Sunday, April 19, 2009

The BBQ: Gas verses Charcoal

In the beginning there was only wood and a rock fire pit but today we are faced with options only the space age could conjure up. Decisions, decisions and more decisions, how do you make a clear concise determination on what type of BBQ to acquire? Everyone’s needs and wants for their outdoor extravaganza is different and as such their tools must match the job at hand.

Lets examine both.

GAS: Definitely a faster and cleaner way to BBQ. Turn the knob, press the button and instant flame. Heat your lava rock for a few minutes throw on your prize cut of meat and within minutes a palatable delight is gracing your table. That is, if you don’t run out of gas. I found this to be my number one problem with the gas BBQ. The cure? Have a spare tank on hand.

It only takes a few precious seconds to change tanks and your back on course. Gas grills are particularly good if you BBQ often on the stern of your boat, as charcoal tends to absorb moisture and becomes very difficult to light. Another consideration for this is no ashes to dispose of.

Gas BBQ’s are fast, no muss no fuss cookers ideal for the spur of the moment chef. Over a period of time they are less expensive to operate too. The down side of the gas grill is the expense. Although they have come down in cost considerably since their inception, the multitude of styles often make it hard to purchase the more affordable ones.

Stainless steel exteriors, double and triple shelves, additional burners for your side dishes, condiment holders, and cabinets for your accessories are impossible options to pass on, so expect to make a considerable investment when purchasing. The more reserved BBQer is more likely to purchase gas over the charcoal unit.


CHARCOAL: Tribal desires drive men to the charcoal BBQ. The age old desires to build and tend a fire are urges just to strong to overcome for some men. The perfect arrangement and stacking of the briquettes becomes an ancient ritual to obtain perfection of temperature and evenness of cooking. The charcoal chef is born of redneck ancestors and beer guzzling traditions necessary to tend the wild eruptions of searing fat and dripping sauce.

If your choice is charcoal, prepare yourself for singed beards and blistered fingers for without these added wild antics, charcoal cooking is extremely uneventful until the prize is removed from the smoking embers. The costs for a charcoal unit range from relatively inexpensive to moderately priced depending on weather your setting it on stolen milk crates or you prefer it to be raised from the dirt on its own legs. Critics claim the taste of BBQ is no different whether you use gas or charcoal. I guess because of being from dubious ancestry, I much prefer the charcoal BBQ.

Regardless which barbecue you decide on, make sure the one you purchase has either stainless steel or porcelain cooking racks. More BBQ’s are tossed aside because of rusted and warped cooking racks than for any other reason. I also recommend one that has a vented cover. This serves several purposes. It protects the interior of your barbecue during inclement weather, it helps maintain temperatures under windy conditions, and it also helps in the flavor of your meats as the smoke is held internally while its closed.

Another important accessory to your BBQing experience is the utensils. Purchase only heavy duty stainless ones that wont bend or twist causing the loss of your dinner to the dirt. Although the 3-second rule always applies to BBQ, it’s really hard to brush the dirt out of the sauce.

Gas or charcoal, it matters little as long as the end result is a full belly and a smiling face. Neither unit is better than the other; they just fit different lifestyles and tastes, personalities and urges. Just gather together your family and friends and enjoy your companionship and creations.


The following video, I Love Lucy | Building a B.B.Q. (Part 2), courtesy of You Tube.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Party Up With Fun To Eat Appetizers

Planning a party but don’t want to serve the same old, same old? Well, why not “warm-up” the party with appetizers that are both fun to make and fun to eat?

Following are some creative recipes that are designed to keep the compliments coming and, because they’re so good, the plates will be kept clean. Have fun!

Horseradish Ham Spread Tropicale
(approximately 96 hors d'oeuvres)
1-1/2 lb ham
8 oz. canned crushed pineapple, well drained
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Puree ham in a food processor. Add pineapples, horseradish sauce and mustard. Puree until the mixture resembles smooth paste. Add mayonnaise and mix until just combined. Serve spread with assorted crackers.


Chutney Cream Cheese
(144 hors d'oeuvres)
1 lb. cream cheese
1 tbsp jalapeno pepper sauce
8 oz commercially available apple chutney
1/2 cup green onions, sliced

Beat cream cheese and pepper sauce with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Fold in chutney and green onions by hand. Serve with toast points.


Spicy Potato Skins
(6 halves)
8 slices bacon
3 medium baking potatoes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
8 oz monterey jack cheese with jalapeno, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Cook bacon until crispy. Scrub potatoes thoroughly and bake in 400ยบ F oven for 1 hour or until done.

