Saturday, September 30, 2006

Celebrating the New Picnic Shelter

The church picnic shelter was dedicated at the annual homecoming service. It was extra special, since one of our "kids" who grew up in the church came back to preach. Danny did a great job, and it was really terrific to see a local back and sharing memories of the "good old days."

We, of course, had a huge pot luck dinner. Methodists are big on those. The tables were loaded with delicious dishes - some old favorites and a few new treats. It's always hard to decide what to dip up. It's all good, so it's impossible to go wrong.

This is my sister and her husband and little Hannah. The baby, Abigail, must be under the table or something. She's a real rounder, and I won't confess to who she must take after.

If you're looking for good pot luck dishes, then I put my best recipes up at Garden and Hearth. Check Southern Cooking for some of the delicious dishes that you see on the table. That's my dirty rice in the green pot.

Eagle Scout Shelter Finished and Dedicated

WOW! The shelter went up fast. We're all ready to cook out or have picnics now.

This was an Eagle Scout project that my son started with his grandfather (my dad) who died in a traffic accident over the summer. Locke Steele, a close friend of the family, stepped in to make sure this project was completed. He was there every inch of the way, and he spent a lot of time teaching local young men the basics of building. He was my Little Baseball coach when I was a kid. His contributions to the community could never be measured.

We're now looking at adding picnic tables and perhaps a grill. It will be really nice to have a shelter at the church. I really didn't know how my son was going to get such a big project done when my dad passed. I thank Locke as well as all the men and women in town who pitched in and helped out. I'd also like to thank my brother, Matthew, who drove in from Ohio twice to help and to do the landscaping. He brought some of the teen boys who work for him who were also super helpful.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Best Job in the World - Full Time Tailgater

I caught up with Joe yesterday by phone. He had to park the RV before he could chit-chat. He was just as funny as I expected. Anyone who can sell the idea of working professionally in parking lots eating barbecue has to have a good funny bone.

But, hey, it worked. I've gotta give him credit. Very few people get a job doing exactly what they enjoy most.

If you want to read about Joe Cahn and his life as the Commissioner of Tailgating, then see my article at Garden & Hearth.

Monday, September 18, 2006

HPBA Offers Great Tips for Tailgating

HPBA (Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association) has teamed up with the commissioner of Tailgating Joe Cahn to provde a host of information to make your tailgating experiences more fun.

The organization conducts surveys, and the 2006 tailgate poll ranked the "wonderful grill smells" as the biggest draw for tailgaters.

If you look to the bottom left of the HPBA web page and click, you'll find:

· Tailgate 101 – Rookie, Intermediate and Veteran Set-up must haves
· Tailgate and Grill-Great Tips – Straight from the Commish
· New Tailgate Poll Results – What Americans think and say about tailgating
· Grilling Clean-Up – Clean-Up as easy as 1,2,3
· Delicious Grilling Recipes – Tailgate-approved recipes

What are you waiting for? You know you want to tailgate like a pro.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lexington NC Barbecue Festival - October 21, 2006

If you're anywhere near Lexington, NC or if you can road trip it, then don't miss the Lexington Barbecue Festival. It's been featured as one of the 10 best BBQ festivals in the south.

This one is not a contest. It's a hometown day with lots of food, crafts, and games for the kids. Be sure to look for the sand pig sculptures. Those are always neat.

For insider information, see my article on the festival at Yes You Can Grill. One tip I'll toss out is to arrive early. This festival gets bigger every year, and the crowds are huge starting about lunch time.

The official page is also chock full of information on this great southern fun fest.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Budweiser Joins the Barbecue Sauce Bandwagon

Great barbeque cooks have been using all kinds of ingredients in marinades and sauces for years - including beer.

Now Budweiser has come out with a line of sauces for outdoor cooking. In addition to a traditional sauce and a beechwood smoked version, they also have a basting sauce with a mustard base and a sauce just for hot wings.

These sauces are sold in the online Budshop and will soon be available at grocery stores.

