Saturday, June 17, 2017

New ways with veggies

Like most people, I try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet, without getting bored with the same things over and over.  So I'm constantly scouring the internet, magazines, and my own huge collection of cookbooks to find fresh ideas.

Here is an idea I ran across recently that I really like.

Begin with 4 cups of vegetables cut into bite size pieces.  You can use one vegetable or a variety. . . I like variety!

Bring a saucepan to full boil and pour the vegetables in for 30 seconds to a minute and a half, depending on how crisp you want them.  Remove from the boiling water and place in a colander and run cold water over them.

Now choose one of the following marinades to pour over your vegetables  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To prepare either of these marinades, combine ingredients and place in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 strips orange zest
2 sprigs fresh oregano
salt and pepper

This would make an excellent picnic dish and goes well by itself or with meat from the grill!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Did this really happen?

Everyone knows how much I enjoy using my grills and smoker. 

The times I spend preparing food on the grills or the smoker are among the most pleasant moments in my life.

This incident happened last week and I am just now able to talk about it.  I had just placed a steak rubbed down with a fantastic rub on the grill, closed the lid, and checked my watch to time the cooking.  In less than a minute or two, fire erupted on the outside of the grill near where the propane gas hose connects to the grill.  I don't remember the next few seconds - which seemed like hours.  The next I remember, I was turning the valve off on the gas tank, my heart pounding.  The fire slowly got smaller and then went out.  I ran several yards away thinking the tank may explode.  It didn't.

This has never happened to me before.  I only use Weber grills (charcoal or gas - Weber is the best!) 

I have used this grill many times with never any trouble with its operation.

Later, when I disconnected the hose from the grill, it wasn't tightened all the way.  You can bet from now on, I will make sure it is tightened securely.  That may have been the cause.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting started in smoking meat

A couple of people who follow me on facebook and see my blog have asked me recently about how to get started.  "It seems so complicated, but you really like it!"

Well, that is exactly what I said for years before I took the plunge and tried my luck with it!

I am no expert.  What I've learned is from internet and cookbook research and the old fashioned "trial and error" method.

Here are just a few basics to get you started.

First, you need a smoker!  After scouring internet sites, I decided on the Weber Smoky Mountain smoker.  I went with the 18.5 inch (their middle one) size.  I found that many professionals use this one.  It is easy to use and even I, a mechanically challenged woman, easily assembled it on my living room floor with my two Labs watching closely from the couch.

Okay, one deep dark secret. . . After it was assembled, I was scared to use it!  I was still in the "this-is-too-difficult" mindset.  It sat in my living room for a week.  Well, okay, two weeks.

My first venture was a whole chicken.  That is the one I recommend for beginners.  It is totally idiot proof!

I made a simple brine of water, brown sugar and kosher salt, enough to cover the entire chicken, and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, I took it out of the brine, rinsed it well and dried it with paper towels.  After that, I rubbed it very generously with a rub.  There are plenty of store bought rubs and recipes for homemade - I've used a variety of both and they are all good.

The instructions tell you to let this sit at room temperature for 45 minutes or so.  Following the instructions with my smoker, I set up the smoker.  I use the minion method for charcoal.  What this means is, place cold charcoal in the base of the smoker and cover this with a chimney full of lighted charcoal when it turns white.  On top of this sprinkle a handful or so of soaked wood chips (I tend to use either hickory or apple chips for chicken).  The water pan goes over the charcoal.  Finish putting the smoker together and place your prepared chicken on the grate.  Adjust the bottom vents to maintain a temperature of about 220 to 225.  You may have to adjust the vents several times during the cooking.  Always leave the vent in the dome shaped lid open.

This is the hard part!  Sit back in a comfy lawn chair with a glass of wine.  Enjoy the warm sunny day while you watch the puffy white clouds go by in the sky.

Take notes of what you did for the first few smokes you do for reference.  After that, you will be an old pro and won't need to do that.  I find if you are using wood chips, you probably need to replenish them about every hour or so.  If you use wood chunks, they usually last the entire smoke and they don't need to be soaked.

A whole chicken is ready anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  Using a meat thermometer, check for doneness.  It should be 165 degrees.  Truthfully, though, after you've done a few, you learn to tell when it's done by looking at it!

I recommend getting a couple or more good cookbooks by such authors as Steven Raichlen, Jeff Phillips, and others.  These have been excellent resources for me.

So, go ahead.  Just do it!  Soon you will be enjoying the most wonderful tasting smoked meat you could ever imagine!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Getting ready for lots of smoking!

Every three day summer holiday Lowe's marks down their Kingsford charcoal and wood chips and chunks for smoking.  And they were kind enough to put the charcoal packs (40 lbs) in my cart and in my car.  They were all out of wood chunks so I stopped by Home Depot to get those.

I've never smoked with the chunks before.  They should last for an entire smoking without having to replenish like I do with the chips.

