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!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Andrew

My grandson, Andrew Bennett, is eleven years old today!  Where does time go?


All three of my grandsons, Kevin, Jake, and Andrew have made me a very proud Gramma!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A fun Mother's Day for me


One of my twin sons, Michael, and I had lunch and then spent a couple of hours shooting at my gun club.  It was a fun time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Life with dogs is never boring. . .

Morgan and Bailey are put in their (oversize) cage in another room at night when I go to bed.  I could trust Morgan to sleep on the floor next to my bed, but Bailey isn't quite ready for that yet.


Last night just as I was drifting off to sleep, I thought I heard a rustling sound.  Then it stopped.  Okay, I was dreaming maybe.


I rolled over in bed and there were two sets of eyes and two wagging tails in front of me!  The "rustling" sound was their paw prints on the hardwood floor.  The bedroom carpet masked that sound.


"How did you get out of your cage?" I asked them.  They were so proud of themselves.


Never did figure out how they opened their cage door.  I walked them back to their cage and they stayed the rest of the night.

Monday, April 25, 2016

An exciting new salad recipe

I am always looking for ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my meals.  There is my fruit salad, made of chopped fruits of whatever I have in the house:  cantalope, honeydew melon, blueberries, kiwi fruit, grapes, strawberries, mango. . .

On the vegetable side, there are salads, stir fry, and my weekend, "clean-out-the-fridge-omelette" and don't forget smoothies.

Here is a new salad recipe I ran across today that caught my fancy so much that after work I ran to Wegmans to get the ingredients that I didn't already have.

Equal parts of:

roma tomatoes
cucumber
avocado
red onion
cilantro

Chop all of the above and place in mixing bowl.

Combine the following:

juice of one lemon
salt
olive oil

Pour this over the salad and enjoy.

I like the blend of flavors, not to mention the high nutritional value.

Try it!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A brisket in the smoker today

There is a brisket in my smoker right now, slowly cooking to perfection!  My all time favorites to cook in a smoker are a brisket and a pork shoulder with Carolina BBQ sauce served at the table.

Here is the recipe I used today, although I have others that I also like.

Marinade for a brisket

1 pint orange juice
juice from 2 limes
juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Combine ingredients with a whisk.  Score the brisket so that the juice penetrate s into the meat.  Marinate at least a few hours, or better, overnight.  I have a Tupperware marinating container that I've had for years and I like that because the bottom of each side has ridges so that the juice covers the underside.

About an hour before you are ready to put it in the smoker, take it out of the marinade sauce and lay on a large cutting board.  Use the rub recipe below to cover both sides and then let it sit on the counter for 45 minutes:

3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and rub into meat.

Until last summer, I never cooked a brisket.  I believed all the war stories I heard over the years about it being a junk piece of meat, "most often made into hamburger meat."  That can be true if you don't know how to properly prepare it!  Put it in a smoker for most of the day and you will have the tastiest and most tender piece of meat you could ever imagine.

One of life's greatest simple pleasures is smoking meat.  Sitting by the smoker, taking in the aroma, letting your mind rest from the stress of the everyday world, not to mention the wonderful flavor when your meat is done, it doesn't get any better than this!