Monday, June 27, 2016

My cousin, Rita

My cousin, Rita, is a constant source of amusement!  Take the issue of dogs.  For about two years, she kept her son's dog.  Jeremy was living in an apartment and his job kept him away long hours. 


Rita was forever complaining about Stella did this or Stella did that.  Stella ran away numerous times.  She destroyed plants in the yard, She dug holes.  Anyone with half a brain could see the real truth here.  Rita and Kip were attached to that big bundle of energy called Stella, although she would deny it till the end of time.  Stella is a German Shorthaired Pointer.  These dogs need lots of exercise, destructive or otherwise.


Then Jeremy and Emily, who gave Jeremy the dog as a present several years ago, got married and moved into a house.  Stella went to her "new" home.  Right away you could see the withdrawal Rita was going through.  And those of us on facebook missed the endless "Stella Stories" that only Rita could tell!


"You need to get a dog of your own, Rita," I told her over and over.


"NOPE!  I don't need a dog. . . I'm too busy.  I don't want to be tied down."


Yesterday there was this cryptic facebook entry.  It was a picture of the eyes of a dog.  Rita said, "Kip is in trouble now."


I knew what that meant, although Rita left many of us hanging.  What followed were several facebook entries which propriety demands I don't include here.


Last night she texted me a picture of a beagle puppy with the caption, "Look what Rita's got."


"Tell me more!"  I texted back.


Turns out she's had this puppy since Tuesday of last week and she didn't bother to tell anyone.  One of Kip's customers had a dog with a litter of puppies.  She knew all of us who had heard the "I don't want another dog" lectures were going to jump on her. . . AND I DID!!!  Again, I can't tell you here what I told her, but I got the point across!


Now your life is complete, Rita!  You've got a little bundle of joy to keep your life "interesting."



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Stuart's Spices, THE place to buy spices!

You've heard me mention Stuart's Spices in this blog and on my Facebook page.  Yes, I think they are THE place to buy spices in Rochester.

Their website is www.stuartsspices.com and they are located at 754 Clinton Ave. S, in Rochester.

Some good friends told me about them.  "What's so special about a spice shop?," I asked.  "I can get spices at the grocery store."  Once in awhile, I'm wrong, not often. . . but this time, I was way off base!

They grind their spices on the premises and in small batches.  There spices don't sit on the shelf for long periods as in a grocery store where they have been shipped in.  They have the usual spices you would buy. . . oregano, cinnamon, all of those.  But they also have their own special blends!  How about Hog Rub or Road Kill or Memphis Dry Rub?  I also like their dip mixes.

If you are a new customer, they'll give you a free bottle.  If, like me once, I was there on a Saturday at the opening time, and the owner was a few minutes late arriving, they will give you a free bottle for your inconvenience.  They know the meaning of good customer service.

I'm not sure if they do mail order.  But if you live in the Rochester area, do yourself a favor and check them out!


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wonderful baby back ribs



I've made good ribs before.  But these are great!  I found the recipe on weber.com, the Weber Grills people.  Weber created this recipe for using with a charcoal grill.  I adapted it to use in my smoker.

Rather than their rub, I used a rub I get at Stuart's Spices on Clinton Avenue here in Rochester.  It's called Hog Rub and it's excellent.

I followed Weber's recipes for the sauce and mop.  Here they are:

Sauce

3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Note:  Weber's recipe includes 1 teaspoon of molasses.  I didn't have any so left that out.

Mop

1 cup unsweetened apple juice
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bbq sauce (from above)

For the sauce and the mop recipes, bring both to simmer in separate saucepans and set aside.

The night before, or early on the day of smoking, rub the ribs generously with Hog Rub.  Put in the refrigerator.  Remove the meat and let it sit at room temperature an hour before going into the smoker.

Prepare the smoker and when ready, place the meat in it.  Keep the temperature below 250.  I used hickory chips over the hot coals for this, replacing them about every half hour or so.  (Soak the chips in water before putting them in the smoker.)

At about the one and a half hour mark in smoking, mop the meat.  Repeat several times till the meat is almost done.  For ribs, when the meat begins to pull away, exposing the bone about a quarter of an inch, it's done.

Before removing the meat from the smoker, brush well several times with the sauce recipe.  I left these two in the smoker a little more than 3 hours.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Where does time go?