I had big plans to smoke baby back ribs this weekend but it looks like it is going to rain most of the time.  YUCK!  I wonder what it's like to stand over the smoker with an umbrella for several hours???

Monday, May 22, 2017

Poor Baby

It's tough keeping things stirred up around here but I work at it.

Bailey will soon be two years old.  Although she has calmed down quite a bit from the rambunctious puppy stage, she still has her moments!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The very best bbq sauce

My kitchen smells wonderful right now.  I'm making a "first of the season" batch of bbq sauce.  I've tried dozens of recipes over the years and this one is my favorite.  I use it on chicken and baby back ribs on the grill and sometimes on left over roast beef.

It is taken from "Smoking Meat" by Jeff Phillips.

Memphis Barbeque Sauce #2:

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 tablespoon dry mustard

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Use a whisk to thoroughly combine.

Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.

I store it in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a lid.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Old lawn mower finds a good home!

Life is funny sometimes.  I was mowing my lawn one night this week with my 20 year old Toro lawn mower.  It has served me well.  Other than routine tune ups, I have never had to spend money on it.

Less than half way through mowing the lawn, oil starting flying everywhere!  Never had that happen before.  For a few seconds, I was kind of in a daze with what happened.  Then I recovered enough to turn it off.

I didn't want to spend money on a 20 year old mower and the shop owner agreed.  So I bought a mid-range mower, another Toro.

Now what to do with the dead one?  I put a post on our neighborhood facebook page stating that I would be putting it out by the road and it was free for the taking.  In less than an hour, it was gone!

An older gentleman loaded it into the back of his pick up truck and then came to my door.  He asked about it and I explained that as far as I knew, the motor was still fine and that it had spouted oil when I was using it.  He knows someone that likes to tinker with old things.  Maybe he can breathe new life back into it.  If nothing else, he can retrieve the gas from the half filled tank!

Around here, if you want to get rid of something quickly, put it out by the road.  A few years back, I had an old rickety step ladder.  It was left behind when I moved into this house 20 years ago.  The last time I used it, it was the same as standing in a rocking chair.  I put it out by the road and it disappeared!  Now why would anyone want a totally unsafe step ladder???

Monday, May 8, 2017

The decline of Sears

It's not the first retail giant to go into steep decline.  But this one kind of rattled me, you could say.

The famous Sears Roebuck Catalog that most older Americans grew up with, began back in the 1800's.  In rural areas, the General Stores of the day could not stock the variety of merchandise that the Catalog brought to your doorstep.  If you had asked me back in my childhood, I would've told you Sears Roebuck would be around until the end of the world.

The news is reporting Sears is all but shutting down.  In a downward spiral over the last couple of decades, a string of upper level managers have made poor business decisions, unable to bring the retailer back into the glory days it once knew.

My first job was working in the Sears store in downtown Pensacola, Florida the summer after my sophomore year in college.  I have often said that I learned more that summer working at Sears than anyone could ever learn in a Psychology 101 class.  I learned to smile and be courteous to customers no matter how tired I was from standing on my feet all day or no matter how rude they were to me.  I learned when there was down time from waiting on customers, I needed to find something to do to keep busy, such as straightening merchandise on shelves.  I was awe struck by the number of people who would shoplift right in front of you and then deny it.  That was the summer I learned to "read" people!  You know, this woman is likely to cause trouble, but that one is not!  This one is trying to distract me and that one is not.  Same went for fellow employees.  If you were waiting on a customer that involved a commission sale, an older employee knew how to push you aside and take over your customer.

As a temporary summer employee, I was bounced around from one department to another.  After I had been there a few weeks, I found that two particular departments, Jewelry and Boys Clothing really liked me and vied for my time.  That was an ego boost, for sure.

It wasn't just poor management that has brought Sears down.  Times have changed.  Most of us today shop primarily on the internet - myself included!  It has become popular to shop online with easy return policies and expert customer service.  So why bother to drive to a store, many times paying to park your car, when you can sit in the comfort of your home and shop and compare with your computer?

Who knows for sure?  Maybe by a stroke of genius, someone in the hierarchy of Sears will manage to turn things around. . . I doubt it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A new tenant in my bird house!

Two weeks ago, my son took down the old (over 20 years old!), rotting bird house and attached my new bird house in its place.  Now this was no ordinary new bird house.  It is made of cypress and very well constructed.  The squirrels should have no interest in chewing this one to destruction.

Every day I eagerly checked to see if new inhabitants had taken residence.  Nothing.

I was really getting discouraged.  Maybe it is the human smell on it.  But with all the rain we have had, surely that has been washed away.

This afternoon I was drinking a glass of water and staring blankly into space at my kitchen sink.  My idle gaze was interrupted by something flying near the bird house.  It was a real live bird that just flew into my bird house.

Now I have baby birds learning to fly to look forward to! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dinner tonight

Hot off the grill!  I grilled chicken thighs rubbed with Crazy Good Chicken Rub from Stuart's Spices here in Rochester.  Delicious!