fluffier, richer take. Add some crunch with roasted garbanzo beans and a creamy Goddess dressing, and you’ve got a pasta salad that won’t take up all of your leftover containers. Pro tip: To avoid clumping, wash, drain well, and toss with oil before cooking. Check out Chef’s recipe here.

Prep time: 10 MIN Cook time: 45 MIN Total time: 55 MIN Serves: 4


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place garbanzo beans on a clean dish towel and gently pat dry. In a small bowl, combine beans, oil, salt, paprika, and garlic powder; toss to coat.
  3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour garbanzo bean mixture in even layer. Roast 40–45 minutes, gently turning every 15 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.
  4. Add orzo to a large serving bowl. Top with tomatoes, cucumber and beans. Serve with dressing, refrigerating any leftovers. 

Keto Ice Cream Sundaes

Okay, with three salads on the books, you deserve a treat. Sanding by the grill on a hot summer days demands ice cream. So for our final side item, we’re giving the greatest BBQ the curtain call it deserves with a keto-friendly dessert that harnesses the power of the greatest flavor combination known on this earth: chocolate and peanut butter.  

Prep time: 5 MIN Cook time: 8 MIN Total time: 13 MIN Serves: 2

  1. Set sauté pan over medium-low heat. Toast nuts, stirring occasionally, 5–8 minutes until browned and fragrant.
  2. Stir peanut butter powder and water to create drizzle.
  3. Divide ice cream evenly between two bowls. Drizzle with peanut butter and sprinkle with nuts. Enjoy, freezing any leftovers.

Simple Truth®  provides all-natural ingredients for fresh meals suitable for any diet. With clean snacking staples to meatless alternatives to your favorite Summer staples, the simple truth: is eating well doesn’t have to mean boring eating. So spruce up your BBQ with a selection of affordable and inspiring ingredients from Simple Truth®.

This post was sponsored by:
Kroger’s® Simple Truth®

What Makes The Perfect BBQ?

The Parents of Scary Mommy, The Dad and Fatherly Weigh In


A family BBQ is instantly recognizable, but no two are quite the same. Everyone has their own hard-earned and iron-clad opinions about everything from marinades to grill architecture. It’s the little details, the flourishes of technique, and the secret recipes that make each family’s BBQ both traditional and unique. We cornered the editorial staff of Scary Mommy, Fatherly, and The Dad to find out what makes their family BBQ the perfect BBQ.

Joel, Editor-In-Chief of The Dad

This is a pretty major dad-confession, but I’d rather cook on a cast iron than a grill or BBQ. Please don’t publish that!”  (Sorry Joel)

“But even when I do man the grill, the cast iron’s still great for veggies. I’ll cook asparagus in bacon grease with it directly on the grill. Also, this is 100% fact: ever since we did that Kroger story last year, I swear by their BBQ rubs for steak and chicken. I even use the Memphis Rub on salmon to give it a little sweet tang. So good.”

Brooke, Top Chef Winner & Scary Mommy Contributor

“For me, the perfect BBQ includes a very balanced plate of food. But not like four separate meals on one plate – I want a sweet and a sour, a rich, and an acidic. I like to hit all the notes. If it’s a rich marbled piece of meat, then I like to have a bright, acidic slaw.”

You can see Chef Brooke’s favorite BBQ staples here, and some fresh take on sides here.

Rob, writer for The Dad

“The defining factor is the type of meat you’re going for. It’s important to know your cuts – If it’s tenderness you seek, choose a cut from low-activity muscles like the loin – tenderloin, sirloin, T-bone – or ribs. Leaner, tougher cuts are great for flavor and texture – flank steak is perfect for fajitas. And for slow cooking and braising, look for tough, heavily exercised regions – the shoulder, leg, and rump – or places where there is a lot of connective tissue, like the shank, or oxtail.”

Rachel, writer for Scary Mommy

“We celebrate my brother’s birthday every year as a kick-off to the summer season. We make these amazing ribs by turning the normal charcoal grill into a DIY smoker. You lay the charcoal bricks with pre-soaked woodchips on one half of the grill, and a tin pan half-filled with a really good apple juice on the other. Light the grill under the wood chips, and cook the meat on the opposite end of the grill so you’re smoke circulates.”

