Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are You Tired of Getting Those Grill Special Orders Mixed Up?

Mark Your Meat with Grill Charms and Get Those Special Grill Requests Right Every Time

If your family is anything like mine, then you get special orders off your barbecue grill. One kid loves spicy sauce. The other hates spicy and wants the mild BBQ sauce. Mom likes her steak rare. Cousin Ben prefers his steak burned to a crisp (although I can't explain that).

Now, there is a solution - grill charms. If you're familiar with wine charms, you get the idea. If not, don't fret, and I won't tell anyone you don't know about wine charms. Basically, grill charms are indvidual markers (about the size of a dime and with a toothpick-like stick in piece) that you press in the meats so that you know what's what on the grill.

Leslie Haywood invented and designed these neat grill chef accessories. She told me that she doesn't actually "man" the grill. That may be a good thing. It's nice to have a break from cooking. Leslie does, however, help with the barbecue party planning, and she came up with this neat idea that helps keep things in order out on the deck.

If you have a barbecue or grill geek on your holiday list or if your favorite griller has a birthday coming up, then Grill Charms are unusual and also useful items that will put a smile on the BBQ chef's face as well as making the party guests happy when they actually get what they wanted off the grill.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grilled or Smoked Brined Turkey

Moist and Flavorful Brined Turkey

If you want a really terrific turkey this year, try brining the bird. You do have to start a little earlier, but it's worth the extra effort.

Here's my basic Brined Turkey directions and basic recipe plus some ideas, so that you can doctor up your own turkey and have a unique flavor this year.

Once you brine your turkey, then you smoke it like you would other meats. But, don't add the water to the smoker. You want a higher temperature, similar to oven cooking. Aim for around 350 degrees F and about the same cooking time as in the oven.

The reason for the quicker cooking for a smoked turkey is that turkey meat dries out if cooked really low and slow. The texture is simply different from beef or pork. It still takes a while to cook a turkey on a smoker or on a grill with a lid and on the cool side of the grill (not directly over the flames or heat). The smoke flavor gets in there fine with the shorter cooking time.

If you don't want a whole turkey, you can do a bone in turkey breast. Just make less brine if doing a breast or breasts. Cooking time is less as well, since the size is not as large.

Also note that you want to go with the basic water brine recipe in the guide rather than the fruit juices, because the skin may get too dark with the extra sugar in the juice.

We plan to smoke a turkey breast and a spiral ham for Thanksgiving this week. I think we'll plan to do the smoking on Wednesday, so we're not trying to cook both indoors and outdoors on Thanksgiving day. Turkey is fine served cold but can also be heated up for the meal. The smoked flavor is actually more obvious the second day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Barbecue Twelve Days of Christmas

Brrrr! Yes. It is cold outside, but that's half the fun (sort of).

You may not think of Christmas as barbecue season, but grills sell well around Christmas time. Why? Grills make great gifts as do the various accessories needed for super outdoor parties.

In the spirit of the season and for all those grilling fanatics out there, I've written a song highlighting those grilling gift wish lists. This song must, of course, be sung very loud and off key.

It is also most fun sung when cooking up some Beer Butt Chicken, but any grilled food will do. Just slap something on the grill, and belt out this new holiday classic.

Barbecue Twelve Days of Christmas
by Cyndi Allison

On the first day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
A smokerwith cherry wood chunks

On the second day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the third day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the fourth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the sixth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the seventh day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor glovess,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the eighth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Eight outdoor cookbooks,
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the ninth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Nine Weber gas grills,
Eight outdoor cookbooks,
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the tenth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Ten Char-Broil caddies,
Nine Weber gas grills,
Eight outdoor cookbooks,
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Eleven grain fed beef steaks,
Ten Char-Broil caddies,
Nine Weber gas grills,
Eight outdoor cookbooks,
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love sent to me
Twelve ice cold Bush beers,
Eleven grain fed beef steaks,
Ten Char-Broil caddies,
Nine Weber gas grills,
Eight outdoor cookbooks,
Seven bags of charcoal,
Six chimney starters,
Five Big Green Eggs,
Four kabob sets,
Three rib racks,
Two outdoor gloves,
And a smoker with cherry wood chips!

Now, somebody's dad definately needs some more grill gear. I'm thinking perhaps a big drop cloth or perhaps one of those side fence things like they put around trampliines these days.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Worst Foods of Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving Food Fun

We Americans are funny. We will cook and serve foods we detest, because that's what you do on Thanksgiving. It doesn't matter what it tastes like. It's the spirt of the season. It's the rule.

In celebration of Thanksgiving icky foods, I've gathered a list of foods people love to hate at Thanksgiving. Ironically, these are some of my favorites. Or, that's what I tell the boys when I plop these on the table come turkey day.

Top Ten Worst Foods on the Thanksgiving Table

10. Sweet Potato Marshmallow Melt - The very worst is when the marshmallows are hidden. You take a big bite of sweet potato, and then . . . ick . . . there's that melty marshmallow.

9. Green Bean Casserole - I suspect people just say they hate green bean casserole with those dried, fried onion rings on top. The bowl is always empty, but still people talk junk about this one. Where does it go? Does it just evaporate? No. I think not.

8. Jell-o with Fruit - Jell-o is supposed to slide down like ice cream. When you add fruit (like especially fruit cocktail), then you have to chew Jell-o, and that's just WRONG. Even the dog won't eat this.

7. Cooked Carrots - I don't think carrots were meant to be cooked. That's why you put orange juice in there when you're boiling them. Then, you ruin your carrots and your orange juice.

6. Cranberry Sauce - You know that hunk of stuff in the can. You shake it out, and it still looks like the can complete with the can ridges. Oh yes. It's Thanksgiving when you have canned cranberry stuff.

5. Giblets - Boy, I was sure surprised the first time I found that bag of spare parts in the turkey - after I cooked it and put it on the table. These are supposed to be used to make your gravy and dressing. Just don't look in the pan when you're boiling the turkey neck. That's enough to scare anyone.

4. Dressing or Stuffing - This is a good way to get rid of the stale bread. Some of it is very good. Some of it is dreadful. Take a small portion first and proceed as indicated.

3. Fruitcake - You knew that one was coming. There are enough fruitcake jokes out there. I'll just let that one rest other than saying the birds won't eat it either. Toss some in the yard and see. Sad.

2. Pumpkin Pie - The idea is good. Sadly, most people don't get it right. The crust is white and soggy, and that't not a good thing.

1. Turkey - OK. I said it. Why do we need a giant bird that takes up the whole oven on the one day of the year we're trying to cook a ka-zillion other things? Then, it's turkey leftovers for days and days. No wonder no one wants another turkey for a whole year.

Mostly we smile and gobble up the Thanksgiving feast or pretend our plate is too full when the bowl gets passed with the worst of the holiday fare.

Kids, on the other hand, know what they know. This poor kid didn't think much of those carrots.