I was not a helicopter parent.  Really, I wasn't.  Well. . . never mind.

My number one priority in my life are my boys and my grandchildren.  You mess with them, you don't even want to hear from me, believe me on that.

Last year, John and Jen allowed Kevin, my oldest grandson, to go to Germany.  WHAT?  NO WAY!  It was an exchange program through school.  Earlier, a young man from Germany visited in their home and then Kevin went, with a group and chaperones, to Germany.  But today's world is different.  There are bad people in the world that think nothing of hurting Americans.

We got past that.  Kevin had a wonderful time in Germany, even visited Austria.  He came home safe and sound.

I knew this was coming too.  He had plans to go to a special Scout camp a long way from home for two weeks.  NO!  NO! NO!  Not my Kevin!  Never mind that his grandfather went to this same Scout camp many years ago and loved it.  But it is a different world today!  Listen to me!

I was meant to be a mother and grandmother.  It is my place to worry.  Just ask my boys.  One of them, once he was grown, admitted, "We knew when we were growing up, if we screwed up and Mom and Dad found out about it, there would be hell to pay."  YEP!  You got that right.

Trust me, I really am happy for Kevin - he's even learned to drive a car with a stick shift, another one of my idiosyncracies!. . . if you can't drive a stick shift, you aren't anything. . . well, anyway. . . Can't I be happy for my grandson and be worried at the same time???

John and Jen have done a wonderful job raising Kevin, Jake and Andrew. . . and if you can meet MY standards in child rearing, that is an accomplishment!  But I still have a right to worry.




Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bailey is one year old!


Morgan and I have survived Bailey's first year!  She has been ALL PUPPY, all at once cantankerous, mischievous, lovable, cute, and with a mind of her own. When she is out back playing and I call her, I get her "What's in it for me?" look. She is one big ball of nonstop energy.  The picture above was taken at the home of the breeder before I brought her home.


Here she is in her cage not long after I brought her home.


Bailey and one of her many sticks!


Look at me, I'm cute!


She loves watching football and basketball!  She learned early on that when the Alabama Crimson Tide is playing football, she has to be good or she goes to her cage.

Hiding behind Morgan.


I want to say a special thank you to her breeder, Patty Finch.  I'm very picky about where I will buy a puppy.  I had made arrangements with a quality breeder in Cobbleskill, NY to get a puppy.  But that dog didn't come into season in time to meet my time frame for getting a puppy.  Through networking, I found Patty down in Ohio.  I couldn't have chosen a better breeder.  She cried when she handed Bailey over to me.  I promised her I'd love Bailey and give her a good home.  She really cares about where her puppies go to their forever home.

And finally, everyone has their own ideas of what is the best breed.  To my way of thinking, the Labrador Retriever is the Best of the Best!  They are a major handful during the puppy stage.  Then they settle into the most loving, delightful dogs in the whole world.  I have owned a Lab continuously since 1985, five of them, Teri, Cash, Molly, Morgan, and Bailey.  I can't imagine my life without a Lab.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A lazy Sunday morning



Enjoying my coffee, the dogs, and Fox and Friends!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wegmans comes to Richmond, Va!

Wegmans (a fantastic grocery store for the poor souls who have never heard of them!) just opened their first store in the Richmond, Virginia area - and another one will be opening soon.  My son and daughter in law, both raised in Rochester, grew up with Wegmans.  They have lived down South for ten years and had to be without a Wegmans in their life!

Wegmans is 100 years old this year.  They started out selling fresh produce in a push cart in Rochester.  When I moved to Rochester in 1974, there were Loblaws and Star Markets.  They couldn't compete with Wegmans and have long since disappeared.

Recently, our local newspaper had a huge article on Wegmans in a Sunday paper.  Wegmans is trying to turn this area of the country into the Silicon Valley of food.  They have contracted with local farmers for both produce and meat.  Many of these farms will openly tell you, they would have gone out of business were it not for Wegmans.  The benefit to the consumer, fresher grocery items.

Today, Wegmans is managed by Danny Wegman and his two daughters.  As teenagers, Danny insisted that Nicole and Colleen work in the stores at the lowest levels.  He knew that by doing this, they would learn the business inside and out.

Wegmans has come a long way since I moved here 40+ years ago.  Today there are in store bakeries, flower shops, general merchandise, and more.  They know how to treat the customer.  A year or so back, when they made the top of the list of the Best Place to Work in the country, each store had a HUGE sheet cake to celebrate.  It was the size of a sheet of plywood.