Jared, writer for The Dad 

“For me, it’s about the sauce. I grew up in Florida, so BBQ was super sweet and syrupy when I was a kid. That rib-sticking stuff is still amazing, but I wrote a piece last year about the history and background for all the regional styles of BBQ, and it changed my whole game. I’m an honorary Carolina guy now – it’s all about that sharp vinegar base. I swiped all the Private Selection® Carolina rubs and sauces from The Dad studio, and now those are the only thing I use to grill chicken wings.”

Dave, Creative Director for The Dad / Scary Mommy

I love a classic steak as much as the next guy, but I’ve been really into trying different marinades lately. It’s fun to change up the flavor profile rather than cooking the same thing every weekend. I really love Chinese BBQ, so I’ll marinate a pork shoulder with char-sui cooking sauce. Also, chicken can go a lot further than you think when you spice it up with something like a Peruvian Aji Amarillo Marinade.”

Joanna, writer for Scary Mommy

“I love a turkey burger, but turkey is can be tricky to get right on the grill. Since it’s less fatty than beef, I’ll keep mine moist and juicy by placing an ice cube on the patty while it cooks. While it melts, the moisture gets absorbed by the meat! Or, if you want to be a little decadent, you could do the same thing with a tab of butter that you let sit in the freezer for a few minutes.”

Matt, writer & host for The Dad

Pizza stone on the grill, or even just pizza straight on the dang grill! I’ve been saying it for years! Simple Truth® has a gluten-free pizza crust mix that’s organic and non-GMO and all that good stuff. Or to turn boring ole’ weeknight frozen pizza into a *chef’s kiss* meal, there are a bunch of primo Private Selection™ pies that take just a couple minutes on the grill. Grilled mushrooms & truffle oil over a thin crust? Can’t beat it. It might not “BBQ” per se, but it’s cooking outside, and that’s what counts.”

Whether you’re throwing pizzas on the grill for a quick dinner or digging an honest BBQ pit to slow smoke something unforgettable, the heart of “the perfect BBQ” is really the joy it brings you and your family.

Kroger’s® Private Selection®  is a collection of select ingredients that elevate any dish into an experience to savor. Kroger’s® Simple Truth® provides all-natural ingredients for fresh creations suitable for any diet. We gave a lot of love for these brands in this article, and while it is sponsored content, we are honest fans.

This post was sponsored by:
Kroger’s® Private Selection®

Finding Balance with Chef Brooke Williamson

How A Celebrity Chef & Mom finds room for everything.


This summer, Chef Brooke Williamson showed us some of her favorite dishes for the perfect BBQ. The Top-Chef winner, business owner, and mom knows the importance of sharing a meal that is suitable for all tastes while using elevated ingredients for a sensational experience. That’s why she works with Kroger’s® Private Selection® and Simple Truth® ingredients to create a Perfect BBQ. We sat down with Brooke between takes to discuss the perfect BBQ, a fear of heights, and how she got her kid to try something other than chicken fingers.

For you, what is the perfect plate of BBQ?
Williamson: Variety. Definitely. I like a very balanced plate of food, and that doesn’t mean four separate meals on one plate, but I do want a sweet and a sour, a rich and an acidic. I like to hit all the notes. But to me, just a hot dog with all the fixings – ketchup and mustard and relish and onions…that can totally be a balanced plate of BBQ on its own. 

Is there a cooking style or cuisine that you are partial to or originally inspired you, and why? 

Williamson: I would say that being born and raised in Los Angeles, produce inspires me more than anything. I would say that California cuisine is what it is because produce is so prevalent and sort of the king of ingredients here. (Editor’s Note: check out Brooke’s take on veggie-forward BBQ sides

What talent would you most like to have that you don’t currently possess? 

Williamson: I would love to be able to play an instrument. My son plays the piano and I’m so jealous of his abilities. He inspires me. Or Flying. (laughter) Flying an airplane, because I’m so massively afraid of heights that I feel like maybe that would help me get over it. So, yeah. Piano and airplanes.

So many foods, particularly vegetables, had a bad rap but are seeing such a resurgence. Suddenly people are like “oh brussel sprouts are good!”

Williamson: My son’s favorite vegetable.

If you told me that in 1989, I would have said that’s insane. Do you think it’s because like…our parents’ generation just… didn’t know how to cook? 