My oldest son still reacts like this to foods he hates. In fact, he threw up in his friend's hand in high school when the other boys put peas and mashed potatoes in the milk and shook it up. Just looking at that did him in. My son's buddy stuck his hand out for high five. My son tried to turn but threw up right in his hand. So, when he says pass on the Jell-o, I don't push it.

Now you have an excuse to break out the grill and make something everyone will love from Yes You Can Grill. But, then again, it's just not Thanksgiving without all the old classics.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Holy Smoke - The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue

North Carolina Smoked Barbecue Shoulder

UNC Press has just come out with a great book about North Carolina barbecue. Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue
features how to cook barbecue as well as tracing the history of BBQ and includes information about famous que restaurants and pit masters from NC.

You can read more about Holy Smoke at my outdoor cooking web site - Yes You Can Grill.

I don't really excited about most books on barbecue. They usually just have recipes and try to improve on or add odd ingredients to classics. No. I really don't especially want to put mango on my chicken. I like that in my fruit salad. Thanks.

Holy Smoke really isn't a cookbook, although you do get a lot of inside secrets to making North Carolina barbecue and also directions for some sauces, slaws and even desserts like the famous Pig Pickin' Cake. It's more like walking back in time (and up through today) and getting to meet and talk to everyone who played a part in making barbecue big in the Tar Heel state.

You don't have to be from North Carolina to appreciate Holy Smoke. It's a fascinating story for anyone who enjoys barbecue in general or who likes great stories of people and places.

Holy Smoke would be a great book to give to anyone on your gift list who enjoys outdoor cooking or for family and friends from the South. It's also a fun read for general history buffs.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Free Kraft Food & Family Magazine Now Online

Kraft Food and Family has always been one of my favorite online freebies. It's a glossy magazine from the Kraft Kitchens sent out quarterly. It's not a barbecue magazine, but they do include some great grill recipes in the summer issues.

When I first signed up for Kraft Food & Family, I thought it would be a booklet or something. But, it turned out to be a real magazine and packed with lots of ideas, directions, tips, and recipes. I really looked forward to getting the free cooking magazine.

My new issue of Food & Family came in this week, and it includes an "important notice" on the side flap. The next issue will be an online edition. They included a coupon code and promised $5 in Kraft coupons to go to the online form and sign up for the online magazine. Well, actually you don't get to the magazine. You get signed up for the weekly emails and then notification when the online magazine is actually ready.

I must confess I was bummed. I'm just not as likely to sit down and read a magazine or check out recipes in an online magazine format. It's kind of like those e-cards. They just don't feel real like the ones someone takes the time to buy, write on, and stick in the mail with an actual stamp. Sure. I enjoy e-cards that folks send, but it really is not the same as getting a card I can hold in my hands. Same thing with a magazine. It's not really a magazine, in my mind, when it's online.

The economy is bad, and printing is expensive. I noticed that Christian Science Monitor is going to the online format as well. Whew. What a week. Print is looking pretty shaky these days.

I generally roll with the flow. I clicked over to the Kraft online form. I put in my coupon code and my zip code as requested. No dice. It didn't work. I changed the zeros to regular old letter O's in case I was reading them as numbers instead of letters. There were two of those, so I tried each on separate and both together. That didn't work. I checked the zip code. We don't use the extra four around here, but I looked at my label and then tried zip plus dash plus four as on my label. Nope. That didn't do it either.

There is a click to sign up as a new member at Kraft on the home page of Kraft. I suppose I could do that. I don't know if I'd get the $5 in coupons if I went that route. I'm also not sure I'd even read the online magazine. So, it's kind of annoying that I spent time to do the shift as they requested (and then we on a weekly email list to boot) and then the form did not work. This is not Mom and Pop down the road. It's a major food company. They should have the form right before sending bad news about the Kraft magazine being cancelled and then asking for subscribers to stay loyal with this change of format to online.

I don't know if the new online magazine is available yet, because I can't even get signed up. The print magazine says that I'll get a "sneak peek." I guess I won't if I can't sign up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Food Vendors - Don't Turn Down Free Advertising

Grilled Turkey Legs - Weren't Selling Very Well Yesterday Morning

I was at a local food festival recently and noticed the beautiful grilled turkey legs one man was cooking at his food vendor tent. I snapped a couple of pictures, introduced myself and gave the food vendor my business card. I told him that I do some online food and cooking writing.

"You don't know my name or my business, so you can't really write anything," he said. "You need a notebook and a pen and need to ask some questions."

In fact, I had a notebook and four pens (always good to have back ups) in my backpack. Since I had a camera in one hand and an umbrella in the other, it was a tad difficult to get everything juggled around.

Generally food vendors are friendly and have business cards. I can get details as needed by going online or by emailing or calling. I often mention various vendors here on the blog. One funnel cake guy emailed and asked to use my blog post on his web site. Sure. He even linked back which was terrific. I didn't ask though. I just blog and link things that I think readers would enjoy.

Perhaps the Jerky Turkey guy thought that I'm getting rich writing about food. I do know one online foodie who makes a living writing about cooking online. Actually, he sells e-cookbooks and hard copy cookbooks, so that's where he turns his profit. The rest of the online foodies I know do it, because they enjoy it. They are not earning much (if anything) with online food writing. I can't fill up with one tank of gas during the month with online earnings. That's across a food blog and two websites. A decent day would be 30 cents on income. I'm not complaining. I'm just stating facts there.

I go to various festivals and write about the food (and crafts and other things), because I enjoy doing it. It's my hobby. I have a day job. This is what I do for fun. I grill and share recipes and tips and also check out what others are doing as far as outdoor cooking.

The festival was a day out with my family. I carried my camera along as I usually do. I spoke with several vendors at the festival and blogged with the event still taking place. People headed to the festival later in the day were reading and likely checked out some of the vendors I mentioned. The turkey leg guy might have sold some turkey legs to people who were reading and then attending. This would have been free advertising pure and simple.

I didn't need or want anything from the Jerky Turkey guy. I just thought his turkey legs looked good. He was off the main drag at the festival. He didn't have any customers at the stand. A blog mention might have helped him out. Certainly, it wouldn't have hurt his business that day or in the future.

I was thinking all this, but life is too short to worry about turkey legs. I thanked the guy and started to move along. If he didn't want advertising, that was fine by me.

"Hey," he said. "You ought to get a leg. Then you can write a better story."

"It's 10:45 in the morning," I said. "We haven't decided what we're having for lunch yet."

Actually I'm not a big fan of turkey legs. They are OK, but they are not my favorite. My son does, however, love grilled turkey legs. He also lets me sample his food, so I can share more about what we see and do when we're out and about.

Seriously now, did Mr. Turkey Jerk think that I'd want to do business with him after he'd been rude? Sure. I do some professional writing. It's not writing about turkey legs though. And, it's not on my free time out with the family.

The turkey leg vendor lost a sale, and he lost free advertising.