Allow potatoes to cool to the touch. Cut in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop the pulp leaving 1/4 inch shell (reserve the pulp for use in another recipe or discard.) Sprinkle the potato cavities with salt and pepper. Add in crumbled bacon and green onions, and top off with cheese. Place potato skins on a baking sheet and place under a broiler until cheese melts. Potato skins may be served with sour cream, if desired.


Zesty Turkey Quesadillas
(12 appetizer size pieces)
4 6" soft flour tortillas
6 oz roasted breast of turkey, sliced
4 oz chedder cheese, shredded
2 tbsp canned green chili
1/2 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa
1/2 cup sour cream

Chop turkey into small pieces. Divide turkey, cheese, green chili and green onion evenly over 4 tortillas. Fold tortillas in half and cook in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Turn the tortillas after two minutes and cook the other side 3 minutes longer. Cut into thirds; serve warm and tomato salsa and sour cream.


Sun-Dried Tomato Bruschetta

(16 appetizer size pieces)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/8 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 12" french bread
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup romano cheese grated
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small pan, heat butter, garlic, basil and parsley together over medium heat until butter is completely melted. Set melted butter mixture aside. Cut french bread lengthwise. Brush melted butter mixture evenly on both cut sides of the french bread. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the buttered bread evenly with pecorino, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. Place bruschetta on a baking sheet and bake in the center of oven for 12 to 13 minutes. Cut bruschetta into 16 equal pieces and serve immediately.


Break Time: The following video, New Casper Cartoon Show Opening title sequence, courtesy of You Tube.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I’ll Take A Redneck Chef Any Day!

There are countless food specialists in the marketplace today; all experts in their respected fields of authentic cuisine. There are thousands of famous ethnic chefs, French, German, Italian, you name it, that nationality and its particular cuisine is covered by someone. Pastry chefs, seafood chefs, cook/entertainment celebrities, and specialty food chefs, all receive national television coverage, receive awards, write best sellers and travel within that famous clique. God bless them all as they have studied and worked hard promoting themselves and their personalities to get the notoriety and respect they deserve.

One segment of that industry that has been totally ignored is the Redneck Chef.

If you look at some of the specialty foods prepared by some of these famous chefs, I must say, they’re not for me. Ever eat at a fancy French Restaurant? No self-respecting cook would put that little bit of food on a plate to serve someone for dinner. Now I’ll admit, it’s pretty to look at but it sure falls short of even a good appetizer! The Italians know how to cook and eat and always supply plenty of wine to soak up the food, or is it the other way around? That’s always confused me. Manners and tradition follow these ethnic cooks as they present their creations in such majestic style. The Oriental chef always presents an outstanding meal of exotic spices and vegetables blended together and pleasurable to the pallet for most all of us, but in short order you’re looking for more soon after leaving the restaurant. My grandparents were German and I grew up eating hearty sour foods that you never dared comment on for fear of stimulating that ‘German temper of Grandmas.’

Each nationality deserves its own place in culinary mortality but, given the choice, I’ll take a Redneck Chef any day. Let me explain the Redneck Chef to you if you don’t already know. A Redneck Chef can cook anytime, anywhere, on anything. From fillet migion to squirrel, venison steaks or fish, he’s prepared to spice them to perfection. He can cook with gas, charcoal, wood or on the manifold of his truck. He cooks with wine too, but usually of the Boones Farm vineyards or another popular brand called Mad Dog. He knows better than to waste a fifty dollar bottle in a frying pan and is usually quite content to use the half drank bottle of warm beer sitting on the tailgate of his buddies truck.

A Redneck Chef’s tools are simple and adaptable: a skinning knife, a garbage can lid, and a little tin foil works wonders to fashion an outstanding meal. Expensive cuts of meat are of no interest to the Redneck Chef. He knows full well, if you cook it long enough with enough BBQ sauce on it, no one will ever know the difference. Assisting a Redneck Chef can be quite a rewarding experience. Aside from some certain precautions you need to take such as ducking as he lights his stove, keeping the ashes of his cigarettes from the stew, or holding him upright because he put one too many ice cubes in his beer, his many talents and instruction may amaze you.

A Redneck Chef doesn’t need expensive cookware; a screwdriver from under the truck seat will stir as good as a thirty dollar spoon. After an afternoon of cooking, I’ve learned twelve songs, all with reference of what your mother-in-law can do with her opinion, how to get run over by a train and wonderful things about a faithful old dog. They weren’t particularly inspirational but they were entertaining. I had no idea that the theme song from the movie Deliverance was a love song. The three-second rule of food falling on the floor was of special interest to me. I found that it takes over five seconds for germs to get on it so if you grab it up within three you’re safe.

