Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grilled Ratatouille And Shrimp

The other day we were watching “Boy Meets Grill” and Bobby Flay made a grilled ratatouille that looked delicious, to which Bev commented “we should make that.” I asked and she advised she’d just been to the veggie market and had all of the ingredients he used. Here’s his recipe:

2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 yellow squash, cut into quarters lengthwise
2 Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
2 red onions, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes
½ cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place all cut vegetables and the tomatoes in a large shallow baking dish, add the 1/2 cup of olive oil, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place the vegetables on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Remove the tomatoes, cover grill, and cook the remaining vegetables for 2 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and coarsely chop (leave tomatoes whole). Place the chopped vegetables and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature.

We followed his grilling recipe, except used our paste tomatoes. For the dressing Bev added some extra garlic and decided some kalamata olives and grated romano cheese would be an improvement - and it was.

The veggies about ready to come off the grill - I got the eggplant a little too done.

He cooked his with lamb, but we decided on shrimp and I just made extra of the dressing and brushed it on the shrimp along with some salt, pepper and a little lemon.

All and all a pretty good dinner.

While I was prepping some tomatoes yesterday afternoon, I was watching Tyler Florence make chicken fried steak and the next show to come on was Julia Child. After watching a few minutes, I couldn't help but wonder how far she'd get today on "The Next Food Network Star" - not very I suspect.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Broken Bradford Pear

Yesterday I showed pictures of our broken Bradford pear tree, and this is a follow up on it. I still wasn’t feeling 100%, but decided I had to remove at least enough of it so we could get the cars out. So I cut each limb into 3 to 4 big limbs and pulled them off to the woods. As a typical man, I must have a few toys and one of the things I like is having good tools, and something I’ve always wanted was a tractor. The problem is, my neighbor has two tractors and I have free access to them, so no way to rationalize one of my own except … When my riding lawn mower needing replacing a few years ago, I decided to upgrade to a Kuboto mini-tractor and I just love it as it’s not only a mower, but has a 3-point hitch and 4-wheel drive. Used to be for a job like todays, I would have cut the limbs into small enough pieces to pull off by hand, but now I let the little tractor do most of the hard work.

I’ll finish cutting the bigger pieces into smoking and firewood today and see if I can trim up the breaks to give them a better chance to heal.

On April 7, I’d posted about how lucky we’d been with the durability of our Bradford Pear, guess I forgot to knock on wood. I’m not sure how they got started as landscaping trees, but they have serious drawbacks. As positives they have a nice shape, grow fairly quickly, have pretty spring blooms (although they smell like an animal died nearby), and pretty fall foliage. The minus is their weak structure and they can generally be put into two categories – those that have suffered wind/snow damage and those that are going to.

The very sharp angle between branches, coupled with their weak, brittle wood makes them a bad choice for landscaping.

Bottom line – I suggest you don’t plant one or keep anything important under one.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beverly Is A Hero This Morning

For the past several days, we’ve been leaving the car parked outside the garage and in the shade of the Bradford Pear near the driveway. Last night after I went to bed, the weather service was predicting some heavy storms and Bev decided it would be best to move the car into the garage. Around 1am, the storms blew through and I guess we had some good winds – it was raining so hard I couldn’t tell rain noise from wind noise, but I remember wondering if the windows were up in the car. When I went out to get the paper this morning, this is what I found.

The car had been sitting just in front of the little trailer and while these weren’t giant limbs, I’m sure they would have hurt it.

One of the ironic things is that after sitting in the house since last fall, just a few weeks ago, I finally got around to hanging the wind chime that’s sitting in the trailer. I also trimmed several of the lower limbs from the tree and considered removing some more, including one of these that broke.

I can’t tell if the trailer got hurt or not, but I wish it had been where it belongs – you’d think I’d learn.

For years we’ve been wondering how this tree (planted about 17 years ago), with its very week trunk structure, has been able to get so big without damage, we won’t have to worry about that any longer. The question now is whether or not the tree will survive. On a positive note, we got about an inch and a half of much needed rain. Well, guess I have some tree work to do.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

“Once Again Peace Returns To The High Country”

In my youth, I heard this line (post title) in a nature show about the mountains and it was used as winter was setting in and humans and their cattle moved back to the low country. It’s always stuck with me, but more accurately should be “once again peace returns to Almost Heaven South.”

