This recipe comes from my new cookbook Cooking With Essential Oils, now available in paperback on Amazon or in digital download. I just love cooking with essential oils. This recipe uses lime, ginger, and basil essential oils in the sauce and lemongrass and bay laurel oils. You will be hooked once you try them. The oils just add so much flavor.

Buy the cookbook here!

My wife thinks she doesn’t like Thai food until I make it at home. After her weight-loss surgery, we ate a lot of ground meats because they were easier to digest. These lemongrass and ginger meatballs have unexpected flavor from a traditional Italian or Swedish meatball. The recipe as written calls for ground beef. Understand that when I buy ground beef, I usually buy organic, grass-fed and grass-finished. I believe that you should buy the best quality ingredients you can afford and simply eat less of them. You can also substitute ground turkey or chicken in this recipe for the beef, if you prefer. However, if you do that, I strongly recommend using dark meat so the meatballs are not too dry. – Chef John

Thai Red Curry Sauce

Curry Ingredients:

¼ cup coconut oil or olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)

1 large red onion, cut in half and sliced into ¼ inch strips (about 1½ cups)

2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (about a 2-inch nub of ginger about the size of your thumb), divided in half

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1 each red and green bell peppers, sliced into thin 1/2 inch x 2-inch long strips

2 carrots, peeled cut in half and sliced about ¼ inch thick (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cans (14 ounces) regular full fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon tamari

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

5 drops lime essential oil

3 drops ginger essential oil

4 drops basil essential oil

¼ teaspoon salt (more to taste)

Garnishes/sides: handful of chopped fresh basil or cilantro

Thai Red Curry with Lemongrass and Ginger Meatballs cooking over the stove in a Le Creuset dutch oven pot.

Heat a large skillet with deep sides on medium high over medium heat. Once it is very hot, add the oil, carrots, onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, while stirring continuously.

Immediately add the bell peppers and cook 3-5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the curry pasted into the vegetable stock and add to skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes continually, stirring slowly. Bring to a simmer.

Add the coconut milk and stir to combine while the mixture simmers slightly over medium/low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Stir often so as not to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the pot from the heat and season with tamari and lime juice. Add salt to taste. If the curry needs a little more rounded flavor, add ½ teaspoon more tamari. For greater acidity, add ½ teaspoon of additional rice vinegar or lime juice.

Lemongrass and Ginger Meatballs

Meatball Ingredients:

4 pounds very lean ground beef

2 ounces fresh ginger, minced

2 ounces fresh lemongrass, finely chopped

2 ounces garlic, minced

15 drops lemongrass essential oil

15 drops bay laurel essential oil

3 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon white pepper

1 quart vegetable oil

Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot heated to 400 degrees. I use a high temperature candy thermometer for temperature regulation.

Mix all ingredients in a very large mixing bowl. Squish all together—I used my hands—for at least 2-3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors absorb and blend.

Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick spray. Using a small ice cream scoop, form meatballs and place on cookie sheet. Place 10-12 (no more than that) into the heated oil for frying. Adding too many will drop the oil temperature too much and they will absorb the oil versus creating a crispy outer crust. When brown, lift out of oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or on a paper bag.

You can freeze the leftovers and they will keep for at least a month. If you use a vacuum sealer, the meatballs will keep for 4-6 months. I usually double the batch when good grass-fed beef is on sale and freeze in a vacuum sealer.

To serve: Divide meatballs evenly into 5 or 6 bowls and place about a ½ cup Cilantro Lime Rice (recipe herein) in each bowl and ladle curry sauce on top. Garnish with chopped cilantro or fresh torn basil leaves.

Cooking With Essential OIls

I’m so excited to share with you my first cookbook. It is live on Amazon and can be ordered today!

Order it here:

If you have an essential oils team or a book club, I am offering bulk pricing for orders of 10 or more. Also, I’ll do a live video conference with your team and answer questions about cooking with essential oils. Contact me to discuss options.