Williamson:  My mom was a great cook, but I also think that she followed basic recipes. That is kind of what you did in the eighties. Now perhaps, people feel a bit more liberty to impart their own thoughts and ideas into their food. (Editor’s Note: Check Out Brooke’s spin on BBQ classics) I think that the realization that produce is sometimes better when left alone came to fruition, so now their’s some more personal liberty to practice some personal likes and dislikes. 

Are there any lessons you’ve learned cooking for a family that carries over into your professional kitchens? Or Vice Versa? 

Williamson: My home life and my, my business life doesn’t have a line of separation, you know? So the way that my brain works in the kitchen is the way my brain works in the kitchen. I think a lot of my structure, technique, and follow-through in the home kitchen is very similar at work. 

So, like, you have a little ticket rack for tracking orders in your home kitchen?

WIlliamson: No! Ha, but I try to cook with variety so if there’s part of a meal that doesn’t particularly appeal to someone, there are other options there. And I think that has been the best way to get my son to be open-minded about food – to provide options for him to decide for himself. You know multiple choices that aren’t chicken tenders. And it’s also sort of my responsibility to guide my customers to new dishes, without them feeling like I’m trying to educate them. 

Are there any awesome healthy alternatives to kid-favorite dishes you are partial to?

Williamson: We try to eat healthy at home because we eat out a lot. So we try to balance dining out and junk food by making a rule of not having a lot of junk in the house. But you can’t keep a kid from eating chocolate chip cookies all the time. There are concessions you make, and you find the balance somewhere else. I made this one that’s a total 180 of a classic kid food, which is chocolate pudding. I used Simple Truth Organic™ Hass Avocado. That’s an incredibly specific swap out. (Editor’s Note:  She made it for us, and it checks out. Find the recipe here.)

You’re a renowned chef, a business owner, and the youngest woman to cook at the James Beard House…a lot of accolades. But what is the hardest you’ve ever bombed?

Williamson:  I mean, just because I have all those qualifications on my resume doesn’t mean that I’m a master at anything. I fall on my face all the time! And when I fall hard, that’s when I learned the biggest lessons. I don’t have anything specific that stands out because, because I don’t take my failures to heart, you know? Even with what’s going on in the world, with the pandemic and restaurants struggling…my son actually asked me why I became a chef, because it seems so much harder than what his friends’ parents do. It seems like we’re constantly trying to figure out what to do next. And, you know, we don’t have a stable lifestyle or the huge house, or the knowledge of, you know, what next month is going to look like. But I wouldn’t trade my life for anything else in the world, because it’s what makes me happy. And if I hadn’t become a chef, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have my son. So I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to just sort of take everything in stride and, and know that there’s always a way to change the outcome. If I were to like fester on one specific instance where I’ve failed miserably, then I feel like I wouldn’t be able to move on.

You just burned your hand on the stove. What’s your go-to curse word? 

Williamson: Oh, “mother flower.” (Editor’s Note: She could have meant “flour”.)

Do you actually say “flower” or are you censoring yourself because we’re a parenting brand?

Williamson: It depends on how painful the burn is!  I had a line cook in like the early 2000s and it was an open kitchen so he would say “mother flower” every time he was mad about something. To this day -and it actually has very little to do with having a kid because he hears me swear all the time – but if I’m just really frustrated, the first thing that comes to my mind is “mother flower.”

As a Mom Chef, what is the best meal you’ve made for your family? 

Williamson: You know what? I’m, I’m actually most happy with myself when something is perfectly seasoned and cooked properly. So like, it doesn’t really matter what I’m cooking. If I brine a pork tenderloin for the perfect number of hours or if a marinade for steak has that perfect balance….Cause I don’t really measure anything. So it’s kind of always a crapshoot. If I execute perfectly, then I’m pretty satisfied. But if I can do something well, that’s what makes me satisfied. 

Chef Brooke showed us some of her favorite BBQ dishes and sides the whole family will love using her favorite ingredients from Private Selection® and Simple Truth®Private Selection® is a collection of select ingredients that elevate any dish into an experience to savor. Simple Truth® provides all-natural ingredients for fresh creations suitable for any diet. You can check out more of our work with Chef Brooke here, and be sure to elevate your summer BBQ’s with Kroger’s® Private Selection® and Simple Truth® .