About 14 months ago, I’d posted that our then 11 year old granddaughter was coming to live with us and now that she is back with here family, I just have to say this one more time – IT’S EASY TO SEE WHY IT’S YOUNG FOLKS WHO RAISE KIDS.” It takes so much energy and stamina, I don’t know how they do it. They left yesterday for Fort Knox so, as of today, Bev and I are living alone once again and I believe after a period of adjustment (very short for me), we’ll settle back into our boring retiree’s life. When they get settled into their new quarters, they’ll be taking Joker, the dog we’d been keeping for them, and Coco, who is Alex’s dog – it''ll be gettin downright boring around here, but Bev is already planning some trips.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A BBQ Send-Off

Our son and family, who recently returned from 3 years in Korea, are leaving later today for their new assignment at Fort Knox, Kentucky. For meals while here, Rhett had requested some of the things I’d been blogging about and especially BBQ. I’d planned a couple of other meals, but my ailing got in the way of those, but they still got corn & okra and lamb twice, which are all favorites.

Thanks to a Tylenol Cold and Flu every 4 hours, I was feeling well enough to cook BBQ on Sun/Mon. I prepped a pork butt about noon on Sunday, fired up the smoker at 8pm to a temp of 235*, put the butt on at 9pm and went to bed. I also prepped the chicken and ribs on Sunday, including rubbing the chicken, and we made up some ABT’s and moink balls.

When I got up Monday morning, I poured the juice off of the butt (which was at 175*), raised the pit temp to 250* and put the chicken on – we weren’t eating it for dinner. The chicken was all done by 10am and since it was mostly for others we pulled some and got it all packaged up. This is the container of breasts.

The pan of thighs. I cooked them skin side down and the one in the upper left shows what that side looked like.

This is the pulled chicken.

I removed the butt at noon, pored off the juice, covered in foil and tossed in the cooler to stay warm until we’re ready to pull it for dinner. I put some ABT”s and my first ever moink balls on at 11am to have for lunch and at 1:30, I put a couple of slabs of baby backs on for dinner. For the ABT’s, I used my normal recipe, but for meat, added some chopped rib tips we had in the freezer. The moink balls were made with precooked meatballs, wrapped in bacon, dusted with Billy Bones original rub, and glazed with Tennessee River Cranberry Delight BBQ Sauce when about done.

I'd grown some no heat jalapenos and had them in the freezer, so I decided to make some ABT's from them for the girls - they are the ones with 2 toothpicks.

So the meal plan for the day was:
Breakfast: On your own
Morning snack: Chicken as we pulled it and a test thigh – it was excellent
Lunch: ABT’s and moink balls
Supper: Pulled pork, ribs, mac & cheese and slaw

This is the pork butt before and after Bev worked her magic on it.

The pulled meat has nothing added but the defatted juice that I had collected while it was cooking. It provides so much moisture and good flavor that it really doesn't need any additional BBQ sauce to be delicious.

The ribs before I cut them into individuals.

This is my plate - I added a little Gates Extra Hot Sauce just for the heat.

According to everyone, the BBQ was delicious - my head was still blocked and I tasted very little - but I believe we sent them off with a bang. We used a new mac & cheese recipe that sounded good, but we didn't care for so I won't talk much about it. I'm going to spend a little time with my camera in the near future and find out which of the many settings will take good natural looking pictures (no flash) in low light conditions. I have at least learned that non flash pictures look so much better.

As a final note, I’m sure glad I decided to take some time off from queing this summer – it’s not fun hanging around the smoker when it’s 95* outside.

Have a good day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fried Cheesy Grits And Stuff

I was at the doctor this past week having some tests run and I’m generally very careful with keeping my hands washed, but apparently not this time. I caught a pretty bad head cold and since I was nowhere else, can only assume I touched the one infected doorknob then rubbed my eyes. And of course, this happened just as the Fort Knox bound kids pulled in from their trip to Disney World. So, I’ve spent two days holed up in the bedroom sucking down Tylenol Cold and Flu – which does a great job of symptom relief for me – drinking lots of water and eating little.

I felt much better this morning and was hungry for some of the fried grits I’d been saving from Fridays post (I’d actually cooked them a couple of days before) and since I’m planning to BBQ tonight and tomorrow, I decided cooking breakfast would be a good wellness-for-cooking-test. I decided to side the grits with scrambled eggs and while getting them out, I discovered a little bag of left over home fried potatoes with peppers, onions, and venison salami. Being the health conscious eater that I am, I decided they would provide the meat and veggies I needed for a well-rounded meal :-).

