Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nancy


Nancy and I have been friends for over 40 years.  I met her and Robert right after moving to Rochester.  We watched each other's kids grow up.  Today she had surgery for cancer.  Needless to say, anyone who cares about Nancy had cause for worry.  I stayed with Robert during the surgery, as did a few others.  

The surgery appears to be a success and we are all hopeful.  This just came out of thin air and no one saw it coming until a few weeks ago.  But she had two of the very best oncology surgeons operating on her today.

Long time readers of my blog have no doubt seen her mentioned here before.  We have backpacked, cross country skied, day hiked, and paddled extensively together and had many fun times.  But more importantly, we have been there for each other through good times and bad.  That's what friends do.

The picture above was taken just a few days ago.  It is the best picture I have ever seen of her.  She will lose her hair to chemo, but hopefully that will be a short term thing.

I consider Nancy's friendship a true blessing and I look forward to many more years of paddling, camping, dinners together, and, oh yes, for years, we have planned to hike Mt. Marcy (the highest peak in NYS) on our 80th birthday.  We are six months apart in age. . . she's the oldest!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smoking meat is fun, easy, and delicious!

I can't believe how long I waited to try smoking meat because it seemed difficult and a lot of effort!  I've come a long way since back in early Spring of this year when I bought a Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker and it sat in the box for several days in my living room because I was afraid to try to put it together by myself!  And then waited a week before I used it because, "what if I ruin the meat?"

I not only assembled it by myself, I have had great success with the meat I have put in it. . . whole chickens, baby back ribs, a pork shoulder, and a chuck roast.


A chicken cooked in a smoker is perhaps the easiest, and sitting by the smoker enjoying that wonderful aroma is one of life's simple pleasures.  Prepare the chicken by letting it soak overnight in a brine.  There are many brine recipes out there - online and in smoking cookbooks.  The one I use is simply water, kosher salt and brown sugar.  Make enough so that the chicken is totally submerged.

About an hour and a half before you want to put the chicken in the smoker, take it out of the refrigerator, discard the brine, rinse the chicken well and then pat dry with paper towels.  Cover it with a homemade rub - there are plenty of rub recipes to choose from.  Next let the chicken sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

Prepare your smoker by first pouring cold charcoal in the bin of the smoker.  In a charcoal chimney, heat up charcoal (enough to fill the chimney), soak your wood chips for 20 minutes or more.  What kind of wood chips?  Well, there are a lot to choose from:  hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite. . .  When the charcoal is ready, pour it over the unheated charcoal and then add the wet wood chips.  Next place the bowl of water in the smoker above the charcoal.  Now you are ready to place the prepared chicken on the rack and put the lid on.  My smoker has a shaded area on the thermometer and as long as you keep the interior temperature in the shaded area, you are fine.  You maintain the proper temperature by either closing or opening the vents on the smoker.


I have found, for a chicken, you don't need to add charcoal during the cooking process.  For meats requiring longer smoking time you likely will need to add fresh charcoal (heated up, of course!).  How often you add moist wood chips is a matter of taste, about every two hours or so.  My smoker has a door on the side that you can use to add charcoal and/or wood chips without disturbing the meat above.

Use a quality brand of charcoal, such as Kingsford, for longer lasting coals.  A few days ago, I smoked a large chuck roast for 4 hours and 45 minutes and I never had to add charcoal.  

When the meat is done, let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour.  I always test with a meat thermometer before taking it out of the smoker, except that I have done so many chickens that I learned to tell when they are done without the thermometer, but for other meats, I do use the thermometer.  Smoking times given in your owner's manual or in recipes are kind of "ballpark" figures and you may find your cooking time differs.

I clean the rack and the water bowl outside under a water faucet with a steel wool pad.  Once a year, you need to clean the interior of the smoker. . . that will be more of a challenge, but the rewards you get from the smoker are well worth it!

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, I would welcome hearing from you and sharing recipes and techniques.  If you have never tried smoking meat, you don't know how much enjoyment - and great taste - you are missing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It was once a beautiful tree. . .


The tree in my front yard, at one time a beautiful Maple tree, is now debris out by the road for the town to pick up.  For years, daffodils grew at its base in the spring, followed by impatiens in the summer.  But in recent years, it began to die.   When it got to the point that I feared a strong wind would knock down its branches and cause damage, I knew it was time to take it down.  



This was found in one of the branches, but the babies and their mom were gone.


Ropes being strung to make way for the fall.



It's gone.  I learned a lesson from someone who knows about these things.  If you have a tree that you want to keep, it is a good idea to have a tree expert take a look at it every few years.  That way, problems can be caught early and the tree can be saved.






Saturday, July 12, 2014

I really do care. . .

Someone I know, who is going through a really tough time, through no fault of their own, said something to me this week that really touched my heart.

"Other people ask me how I am doing, but they don't really want to know.  I know that you really mean it when you ask how I am coping."

I was dumbfounded to hear that.  Everyone goes through rough times now and then.  Yes, I do care.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A bittersweet picture


I posted this picture today on facebook as a TBT (Throwback Thursday) photo.  That's me with my twin sons, just two weeks old, taken back in 1973.  So, you are thinking, "so why the title, a bittersweet picture?"

