Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to Grill Smoke Cabbage on the Barbecue Grill

Grilled Smoked Cabbage on the PK Grill

I sent the boys to get a head of lettuce for a salad, and they found a great price on a big old heavy head of . . . cabbage which they have never liked for some strange reason. I assured them that they were not going to like a tossed salad made with cabbage, but I can make lemonade if brought lemons (and again I do like cabbage).

Cabbage does take quite a while to cook no matter how you slice or dice it, unless you want to make slaw, and that's what the boys have never much liked.

Grilling caggage is not hard, and it keeps the cabbage smell out of the kitchen. It does take a little time, but I just put slower grilling foods like cabbage on the grill and then do other things while the meal is smoking along.

How to Get Cabbage Ready for the Barbecue Grill

There are a number of ways to grill cabbage. You can cut it up and do chunks or wedges. You can wrap cabbage in aluminum foil (a little quicker method - but losing a lot of the smoke flavor).

In this case, I decided to grill the whole cabbage head but add some meat for my meat eating guys. They are BIG on meat around here.

First, I cored the cabbage. Just use a knife and cut around the hard core from the bottom. Kind of bump the cabbage head with your hand or on the counter, and the core comes out.

At this point you sort of have a bowl (but a quicker grilling cabbage with the hard core out).

With the empty space where you cored the cabbage, you can do all kinds of things. Some people put in onions and butter. Very easy. Nice low cost dish that tastes great.

I got some cooked smoked sausage IGA brand (which is a family favorite and quite inexpensive) and rubbed sauage slices with Dizzy Pig seasoning which is a barbecue seasoning or rub and one of our favorites. There are many brands on the market, so play around. Just don't go too heavy on any barbecue product until you know it's a flavor that you really enjoy.

I put the sausages in the hole of the cabbage where the core had been.

I had a little bacon left from breakfast (uncooked), so I wrapped a couple of slices around the top of the cabbage (which I guess is really the bottom, but I had it sitting up that direction). I just drapped the bacon and pressed it down to make a pretty circle.

I also had some onion slices, so I put a couple of rings at the top to cap off the cabbage - for eye appeal and flavor.

Setting up the BBQ Grill to Barbecue Cabbage

I decided to use charcoal on the cabbage to give it a solid grilled and smoked flavor. In this case, I offset the charcoal. In other words, I had coals on one side of the grill going but not the other. This is indirect heat grilling and good for things you want to grill low and slow (foods that don't cook or grill real fast). You can do this over gas by only using the burners on one side - one side on and one side off.

I let the charcoal burn down with no flames and then put the cabbage on the cool side (the side without charcoal). It still has heat but not direct and real hot. The heat just circulates inside the BBQ grill.

To keep the cabbage in place, I took aluminum foil and just made a ring as you can see. That just keeps the cabbage standing up.

Grilling the Cabbage

I put the cabbage on the grill on the foil ring on the cool side, put the lid down on the barbecue grill, and opened the vents on the PK grill to allow the air to flow and keep the heat going to grill the cabbage but at a lower and slower temperature.

Then, I just checked the cabbage every 15 to 20 minutes to make sure it was still grilling (coals still going) and that things were not getting too hot and scorching the grilled cabbage. The PK (portable kitchen outdoor cooker) grill is great at holding temperatures, so this was super easy.

It took around 45 minutes to slow grill or smoke the cabbage. I just tapped the sides of the grilling cabbage with the tongs. If you have eaten cabbage, you can tell if it's soft enough or not (or you could cut a little chunk and taste to be sure). Your temperatures can vary in grilling, so do watch, because you could be done quicker, or it could take a little longer. The 45 minutes is a pretty good ballpark point.

If the cabbage is grilling faster, cut down the heat. You can also lay a little tin foil around the cabbage kind of like a tent to protect the outer leaves from getting too dark if it's grilling quite fast (but can also peel off those very outside leaves too).

Is Grilled Cabbage Good?

If I had to pick the best of all the ways I've had cabbage, I'd say grilled ranks first. The cabbage is not quite as strong on the cabbage taste, and that grilling smoke gives it a wonderful boost.

In this case with the sausages in the cabbage, then it's a full meal on the grill which is nice. We had meat, cabbage, a few bits of bacon all round and some onion. All these flavors came together and melded for a really great cabbage dish.