I used a cast iron skillet and olive oil for the grits, but they stuck to the pan and then fell apart as I was removing them, so next time, I’ll dust with flour and cook in the non stick skillet with a combo of oil and butter. This way they should hold together better, be a more golden color and create less grease spatter – my glasses needed a major cleaning when I got done. Here’s my plate and while the grits aren’t pretty, they were very good – at least as far as my head-cold limited taster could tell. I added a little shredded cheddar to the eggs and potatotes - dairy for my well rounded meal.

Rhett and two of his kids ate them for the very first time and liked them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stoneground Grits

A few months ago, Bev’s sister, Pat, went with a group to Abingdon, Va, to see a play and as part of the tour they visited a restored, old fashioned grist mill called White’s Mill. While there, she called to see if we wanted anything and I put in an order for a bag each of cornmeal and grits. Unlike commercial grits, which are frequently made from hominy, these are made by grinding the whole corn kernel and therefore contain all of the corns nutritional value and flavor. They are very different than the quick grits that I usually eat in that they are more flavorful, much creamier and in larger pieces - they have more of the sticky consistency of oatmeal.

They take about an hour to cook and require near constant attention to prevent sticking, but thanks to my grandmothers patient teaching when I was young, I knew how to cook them, tell when the heat was right, and when they were done – we were cooking cornmeal mush back then, but they cook the same. I was surprised that the bag of grits contained no cooking instructions so I went on line and found several, with the key being how much liquid to use - it ranged from 3 parts liquid to 1 part grits up to 5 to 1. I settled on 3 to 1 knowing I could always add more. So I put 2 cups each of water and milk in a pan and brought it to an easy boil and in the meantime I added 2 cups of grits to 2 cups of cold water and stirred. I skimmed off the chafe that floated to the surface, stirred the grits and water into the hot liquid and brought it back to a nice simmer, where it was kept with the pan partially covered - this gave me 6 cups of liquid to 2 cups of grits. As they begin to thicken they require stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking and I added another ¾ cup of hot water to maintain the consistency I wanted. I have a wooden spoon with a flat side that works very well for this process.

When the grits were almost done, I adjusted the salt (1 ½ tsp total used) and added 15 grinds of black pepper and a half stick of butter. Then, when they were done, I stirred in a half pound of Cabot cheddar. You know they’re done when they are tender - you can add additional liquid at any time to get the consistency you want. Here they are ready to dip up.

I topped with a couple of sunny side up eggs.

And gave them a little stir.

After filling my bowl, I had to decide what to do with the leftovers, which I intentionally made lots of. If I was sure I just wanted to scoop some out to reheat, I could have put them in any container, but I opted for a plastic lined bread pan in case I wanted to slice and fry some of them.

This was definitely good eats and worth the little extra time required to cook them. One thing that can be done to shorten the time is soaking them over night in water, but I didn't decide until this morning. Funny how the mind works - I read Pam's (Sidewalk Shoes) post about orzo and shrimp, which made me think of shrimp and grits, which reminded me I had the grits in the freezer and hadn't tried them yet and since I was up at 4:30am, I had plenty of time to cook them. When Bev got up she opted for a frozen hash brown patty like you get at McDonalds rather than having some grits and I was flabbergasted. She advised she really wasn't that big of a grits fan and besides, they were wintertime food - I have to admit I got a little warm spending so much time in front of the cooktop. The plus side to that - I won't have to share. Here they are ready for the next meal.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Making Tomato Juice And Berry And Peach Breakfast