I learned a very important secret that being a Redneck Chef requires large amounts of beer to be consumed. He never really explained the reasoning but it was very evident that the beer was the catalyst for his creativity and adaptability. Did you know that an old suede shirt makes a great apron and won’t catch fire nearly as fast as those store bought ones do. Beer is a good fire extinguisher, just shake and point. I was amazed to find out that a certain bathroom appliance makes a great cooler and that you can leave it outside without worry of someone stealing it. In a pinch, it doubles as an extra chair.

Standing side by side with the Redneck Chef, I was truly amazed with his unorthodox manner and culinary expertise. With some reassurance to my reluctance I feasted on his masterpiece. After that case of Old Milwaukee, I viewed him “a chef among chefs." In a matter of hours he created dishes, no, HUGE BOWLS, of stuff that smelled great, slid down easily and gave me enough gas to power a car. He created such an awesome ambiance among his guests with dancing and singing; I’ve never heard anyone belch the melody of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain before especially while cooking. I’d have to crown him king of the trailer park.


The following video, Trailer Park Cooking Show With Jolene Sugarbaker EP1, courtesy of You Tube.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Natural Formulas

Running out of your favorite household cleanser, laundry detergent, spot remover or insecticide means an unwarranted trip to the local grocer or hardware store—or does it? There are many products inside your cabinets that serve dual purposes if you know the secrets.

Citrus, baking soda, and vinegar are just a few of the hundreds of items whose uses are wide and varied. Years ago, before fancy labels and compelling ad campaigns, products such as these were the norm for dozens of uses and they performed just as well as our new and improved modern marvels of today. Keep in mind also, these old tried and true natural products are much less toxic and far more environmentally friendly. Using these natural products in and around your home will improve your indoor air quality rather than detract from it as so many chemical products will.

Some compelling reasons to get back to natural products include the safety of children and pets (no dangerous storage of “harmful if swallowed” products), they co-exist in our environment, they improve rather than detract from our indoor air quality, they contain no harmful vapors, and they save money. “New and improved” is not necessarily better!


Oil Stain Remover For Marble
Items Needed:
9-¾ Ounces of cereal flour
13-½ Ounces of hydrochloric acid (use with care)
4 Ounces of chloride of lime
2 Teaspoons of turpentine

As a safety precaution, gloves and a mask should be worn. Place all the items into a glass or porcelain container and mix into a paste. Apply the paste on the stains and let set for 6-8 hours. Remove the paste with a brush or piece of soft leather. Once the stain has been removed, polish the marble and enjoy. This formulation easily removes grease from marble.

Wood Floor General Cleaner
Items Needed:
2-¼ Cups of mineral oil
¾ Cups of oleic acid (from drug store)
2 Tablespoons of household ammonia (toxic)
5 Tablespoons of turpentine (toxic)
2 Quarts of cool tap water
Mix the mineral oil and oleic acid thoroughly in a container. Add the ammonia and turpentine and mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup of the mixture into the 2 quarts of water. Wet a sponge mop with the mixture and apply to floor. Rinsing is not necessary. Keep all cleaning products out of the reach of children.

Wax Remover (Non Toxic)
Items Needed:
5+ Cups of washing soda
Warm water as required

Mix the washing soda in a bucket with just enough water to create a loose paste. Apply the paste to the floor and allow mixture to dry. The wax should bubble up and flake off easily. Thoroughly rinse the floor until the wax and washing soda mixture is removed. The longer the washing soda is left on and moist, the more wax will be removed.

Wax Remover #2
Items Needed:
2 Cups of household ammonia
½ Cup of washing soda
4 Quarts of warm tap water

Wear rubber gloves as a precaution. Mix all the items thoroughly in a bucket. Apply the solution using a sponge mop, making sure to put a fair amount of the solution on the floor and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes. Scrub the floor as you would normally and the old wax should be loosened and easily removed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pork Made Easy

Whether it’s a soul-warming roast, tender ribs, or a succulent chop, pork is always a delicious choice that’s sure to please any crowd.

Quick Tips
Purchase uncooked pork on or before the “sell by” date.

Use or freeze within 3 to 5 days of purchase.
Always marinate in the refrigerator, never the sink or the countertop.

Never re-use marinade.
Keeping Clean
Always was your hands with hot, soapy water before handling food.

Use a non-porous cutting board like plastic or glass.
Wash any surfaces that touch raw pork before they touch cooked pork or other foods.
Freezing and Thawing
You may freeze pork dishes like ribs or sweet and sour pork. Use within 3 months for best quality.

Always thaw raw pork in the refrigerator.

Defrosted pork kept in the refrigerator is safe to use for 3 to 5 days.
Cooked pork is safe to eat, cold or reheated to 165 degrees F, within 3 to 4 days.