If you are a food vendor, maybe this post will help. It only takes a second to hand a food writer a card. If you don't have business cards, most food writers would be glad to write down your information or even let you write it down on the back of our own business cards. I know I've done that before. Everyone starts somewhere, and some vendors are new. They are usually very glad to get noticed and mentioned.

I'm not saying the turkey leg guy owed me anything. It's his business. He can run it however he likes. But when someone is not asking for anything (and I never do) and when it could help sales, it really doesn't make much sense to be a jerk.

Fortunately, this is the only food vendor I've ever spoken to who has been rude. Most food vendors are glad to meet and talk to people and are interested in getting some media attention (even when it's informal). There are several vendors that I look for every year and mention in my blog and on my websites. One guy that I always mention asked me this year if I sell grills or something. I smiled and told him no and that I'm JUST a writer. I really hate to put it that way - just a writer - but that's the reality. I don't have a stash of grills, sauces, rubs, cookbooks or anything else. I have a camera and a notebook, and I have fun talking to people and spreading the word about good eats. Well, I usually do anyway. I didn't much enjoy talking to the turkey guy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fried Apple Pies at the Lexington Barbecue Festival

Happy Fried Apple Pie Baking Crew at the Barbecue Festival, Lexington, NC.

Fried apple pies always make me smile. If I see or smell fried pies, I think of my Grandma. She was from the mountains of Virginia. There was an apple tree out behind the farmhouse. She'd cut up apples for the year when they were in season and make her fried apple pies for special occasions.

Grandma is gone now, so it's a treat to get fried apple pies at the Lexington BBQ Festival. That's a yearly festival featuring - of course - barbecue but also lots of other great goodies like the fried pies.

Fried pies are kind of like the ones served at Hardees and at BoJangles, but the homemade are so much better. Not throwing off on the fast food chains. But, it's hard to beat home cooking.

I chatted today with the fried pie people. I would say fried pie ladies, but they did have a man back there and also a younger guy who looked to be in his teens or 20s. Thumbs up on that.

The group comes down every year to make the pies. It takes a couple of hours. One of the women told me she got up at 2 a.m. this morning to get everything ready, on the road, and cooking at the festival.

These fried apple pies are the real deal. You can see the can of Crisco and the flour. The pie makers are lined up and making pies as fast as they can. Other members of the group are out front frying. You can watch the whole thing from start to finish.

The only real difference in the Barbecue Festival fried apple pies and my Grandma's is that they deep fry. Grandma used an electric skillet and flipped hers. That takes longer but uses less Crisco or oil. The crust part is a little crisper on deep fried versus pan fried apple pies.

If you ever get out to the Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival, be sure to get a fresh fried apple pie. You may have to wait a while in line depending on the time of day, but it's definately worth the wait. If you don't live in the area, then look for my fried apple pie recipe coming soon on Yes You Can Cook. That's my newest web site. I'm plugging away, but it takes a while to get everything up. I'm slowly adding the family recipes, and I really need to get the fried apple pie directions up there. If there were just more hours in a day . . .

Barbecue Sandwiches at the Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival

This is one of the three tents at the barbecue festival. Area barbecue restaurants join together to make the barbecue for the annual Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival.

This is the 25th year for the Barbecue Festival, but it still has a down home feel. The barbecue signs are made by hand and taped on the plywood sides of the barbecue tent booths.

Behind the tents, they fry up curly tail French fries and also tend the sauce which has a vinegar base and a hint of tomato. The sauce at the festival is generally mild. For hotter sauces, you have to hit some of the barbecue restaurants in Lexington.

You get your pork barbecue, slaw, and curly tail fries at the main booths. Pick up drinks from the various non-profit groups selling along the street.

Is it just me, or does it look like this guy is swiping a barbecue sandwich? I know he wasn't, but it sure looks like it from the photo.

Lexington, North Carolina is a big barbecue town. You will find many restaurants serving pork barbecue cooked over wood. Some restaurants cook with gas which is cheaper and easier, but those are not considered real barbecue restaurants in the area. Two good barbecue restaurants to check out are Lexington Barbecue and Jimmy's. There are lots of other good ones too, but those are especially popular in Lexington.

You can also visit at the end of October and try Lexington barbecue at the annual Barbecue Festival. They have three tents serving chopped pork on buns with sauce. They wrap those up, put them in a brown bag, and you are ready for a good Southern lunch.

Most Southerners like slaw on the barbecue sandwiches or as a side with a barbecue tray. Barbecue slaw is different from regular slaw. It has more spice and a tang. It does make the bun a little soggy though. I'm not a big slaw fan, and that's something I don't usually tell. If I do eat it, I like it as a regular side dish and not running on my barbecue or dripping out of my bun.

One thing I do miss when I eat at the festival is the hush puppies. Most of our barbecue restaurants serve hush puppies with barbecue. I guess it's too much work or they just don't have room to fry hush puppies at the festival.

They do have curly tail French fries at the festival. Most barbecue joints do fries, but they don't put a lot of focus on those. You'll generally get frozen fries dropped in oil. The meat takes so much work and is really the focus, so the side dishes are usually just that - sides.

Some barbecue restaurants serve Brunswick stew with the pork. In my area, we don't see that often. We're more likely to have Brunswick stew as a main dish or for a fundraiser. I've never seen Brunswick stew at the annual Barbecue Festival. It's a great dish though, and I do keep an eye out for churches cooking up stews in the fall.

If you're looking for real North Carolina barbecue, then look for a wood pile and smoke in the morning. Actually, you don't even have to look. You can smell good barbecue.

25th Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival

Pig Sand Sculpture at the 25th Annual Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival

Day Starts Off Wet and Rainy for the Barbecue Festival . . . But Gets Sunny Later

Festival Crowd Decked Out in Rain Coats and Carried Umbrellas

Checking Out the Tin Can Man Again This Year - He Has Added Shuttle Planes

Yes. Fine Wine Goes with Barbecue. Try the Special Swine Wine by Childress Vineyards

We're just back from the 25th annual Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival. It's one of the largest one day festivals in the state and is rated as one of the best festivals in the nation.

Things started off wet and cool this year. It wasn't raining hard when the festival opened, but the rain was coming down steady enough to need raincoats and umbrellas. We wore jackets, but it was warm enough to shed those by noon. The rain had also moved through by then.

Generally we park in one of the lots outside of town and catch the bus in, but we went early enough that we got right downtown and in a lot for $5. It was a bank parking lot, and they let the humane society do the parking with the money to charity. There were several lots with various groups hosting the parking. The Boy Scouts were doing one lot and so on. The smaller lots right close the main street were full by lunch time, so I'd say it's a good idea to plan on one of the big parking lots and a bus ride in. It's only $2 to catch the bus, and they run about every 15 minutes all day.

Since it was raining, it was a little hard to juggle everything. I wore a backpack, and that was a good plan. They usually give out samples of varius products, so it's nice to have a free hand and also a place to stash samples or things you might buy at the craft booths.