You can, of course, go veggie on the cabbage and have that on the side. Just change up the stuffing. But, you may want to add some butter or marinade if you don't have meat drippings from the sausage and bacon. Some type of moisture does help.

Don't be afraid to play around when you grill. You just want to go low and slow on cabbage and make sure it's soft in the end. The ideas for stuffing or seasonings is unlimited.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Farm Fresh Market Place in Salisbury, North Carolina - Must Check It

Farm Fresh Market Place - Salisbury, North Carolina

Added Note: One of my BBQ sauce friends provided a case of sauce to Jon Barber. Jon asked for a second and said to invoice. He did not pay up. Run him in Google and beware. 
Farm Fresh Marketplace has been on my "to visit" list since it opened. I just wasn't quite sure where it was located, and this has been a super busy few months. I want to buy better and fresher food, but when I'm exhausted, I just stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. I know. No excuses. But, life does have a way of getting in the way.
Farm Fresh really is not hard to find. You just get on South Main Street in Salisbury, NC and drive (toward Kannapolis) up close to Airport Road. You can, of course, GPS is at 3204 South Main St, Salisbury, NC (but I just got my GPS finally). For out-of-towners, then you get to Farm Fresh MarketPlace off I85 between Greensboro, NC and Charlotte, NC. It's a few miles off the highway, but it's worth the stop.
I was telling my younger son that I was going out there and explaining where I thought it was. He knew just where it was. This summer he had an internship, and he said he stopped at Farm Fresh to pick up lunch. He loves fruits, so he'd get a healthy and inexpensive lunch with local fruits. Why is the mother the last to know? Well, I never asked I guess.
My Son Loved Getting Fresh Fruit at the MarketPlace for Lunch Instead of Fatty Fast Food
I knew about Farm Fresh MarketPlace, because I'm FaceBook friends with Jon Barber who got this project started. We go a LONG way back. I kept the score for wrestling in high school, and he and his twin brother, Jim, were on the team.
Jon and Jim were older, athletes, and both quite stunningly cute (but fraternal - so each in his own unique way). This can be a recipe for being jerky (in just a few cases at my old high school). The main thing I remember is that both brothers were always super nice - to everyone. I've seen Jon a few times since graduation, and he always has been the same very nice and caring guy I remembered all these years.
I told Jon by Facebook PM about this wonderful North Carolina barbecue sauce from J. Paul Abrams with his Nephew's line of barbecue sauces. I bought a jar at Southern Seasons in Chapel Hill and was hooked. My son was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and would pick it up for me, but he graduated. I was hoping Jon could carry the sauce, because Chapel Hill is a long drive, and shipping is expensive (but worth it for this sauce). Having it local - a dream come true.
Paul and Jon got to talking, and the next thing you know . . . yes . . . Nephew's barbecue sauce was at Farm Fresh Market Place. I love when things work out, and I encourage everyone to try out Nephew's if you get to Farm Fresh (which I really recommend). The Cherry Polte on slow smoked ribs is my favorite, but the rub and all the Nephew's BBQ sauces are top shelf. The pumpkin on pork loin is just fabulous too. Heck, all the Nephew's products are wonderful.
Yay! I Can Now Get Nephew's BBQ Rub and Sauce in Salisbury, NC
After Jon and Paul took the time to make this happen - my favorite sauce here local . . . you know I had to get myself out to Farm Fresh MarketPlace. Otherwise, I'm the one who looks like (and really is) a jerk.
I had no problem finding my way. I just don't go down South Main (old 29) often. It's an easy drive, and Farm Fresh was easy to find. I posted a photo at the top, so you will know just what you're looking for.
I thanked Jon for getting Nephew's barbecue sauce in. It really will be great to have it close my house. It's still about a half hour but way better than 2.5 to 3 (when I get lost in Chapel Hill for some reason even after four years).
Local Zip Lock Bags of NC Pecans at Fram Fresh
I looked at the local pecans at Farm Fresh. We still have a few left, but my Mom had to have the old trees cut this year. Our pecan supply is gone after these last are gone. I know where to get some now though. I'm going to miss our pecan trees and free pecans, but you don't want old trees falling over and crunching the house. 
This is not really garden season in North Carolina, so the main totally local (right here in town) produce was turnips. God bless everyone who loves turnips, but I've not developed a taste for them. The turnips were beautiful though.
 Local Grown Turnips - Not My Thing - But Very Pretty
I had my Nephew's cherry barbecue sauce, and Jon showed me his sample table which had Nephew's. I don't need to check Nephew's BBQ sauce, because I know and love it well. I did try some wonderful canned sweet potato butter. I've never had that, and it was really great. I am trying to watch my sweets though I'd loved to have bought a jar of that and eaten it with a spoon or on homemade biscuits. Jon also thought I might like the canned asparagus. OK. Yes. I love asparagus.
Ward Farms Pickled Asparagus - Boy That's Good Stuff