Pork that has been partially cooked or thawed in the microwave should be cooked and used immediately.

Cooking Methods

Pork cooks quickly. To ensure that it’s at its tender, juicy best, avoid overcooking. The meat can be slightly pink when done; it needs only to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. The juices should run clear, not pink, when the pork is pierced with a fork. For extra flavor, marinate and season with non-fat, low-sodium herbs and spices instead of high-fat sauces and gravies.


The following video, Chicago's Best Ribs, courtesy of You Tube.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Generally, the term “meat” refers to the flesh of mammals such as beef, pork, and lamb. But it also refers to poultry, fish, wild game, and even insects. For this section, our attention will be focused on mammals that are domestically raised for food purposes.

Many chefs include most of the non-muscle organs of these animals as meat also. Examples of such are kidneys, liver, tongue, heart, and brain. USDA has quality grades for beef, veal, lamb, yearling mutton, and mutton. It also has yield grades for beef, pork, and lamb. Although there are USDA quality grades for pork, these do not carry through to the retail level as do the grades for other kinds of meat.

Since many cuts of meat such as steaks, chops, and roasts are labeled with a USDA grade, you do not have to be a meat expert to identify the quality you want. Just look in the meat counter or case until you find the cut you want. Then, look for the USDA quality shield on the package to make sure you are getting the quality you want.


Burgers International

Burgers come in many different tastes depending on the country you are in. Here are some exciting taste delights for you to discover and enjoy.


A little trivia to entertain us while we indulge in our burgers

There is some contention as to who invented the hamburger. In 1885, Charlie “Hamburger” Nagreen made claim to serving the first hamburger sandwich at the Outagamie County fair in Seymour, WI. The hamburger was described as a “flattened meatball” and “butter fried ground beef”.


Place a “boiled” burger on a piece of pumpernickel bread and top with an egg.


In a bowl mix the following: ground beef, wet bread, onions, mustard—and never forget an egg.


The Swiss enjoy their burgers the good old American way, except they add a bit of class by eating them with a knife and fork.


Spice it up with kimchi, which is a mix of pickled cabbage and some very hot peppers, and you have a Korean burger.


Called a pannbiff, the Swedes mix their ground beef in a brown sauce with fried onions and a special ingredient, Lingonberry preserves. Mmmmm, Good!


Ever have your meat turn grey while cooking? To eliminate the problem just cook a smaller amount in the same size pan.

Seems overcrowding causes excess steam and that is the culprit.
Want to save money when buying meats? Check the cost per pound and you may find that some boneless cuts cost less per serving.


: some turkey bacon may contain as much fat as regular bacon! Read the labels.


...And finally a little hamburger humor (very little):
Q: How do you make a meat loaf?
A: Send it on a vacation!

The following video, Vintage Welch`s grape juice TV commercial, courtesy of You Tube

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Good Nutrition At Any Age

As we age, it is more important than ever not to abandon good nutrition.
Slower metabolism means you need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.
You have different nutritional needs – extra calcium to combat osteoporosis, low cholesterol to help prevent heart attacks, less salt to slow hypertension, etc.
Your specific dietary needs may vary; check with your doctor for a personal nutrition plan.

Following is a list of the recommended servings* from the basic food groups for the average person.

Fruits (2 cups daily)
One 1/2 –cup serving equals:
½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit
½ cup fruit juice

Vegetables – 2-1/2 cups daily
One ½-cup serving equals:
½ cup cut, raw, or cooked vegetables
1-cup raw leafy vegetables

Grains – 6 ounces per day, at least half from the whole grains
One 1-ounce serving equals:
1 slice bread
1 cup dry cereal
½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal

Lean Meats, Beans – 5-1/2 ounces per day
One 1-ounce serving equals:
1 ounce cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
1 egg
¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu
1 tablespoon peanut butter
½ ounce nuts or seeds

Dairy – 3 cups daily
One 1-cup serving equals:
1 cup low fat/fat-free milk or yogurt
1-1/2 ounces low fat or fat-free natural cheese
2 ounces low-fat or fat-free processed cheese

Oil – Up to 6 tablespoons daily
(Generally 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons)
One 1-teaspoon serving equals:
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons light light salad dressing
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Discretionary daily calories
(267, based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
Solid fats – up to 18 grams

Added sugars – Up to 8 teaspoons or 32 grams
One 1-tablespoon serving equals:
½ ounce jelly beans
8 ounces lemonade

* Based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This information can be viewed and downloaded from


The following video, How To Feed Your Family Healthy Meals On A Tight Budget, courtesy of You Tube.