This post was sponsored by:
Kroger’s® Private Selection®

I Thought Taking My Daughter’s Bitty Baby To The Game Was Embarrassing…Until We Won The Championship

This article is sponsored by Bitty Baby™ from American Girl

“I can explain.” Those are the words you lead with when you’re still making up an explanation in your head. For when something is a little out of whack, and you’re not quite sure how you ended up in that situation. That’s where I found myself, holding a baby doll and with my nails freshly painted pink, at a college basketball watch party full of bros.

I grew up with all brothers, so I didn’t know what to expect when I found out my firstborn was going to be a girl. I wasn’t disappointed, it’s not like I found out while holding a mini baseball glove and tiny football helmet; I just had no idea how to play with a little girl. 

At first, I didn’t have to. Most babies are the same – just little blobs of flesh designed to rob you of any sleep or sanity. When they start to grab things, playing pretty much consists of holding something colorful in front of their face until they flail around with it. Or doing voices and impressions that would otherwise have you committed to an institution. Then when they start moving, playing is just making sure they don’t die.

It’s when they get older and start developing their own interests that you can get a little lost. I tried hard not to force my stuff on her, either. Although I did show her my favorite movie once when she was still an infant. I thought I could develop her into a tiny little sci-fi fan, but she spit-up on my laptop and that was that. At age four though, she got her first “girl” toys; nail polish…and a Bitty Baby.

She’s a spring baby, so we planned her party on a March afternoon. Later that night I planned to enjoy my annual ritual of watching the basketball tournament with my brothers and friends. Play with my daughter during the day, and the night was reserved for beers, basketball, and smack talk. “Guy” stuff.

Watching my daughter play with her Bitty Baby was like watching her level up at being a kid. She’s always been creative, but her imagination ran wild with the doll.  She immediately named her Katie. A little embarrassing, considering it took us twelve weeks and a series of ballots to settle on her name. 

We spent the afternoon on adventures with Katie all over the house, from starting a nail salon to going on a couch-fort safari. It struck me that my daughter didn’t see Katie as just a play-friend, but a character in her world who needed to be cared for and nurtured. It seems obvious now, but it was extraordinary to see my four-year-old interpret and imitate my own parenting with her Bitty Baby. I thought I understood make-believe, but I wasn’t ready for what came next. 

Shortly before I was supposed to go to the basketball party, my daughter asked to paint my nails. I caught a look of glee in my wife’s face, making me suspect it was her idea. I quickly came up with some excuse I don’t remember to get out of it. However, my daughter hit me with the look every dad knows. The one they cannot know about when they get older. The look that would’ve gotten me to do anything. I said yes, knowing the onslaught of ribbing I was going to take from my friends that night.

With my freshly-pastelled nails, I was about to leave for guy-time when my daughter pulled that puppy dog look a second time. She held up her prized possession, her new Bitty Baby, and said with the saddest voice: “Katie loves sports. Will you take her to the game?”

I instantly knew why “Katie” “loved sports.” It’s because of the Saturdays my daughter saw me on the couch, acting like a crazy person as college kids tried to put a ball in a basket. Knowing it was my daughter trying to connect two things she loved, I couldn’t say no.

And that’s how I ended up at the party with a baby doll and painted nails. Yes, there was an endless parade of jokes at my expense. Looking back, I could have left Katie in the car, but at the time it didn’t even occur to me. In some imperceptible way, her devotion to the doll got to me. My daughter asked me to bring her doll to the game, and so I did. But here’s the twist: the team we were rooting for was a gigantic underdog, expected to make a quick exit from the tournament. So the longer the game went and the closer the scoreboard was, the less focus anyone had on my new friend or pretty nails. Then the impossible happened.  The type of impossible that makes March beautiful for sports fans: our team pulled off an enormous upset!

When the final horn sounded, our group erupted into cheers and wild hugs like we were kids. Watching us, you would’ve thought we each won the lottery. As I was leaving, one of my oldest friends grabbed me into a bear hug: “We have two days before the next game. And that doll better be with you when you come back.”

And that’s how the superstition started. My daughter and I would play during the day, and then I’d ask her if I could bring “Katie” to the game party.  We transitioned seamlessly from a child’s imaginative play to a dad’s childish sports superstition. But my team kept winning, my nails kept getting pinker, and I ended up playing with Katie almost as much as my daughter.

In the end, being a #GirlDad worked out just fine.

Bitty Baby™ from American Girl helps dads and daughters discover a world of make-believe together while learning the importance of love and kindness.