I entered an online recipe contest through World Food Championships, hoping for a Golden Ticket to compete in the 2020 World Food Championship competition to be held in Dallas in November. Food sport competitions are all the rage and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

One of my entries is this beer fondue recipe using Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad Ale. I love fondue. I love being able to use different veggies or fruits or breads or meats as the vehicle to get the cheese from the pot to my mouth. Do you fondue?

Boulevard Barrel Aged Quad Fondue


  • 4 cups grated cheese* (Gruyere, Emmenthaler, raclette, Gouda, Havarti) room temperature- not cold
  • 1/4 cup flour (may substitute with corn starch)
  • 1 cup Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad Ale
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (fresh, at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon each Fiesta onion and garlic powder.
  • Optional-fresh or dry herbs (to taste)


  1. In a bowl combine grated cheese with the flour until well coated. Set aside to bring up to room temperature about 15 minutes.
  2. While cheese is warming up on the counter-Add the beer to a 2-3 quart sauce pan and bring it to gentle simmer over medium heat. (If you want to flavor with the garlic, onion and/or any herbs (1/2 to 1 tsp) add these to the beer- the acidity and alcohol will dissipate the flavors.)
  3. After the beer has simmered for 3 minutes add heavy cream & simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Stirring frequently.
  4. Remove from the heat and fold in the cheese, stirring gently and working in batches(divide the cheese into 3 to 4 handfuls). You might need to place the pan back on the warm stove to keep the cheese melting- stove should be on the lowest setting of heat for this. Careful to not overheat because it will easily burn.
  5. Transfer to a heated fondue pot and serve.


-Generally about 4 oz of semi-hard (good melting) cheese will yield 1 cup of shredded cheese. If you are using a combination of two cheeses (recommended) make sure you have at least 8 oz of each.

-Have your dipping foods cut in bite-sized pieces and ready to serve ahead of time. If your begins to thicken in the fondue pot, add a tablespoon or two of cream and gently stir to thin it out. 


Upon adding the heavy cream to the beer in the sauce pan it could curdle even though this is not common. Here is how to avoid curdling:

  • Do not use beer that is too acidic, Dopplebocks, bocks American/Mexican and German lagers work well. Wheat beers and malty ales are a good bet also.
  • Be sure to not use 1/2 &1/2! You need the fat content of the heavy cream to keep from curdling.
  • Be sure that the heavy cream hasn’t been sitting longer than a few days – acid begins to form in the cream as it sits and oxidizes & cause curdling.
  • Less heat is more- Don’t add cream to beer that is too hot. Gentle simmer is all you need, don’t boil your beer!!

Fon-do’s and Fon-don’ts

Do: Add acid (like dry white wine) if the fondue gets a little clumpy.

A little word on “Clumping”: This is what happens when your fundue looks like you mixed in some cottage cheese and has the clumpy effect. Depending on the cheeses used, your fondue might be “stringy” and look like the cheese in a pizza commercial-this isn’t good either. So what will assist in keeping your fondue creamy and smooth? This is where adding a dry white wine or lemon juice for acidity or even in a pinch a splash of rice wine vinegar (amount will vary depending on the recipe, I use 1/4 tsp at a time). A splash of acid helps to bind the calcium in the cheese, this dilution also prevents the proteins from the “clump”…and clumping is bad.

Do: Use the right type of cheese.

Hard cheeses won’t melt to the right consistency for a good dip. Try a softer cheese like Swiss, Fontina, Gruyere, Emmental, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack, which have a higher moisture content. Also, for best fondue flavor, blend two or more types of cheeses for depth and complexity.

Do: Bring cheese to room temperature.

Bringing the cheese to room temp softens the cheese – slowly – on it’s way to reaching melting point. This step is important because sudden extreme temperature change is likely to cause the cheese to clump or break and become oily.

Do: Grate the cheese first.