The set up at the festival is that the main street is blocked off. In the center of the street are booths. You can go up one side and then back down the other and see everything. Off to the sides are entertainment tents and then other little booths on the sidewalks and up some of the side streets. The festival seems to spread out a little more each year. It's a small town, and it's a big festival. I keep looking for them to shift to a full weekend, but they haven't so far.

The barbecue is served in the center and then at each end - or close the ends anyway. These are not different barbecue types. Several of the local restaurants come together for the festival. So, don't expect to try a variety of barbecues. If you want to do that, then visit at another time and check out all the local barbecue in Lexington.

At the barbecue tents, they have barbcue which is chopped pork in Lexington. It's served with a slightly spicy sauce that has a vinegar base. There's a little tomato in there which sets it apart from barbecue closer to the beach. There's a long running debate about the best barbecue. Lexington, of course, claims to be number one. The eastern crowd will tell that their sauce is better. I like it all.

The barbecue tents also serve hot dogs or that was on the sign. I don't recall ever seeing anyone getting hot dogs at the barbecue tents. But, I guess some people do. I hate to get right up on folks and stare at their food.

For the sides, they have slaw. That's very traditional served with barbecue in the South. Most of the barbecue slaws have a bit of sauce and a little twang. The color is usually reddish versus slaw with a mayonnaise base served on hot dogs in the area.

There are curly tail French fries. They remind me a bit of the ones they had at Burger King for a while. There's some type of coating with seasonings. The fries which are cut in spirals are frozen (I'm sure) and then cooked in large vats of oil at the festival. Those are usually good. We got a cup cooked way too long and sitting too long today. They were rock hard and not soft inside at all. A lady working at the barbecue tent swapped those out for us. My son was really glad, because he really likes the curly tail fries - but not when they're hard.

A lot of people sit on the court house steps to eat the barbecue, but they also have tables set up. It's very informal. So, it's a good idea to wear jeans and t-shirts. You may end up sitting on the ground. That was a bit more difficult this year with it wet outside. We just stood and ate this time.

This is the 25th year for the festival, so they were expecting a really big crowd. I heard that the estimate was 100,000. Things were slower than expected I'm sure during the morning. But, it was picking up.

I enjoyed the day at the Barbecue Festival. It was a little messy with the rain. There weren't as many food booths like previous years. I always look for the homemade breads, dip mixes, honey, hot sauces, and salsas. This year, it was mainly crafts.

I did see the Tin Can Man. I got an airplane from him four or five years ago. It hangs in my office. We always stop by to say hello and to see what new creations he has come up with.

We brought home some fried apple pies to have later and got a couple of loaves of homemade bread - rosemary and sour dough.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Count Down on Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival - Looks Like I'm Going

Family Fun at the Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival

I've been waffling on the Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival. It's been my birthday trip for a number of years, since my b-day is October 24th which is always close to the festival date - near the end of October.

This year (2008) is the 25th anniversary of the Barbecue Festival. That makes it appealing in terms of the history, but I am not that keen on huge crowds. A big street party is one thing. When you can't hardly walk for all the people - that's another thing.

We go early to the festival. I'm not talking 6 a.m. or anything like that. But, we shoot for 9 to 10 a.m. and when it first opens up. By noon, it's like a madhouse at the festival. The lines at the parking lots outside of town (where you catch the shuttle buses) are backed way up. I'm always glad we're leaving rather than coming when it gets backed up like that.

I also have issues with the Port-o-Johns. They are not awful early, although last year I had to try three before I could manage it. It was hot last year though, and it's supposed to be cooler this year. Thank goodness. I'm not a total prude, but smells can do me in. Put me in a hot porta-potty with some packages, and I bust out of the door like the Incredible Hulk. Arrhhhggg. Then, I have to get in another potty line and hope for better. The other waiting people do find this amusing. I cough and gag and then my eyes water. Everyone then knows which line not to wait in.

I will make a note to self not to drink much on Barbecue Festival morning and hope I can hold it. If this is not possible, then I must decide if I go before getting barbecue and maybe not having much of an appetite after or waiting and then maybe adding to the bad juju in the port-o-pots.

As long as I am not jam packed in waves of humanity or fumbling for the porta-potty door handles (to get out fast), then I enjoy the heck out of the Lexington BBQ Festival. They have a lot of great music and shows. I like to meander along the main stretch and hear various types of music and see the magic shows and characters like Dora and Superman.

I generally do some Christmas shopping at the Barbecue Festival. They have various booths with crafts and with barbecue sauces. I pick up some new flavors for my barbecues and to give to friends. I usually get some local honey and some dip mixes. I've also found some great crafts like a spider made out of car parts that was quite unique. We also have enjoyed the PVC pipe marshmallow shooters and get more for kids on our gift list.

This is the 25th year, so it may be bigger than I enjoy. Guess I'll find out in two days. I was back and forth on whether to go, but I called around. Right now, it's a go. Will check back in later with the details. Hoping for a great birthday trip. Making sure to use the bathroom at home beforehand though.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Son Home for College Break and Loving the New York Steak Grilled

My son is really excited to be home from UNC and that I picked up some New York Strip steaks to grill for dinner on this fabulous fall evening.

Is the steak done yet? No. It takes a while to make a really great grilled meal. Getting close though.

These are New York Strip steaks without the bone. You can also get NY Strip bone in.

New York Strip steak is best done to a perfect medium as you see here after I cut one of the grilled steaks in half.

Yehaw! My son is in for fall break from UNC Chapel Hill. This is his first year at college, and he has lost 20 pounds with all that walking on campus and with cafeteria food instead of Momma food.

I had in mind to get some Rib Eye steak. That's what my boys love the best. Rib Eyes are not called guy steaks for nothing. They are hearty with great fat marbling and cook up very tender.

Alas, my local Food Lion only had two packs of Rib Eyes, and they were not prime. Too much fat streaking. That's different from the marbling. I really didn't want to pay top dollar for the dregs.

I did ring the bell for my meat buddies. Really they help me out a lot, and I often ring to get help. I asked if they had any Chuck Eye. That's just the end pieces from the Rib Eye. They're smaller and usually fairly inexpensive, but there's just a few packs of those, since it's the small end off the Rib Eye. Anyway, no dice.

New York Strip was on sale. Still expensive - of course. But, I could get four beautiful steaks for $24.

The main difference I find in grilling New York Strip versus Rib Eye is that it's important to go for medium rather than medium well. Overcook New York Strip, and it's pretty dry.

It's also a good idea to marinate New York Strip. Well, it seems to help any cut of steak. My basic grilled steak recipe works for any cut and is really tasty.

I'm pretty accurate on my grilling. Well, I ought to be. I grill all the time and write on grilling. I hit these New York Strips right at medium and pulled them off. You can see in the photo above the amount of pink that would be optimum for a medium on these steaks. Of course, you may have guests who love rare or well done. That's fine. But, if you want New York strip at its best, then you've got it at medium.