Next thing you know, I have the Ward Farm pickled asparagus up on the counter to buy. It's very early asparagus and super tender. There are hot peppers in there, so this is a HOT asparagus. Not like - kill you hot. But, you don't want this if you do not like a lot of zip. I do. I had to have a jar.

Keeping the selection small, local, and quality with some samples is right on target. I doubt I would have picked up pickled asparagus, because I don't like pickles. Then again, I'm not a cucumber fan. This pickled asparagus. Oh my goodness. My mouth is watering now thinking about it.

Yes. This Happy Chicken Lives at Farm Fresh.

I got my bag and headed out and said good-bye to the chicken out front. There will be an Eagle Scout garden going in beside the chicken soon. That will be cool, and a good way for people to see where their food comes from. Also, both my boys are Eagle Scouts. I'm glad Jon supports local kids on projects like this. It takes a lot of work to reach Eagle Scout, and they must have a big final project in the community. I can't wait to see this one.

I know this is a long blog post, but it is a complex story as are many in life. My Mom was our Brownie leader and always told use about friends: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." I've know Jon most of my life, and I'm glad he has started Farm Fresh MarketPlace to feature local and North Carolina products. Paul is up near Raleigh, and I met him by way of his Nephew's Barbecue sauce and became FaceBook friends (so we're new buddies - and I've not met him in person yet). This all came together online, so . . .

1. If you're in Salisbury, NC, be sure to check out Farm Fresh MarketPlace, and if you're on I85, take the extra time to stop by a real locally owned and focused place to get real food.

2. If you're at FarmFresh or see Nephew's barbecue rubs or sauces, try them out. You know they are great, or I would not have lobbied to get them right here in town. If you can't find Nephew's near you, then the shipping price is worth it. I was in a crunch and ordered online for Christmas gifts, because this sauce is just that GREAT.

Cowboy Joe's Pit and Grilling Sauce - Vinegar Sauce Review

Cowboy Joe's Pit & Grilling Sauce on Pork Chops

Leslie got in touch. She'd found Barbecue Master and thought I'd like to try out Cowboy Joe's Pit & Grilling Sauce. They have just taken first place in the Austin, Texas "Man-Up" annual competition and then 4th in the National Barbecue Association competition with 600 entries.

Life has been crazy around here as some of you know with a kid out of the country and an airline take-over with some questions about when I'd get him back. I still had to eat, and this sauce interesting, since it's a vinegar, and North Carolina is the vinegar capital of sauces.

Leslie sent out samples of the mild and spicy, and made my quick and easy boneless pork chops. I also tried the sauce (or really a mop) on some chopped pork as well that I had from our last low and slow smoke.

Here's What Cowboy Joe's Barbecue Sauce Looks Like in the Jar
When I first opened the box, I thought I had what I'd call a sauce - thick like Kansas City sauce. In North Carolina, Bone Suckin' Sauce is a thick sauce billed as a vinegar sauce, but it's certainly not a classic North Carolina BBQ sauce. It's more like Kansas with a hint of vinegar.

The darker color was throwing me off, but when I opened the jar, this was what I call a mop. It's thin like a classic North Carolina vinegar sauce but with a sweeter smell. What this means is that you can use it as a marinade, and you can brush it on while grilling where on thick sauces you need to wait until the meat is almost done, or the sugars will burn, and your barbecue meat will be charred on the outside.