Since blocks of cheese melt differently, grating the cheese allows for even heat to permeate, thus making the melting process smoother and easier. It also speeds up the cook time so you can get to the best part… eating it!

Do: Add starch to the fondue.

Flour or cornstarch works against clumps or strings, keeping the proteins from clumping and the fats from separating out.

Do: Use low heat.

As best fondue practice, melt cheese very gradually on low, even heat. This will prevent any separation of fats in the melting cheeses. Adding a handful at a time, incorporate shredded cheese until melted.

Don’t: Boil cheese.

Make sure the cheese doesn’t boil. Heat and melt slowly. But once melted, move it to the fondue pot, which keeps warm at low temperature.

Don’t: Stir too vigorously.

Over-stirring could allow the proteins to bond and create a stringy or clumpy texture-remember “clumpy” is bad.

Don’t: Let cheese cool!

Serve immediately! Once removed from the stove, the cheese will begin to cool. When melted cheese begins to get firm again it’s likely to clump… remember “clumpy” is bad!

Do: Serve a variety of “dipping things”.

Traditional dipping vessels include cubed or hand torn crusty bread or soft pretzels. I like blanched veggies like broccoli florets, asparagus tips, or carrots. Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples work well with stronger cheese flavors. Also try different cooked meats or even homemade french fries.

This recipe actually doesn’t have anything to do with a bride and groom. Despite the folklore about it being served at weddings to give the bride and groom energy for the evening, it was actually a peasant soup made with the meat and leafy greens that were available. When the dish came to America and became reinterpreted, the meatballs and other vegetables got added. This dish is one of my favorites and one that is most requested by my friends and family. I love to serve it with crusty homemade bread and butter. If you wish to freeze the leftovers, it freezes well.

Italian Wedding Soup… my way …

Posted by Chef John O'Neil on Sunday, April 5, 2020

Meatballs – Ingredients

1 ½ cups good bread (Italian, French, brioche), cut into 1/2” cubes

1 cup whole milk

1 pound Italian sausage

1 pound lean ground beef

½ cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese

½ small red onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, crushed finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh marjoram (sweeter, more mild flavor) or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (strong, a little goes a long way), finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 egg yolk

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Soak bread cubes in milk for 15 minutes. Combine all ingredients except cooking oil in mixing bowl and mix until just combined. If you don’t have a mixer that can mix this, you can combine with your hands, kneading the mixture until combined. Don’t overmix or the meatballs will be tough. Small meatballs are preferred for this recipe. Use a #60 scoop to form meatballs. In a deep pot, heat oil to 325 degrees (measured with a candy thermometer). Place about 10-12 meatballs at a time in the oil. Fry until the meatballs are golden brown. Scoop them out away from you so you don’t splash yourself with hot oil. The meatballs will finish cooking in the soup, so what you are looking for is the color and crunch on the meatballs. The larger the meatball, the longer it will have to cook.

Use 40-50 meatballs in the soup recipe. If you have extra, you can make them and freeze them for use in another dish later.

Soup – Ingredients

½ cup bread crumbs

½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large carrots, small diced

3 ribs celery, small diced

2 medium onions, small diced

1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, thick sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

4 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 can 28-ounce crushed fire roasted tomatoes

2 tablespoons beef demi-glace

2 quarts beef bone broth

3 quarts beef stock

1 inch square parmesan rind

3 tablespoons salt

2 cups dry pearl couscous

40-50 meatballs (recipe above)

1 large or 2 small zucchini, small diced

1 medium yellow squash, small diced

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cheese and set aside for garnish.

Heat 8-quart dutch oven or soup pot and add oil. Add carrots, celery, and onions, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Then add garlic, chopped herbs, and black pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly with heat on medium high. Add tomatoes, demi-glace and cook for 5 minutes until reduced by half. Add bone broth, stock, and parmesan rind. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add half the salt. Continue cooking for 5 minutes. Taste the broth. You want it a little salty to taste so the broth will flavor the couscous, so you may want to add the remainder of the salt. Add meatballs and vegetables and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt if it needs it at this point. As it cooks, the fat will rise to the top. Use paper towels to lightly skim the fat off the top of the soup. Serve in bowl and lightly sprinkle bread crumb and cheese mixture over the top.