To tell when the steaks are medium, press down with tongs or a turner. The steak should have a little give like the skin between your pointer finger and thumb. You can also cut a steak and check. You'll hear that you shouldn't do this, but when you're learning, it really does help. Once the steak is seared, you really don't lose much juice and flavor if you do a quick knife check when you think you're getting close.

Along with the New York Strip, I did cast iron grilled hash browns. I do buy the throw-away foil pans sometimes, but those are kind of expensive. The cast iron skillet works great on the grill and is none the worse for the use. Unless I need to make a really big batch of grilled potatoes, then I use my cast iron skillet for grilling.

I also stuck on some heat and serve rolls wrapped in tin foil and buttered. I just put those on the last five minutes or so to heat them and melt the butter.

The entire meal was grilled outside, since it's pushing 90 degrees here and mid October. Hated to heat up the house and have to turn on the air conditioning this late in the season. We're supposed to drop down to the 40s by the weekend. North Carolina. If you don't like the weather, stay an extra day. You'll have something different.

Both boys loved the New York Strip steak and sides. The dog was excited about the little pieces of fat. Not much - but enough for a small treat.

Tomorrow I'll shift over to some of our indoor favorites, since the weather is changing fast. I have a pot roast thawing and got the stuff to make Chex Party Mix. My son may do another hand stand, since he adores Party Mix.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Are You a Bad Barbecue Guest? Hum . . .

Here's what we think of people who rain on the barbecue!

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association put out a fall survey and wanted to know which guests get on the grillers very last nerve. Come on. You know there are some out there. They probably do not mean to be the wet blankets, but that's what they are.

HPBA captured the barbecue guests from heck with some really cute catch labels. You can enjoy the bad barbecue guest results with some notes from Grill Girl at Yes You Can Grill.

Fortunately, most barbecue guests are not in the "bummer" category. I must say that I've had loads of help when I've pulled out the grill and put on a yard party. Generally, the atmosphere is real relaxed, everyone has fun, and there are always extra hands when you need them.

So, I will give a shout out to all the great barbecue guests and just look over the ones that have some anal tendancies.

How to Be a Great Barbecue Chef

This good old boy from western Rowan County knows how to throw a barbecue. Everyone was quite impressed with his pork shoulders this weekend.

So - you want to be a great grill chef?

It's always nice to get a pat on the back when you take the time to make a meal - especially an outdoor meal on the grill. Face it. It does take a lot of work to put together a terrific cook out.

With this in mind, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Assocation conducted a poll this fall. They asked a number of questions including, "What makes a great barbecue griller?" HPBA does surverys throughout the year, and they always send me an e newsletter. I really enjoy their questions and findings, and I'm glad they let me know what's going on in the barbecue world.

You can see an overview of the results and some of Grill Girl's thoughts on what people want from barbecue grillers. (Inside hint - I will tell you that guests especially love flexible outdoor cooks.)

Don't wait until you're perfect to have a cook out. You may never get around to doing one. Most of my barbecues turn out fabulous. I do remember one where nothing went right. I ordered in pizza. Everyone had a great time even if we didn't get to eat the grilled food which burned to a crisp while I was hanging clothes on the line. So, that's another tip - multitasking is not such a great idea if you want to be a wonderful barbecue griller.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Enjoying a Country Barbecue on Land That was Targeted for a Hazardous Waste Dump

This beautiful farm land is NOT a hazardous waste dump, because the country people banded together and refused to let the state come in and trash Rowan and Iredell counties.

My mom, my son and I went to a barbecue out in the country today. This wasn't the usual farmers' barbecue gathering. It was a party to honor the men and women who fought the state and won. If the community had not joined together, there would be a hazardous waste dump right where we had the picnic today.

You can see a photo I shot right as we were leaving the barbecue above.

Can you imagine a hazardous waste dump there instead of flowers and farm land?

Well, the people around here counldn't either.

You can read a little more about the time the farmers took on the state in my earlier blog journal. I hope others will join in with information. This all took place 18 years ago, so I don't know a lot of details - mainly that we were going to have a hazardous waste dump and that we don't because the farmers decided "NO." They fought back. They won. It would a shame for that history to get lost.

Barbecue to Celebrate the Farmers Taking on the State of NC and Winning - No Hazardous Waste Dump in These Parts

Mack loaned his big deluxe barbecue cooker for the 18th year celebration of the farmers keeping the hazardous waste dump out of Rowan and Iredell counties.

The farm guys planned the party and cooked up some fabulous smoked barbecue pork shoulders.

This is a very traditional Southern barbecue meal with smoked pork, slaw, and beans.

The big barbecue party was held at a local farm and was relaxed and informal.

Papa Clyde and Jones were honored for their work in keeping the hazardous waste dump out of the middle of farm country.

Back in 1990, the state (NC) decided they'd plop a hazardous waste dump along the Rowan and Iredell county lines in North Carolina. This did not sit well with the farmers in the area. They didn't want to lose their land and lifestyle and sure didn't want a hazardous waste dump right there where the kids would be growing up and where everyone would be getting possibly tainted milk. Really now . . . who knows what that hazardous waste does to an area and to the food supply.

The hazardous waste dump was supposed to be a done deal, but the state officials underestimated the locals. The state guys thought they were dealing with country bumpkins and that they could roll right in with their big machines and put in a big dumping ground.

Country folks banded together and determined that the government wasn't running right over them and taking their land. They signed petitions, called the government, talked to the media and literally joined hands for a human chain to stop the development.

This show of solidarity was quite serious.

One sign read:

Guns are loaded.
Clocks are tickin'.
Pick this site.
And, see who's chicken.

And, the area farmers weren't kidding.

After a few months, the state gave up and left.

This was all 18 years ago. Those involved in stopping the hazardous waste dump from being plopped in the edge of the county out on our farmland still get together to celebrate the victory and to make sure their kids know about this part of our history.

Today, there was a barbecue to honor Papa Clyde of Iredell County and Jones of Rowan County. Both men were "generals" in this fight against the state and helped organize the protests. Today they were given plaques for these efforts.

One farmer said, "We did things that the State didn't think we could do. This community come together 100%. Maybe we ought to go to Washington and get them all straightened out."

The response to that was a resounding, "A-men."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Guys Thank Me for Cook Out with UNC Signs - Take 1, 2, 3

Working on the Letters for UNC. That's the Hard One to Make.

First Try on UNC Signs. Hum. Something Not Quite Right About That "C."

Go UNC. The Guys Get It Down - More or Less.

Messing Around After the Cook Out . . .

I grilled up hamburgers and hot dogs today to celebrate my son being home from UNC for the first visit since he headed up there in August. He invited his buddies over, and we had a great cook out. Simple. But fun.

After the cook out, the guys decided that they'd do the UNC signs for me. See. There are rewards to being the Grill Girl.

As you can see, they had a little trouble getting this all coordinated. These guys were never on the cheerleading squad as you may guess. They did work on it. After a few tries, they got UNC for me. Go guys!

Ironically (as you'll know if you're from North Carolina), I went to NC State. I just kid my son and tell him that I turned down Chapel Hill. That's the truth actually. I was accepted to both universities and selected State and engineering. Once I found out what engineers do, well . . . that's another story.