If you can't get your hands on a bottle of the sauces just yet, break out some Budweiser and try out my Beer Boiled Shrimp recipe.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

These Guys Build Fast - We'll be Eating Outdoors Soon

I couldn't believe how fast this project went up. Locke is one heck of a builder and coordinates all the help so well. We had a whole pack of guys out getting the roof on. They wrapped up around lunch time.

We hope to add picnic tables and maybe a grill soon.

The shelter is being dedicated at the end of the month. My dad who died in a truck accident this summer will be honored. He helped get the project started. Thankfully, Locke and a lot of young men in town pitched in and made sure that the shelter was built.

Boy Scout Eagle Project - Picnic Shelter

We love to grill out at our church, but there are days when it rains or when the sun is really intense.

Long ago, we did have a shelter. It was down in the woods and a pretty good hike. Over the years, the shelter fell down. Some of us got older too.

So, my son decided to make a picnic shelter for the church for his Eagle Scout project. Locke (who also happened to be my Little League Coach when I was a kid) is a builder, and he was kind enough to help, since I am not a builder.

Here is the shelter starting to go up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

boneless skinless chicken breasts on the grill

Life is so much more convenient now. I know my Grandma used to have to go out in the back yard and kill a chicken to have chicken for dinner. I suppose I might be a vegetarian if I had to get that close to my food.

One really handy, more-recent offering is the packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. OK. They've been around for a while, but I'm mentally walking back in time with Grandma. But, seriously it's really nice to grab meat at the grocery or out of the freezer ready to cook right up.

I've found that some friends have problems with these chicken pieces on the grill. The boneless breasts usually don't have the skin and fat which does mean they take a little thought. But, once you get the basics down, they are both quick and easy. They are also low in fat and much healthier than the beef that I do adore on the grill.

Tips on Making Delicious Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Top off that barbecue grilled steak with some peanut butter fudge. YUM!

We had grilled steak last night using my favorite barbecue steak recipe. I started making steak this way back in college which I must say is quite a few years back though I won't say how many. Really, I'm just too lazy to do the math. Let's just say that I was at NC State when they won the basketball national championship in 1983 under Valvano. In any case, everyone thought my steak rocked back then, and they still do.

I decided to get lazy and just tossed the charcoal in the grill. After throwing dry grass and paper towels on the charcoals with lots of lighter fluid (ugh), I remembered why I recommend using barbecue chimney starter - an inexpensive and very handy grill accessory. Next time I grill (which will be soon I'm sure), I'll do it right and not dink around for over a half hour getting the fire going.

We hadn't had anything homemade sweet in a while, since it's been hot. My air conditioner does not do the trick when the temps hit the 90s (F). My boys were at the begging stage. Since fudge is a stovetop dish and pretty quick, I decided to make a pan of my Easy Southern Peanut Butter Fudge. That did stay in the house and not outside in the heat, but it sure was a nice treat after our grilled meal. In fact, the whole pan was gone in two days, and I only had two little pieces. My kids go wild for this fudge, and it's always a favorite at pot luck meals. No one would ever guess it's so quick and easy to make.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Barbecue Ice Cream - Now that's just GROSS!

I love to keep up with what is going on in the barbecue world. The Washington Post just posted an article about Barbecue Ice Cream. That, I think, is taking it too far. Ice cream is wonderful. Barbecue is delicious. But, some things just weren't meant to be mixed. I will only guess that this is just a publicity stunt. I just don't see folks lining up to eat BBQ ice cream.

If you do want some great ice cream, then check out my home churned recipe. You can make that in the old fashioned crank ice cream makers or in the new electric which are much less labor intensive. My family has tried many recipes over the years, and this one is the one we keep coming back to. It's a basic vanilla, but you can dress it up with fresh fruits or other additions. I don't think you'll find a better base recipe. It's really yummy!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Heinz - Design Your Own Bottle Label

If you have a barbecue person to buy a gift for or if you want a unique barbecue warming present, then visit Heinz online. You can customize a bottle of ketchup or mustard in the mini or full size and surprise someone special.

This is a new program that kicked off two days ago. Right now, you can get free shipping on your order if you spread the word. Check details on the page about that.

Be sure to read the fine print. They can't put star names or ball teams on bottles or the name of restaurants. I'm sure that's all legal stuff. Also, they're not going to put anything really naughty on the bottle. Hey, it's a family company. There are other places to go get something racy.