Brands I use in this recipe:

Texana Brands Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herbs from my home garden

Dried herbs ordered in bulk from Mount Hope Foods

Muir Glen canned tomatoes

More Than Gourmet demi-glace

Bare Bones Bone Broth

Rice Select Pearl CousCous

Kitchen Aid mixer

Le Creuset goose pot

Henkel knives

Fifth & Cherry cutting board

I met Stephen Joseph at the Meat Fight 2019 event. We served as judges of the BBQ competition and sat together. He is one amazing guy! So, of course, I had to go for a visit. You can’t get more “backroads” than Jefferson, Texas. I asked my good friend Chris Wickliffe to go with us out there and try it out.

Chef John O’Neil and Stephen Joseph at Meat Fight 2019

Stephen started working at Riverport BBQ in 1991 as a cook. His first day on the job, he chopped cabbage for cole slaw. Over the next 2 years, he learned the business, then bought the whole place in 1993 with help of his dad. Riverport has been a family affair the whole time. Now, it’s knows as Joseph’s Riverport BBQ.

Joseph’s Riverport BBQ — platter of food

Stephen says his earliest recollection of eating barbeque was when he and his dad would travel to Longview and eat at the original Bodacious BBQ after going to model train shows.

Touring the pits at Joseph’s Riverport BBQ

In 2012, the place suffered a devastating fire. In 3 hours, the whole place burned to the ground except for the brick veneer in the front of the building. Stephen set about to rebuild and come back better than ever. He decided to go with the same style of offset smoker box from Dallas’ A.N. Bewley that he learned on. But, Stephen also set out to do some things differently with the food. He didn’t want to taste just like everyone else. He began using all natural ingredients, changed his sausage provider (now he uses Waco Beef and Pork Processors), and approach barbeque from a new angle. He says the customers complained when he quit using Eckrich sausage, but he thought the change was important.

Chris Wickliffe, Stephen Joseph, and Chef John O’Neil

Joseph’s Riverport has been named one of Texas Monthly’s Top 100 BBQ joints in the state. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with this! In fact, I’d put Stephen and his brisket in the top 2 of anything we’ve had all across Texas. It is definitely worth the drive to East Texas for a visit. Also, you have to try the swamp fries — I’d love some of those on a Sunday afternoon for the Cowboys’ game… with a beer of course.

Backroads and BBQ: John Mueller Interview

If you ever get a chance to sit down with legendary BBQ “cook” John Mueller, take it. He drinks Bud Light – take a 12-pack of cold cans. He’s irascible and interesting with a depth of knowledge and opinions about Texas barbecue that you won’t get anywhere else. And, be sure to ask him about his grandmother’s squash casserole recipe.

The Mueller family is BBQ royalty in Texas:

  • Louie Mueller BBQ In Taylor was started by John’s grandfather;
  • Father Bobby Mueller, James Beard award winner and widely known as the greatest pitmaster in Texas history, took over the family’s barbecue empire and taught John to cook;
  • Brother Wayne Mueller now runs the Taylor establishment;
  • Sister LeAnne Mueller owns renowned la Barbecue in Austin.
Chef John O’Neil, John Mueller, and Jack Crouch

Dubbed the “Dark Prince of Barbecue” by Texas Monthly Magazine, enshrined by Anthony Bourdain, and also named one of America’s most influential pitmasters by Fox News, John Mueller does things differently. Traditional barbecue pitmasters in Texas, including the Mueller family, cook brisket slow over low heat and usually post oak wood. Out of necessity, John Mueller rejected his family ways because he hated running out and not being able to serve hungry customers. He developed a method of cooking brisket quickly that is still moist and terrific over high heat. This way he was able to turn out more product to feed the lines of people that frequent his establishments.