It's back to college for the kid tomorrow but a great weekend and fun memories.

Blog Dedicated to a Hamburger - The Joel Burger

I love great burgers, so when Greta Lint told me that her boyfriend Joel Leonard had a blog dedicated to a burger, I had to check that out. I mean . . . seriously . . . can you have an entire blog dedicated to a hamburger?

Oh yes! The Joelburger Blog is all about Joel's magnificent burger creation.

You may think, "Well, a burger is a burger is a burger." I know that's not true, because my hand patted grilled hamburgers do not taste like the little skinny hamburgers bought frozen and ready to cook at the grocery store.

Joel's hamburger is unique in several ways. One big difference is the bread. He uses sour dough bread. So, the hamburger is kind of like a sandwich but buttered up and grilled on hearty bread. The other big thing is that the cheese is homemade pimento cheese. If you've only had pimento cheese out of a plastic container, then you've not really had pimento cheese. The Joel Burger features "made from scratch" pimento cheese. Yum!

I'm a Southern cook, so I could play around with Joel's ideas and see if I could come up with a burger kind of like his, but his hamburger is actually a restaurant burger in Greensboro, North Carolina. Finecastles serves Joel's special hamburgers. They also feature a singing server which sounds really neat too.

I feel a road trip coming on. It takes me under and hour to get to Greensboro. The Joel Burger makes my mouth water just looking at the pictures. I also love the stories about sharing the Joel Burgers around the world on the blog. I've fallen in love and havent't even had a Joel Burger yet. I'll blog again once I get myself down to Greensboro and check this out.

Gilled Hamburgers and Hot Dogs for My Kid Home from College

First visit Home from College - Happy to See the Fat Cat

Hand Patted Burgers in Marinade - Waiting for an Afternoon Cook Out

Hamburgers and Hot Dogs on the Charcoal Weber Grill


My son is now at UNC Chapel Hill, and this weekend was the first time he's been home since he left for college. The first thing I noticed, of course, was that he had lost weight. He's a good size, but this did give me an excuse (like I need one?) to cook up a storm this weekend.

When he first got in, I fried up some pork chops and hash browns and made a big skillet of corn bread. He really loves homemade cornbread, and it's hard to find good cornbread other than made at home.

For breakfast, it was biscuits and gravy with Frank Corriher sausage. That's the best sausage I've ever had besides what my Poppaw made at home.

I told my kid to tell his buddies to plan on a cook out for lunch. When you send a kid off to college, you kind of lose a whole lot of kids at once - the ones who hung out at your house. So, it was good to see the guys again - all of them.

I had most of the stuff I needed but did run up to the IGA and got some extra ice and some buns. Pineapples were on sale, and my son loves those, so I got a fresh pineapple. I often grill the pineapple, but I decided to save that for dinner to go with crab cakes and corn on the cob. I also got some Pepsi with lemon. That wasn't on purpose. They don't label the bottles very well. That wasn't so great, but oh well. I guess Pepsi likes to try some new stuff from time to time.

The guys all hung out and shot pool and played basketball.

Then we had my hand patted hamburgers (much better than pre-patted) and hot dogs as well as some chips and peanut butter fudge.

Whew! I'm about stuffed, and I'm sure the boys are too. It was a beautiful day for grilling and extra nice with both my boys at home.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Apple Baking Company Teams Up with Cheerwine for New Packaged Cakes - Yum

Just Out - Cheerwine Cake by Apple Baking Company - Woodleaf, NC

You can't grill up this Cheerwine Cake, but it would be an easy and tasty end to a great barbecue meal. Acutally, you can wrap slices in tin foil (as well as doughnuts and other tasty treats) and heat on the grill for a warm dessert at an outdoor party.

The Apple Baking Company just came out with these Cheerwine Cakes. I found out when of the students I taught, Hilah, stopped by the college. We were talking about this and that, and she mentioned the new cakes. She works at Miller Davis Inc. in marketing and helps with new product campaign launches. I'm thrilled that she is using skills I taught her in class and also that she took the time to drop by and say hello.

The Apple Baking Company is a small company right down the road. They are famous for making Apple Uglies (as well as other sweet treats). Apple Uglies are kind of like Monkey Bread or braided bread with apples. You might call them a type of apple fritter. Whatever you liken them to, Appple Uglies are really tasty. And, they aren't even really that ugly either.

Cheerwine is our local soft drink - made out of Salisbury, NC. Some people say it's like a cherry cola, but that doesn't really capture this unique soda. It's just different - and very popular in the South.

Some of our Southern cooks make Cheerwine Cake, and I need to get that up at Yes You Can Cook. Cheerwine Cake looks a bit like Red Velvet Cake, but the flavor is different.

Apple Baking Company and Cheerwine teamed up to get this unique cake out there on the market. Great idea. It really is a super cake - and not like any I've ever had before.

You can order Apple Uglies and other products online through the company web site, but I don't see the Cheerwine Cakes up yet. I think they're selling too fast right now and just on the market as well.

Keep an eye out. I see Apple Baking Good products from time to time and especially at country type stores. The Uglies are really tasty and so is Cheerwine Cake.

* The photo was provided by Miller Davis - THANKS!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Love the Lexington NC Barbecue Festival - But No Love Back - Oh Well

Folks Enjoying the Great Barbecue Street Festival in Lexington, North Carolina

I've been writing and blogging on the Lexington, NC Barbecue festival for a long time now (like years). It is definately a festival to put on your list.

I'm not connected in any way. I just live about 45 minutes away and usually go to celebrate my birthday. I try to pass the word and also have a blast taking pictures of this big barbecue celebration.

Over the years I have tried to get in contact with the festival folks. It would be nice to know when the new information comes out about The Barbecue Festival. I know they have a press party and releases and such. I just have to keep an eye out and get the information on my own. Then, I go and take pictures and tell everyone about the festival.

I've emailed through the festival home page and never had a reponse. I've tried to call the phone number listed. No answer and no answering machine. I suppose I could send a letter to the snail mail address on site, but given that they've never responded to emails and I can't get them on the phone listed, I really don't feel like doing that - taking the time and using a stamp.

This year someone did send me a press release after I'd already blogged and done an article (not noticed I suppose). She asked if she could post the release on my blog - or perhaps I might even want to do that myself. Well, the only way it could go up is if I do it. Random people can not come along and just post to any old blog they want. The blogger has to do that or set up a sign in for a contributor.

I did email and explain that I've been telling folks about the festival for a long time on my own and that I'd been asking to get on the press release list. I did get a response to that one that the writer just wrote and didn't know about any lists. I did post the press release on one of my blogs as well as having written my own materials about the Lexington NC Barbecue Festival. I sent the links on the festival including the full press release link I was asked to post. I did put it on Cooking Help Web. Well, that's the last I heard on that.

Most people do appreciate some free publicity and a thumbs up on their events. I guess that Lexington gets enough publicity and that they don't need commoners spreading the word.