Our blueberries are winding down, but Bev still picked about a quart from the last bearing bush and our neighbors had been to the local peach orchard and brought us a bag full. When I say local orchard, I can see it from my front porch in the winter. I’ve seen many peach and blueberry desserts over the years and Bev has one she occasionally makes, so I knew they went well together. I decided they would go equally well in cereal for breakfast and sure enough they did. We’re trying to eat a little healthier. After breakfast it was on to tomato juice making for the first time this year. Check out last years post for our set up. If you like tomato juice and you’ve never had homemade, you better not try it unless you plan to continue making it, because you may never be able to drink the store bought stuff again. A glass of cold homemade juice with a squeeze of lemon and a couple of grinds of black pepper (ours is already salted) is a great way to start the day. We use it for drinking, soups, tomato sauces, etc. We’ve tried making it into a finished product (eg – pasta sauce, vegetable soup, etc) and canning, but find we’re better off making the finished product at time of need, especially since we’re retired and usually have plenty of time to make it then. I like to do 50+ quarts of juice and 25+ quarts of tomatoes, but don’t know if we’ll have enough this year. We’ll use ours for juice first, as the better brands of store bought canned tomatoes are about as good as home canned for cooking. Here they are cooked and ready to juice. A canner full is 7 quarts and we find we enjoy the process more by doing it in 7 quart batches verses an all day can-a-thon – our one draw back is we have to clean up the mess a dozen times instead of just once. Here’s the juicing process underway – modern food mills may work better, but this is the way Dad and grandma did it (using this same equipment), so I just have to continue the tradition. Into the jars it goes. I'm not positive, but I'm guessing Campbell has a little more automated process than this. The canner. Maintain 12# for 10 minutes. The finished juice ready for storage. Starting from ripe tomatoes sitting in our kitchen, it took one person about 2 ½ hours to produce the 7 quarts (tomato prep, cook, juice, can, clean up as you go) – but you can read the paper during the hour they are cooking. I’ve found the book “Keeping The Harvest” by Nancy Chioffi & Gretchen Mead to be a very helpful how-to book for food preservation. If you decide to do some canning, I highly recommend a pressure canner because it is much faster and gets the food to 240* verses 212* in a water bath canner. This higher temp ensures all of the little bad things will be killed. It does require you to stay with it for about 25 minutes, whereas you can do water bath canning from your easy chair. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. Larry

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pork Tenderloin Salad & Mayo Taste Test

We went out for lunch and decided on lighter fare for supper – a nice salad. This seemed especially appealing in light of all of the great looking salads you all have been blogging about. Daughter Wende had swung by after work to pick up some things and ate with us, so Bev whipped up a big bowl of undressed salad and it was up to each person to build their own from there. We also reheated and sliced the pork tenderloin left from supper the other night. I chose Italian dressing (we didn’t have any Greek made up) and added the meat, green and kalamata olives, and Feta cheese. It was delicious and the healthiest meal of the day. The meat was still pink and juicy. We had also laid in another loaf of ciabatta bread the other day and Bev painted on some garlic butter and toasted it to go along with the salad. I don't know how long this bread has been available to me, but I sure am glad we finally discovered it - next step is to get the family baker to try her hand and making it. Mayo comparison update from July 17. My daughter, Wende, is a regular reader of my blog and over dinner mentioned that she preferred Duke’s mayo, which she discovered while going to school in Greensboro, NC. And since both it and the Hellman’s were now cold, we decided on another taste test, however I noticed that our Hellman’s was with olive oil. At any rate, we all still thought the Dukes was slightly more tangy, but I believe in a dish or on a sandwich, I’d have a hard time telling them apart. According to the label, the Dukes has a little more than twice the fat, which is obviously a negative and since Wende said she thought the Hellmans would usually be cheaper, I guess I’ll stick with it – I’ve only been eating it for about 60 years, but I was at least willing to consider an option. Here's some info you'll probably need to get thru life. From Wikipedia: In 1905, Richard Hellmann from Vetschau, Germany, opened a delicatessen on Columbus Avenue in New York City, where he used his wife's recipe to sell the first ready-made mayonnaise. It became so popular that he began selling it in bulk to other stores. In 1912 he built a factory for producing Mrs. Hellmann's mayonnaise in jars. It was mass marketed and called Hellmann's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise. It was so successful, Hellmann closed his delicatessen by 1917 in order to devote full time to his mayonnaise business. While Hellmann's Mayonnaise thrived on the East Coast, the California company Best Foods introduced their own mayonnaise. Best Foods Mayonnaise became popular on the West Coast. In 1932, Best Foods bought out the Hellmann's brand. By then both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their respective halves of the country that the company decided that both brands and recipes be preserved. To this day: · Best Foods Mayonnaise is only sold west of the Rocky Mountains, specifically, in or west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. · Hellmann's is sold east of the Rockies, specifically, in or east of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Duke's Mayonnaise is a popular product in the southeastern United States and an integral part of regional favorites such as tomato sandwiches, cole slaw, and potato salad. It was created by Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, in 1917. Since its creation Duke's has never changed the original recipe. The product is unique among similar condiments in that it is completely natural and contains no sugar. As such, many southern cooks and chefs use only Duke's in their kitchens as it offers a more traditional, less sweet taste than other mayos. C.F. Sauer Company purchased the Duke's Products in 1929. Aren't you glad you took the time to read that. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. Larry

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chandlers Deli In Knoxville

Bev and I went to East Knoxville to shop at an indoor/outdoor flooring store and decided to time the trip such that we could eat lunch in the area. She did a search for places to eat in the area and came up with Chandler’s Deli and I went online to find out a little about it. According to what we read, they had good fried chicken, mac and cheese, collards, and broccoli casserole. We decided to give it a try and were not disappointed.

