Sunday, May 3, 2015

A chicken in the smoker today

It is an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Rochester.  A perfect day to fire up the smoker this afternoon for the first time this year.

I got into smoking meat last summer and wish I had tried it years earlier.  It is so very easy and the result is moist, delicious meat.

There are a lot of excellent smokers on the market.  Being a Weber fan, I went with the Weber Smokey Mountain and I've been very satisfied with it.  I even managed to assemble it by myself!

Right now my chicken is soaking in brine in the refrigerator.  I use a simple brine recipe:

4 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar

The chicken needs to be totally covered in water, so I triple the recipe to accomplish this.

Soak a couple handfuls of wood chips (hickory, apple, whatever you like) in water.

About an hour before I'm ready to place it in the smoker, I will take it out of the brine, pat it dry with paper towels and then rub it down with olive oil, followed by using this rub recipe:

4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of oregano
a pinch of thyme

Be generous in spreading the rub on the chicken.  When I'm finished, I leave it sitting on a cutting board at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.  During this time I set up the smoker.

Light up the charcoal.  When it is ready, place it in the bottom of the smoker.  Throw in the soaked wood chips.

Fill the water bowl almost to the top with water and place that in the smoker.  I use silicone gloves to do this since the charcoal is really hot!  You can get creative here by placing chopped fresh rosemary in the water bowl.

Next place the prepared chicken on the grate, close the lid, open the top and bottom vents about half way.  From this point until the chicken is ready - about 2 1/2 hours, but check with a meat thermometer - all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the wonderful aroma coming from the smoker.  Occasionally check the inside temperature of the smoker and adjust the vents to keep the thermometer within the "gray zone."  On my smoker, the thermometer has a marked zone which is optimal for smoking meat.

Avoid opening the lid during the smoking process.  Towards the end of the smoking time, I will lift the lid and insert a digital thermometer to test for doneness, but actually, after you've done a few chickens, you can tell when it's ready by looking at it.

The Smokey Mountain Smoker has an opening on the side to insert a digital thermometer so that you can gauge the temperature during the smoking process.  I've never used that.

When you remove the meat, close all the vents, leave the lid on and leave the smoker to cool down completely and I do mean COMPLETELY!  On one occasion last year, I brought the smoker inside the three season room when it was cool to the touch and I was "sure" all the coals were dead. . . WRONG!  Now I leave it outside overnight to remove all doubt!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How many Moms are guilty of this? I am!

How many of these did you say to your kids when they were growing up???
 
 
 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Smoothies

When I became interested in homemade smoothies back in the winter, I carefully scoured the internet for recipes.  As I made each one, I made a note of the ones I liked and the ones I didn't care for.

Then I got adventurous with what I put in the Vitamix.  And THAT'S where the trouble started!  When I found one of my own concoctions that I liked, I would forget to write down what I put in it and of course, the next time I pulled out the Vitamix, I couldn't remember what the last one was made with.

It is true that just about any fruit and/or vegetable you put in a smoothie is tasty and very nutritious, which is why I got into the smoothie craze in the first place.  But everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

I just put together a very good one, which I am drinking as I write this.  Here are the ingredients:

about 2 cups of loosely chopped kale
one orange
one small Empire apple
chopped mango
a scoop of raw honey
a scoop of coconut oil

How big is a "scoop", you ask?  Well, I stick a teaspoon into the jar and whatever I come up with is a scoop!

You really don't need to fuss with exact measurements with a smoothie.  And while I do have some that I like better than others, you really can't go wrong with what you throw in the blender.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Where the buffalo roam

I had hoped this would be a lighthearted post that would draw laughter.

Sadly, it won't.

When I learned earlier today that a herd of buffalo had escaped from a farm near Albany, New York and crossed the New York State Thruway, all kinds of comical scenes popped into my head!  Imagine driving down the Thruway and thinking you see a herd of buffalo on the major highway that runs across New York.

Just now I have learned all the animals were shot and killed with the blessings of the New York State Police and the owner of the herd.  It was agreed that there are no acceptable cages to corral the animals to return them to the farm.  Obviously, a group of such large animals running loose is a danger.

I'm not sure why buffalo are raised.  For food?  I don't know.  It is sad they needed to be put down.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Avocado Heaven!

I am on an avocado kick these days.  It is highly nutritious and if you look around, there are many ways to prepare it that are really good. 

My newest discovery is avocado toast.  A quick internet search brought up a lot of different varieties.  It is quick, good for you, and filling.

Here are just a few that I like.  I would love to hear from you on your favorite ways to use avocado.

  • Toast a thick slice of bread of your choice.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Combine mashed or finely chopped avocado, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Spread on the toast and enjoy.
  • Cover a toasted slice of bread with olive oil.  Combine avocado, chopped coriander, a dash of hot sauce and salt and pepper.
  • On a slice of toast, still hot from the toaster, place thinly sliced cheddar.  Then cover the cheese with sliced avocado.
Another way I eat avocado is sliced on crackers sprinkled with salt.  Goes great with a glass of wine.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A scam I was unaware of

I wasn't going to put this on my blog.  It certainly doesn't fit the tone of my posts.  But if it alerts someone else, then it will be worthwhile.

Recently, I drove to my annual cousins' reunion down South.  The first night I was in a Hampton Inn in Kentucky.  At 3:30 am, my phone rang and woke me from a dead sleep.  A "friendly" male voice on the line apologized for disturbing me.  He explained the hotel computer had crashed and they had lost all their registration information and "I just need some information from you."

"Can't this wait until the morning?" I asked in a not too pleasant voice.