I did marinate the pork chops for about 20 minutes in Cowboy Joe's Pit & Grilling barbecue sauce. And, then I sauced a little. It does not take long to grill boneless pork chops, so I didn't need to mop much. Just on each flip.

On the chopped pork, I just heated the sauce and poured it over as we do here in North Carolina on pork butt or shoulder sandwiches.

This was a really robust and tasty sauce. Cowboy Joe's was sweet just as it smelled. So, it's not a North Carolina knock off which is almost totally vinegar in flavor with some heat (hot pepper seeds) and in the western area (piedmont) a little red (some form of tomato).

I love a wide range of styles of barbecue sauces, but I do associate vinegar with NC. Our sauce does seem to be an acquired taste though, and many kind of freak out on the big hit of vinegar.

You get a little vinegar flavor in Cowboy Joe's but more sweet than tang, so I'd have to say that it would be more mainstream and appeal to a wider audience. You get the mop style which is great for moisture as you can see in my pork chop photo.

I go thumbs up, unless you are looking for NC style vinegar sauce. Then I'd say go with Ralph's (very small batch) or Scott's (easier to find). If you're looking for your first vinegar mop sauce, Cowboy Joe's is much less tart so a great bet if you're not used to vinegar sauces.

I love our NC vinegar sauces, but I have to call things the way I see them. Our barbecue sauce here can be kind of a shock. You get something similar here with Cowboy Joe's Pit & Grilling Sauce but with more balance and less bite. Someone may come by and revoke my North Carolina citizenship card. But, I adore out sauce style. I just know it's a niche product. Cowboy Joe's would be broader in appeal.

On a side note, I did get my son back. Now, I need to make him some smoked pork with Cowboy Joe's.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

How to Make Grilled Tex-Mex Meat Muffins

Grilled Mini Meatballs with Tex-Mex Filling and Cheese Toppings

I was in the mood for something sinfully delicious this weekend and decided to make some grilled meat muffins. As I thought about how I'd do them, I decided I wanted kind of a taco flare and also cheese (since my youngest son is a huge cheese fan).

I picked up a couple of the toss away mini muffin pans at IGA. I need to keep a look out at Good Will for the mini size. That's a good place to get inexpensive pans to use on the grill. They get smoked up, so I don't want to use my kitchen pans (other than old fashioned cast iron) on the grill, because I have already made quite a mess of one baking dish.

To make the base, I used between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef (ground turkey would also work fine) mixed with 3 tablespoons of taco seasoning. You can use any brand, but I used Lucky A by Lucky's Smoke House. It's a premium mix and excellent.

Next, I rolled the meat into 24 balls about quarter sized and used my thumb to press each in a muffin tin hole as you see here.

Mini Meat Muffins Ready to Fill

After I got the ground beef in the pans, I mixed up the filling. Here is what goes in the filling for the meat muffins.

Ingredients for Tex-Mex Grilled Meat Muffins:

1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons taco sauce (I used medium - just go with the heat level you like.)
8 nacho chips crumbled up (Mine were the Scoops by Tostitos.)

After I got everything in the bowl, I stirred the stuffing mixture so that it was smooth, and then I put the sour cream mixture in the meat muffins which you see behind my bowl.

Here is what my meat muffins looked like as I was filling them with the sour cream mixture.

I topped off the Tex-Mex meat muffins with shredded cheese. I used around 3 ounces which I shredded myself from a bulk block. You can also buy the cheese shreaded. Although this doesn't sound or look like a lot of cheese, on mini muffins, these were actually quite cheesy I must say.

I put the meat muffins on the grill on medium heat (around 350 degrees) with the lid down so that the grill acts basically as an oven but holds in the smoke. At this temperature, it took around a half hour to grill the meatballs. You can check but using a spoon and tilting one to see if the meat is done as you like it. You also can still see some pink above which told me that I needed to grill them a bit longer.

Once the mini meat muffins were done, I used a grill glove and brought the pans in the house. I used a slotted spoon to take them out. Ground beef does have fat, so I did that to get the fat drained out.

These were quite delicious I must say. They had some zip with the taco powder and taco sauce. The chips gave the filling a little more body and texture, although you don't taste taco chip chunks. The inside is smooth in the end but with body.