I ran across this picture recently and it immediately stirred strong feelings inside me.  Yes, the picture of me holding my twin sons, brought a tear of joy to my eyes.  I was so very happy to bring them into the world as two healthy, full term babies.  I always felt having twins was a special gift from God.  John and Michael are every mother's dream and I am happy with the way they turned into responsible, intelligent adults.  Both married women that I was pleased to welcome into the family and John has given me three grandsons that I love.

But look closer at that picture.  In the background.  The dog.  That is Happy, a Samoyed mix, that my former husband and I got before we had children, as a young puppy.

I was raised in a home with a father who didn't like dogs and did not allow a dog to live in the house.  "Dogs are dirty and don't belong in the house," was his sermon.  "They carry diseases."  So the few dogs I had over the years were relegated to a pin outside.

As a young married couple, we got Happy.  Geez, what the two of us knew about raising a puppy was pathetic.  It was cute when Happy was a puppy and he did puppy things.  We laughed at his antics.  Dog obedience classes?  What was that?  Happy had little or no discipline.

Without going into the unpleasant details, Happy soon moved in with my mother.  She lived alone and Happy was a joy to her.  And I have to admit, he seemed to calm down in his behavior, at least somewhat, with her.  The years went by and my mother's health declined to the point that she could no longer properly care for Happy.  In spite of a great effort to find a good home for him, he had to be taken to the shelter.  From that point on, I never knew what happened to him.  Did he find a loving home? 

Then John and Michael came into the picture.  "Okay," I said to Don.  "We have to do better with these two kids!"  And we did.  Over the years, we often said that Happy taught us how to raise children.  You can't let a baby or toddler get away with something that is cute and then later on punish the child for the same thing just because he is older and should know better.

Looking at this picture and thinking of how unfair we were in raising Happy, I am also pleased that I have had great success with the Labs in my life, going all the way back to 1985.  Morgan is my fourth Lab and next summer, I plan to bring home another Lab puppy.

Happy, I hope you found a good home for the rest of your days.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hummus

For a long time, I wouldn't eat hummus.  The only hummus I ever had was store bought. . . tasteless, bland, definitely lacking pizzaz!

Enter my recipe for hummus!  I'm not sure where I found this one.  But it is a winner.

You can adjust the ingredient amounts to suit your own taste.  I usually start with dried garbanzo beans that I soak and then cook, but Progresso canned ones work just as well.

1 clove garlic, chopped
16 oz. garbanzo beans
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine beans and garlic in a food processor and process on high, stopping to scrap sides.  Mix in remaining ingredients and process on high.

Chill.

Serve with your favorite veggies or crackers.

Tahini is in the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BBQ Sauce Recipe

Those that follow me on facebook and my blog postings here know I am having a great time with my new Weber smoker and trying new ways to smoke meat.  I had wanted to get into smoking for a long time and finally bought a Weber Smoky Mountain smoker this spring and gave it a try and now I'm hooked!

I can honestly say I haven't tried a new recipe yet that wasn't just great!  But here is one that ranks right up there with the very best!  This one is good on pork, chicken, or turkey.  I found it in my Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen, who has written several very good books on barbecue.

Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

14 oz. ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup jellied cranberry sauce, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring or whisking steadily to dissolve the bits of cranberry sauce.  Gently simmer the sauce until thick and richly flavored, stirring often to prevent scorching, 15 to 20 minutes.  Use right away or transfer to a large jar, cover, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.  The sauce will keep for several months.  Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fun day with family

Earlier today, both my sons, Michael and John, and my grandsons, Kevin, Jake, and Andrew came over.  Michael stayed until time for his golf league and Jen came later.  She works for a company in Rochester but works from home.  So while she is in town here, she worked today.

I smoked a pork shoulder roast in the smoker and it was a hit.  We had pulled pork sandwiches with shredded cabbage and a great North Carolina BBQ sauce for dinner and my apple pie for dessert.

Kevin, my oldest grandson is now taller than I am and Jake isn't far behind!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Not exactly a peaceful Sunday afternoon on our street

A short while ago, I backed out of my driveway onto our street and a whole lotta people were staring at my house.  I drove up to them and asked what was going on.  There was a mange infested fox very near my property line and they were trying to keep an eye on it till the police or animal control arrived.  I was gone about a half hour, hoping this would all be over by the time I returned.  It wasn't.

I came inside and soon looked out my window and saw two police cars on the street directly in front of my house with one of the officers walking toward my door.  I went outside and asked if this was about the fox.  It was.  "We are going to put it down, ma'am.  You may want to go back inside."

"NO!"  I said, "I want to watch!"  He seemed okay with that.

I kept an eye on the animal until he grabbed his gun.  It wasn't his service firearm, but a shotgun. The fox would walk a few feet, then lay down.  Then get up and do it again.

The neighbors thanked the officers for taking care of this on a Sunday afternoon.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pacific Coast Pillows. . . the best!

Rarely do I endorse products on my blog.  But this company is an exception.  It is very difficult for me to find a bed pillow that I really like.  My current pillows are ready to be replaced so I have been looking around, hoping to find something I could be happy with.  Well, guess what!  I found it!

I had never heard of Pacific Coast Pillows (www.pacificcoast.com).  I found them in an internet search.  They offer a 30 night money back guarantee so I decided to take a chance on their pillow.  They have been in business for 125 years, another factor that led me to try their product.

It is the most comfortable pillow I have ever found.  I just love it!

Check them out.