Upon walking in, I was a little surprised to find myself at the beginning of a cafeteria style line rather than going to a table for a server to take our order, so I quickly began studying the menu posted on a board overhead. After the online research, I knew I wanted fried chicken and collards so I just had to fill in around them. I ordered a fried chicken thigh, the greens, mac and cheese and fried green tomatoes – which I was told would be 4 minutes, as they were cooked to order. Bev ordered two fried wings (they were jumbos) and mac and cheese. We passed on any bread as the cornbread had sugar in it and the rolls weren’t homemade. We were given two drink cups without asking, so I assumed they were just included with the meal or they knew everyone would want one. Our total cost was $13.68 and I couldn’t believe the amount of food we had or the quality. Way better than a fast food place for about the same price and just as fast.

It was nothing fancy, but it was all very good, basic comfort/soul food. The chicken had a hot, crispy, well seasoned batter and the meat was moist and tender. The fried tomatoes seemed to have the same coating as the chicken and for $1.80 there were 6 large slices – Bev said they may have been the best she’s eaten. The other two sides were also obviously home made.

We will definitely go back if in the area and may be willing to make the trip (40 miles) to eat there. Just across the street is Pizza Palace, which was featured on the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and as a regular watcher of the show, I think Chandlers should be on as well - think I'll submit it for consideration.

Any time we go on vacation, this is the type of eating establishment we seek out – the hole in the wall serving good food, where the locals eat vs. the mediocre, over-priced, tourist restaurant.

Have a good day and thanks for stopping by and as always, I enjoy your comments.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin Filet

We have a few friends who rarely cook and Bev invited a couple over for one of their favorite meals, fried corn and okra at the dock – have you noticed a pattern here lately. We decided to side the veggies (the main part of the meal) with grilled pork tenderloin filets and mushroom gravy – still had mushrooms we needed to use.

For the corn and okra, it was just as we’ve been doing – okra fried in Crisco on the discada and the corn in butter on the grill side burner.

For the gravy, Bev sauted about ¾ pound of portabella/cremini mushrooms and added a packet of Pioneer Brown Gravy Mix per package instructions.

For the meat, I cut them about 1 ½” thick then mashed them to half that. I wasn’t sure if I should call these medallions (seemed too thick), chops, or filets – which I settled on. We partially cooked some bacon in the microwave and wrapped each piece of meat, securing it with a toothpick. I looked up a few recipes and found several rubs and for what they contained, I decided to go with a light amount of the following on each side – herbes de provence, kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika – I used the smoky version. I grilled them over high heat for a couple of minutes per side to develop a crust, then turned them to low and cooked to an internal temp of 140* - they were just pink inside and still nice and juicy. Here they are on the grill and the finished platter.

And my plate.

Our guests loved them, but I considered them just okay. I thought the pork was good by itself and I thought the gravy was good, but I didn’t think they worked well together. I should have gone with my first instinct and made my own gravy using the same herbs as on the meat - just another step on my journey toward becoming more of a chef and not just a recipe follower. The corn and okra were excellent as usual.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Alex The Model

While in Korea, granddaughter, Alex did a little clothes modeling and in looking at her pictures, she appears to be pretty good at it – and it’s something she enjoys.

Beverly read about a modeling school in Knoxville that was conducting trials for potential models so they went to check it out. Alex was invited to participate, for a nominal fee of course, and the class met for three hours every Thursday evening for 5 months, where she learned everything from walking to talking. Here are a few of her “head shots.”

Seems like I get this look often.

I assume her braces resulted in her keeping her lips together for all the shots. I know I'm the grandpop, but I think she's becoming a beautiful young lady. She’s convinced she’s going to be a successful model with great fame and riches and can’t understand why she needs to learn stuff in school that she’ll never use. We keep advising that she may need a back up plan just in case. I hope I’m around to see how it turns out.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.