There were only three of us eating, and we did not have a single meat muffin left. So, I'm sure we'll be grilling these again.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Giveaway Contest - Apron, Timer, and Alexia Bread (your choice) - Ends 3-9-2013

Win Alexia Bread Plus an Apron and Kitchen Timer

Elizabeth contacted me and asked if I'd like to try out Alexia bread and then host a contest if I liked the all natural bread. I was game, and she sent out sweet potato bread which I'd never had. I fell in love with this bread which is yummy enough to be dessert.

Although I grilled my Alexia rolls, they were not specifically designed for grilling. So, if you don't grill, don't click out on me. You can do these delicious rolls in your oven. That's what you'll see on the directions. Just a few minutes and nice hot bread. Got to love that.

Since the rolls were a thumbs up here, I'm rolling with the contest. I did get a bag of rolls to check out, but that's all. The contest is just a bonus for readers.

The Alexia Contest Prize Is:

· One free Alexia apron
· One coupon for a free Alexia product - so you get to pick
· One free Alexia kitchen timer

How Do You Enter?

I keep my contests simple, and I don't track your information or spam you.

Just leave a comment and some way to get in contact if you win. I just get in touch to get your snail mail, so Alexia can send you the prize. Easy as that.

Some people like extra entries on contests giveaways, so if you FaceBook or Twitter this post so others can have a chance at some great rolls, then do that and then post that you did either or both. Do a new post for each entry please, so I make sure to get them all. I'm still low tech and put your names on slips of paper and have a family member pull a name.

The contest ends 3-9-2013 with the winner contacted 3-10 (my last day of break), so be sure to get entered quick!

Free Rolls or Your Choice of Alexia All Natural Foods

With your coupon, you get to pick your Alexia natural food product. I loved the sweet potato rolls. They are sweet, so I'd call them right at dessert. Yum! But, you can pick what you want, since you get a free coupon and decide for yourself.

Follow Up: Jan is the winner of the contest. Congratulations Jan and enjoy your goodies from Alexia!

Yes. You Can Grill Bread. Alexia Sweet Potato Rolls. Yum.

Alexia Sweet Potato Rolls

A lot of people don't know you can do bread on the barbecue grill. As you can see, our Alexia sweet potato rolls turned out great this weekend.

I can't take credit for actually making these rolls. Katherine contacted me and asked if I'd like to try a free sample of these frozen all natural rolls and then host a contest for readers if I liked the rolls. It's spring break, so the timing was great. I said that I'd give them a try and see.

I had to take a look at the rolls to know what I'd do on the grill. You can do a range of breads in various ways. These turned out to be the super simple type of bread for grilling. They had been baked and lightly browned. They'd really just need heating.

You may wonder why you'd put bread on the grill. Well, if you're grilling and have the fuel going, then you save energy and don't heat up the kitchen if you do as much of the meal as possible right on the grill.

You can see here that I did our whole meal on the grill (a Traeger pellet grill in this case).

Forget the Kitchen. We Took it ALL Outside.

I made some garlic Greek potatoes (but added onions this time) along with some Tex-Mex sour cream meatballs with cheese and the Alexia rolls there at the end for the last 10 minutes.

All I had to do was heat the rolls as the other foods were close done. I flipped them once at 5 minutes. You do have to watch especially if you've not done bread before and don't know the temperatures on your unit. The key is to close the lid so the grill is like an oven for the last few minutes.

Rolls on the Grill - Yes - You Bet

Here is a close up. You can see that I just put the bread right on the grates. It was frozen. I think the directions called for a couple of more minutes, but I watched close to pull them when they were hot but not burned.

That's really the only way you can wreck pre-cooked breads on the grill. You have the heat too high and you burn them before they get hot. It does not take much practice to figure out the right temperature and times on your grill whether it be charcoal, gas, or pellet (as here).

There are lots of breads and types and ways to grill bread. This is your very easiest bread grilling. Ready in minutes and with a little smoke hint. Very nice.

As far as the Alexia sweet potato rolls, I was blown away. I'm a bread-aholic. OK. I confess. I am. I'm going to like most any bread, but I just loved these Alexia sweet potato rolls. The texture was great - outside kind of crisp and inside nice and soft. The flavor . . . Well, let's just say I had a roll for dessert. The sweet potato kick made them so yummy that I felt like I'd had a dessert although I buttered them like rolls. That would be the only warning I'd give. This is not a classic bread (but they do sell some). The sweet potato makes them . . . sweet.