It does seem that since several of my online posts on The Barbecue Festival ding the top of Google for the event (across several sites) that they might want to make sure I have information to share. It might also be a good idea to say "thanks" when sending a press release and asking someone to take time to put it up and with nothing to gain for that person.

Silence is pretty deafening. I usually get a response (even from big companies) if I ask for info to share with others. When someone contacts me (as in this time), and I do take the time to write (and share the links back), then I usually get some sort of indication that it was appreciated. It's sure not like I have to write about anything online. I have a job. This is not it, or I would live in a cardboard box.

In the South, we usually go the extra mile to be helpful and to note those who help out. You'll see that hospitality if you go to the Lexington, NC Festival. Lots of great people and working really hard. That's why I always try to make sure I cover them.

The Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival is usually my birthday trip and treat. This year, I must confess . . . I'm not so sure. If they can't respond to emails and can't answer the phone and if they send me a press release and flat out ask me to post it but don't bother to thank me for doing so, then maybe I can find something else to do for my birthday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Plans Complete for Lexington NC Barbecue Festival - 25th Year

Lexington NC Pork Barbecue Festival Sandwich with Red Slaw, Curly Pig Tail French Fries, and a Good Old NC Pepsi

Hot Grilled Corn in the Husks - Lathered With Butter After Smoked

Sitting on the Steps Enjoying the BBQ Festival, Food, and Ready for More Fun Later

The Tin Can Man - Making Airplanes Out of Aluminum Cans

I have been waiting (not so patiently) for all the details on the 25th Lexington NC Barbecue Festival. This is a milestone year, and I'm sure it's going to be extra special. So, I've watched the Barbecue Festival web page to see what all is going on this year. The new information went up this week, and also got an email from Greta who is working on getting the word out about this top rated Barbecue street party.

Lee Ann Womack - Featured Entertainer This Year

The big news this year is that Lee Ann Womack is headlining. She is probably most known for her song "I Hope You Dance" which appealed to a cross section of music fans including pop and her country music fan base.

Other stars playing for 2008 include Adam Gregory, Randy Houser, and Jamie Johnson.

There are always lots of great local groups ranging from jazz to beach music and even performers like a magician.

In addition to the main stage, there are various smaller stages set up and down the street, so it's easy to find some good music or someone telling stories.

I'd also note that Sponge Bob will be making appearances this year which will really excite a lot of the kids.

Great Food All Day and Plenty of It

You can guess the theme of the Barbecue Festival in Lexington. They serve the famous Lexington BBQ which is chopped pork on a bun. The sauce is vinegar based with a little hot pepper and has some zing but not so much that it freaks out those who can't handle hot foods. Just a nice little burst of flavor.

In the South, most people eat barbecue pork with slaw. It's a red slaw. Again, it has more zip than more traditional slaws. It also makes the buns a little soggy, so some people love and some do not. You can ask for it either way - with or without slaw.

There's more food than you can shake a stick at at the Barbecue Festival, so arrive hungry. In addition to the fabulous barbecue, you can get other Southern favorites like grilled corn on the cob, fried pork rinds, and fried apple pies.

Check Out the Booths

North Main Street in Lexington is always lined with double rows of booths. Many of these include arts and crafts. You can find cool things that you'd not find at the mall. One of my favorite booths is the Tin Can Man booth. He makes airplanes and other items like ships out of aluminum cans. He even makes them while you watch. Tell him that writer Cyndi said "hi" if you see him.

I always enjoy some of the sample booths. There are mixes you can buy. They usually have pretzels, and you can try various cheese dip mixes. I stock up every year and have those for the holidays. I also buy new hot sauces, since small vendors have different homemade sauces to sell. They also offer samples usually. Those range from the NC style with a vinegar base to tomato based to mustard (from SC).

Lexington NC Has a Great Barbecue Festival

Some small town festivals are really small town. You only have a few things to see and do. That's not the case in Lexington. It's huge - really. They expect 10,000 this year, and the town has a population of a little over 20,000.

The Barbecue Festival consistantly makes the top ten list for festivals in the southeast and has also been mentioned by USA Today and Travel & Leisure magazine.

Of course, everyone around these parts know it's a great day!

Lexington NC Festival Details

The festival is on Saturday October 25, 2008. The booths open up at 8:30 and the barbecue tents at 10 a.m. I suggest shooting for 9 a.m. or earlier, because it gets really crowded as the day goes along. And, the bus lines get long.

Since the town really is small, it works out better to park and shuttle in. We always park at the Wal-Mart Super Center off I85 (exit 91). They also have parking at Childress Vineyards on US Highway 64 and the Davidson County governmental complex on N. Main Street. The shuttles run every 15 minutes or so, and the drivers are real friendly. Bus tickets are $2 but free for kids under 12.

There's enough to keep you busy all day and lots of food to keep you going. This year, they'll close down from 6 p.m. and set up for the 25th celebration complete with fireworks to cap off the quarter century mark.

It doesn't cost a thing to get into the festival. Free for all.

Where is This Festival?

If you're not familiar with Lexington, NC, then it's 20 miles South of Winston-Salem, NC, 30 miles from Greensboro and 45 miles from Charlotte.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Little Kids and Barbecue Parties - Play it Safe

Party Time for All Ages

Family of Swingers

Time for Birthday Presents

My nieces had a joint birthday party this week. The oldest sister turned 7. The baby had turned one a little earlier in the month. Middle sister is a February baby.

The mothers got together and were talking and comparing stories as moms will do at such gatherings. A high school buddy asked what I'd been writing. When I said I'd been doing a lot on grill writing, the stories began to fly.

Most the mothers worried about grilling with little ones. It's certainly true that it can be dangerous. So is the kitchen stove. It's important to plan, set limits and watch really close.

I've grilled since the boys were born (and before), and we've only had one mishap. The phone rang. I ran in to get it. The dad person was not paying attention. He put the lighter fluid (which I don't even use now that I've shifted to a chimney starter) down on the porch. The baby who was 2 years old at the time and would eat or drink literally anything took a swig of the lighter fluid.

If a child takes a gulp of lighter fluid, you go the emergency room. In our case, he had to drink something which made him vomit. The doctor said it might be hard to get him to drink the medicine. Of course not. This is a kid who will drink the lighter fluid. He was more than happy to drink the medicine but stopped smiling about the time he started heaving and then vomiting.

First note - keep dangerous items up high.

As far as the grill, yes, it is hot. Stress that to the kids. If they're really little, it may be best to keep them inside or put the grill in a different location where the kid traffic is not likely to go. Also, remind kids repeatedly that grills are hot and watch that they don't get near the grill.

Another option with toddler aged kids and one I used was a play bed. I would put the baby outside in the folding play bed with toys where he could see me and talk, but he could not get out and get to the grill.

If you're from a two parent family or have other relatives over, an extra adult can keep a young one busy and out of danger.