I thought this was a cute idea. If you have a big ketchup fan in the family, brighten his or her day with a bottle that says something personal.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I don't know if I would have experimented with Dutch Oven pit cooking if my boys hadn't joined Scouts. The grill and smoker are usually fine for home cooking, but you've got more variety and can do larger quantities with Dutch Oven over an open fire. It's also just plain fun. It didn't take me long to get with the program.

As a the big time cook in our group, I decided to buy my own Dutch Oven. Then, the boys and I put up cinder blocks to create a small pit in our yard. We later expanded that to hold two dutch ovens. It's nice to be able to start a dessert while the main meal is cooking. This whole project was very low tech and nothing fancy. Another Scout family simply used a tractor rim for a pit in the yard. You just need something to contain the fire and centralize the heat.

Since the guys in our group like to fish and dutch oven cook, I experimented with some ideas for doing fresh fish in the DO. The easiest recipe I came up with was to just put the fresh fish in the dutch oven, pour a bottle or two (depending on the amount of fish) of Italain dressing (the spicy Italian type--oil not creamy) over the fish, close the lid, and let it cook.The only thing you've got to watch here is that you need to make sure the fish is cooked through. It should flake and look very white when done.

This dish is a bit messy, but it's outdoors or should be if doing Dutch Oven. It works well for any fresh caught stream fish. The spices give it a mild kick but not enough to turn off the picky eaters. Some of the kids were not used to seeing bones in fish, but if you've been a fresh fish eater, you can quickly show someone how to get the bones out. It's rather a rite of passage for the big outdoor types.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Corn is at peak season here. A local favorite is Silver Queen. It's a sweet white corn. If you can find that type, give it a try. Most any of the yellow or sweet yellow corn in the grocery are fine for eating. You'll find more varieties if you hit a farmer's market.

One of our favorite ways to serve fresh corn (besides boiling it up in a pot) is to toss it on the grill. There are two methods to Grill Corn on the Cob. I cover the basics at Yes You Can Grill where I work on the Barbeque Master space. My tips will have you turning out perfect grilled corn every time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pot Luck - the next best thing to barbecue

My youngest son is at Boy Scout camp this week. Wednesday is always family night. Parents, siblings, and friends always show up with favorite foods. My kid is a healthy eater. He wanted green beans, tomatoes, melon, mashed potatoes and gravy. Other kids wanted fried chicken from home, homemade rolls, brownies and other "comfort" foods. Needless to say, it was a great meal.

After the pot luck, the leaders had a big splash contest. I'm not sure if our troop leader made the biggest splash in the water, but he did make the biggest costume splash. He dressed up as a mermaid as you can see above. Well, perhaps that's a merman costume. The camp counselors are all dressed in the pirate theme as you can see.

It was a fun evening and brought back memories. My brothers went to the same camp years ago, and we always went to family night. Both brothers worked as camp counselors at various times, so that was a lot of Wednesday night visits.

If you're headed to a pot luck or just need side dishes for your barbeque, then I have started a list of Grilled and Chilled recipes at Garden and Hearth.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

And the Sqaush Came In - Grill and Home Recipes

Squash are some hearty plants. And, there are loads of varieties. Any summer squash can be used in a squash recipe, so don't skip over a recipe just because it says zucchini and you have yellow squash or patty pan or another type. As long as they're summer squash (thinner skinned and in season in mid summer), then you're fine.

To grill sqaush, just cut in in long slices about 1/2 inch thick longways. Brush with oil. Add any seasonings you want. Toss the strips on the grill. Turn when they have black marks and cook the other side. Time varies depending on the heat of the grill and whether you like squash kind of crunchy or softer. Play around with it and see what you like.

There are more complex squash recipes for the grill. I'll share some of them later. That should get you started and with different sprinkle seasonings, you can get a variety of tastes.

If you still have loads of squash (and most people who grow it do), then check out my zucchini and squash recipes at Southern Cooking.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Greatest Barbeque Tips in the World by Van Rijk

"The Greatest Barbeque Tips in the World" by Raymond Van Rijk of New Zealand turned out to be a neat little pocket guide. It's a perfect beginner manual on the basics of grilling, and it's a nice reference even for seasoned BBQ cooks.