"No, I'm awfully sorry, but we need this information now."  He asked for the credit card information I used to pay for the room.

When I continued to resist, he became more assertive.  I was told if I could not come to the front desk right then, he would send Security to my room to escort me.

THAT is when I hung up!  I would have hung up much sooner had I not been asleep when the phone rang.

The next morning I checked with the front desk.  They told me they would never call my room at such an hour.  But the more disturbing piece of information was when they told me the call had to have come from inside.  It is not possible for someone outside the hotel to call directly to a guest's room.  A guest who overheard me talking to the desk said she had heard of this type of thing.

No real harm was done, other than disturbing my sleep.  If this man's motive was to get me to leave my hotel room at that hour, he failed.

When I travel, I will smile and say hello to anyone who I have eye contact with.  But beyond that, I don't get involved with strangers, no matter how "safe" they may appear.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cousins' Reunion 2015


Unbelievable!  Emily threw her line in the water and in seconds, pulled this one in!



Little Brileigh is not afraid of anything!  Fish, big dogs. . .


The last of the burgers on the grill.


At 93, Aunt Ilene is still pulling weeds!  "You've got to stay active" is her advice.


Kenny adjusting the scope on my rifle.


After the reunion, some of us spent a couple of days "at the river."  Kip's parents let us stay at their vacation home and we really enjoyed the tranquility of sitting by the water and watching the world go by!



These pictures don't begin to capture the fun we had.  This was our 7th reunion and we'll be back next year for more.

My grandfather farmed this land and my dad and his siblings grew up here.  It is a refuge to gather and just be ourselves with no political correctness required and a brief escape from the stress of the everyday world.







Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Road Trip!

Every year in early Spring, my cousins and I converge on a small rural Alabama town where we own land that has been in the family since it was deeded from the government many, many years ago.  Our grandfather was a prosperous cotton farmer decades ago on the land.  I remember remnants of the cotton field when I was a small child.

My next post will have pictures of the day.

This is a trip I look forward to all year.  Some of us arrived on a Thursday, some arrived on Friday and by Saturday, all of us were there!

A few of us were at the property on Friday. I arrived first and was there by myself for about an hour before anyone else showed up.  I quickly unpacked my guns and target shooting stand and began hitting the bullseye!  If you are new to my blog, maybe you don't know that I am a "gun nut!"

Saturday was the big day.  There was fishing, more target shooting, hamburgers on the grill, and walking the land.  Our Aunt Ilene is 93 this year and just as feisty as ever.  We really have to watch her.  While she is in her right mind for someone that age, she thinks nothing of walking off by herself, through the bushes, briars, over downed trees, and mud!

Now I have to tell you this one!!!  It's true, too. . . A handful of us were target shooting.  Then Kenny says, "Okay, everyone gets one shot."

"Huh?" I asked.

Everyone gets one shot and whoever gets closest to dead center wins.

I could feel the adrenaline flowing in my veins.  Did I tell you I was one woman out of 5 guys?

I beat out the guys!  Yes, that made my day, especially when you consider Kenny is a sharpshooter!!!

I don't know where the time went.  In the blink of an eye, it was time to pack up and head out.  Not fair.

My cousin, Debbie, and I spent a couple of days at Rita and Kip's place on a large lake, about an hour drive from the reunion.  Kip's parents own this and it's a vacation home.  It's a nice home overlooking the lake with a covered deck right off the living room and a much larger one down the steps and over the water.  Kip took us on a boat ride up and down the lake on Sunday.  Then he grilled steaks for us.  What a treat!

Another fun reunion (this was number 7) was over and I drove north again for the two day drive back to Rochester.  Yes, a two day drive down and a two day drive back.  I really don't mind that.  I'm not a big fan of flying and with the gear I carry, flying is out of the question anyway.  I like to watch the end of winter up north turn into Spring, the further south I drive.  Ohio and Kentucky are particularly scenic.  Ohio, with its vast farm lands and old barns and Kentucky with its rolling terrain.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Graduation night at the Citizen's Police Academy


I'm really going to have withdrawal pains!  One night a week for the last two months, I have attended the Brighton Police Department's Citizens' Police Academy and what a joy it has been.  Last night was our "graduation."  We received our certificate and a mug.


Throughout eight weeks, we learned about the police department and the criminal justice system in New York State.  We toured our County Jail (admittedly, that was too graphic for me), we toured the training center for police and fire fighters, we had a presentation from the Monroe County District Attorney and the Public Defender, we saw the firearms and tools used by the police, and we came up close and personal to a German Shepard Police dog, and so much more.  In between, we talked one-on-one with the Police Chief and Sgt. Bruzda, who led our group.

I came away with a renewed respect for the police and the work they do.  We even learned interesting bits of information you won't see in the news about past and current crimes that made the headlines.  One night, an undercover drug enforcement office spoke.  He told about close encounters he's had with the sleazy drug dealers in our county.  Someone asked, "How does your family deal with this?"  He said, "I don't tell them things like I've told you tonight!"

Yes, I loved being part of this group and may even attend again in future years.  Many police departments have this type of program.  If there is one in your area, I urge you to attend.  It's great!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Marinated Vegetables

This is a wonderful recipe I got from a co-worker.  It tastes great and is an excellent way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet.

Marinade:

1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
ground pepper to taste

Mix the marinade recipe together and pour over the following cut into bite size pieces:

1 bunch broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1/2 - 1 pound mushrooms
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 can artichoke hearts
1 cup kalamata olives

Chill in refrigerator before serving.  This is a real taste treat.