My boys grew up in a grilling family. There were just a few months when they were at ages where they could walk but not really understand well that the grill could burn them or that lighter fluid is not for drinking. I just took extra precautions during those months. After that, I made sure that I spoke to the boys and drilled in safety messages.

I did cut meats small and sliced hot dogs and then cut them across for a good period of time to prevent choking. That's the most common reason little ones go the hospital ER - choking. We never had a problem with that, but I did make sure that I cut in kid sized bites and watched the shape. Round shapes can be a problem.

You can grill with kids just as you can do most things with kids if you prepare and anticipate. We had a lot of great barbecue memories going back as far as they can remember. The only accident we had was the lighter fluid, and that same son also ate a nickel, the spider plant, leaves, a rock, and probably some things I missed.

So, happy grilling - even with kids. Just keep it safe.

Barbecue Showdown in Maggie Valley, NC - Next Weekend

Don't miss the 5th annual Smokin' in the Valley barbecue championship competition in Maggie Valley Friday September 26th and Saturday 27th (2008) at the Festival Grounds.

There are over 50 barbecue teams raning from Sue E. Pigg and Two Old Men & a Grill to Bite Me BBQ and Butts Breastts. Most of the teams come from the Carolinas, but they do have groups coming in from Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

Hours are noon through 9 p.m. on Friday and and 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids under 12.

You can try out some of the team cooked barbecues for $10 per person.

In addition to top notch barbecue, they have other food vendors, bluegrass music, and games for the kids. Beer and wine is served for those who like to imbide.

Smokin' in the Valley is a pet friendly event.

The atmosphere is relaxed. You'll want to bring a stroller if you have a small child. Lawn chairs and blankets are a good idea. And, don't forget your jacket. It can get pretty nippy in Maggie Valley at the end of September.

They do play some annoying music on the web page, so turn down your volume, unless you like to listen to random music when you're surfing.

Southern Barbecue in New York City - Brother Jimmy's BBQ

If you're a Southerner in New York City or an uptown girl or guy who has never had Carolina Barbecue, get yourself over to Brother Jimmy's BBQ. There are six locations, so what are you waiting for?

Bother Jimmy's serves both Northern and Southern style barbecue, though they've made a name with their Southern BBQ, football fans who stop by to watch Duke vs. Carolina and some good old blues music.

If you're not familiar with Southerner barbecue, it's generally pork and slow cooked over wood. Jimmy's does it right - slow and over hickory wood.

You can get your barbecue served on a bun or as a tray with sides, cornbread, and pickles. They have slaw which is what most Southerners eat with chopped pork barbecue, but you can also get barbecue baked beans, black eyed peas, collard greens, mac and cheese, green beans, or even biscuits with gravy.

They have good old Southern sweet tea of course as well as lemonade, and they're just added Cheerwine to the menu. Cheerwine is a local soft drink out of Salisbury, North Carolina.

If you have any room left, you can finish off that barbecue dinner with apple pie, pecan pie, key lime pic, banana cream pie, or Mississippi Mud Cake.

You can drop in at one of the restaurant locations, or they'll even cater your event.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

County Fair Food - How to Find the Good Grub

My son is really trying hard to get this barbecue burger down the hatch.

Here, you can see the burger problem. This grilled burger is a hockey puck. It's not hot either, so the cheese didn't even melt.

I had my eye on the Ragin Cajun Bayou Grill booth at the Rowan County Fair.

The Ragin Cajun Cook was putting the shrimp on fresh to order, and that does make a huge difference.

My grilled shrimp and rice dinner was fabulous. I did ask for "easy on the cheese," so expect more cheese generally.

There is an art to getting a yummy meal at a county fair. There are some hits and some misses. It pays to walk around, keep your eyes open, and ask some questions.

In previous years, we always got our dinner at the Optimist booth at the Rowan County Fair. My (now retired) boss is an Optimist (in more ways than this), and the food was always great. Sadly, the group is now smaller and the guys are older, and they gave the county fair food booth up after many years.

I love county fairs, so I already knew how to find the good stuff. One way is to stick with what you know like the Optimists and the money going local. The other is to do a little research. Perhaps you are thinking that it's a drag to have to really think about what you're going to eat at the fair. If you get a bad meal, you may think again.

County fairs are a mixed bag. You have some of the traditional carnival vendors that travel with the show as well locals who have spaces with the money going back to the community. Everyone needs to turn a profit, so it's great when all the food is terrific and everyone comes out OK at the end of the night.

The food booths are usually grouped, and I will walk around and take a quick look. There are always a few foods that catch my eye, and then I have to narrow it down. I'd love to eat it all, but that gets expensive, and my jeans won't handle that kind of pig out.

I will look at the cooking process at the booths I'm interested in. I will look at the food carried out by those buying. I will even ask someone at a table if the food is good. I have no shame when it comes to food. I want good food - period.

This year at the Rowan County Fair they had a new booth - the Ragin Cajun Bayou Grill. This is more like fry grilling which is fine. They were just getting the food up and going when we arrived. I especially love shrimp, and they had it. The Ragin Cajun guy said shrimp went on last, so it would be fresh and not rubbery. I hear that. If you cook shrimp too long or let it sit, then it is not very good. Even though I had not seen a plate come off and could not ask anyone if the food was good, I had a good feeling on this one. I waited.

My son is not that keen on new foods, unless it's something I cook. He decided to go for a burger. Unfortunately, he could not see the burgers cooking (that was in the back), and he is not the type to watch and then ask folks if what they bought was good. He ended up with one of those gross hockey puck burgers. It was thin. It was cooked too far ahead. It wasn't even hot enough to melt the cheese. This was a $6 mistake. He was a good sport and got it down, but I sent him back to the chicken and dumpling booth where they were making good food. He was, as you can imagine, stuffed by the end of the meal. But, he did get something tasty and certainly not the burger.

My Mom also got one of the icky grilled burgers. She is not one to be critical, but she said that the cheeseburger sure made my grilled burgers look good. I really hated that she got soaked on a bad county fair dinner.

The kid and my Mom waited while I checked back with the Cajun guy. He was cooking up a storm, but it just takes a while. He gave me a taste of the steak when I checked back. Yum. That was good. I figured I made the right decision to wait. I think he was surprised that I didn't just go for something quick and ready. No. I'll wait if it's worth it.

By the time my shrimp and rice was ready with "light on the cheese," Mom and my kid were done with the burgers. The kid was enjoying the chicken and dumplings which were top notch. I tried a bite. Someone knows how to do them right. I had my Mom take some of my shrimp and rice, so she got some good food too.

You can get a great meal at a county fair. You can also get a disaster. That's why I look around and pay attention. I wouldn't complain about an awful burger when it's a local group with the money going to charity. On the other hand, I would not serve dry and cold burgers either. I'd do the burgers right or not at all - no matter where the money was going. That's why I scope things out. It really doesn't take much time. It's nice to chat with other folks - both those cooking and eating. In the end, I get a great county fair meal and no ick burgers with cold cheese.