Do note that the book is not a cookbook. It does have a few recipes in the back, but it is packed with general information and tips just as stated in the title. Once a reader understands how to do all the nitty gritty, then it's quite easy to expand and add different seasonings and sauces and such and make new meals out of basic dishes. Here you learn how to grill various meats, fish, and vegetables.

Some of the chapters here include "Buying a Barbeque," "Fuel and Starters," and "Useful Checklists." There are 14 chapters in all covering about everything you could think to ask about grilling.

I'm pretty rough on books. If a book isn't worth buying, then I'm the first to say. This one makes the grade. Just don't expect it to be a cookbook. You learn how to cook on the grill which can be a bit complicated when starting out. I read the little book from cover to cover last night, and I found everything to be spot on. I even picked up a few new ideas myself, and I've been grilling for over 30 years.

If you need a nice how-to grilling guide that isn't confusing and so full of extras that you can't find what you need or want, then this one is very good. It also has cute cartoons sprinkled throughout. So, you get a little humor as an extra bonus.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Barbecue from "Across the Pond"

I just got a copy of "The Greatest Barbeque Tips in the World" in my mailbox today. Linda sent that over from London. She works with some other women with Passionate Media. They juggle families and kids and scratch that book/writing itch, and my hat is off to them. My fellows are up bigger now, but I sure remember what it was like to have little ones on my hip when writing.

I'm looking forward to digging in on the book before I go to sleep tonight. I love books and especially cooking books.

Unfortunately, a lot of BBQ books out there are pretty lame. "The Barbecue Bible" by Raichlen is quite popular, but I found it to be a jumble. I shifted gears and went with something "down home." Ruby Ann's Trailer Park barbecue book was just silly. I really hated that I put my money out for that one.

"Peace, Love and Barbecue" is a winner, but it's much more about smoking than grilling. If you do want to smoke up some meat, then give that one a look. The info is terrific, and the stories are wonderful. That one gets a big thumbs up.

I'll keep reading que books and let everyone know what I think. I hate to waste money on books that sit on the shelf, and I know others do too. On the other hand, a great book can help tons when you're out in the yard and trying to cook up some good grub.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Do you make the best grilled hamburgers ever?

If you think your grilled hamburger recipe is the max, then visit Sutter where they are having a burger contest with a $50,000 prize for first place.

Sutter is a wine company, so you'll have to sign in as age 21 or over first. Then, click around. You'll see the contest details.

They have a traditional meat category and one for alternative burgers.

Be sure to read the tips and hints. It's easy to get bumped from a contest for little things like not sending the information in the right format.

I do think my grilled hamburgers would be hard to beat. But, they are put together with very basic items that you probably have on hand. Contest winning burgers are usually more complex as far as the ingredients. If you do want a super burger though and don't want to spend loads of time, try out my recipe. They sure fly off the grill here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Do You Want to Be a Food Writer?

I never fancied myself a food writer though I did, over the years, put together a few pieces with recipes included. I also posted a few favorite family dishes at in the Writer's Corner.

Last year, I noticed that Garden & Hearth was looking for some new micro editors. They listed a number of topics. Most were rather general. One was quite specific--Barbecue Master. That one jumped out at me, since we cook outside all the time. I filled out the application, and that's how I got started writing about barbecue and food.

I'm sure a lot of onliners love to cook and eat and toy with the idea of writing about food. It's a fun topic, and it gives you an excuse to eat more. Gotta love that.

A good way to get started is with a blog. I actually did things in reverse order. I started writing about BBQ for Garden & Hearth and then pitched some other micro site ideas. In that list was Southern Cooking, and Kim (the site owner) liked that idea. At about the same time, I was picked up by Suite 101 to cover Southern Cuisine.

Writing articles is a bit more structured. If you're trying to get started in that market, then a good spot to visit is Absolute Write Water Cooler forums. A lot of writers gather there and share ideas, tips, and market leads. I think that's where I found the Garden & Hearth and Suite 101 openings.