I will look for these rolls at Food Lion and IGA. I hope they have them. These were some of the best grilled rolls I've made. I can't take the credit, since these grilled rolls were easy and just heat and eat. But, it's nice to have something yummy like this to impress your family and friends even when you did not have to do much work.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Digest Diet Cookbook - Good Diet for a Griller

The Digest Diet Cookbook

Jennifer emailed to see if I'd like to try out The Digest Diet Cookbook. Ironically I had been thinking that I should lighten up a bit, so the timing was good especially since I'm not the dieting type. My Granny went on every fad diet that ever came out, and I remember seeing meal plans with things like soft boiled eggs and beets. Ugh. I've just always done the "cut back here and there" route.

Having always loved Reader's Digest magazine which was always beside the toilet at Poppaw's house and then a staple in my parent's home, I thought it was worth a shot to check out the book.

When The Digest Diet Cookbook arrived, I sat down and read it. Yes. I actually do sit down and read cookbooks. I suppose you could call me a food nerd.

First I'll say that this diet cookbook is very well written and organized so easy to follow and understand. I do suggest actually reading it (maybe not word for word on recipes until you're ready to make them), but read over the first part where Liz Vaccariello goes over her approach and how the diet comes together to work for most anyone - even barbecue masters.

Shake Things Up and Lose Weight and Inches

The Digest Diet Cookbook builds around (at the start especially) healthy shakes or smoothies (whatever you'd like to call them). They provide that "treat" factor with some sweetness and energy as well as ingredients that help release fat (per the research of the author).

I'm not a real shake type of person, but it is easier and quicker to start the day off with a healthy shake than to make a meal. And, I'm the type to skip breakfast. Yes. I know that's a bad habit. I'm working on it.

The first few days are shake and soup focused which kind of scared me to start with. Where's my meat? The theory though is that this kind of jump starts your body to lose weight and you get some quick results which is encouraging. I suspect it is a real downer to go on a diet and not lose but a pound or two in a month. So, the idea here is to start off successful with some quick results which would incline one to keep on a diet rather than quit after a day or two as I suspect many people are prone to do.

Now don't worry. You aren't drinking shakes the rest of the month or your life, although the author is big on these for starting off the day with adjustments to them across phases as you move toward a healthy and sustainable diet that fits most lifestyles.

A Griller Friendly Diet - Yay!

I was happy to see that grilling was specifically mentioned when talking about healthy cooking styles. You can do lean meats on a grill and have a low fat and calorie meal packed with flavor. I already knew this, but I don't recall anyone putting that in a book about dieting.

As far as the recipes, you can see above that there is a grilled lamb recipe which looks wonderful. Most of the recipes are designed and tested in the kitchen; however, most things that can be made inside can be made outside. You just need a few grilling accessories like a grill dedicated baking pan and a wok - inexpensive grilling items like that.

The way this diet works out (after the first few jump start days) would be that you have mix and match foods for burning fat. It's a broad list and not just some boiled beats like back in Granny's days of dieting. There were plenty of things that I could pick from and then combine as I liked just picking off the lists. Then, there were the recipes to help bump things up beyond just picking a lean meat and vegetable and so on.

The program is set up with three somewhat intense weeks and then you can follow the main guidelines and use the recipes and maintain the weight you dropped. They had several people featured in the book who lost weight and inches including one guy who dropped 26 pounds in 21 days. My barbecue apron is off to him.

My results were not as amazing, but I don't stay on track as well. (Those rib eye steaks and grilled butter tators get to calling my name now and then.) I can't give you an exact number, because I threw out my scales around 15 years ago. I can tell by my clothes when I'm up or down. By following The Digest Diet I was able to get back in a size smaller on my pants that had been sitting for a few months.

I must go thumbs up on The Digest Diet Cookbook and say that it's a good program for those of us who love to grill. I'd love to see Liz Vaccariello come out with another book focused on recipes just for the grill. Maybe some day . . .

This is the second book for The Digest Diet, and they also have a Digest Diet FaceBook page with ideas and support. I'll have to check out the first book, and I have been enjoying the FB page.