Chef John O’Neil chatting with John Mueller over Bud Light.

One sunny Sunday in June, cousin Jack Crouch and his wife Belle took me to the alter of the Dark Prince, where I got the opportunity to sit down with Mueller for a chat. At that time, Mueller set up shop with his smoker in a trailer, some picnic tables, and his pickup truck on a lot just off the square in downtown Georgetown. Since then, Mueller relocated to Granger City Brewing Company where he serves “the whole thing”, meaning brisket, sausage, pork ribs, smoked turkey, and his signature beef ribs.

That day in Georgetown, we talked to John about giving Aaron Franklin his first job and teaching him how to work the pits. He reminisced about learning to “cook” barbecue from his father and grandfather. He insists that he is not a chef, but just a cook. He showed me his pit as he was adding wood, insisting that I notice the temperature gauge at 375. He says over 400 is where he likes it. He told me about his grandmother’s cheesy squash casserole with a tear in his eye. We evaluated the different methods of cooking barbecue, from the low-and-slow-over-post-oak traditional method of Franklin, to the rotisserie smokers of Blacks in Lockhart, to the wrap-technique employed at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. It was like getting a Master’s Degree in Barbecue – John Muller accurately and precisely described the effects of each method on the ultimate product.

The barbecue John served was far-and-away the finest, melt-in-your-mouth brisket I have ever had the privilege of consuming. In all of our travels around Texas and beyond, nothing compares!

There’s not a finer day in Texas than one spent sitting at a picnic table, drinking Bud Light with John Mueller and talking barbecue. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity.

When you think of Texas and oil you don’t think of olive oil, do you? But did you know that Texas has a booming olive oil industry? Texana Brands is leading the way with their extra virgin olive oil and line of infused oils.

In 2012, Stephen Coffman, sister Mary Rose, and brother-in-law Michael Paz wanted to put their family’s 150-acre ranch between San Antonio and Laredo into production, but they didn’t want to do anything typical. the land has been in the family for 125 years and they wanted to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren. The land was previously used for watermelons and beef cattle.

Olive trees, they decided. Stephen and Michael and crew planted their first olive trees in 2012, not expecting a harvest for 8 years or so. Instead, by 2018 they had the third harvest and the largest olive oil crop that Texas has ever seen. What started with 7,000 trees has grown to over 200,000 trees producing 30-50 gallons of oil per ton of olives.

The location of the ranch helps — cool winters without too many extremes provides almost perfect growing conditions.

The olives are harvested and pressed at the ranch within 8 hours of picking in an onsight mobile olive mill. The oil gets transported to the production facility in Kyle, Texas, just south of Austin where it sits for 30 days in steel tanks to remove sediment. From there, some of the oil is infused to make the flavors that Texana is known all across the state for.

The family is commited to the olive industry in Texas as a whole. Michael has served as the president of the Texas Association of Olive OIl where he helped to create a research platform for the industry in collaboration ith state agencies and other growers. The association has more than 60 members and represents about 150 growers over 4,000 acres of land across the state.

Texana oils are old through H-E-B grocery store. They also make the rounds at fairs, trade shows and stock shows around the state. Online sales and restaurant customers account for a small portion of business. Gary Bounds, long-time family friend, came on to handle the production facility in Kyle and helps with marketing. Gary gave us the tour of the production facility in Kyle.

Keeping the business family-focused, the company was named after great, great grandmother Texana Ramsey Henrichson.

The Meyer’s Sausage story began in the late 1800s when founder Henry Meyer immigrated from Germany to the United States. With him, he brought the family recipe for smoked sausage. Henry taught the secret recipe to his son R.G. Meyer.