If you go in a Wegmans and ask where a product is, they don't just tell you, they will walk you there.

More recently they have increased their private brands and most of these that I have tried are as good or better than the name brand items.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting started in smoking meat.


Below is a "tutorial" I wrote for a friend a couple of years back on getting into smoking meat.  Recently, several people have asked me how to get started in this great venture.  I've made no secret of how much I enjoy it.   So for the benefit of those who are interested, here is a primer on smoking meat!


My comments are related to the Weber Smoky Mountain Smoker.  They would be very similar to any other smoker.

 

Use a charcoal chimney with wadded up newspaper under it to heat your charcoal.  Kingsford is best.  You want a quality brand that burns the longest.  On Memorial Day, Fourth of July,  and Labor Day, Lowes sells their double pack of 20 lb (40 lbs total) charcoal for cheap.  That’s when I stock up.

 

Some meets need to be soaked in a brine (overnight in the fridge is best, but at least several hours or more).  The meat needs to be totally covered with water.

 

There are dozens of brine and rub recipes on the internet and any place else you look.  I use water, kosher salt, and brown sugar.  Most experts recommend letting your rubbed down meat sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before putting on the smoker.  This is the time I spend putting the smoker together and getting it ready.

 

To assemble the smoker, first put the white charcoal in the bottom, next comes the big bowl of water (filled with water almost to the top), then the racks.  I’ve only used one rack and I’ve cooked for a crowd.  Then the lid.  Spread a big handful of soaked wood chips over the hot coals.  You can put fresh herbs in the water to add to the flavor.  Near the charcoal area is a side door to add more coals.  I’ve only had to add more coals once.  For several hours of smoking, you probably won’t need to add hot coals.  Watch the thermometer on the outside of the lid.  The thermometer indicates the range you want to stay in.  Either open or close the vents on the lid and at the bottom of the smoker to adjust temperature.  There is also a rubber gasket on the side to insert a digital thermometer into the meat while it is smoking.  I’ve never used that feature.  After a few times, you learn to know when the meat is ready.  I always insert the thermometer before I stop cooking, though.  I recommend doing a whole chicken first.  That is the easiest, idiot-proof way to learn and also the quickest.  Keep the lid closed and don’t open anymore that really necessary.

 

Now, sit back with a nice glass of wine, close your eyes, and enjoy the aroma coming from the smoker.  One of life’s simple pleasures!

 

When you take the meat off, close all vents and let the smoker cool enough to handle (several hours).  Then clean the rack and the water bowl.  I use an SOS pad and my backyard faucet to do this.  Dry and put back together.  Make sure the charcoal is COMPLETELY dead and cold before bringing it in the house.  I keep mine in my three season room.  One night, late, I was letting Morgan out and I smelled a strange smell coming from the smoker.  The darn thing had reignited and was burning again, albeit small.  Not a good thing to do in a closed space!

 

I also keep a big plastic tote to store all my smoking supplies in – thermometer, wood chips, smoker manual, silicone gloves (you gotta have a pair of these).  Another neat tool is an injector.  It is a syringe you use to inject marinade into the meat before smoking.

 

There are all kinds of models and types of smokers.  When I was researching, I talked to a lot of people, surfed the web, read reviews.  For me, the Smoky Mountain is the best.  A lot of pros that travel the competition circuit use them.  I like the ease of use and the results I get for very little effort.  Once a year you scrub down the inside of the big cylinder part.  You don’t want to do this too often because that does add to the flavor.  But it should be done once a year.

 

Some recommend putting a pile of chicken skins and “throw away” meat in the smoker the very first time to season it.  I didn’t do this and don’t feel it is necessary.

 

One last “I wish I knew” bit of advice.  About the third or fourth time I used the smoker, it just wasn’t working.  I could not get the temperature up.  I couldn’t imagine what was wrong, when it had worked so flawlessly before.  Duh!  You have to empty the old charcoal dust from the charcoal bin or it will stop air flow!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lilacs


The lilac bushes lining the fence on the eastside of my backyard are slow to bloom this year.  Here is the prettiest one.


This one is about to open up in pink blooms.  The picture is a little blurred because just as I snapped it, a breeze came up!