During the depression era, R.G. began smoking his family recipe sausage at home and feeding the neighbors. In 1949, R.G. opened the storefront of Meyer’s Sausage in the home it still occupies now. Their website is Why cuetopia? Because R.G. said, “Cue-topia is the perfect state of barbecue!”

In 2005, Meyer’s began shipping their sausages and sauces nationwide. Now you can get their entire line of barbecue shipped straight to your door.

Meyer’s Texas Original Sausage is the one-and-same recipe brought over from Germany. It is a pork sausage with minimal seasonings. Because it is a German recipe, the seasonings are a mild black pepper base. Order some here: Their Texas Sausage won 3rd place at the 1996 Texas Sausage Championship in Halletsville, Texas. In grocery store sales, Meyers’ ranks #2.

On the day of our visit, I loved seeing the old sausage stuffing machine that greets you when you enter. The parts all still move, so it would probably be able to stuff some sausage if one were inclined to use the manual method instead of the modern machine stuffer that is now most common. It would be fun one day, if they would let me, to actually crank that thing up and see if it still works.

The town of Elgin is known as the Sausage Capital of Texas. It also boasts the first – or one of the first, depending on who you ask – barbecue joints in Texas.

Of course, when in the neighborhood near Elgin, no barbecue tour would be complete without a stop at the home of Elgin sausage – Southside Market. Understanding the difference between the German-recipe (where black pepper and cayenne are the main spices) and the Czech-version (containing garlic) that are both popular in central Texas provides a glimpse into the history of the area.

William Moon began making German sausage in 1882. Moon would sell his butchered meats door-to-door, but what was left over at the end of the day had to be preserved or spoil. He made sausage out of course-ground beef with the traditional German recipe of spices including cayenne, salt, and black pepper, then stuffed in a pork casing. The sausage was smoked for preservation.

Moon opened his first brick and mortar store in 1886 in town, where folks riding on the train could grab a bite to eat during a water stop. The reputation of Elgin’s “hot guts” sausage spread far and wide.

Lee Wilson bought the business from Moon in 1908, where he continued to serve the Elgin community as the small-town butcher shop that sold BBQ in the back. Rumor tells that Wilson lost and won the restaurant many times over poker bets.

In 1968, the Bracewell’s bought Southside Market and began to sell the traditional Elgin Hot Guts Sausage to a small H. E. Butt Grocery Co. The legend of Elgin sausage began to grow. Southside Market moved to its current location in 1991, adding a pit room, kitchen, meat market, and meat plant.

Southside’s sausage has a delicious beef flavor with the perfect snap of the casing.  The spices provide a great background for the beef flavor without overpowering. Just because the sausage is beef and not pork does not mean it is dry. In fact, the juices from Southside’s all-beef sausage run down to your elbow if you let them.

Southside Market gives recipes on their website and I found this one that sounds great!

Southside Country Sausage Breakfast Muffins

  • 4 links Southside Country Style Sausage – remove casings and dice sausage
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 cup diced white onion
  • 1/3 cup diced green onion
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp Southside Oak Smoked Black Pepper (or, to taste)
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F. Liberally coat muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. Cook Southside Country Style Sausage in skillet over medium high heat for approximately 5 minutes. Add diced white onion and continue cooking for 5 more minutes until sausage has browned and onions are translucent. Remove from heat and allow the sausage and onions to cool slightly. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, cheese, and green onion to eggs and mix. Add cooled sausage and onions to eggs and mix. Pour mixture into muffin tin, dividing evenly (about a ¼ cup for each muffin). Bake 15 – 20 minutes at 350F just until set. Allow muffins to cool about 10 minutes and then remove from muffin tin. Serve warm or freeze and store for later use!

Make these your own with different cheeses, mushrooms, or other veggies. Spice these up with cayenne if you like more heat!

Makes 12 muffins.

John and cousin Jack Crouch debate proper cowboy hat etiquette. Do you agree? Or, are they stepping in cow patties? Let us know your thoughts….