If you want to get your feet wet first, then a blog is a good idea. It's less structured. You can write about food and anything else going on in your life. There are no deadlines. It's very relaxed.

Another good thing about blogs is that there are spaces online (like here at where you just grab a template and fill in the blanks. It can seem a little daunting to start with, but it's really easy once you get the hang of it. There is a forum space at Absolute Write Water Cooler where you can lurk or jump in and get help with blogging. Ted (one of the regulars) also has great tips for blogging at Cobwebs of the Mind.

If you're visiting here and thinking, "Hey, I could do this," then give it a whirl. If you get a food space going, then let me know. I always enjoy hearing what others are saying about good eats.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Barbecue Wash Out - Record Lightning Here

My town does not make the news very often. We only have a little over 800 people living here, so it's not like this is a place where the news crews hang out. Our "little hamlet" did get some notice this evening, because two storms converged right over town. The rain is still coming down, and the lightning count for hits here is right near 1000 with hits still coming in. In addition to the lightning, we have hail and high winds.

Of course, we planned to grill this evening. Our plan was to have pork chops. I don't hear many people talk about doing pork chops on the grill, but they really are good. I have directions for doing pork chops at my micro Garden and Hearth site. If you've never tried pork chops, give them a whirl.

Of course we didn't put pork chops on the grill in this storm. We will grill in the snow but not in a lightning storm. None of us have a death wish. Cold is one thing. Electricity is another.

It's very southern to always have a quick and easy back up plan. When it comes to pork chops, there are many ways to cook them up. A southern favorite is to brown them lightly in a bit of oil. Add a can of Campbell's soup (mushroom is especially good) and about half a can of water. Put the lid on the frying pan. Let the pork chops simmer for a half hour on low or so. If the soup gravy is looking too thick, add a little water. If it's too thin, cook a little longer. You can take the lid off and turn up the heat if you need to thicken.

For other southern dishes, see my Southern Cooking space at G&H of my Southern Cuisine space at Suite 101.

My most recent southern recipe is Fried Green Tomatoes. I think a lot of people think that's just a name of a movie, but folks in the south really do pick tomatoes early and fry them up green. I won't swear you'll like them. They are kind of tart. I've found that either people love them or hate them. If you've never tried them, check them out and see what you think.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Barbecue Ribs on the Grill or Smoker

It's hard to beat ribs on the grill. They do take longer to cook, but they're worth the extra time.

These are baby back pork ribs. We also do beef ribs. Those take a little longer to smoke, since they are bigger.

The key to tasty fall-off-the-bone ribs is to cook slow. I wrote up specific directions at Garden and Hearth, since I know a lot of people have trouble getting ribs right.

Another tip is to use a rib rack. You'll see two ribs cooking here, but our rack actually holds four ribs at one time. Two ribs feed a family of four. When we have company we toss on extra ribs. Sometimes we cook extra and freeze. Smoked ribs are just as good (if not better) reheated.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Guys - Spell it Out - Step by Step

Guys take things very literally. If you say, "Get the grill," that's what they do. If you want it cleaned and want the charcoal in there, you better make sure and say just that.

Yesterday I washed the sheets on my son's bed. I gave them to him and told him to put them on his bed. Today I found the sheets. Yes. On the bed. In one big heap right in the middle.

Sigh. I added the directions to put the sheets actually on the mattress. My son cheerfully did this. Now I would think this would go without saying. If someone told me to put the sheets on the bed, I would make up the bed. But, guys will take "put it on the bed" to mean just that. Walk in and toss the sheets on top of the bed in a big old lump.

I live with all guys. Well, the bird turned out to be female. She lays eggs now and then though I was told she was a little male parakeet. And, I have mostly learned to be very clear about what I mean. I have also learned not to ask if the dress looks bad on me. If I don't really want to know the truth, then I ask the bird.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tribute to my Dad who taught me to grill and other life lessons

You know it’s going to be bad news when your Mom calls and says, “Come over. Right now,” and it’s late. When you walk in your childhood home and see State Troopers at the kitchen table, that’s a sure sign that it’s not going to be good.

Still, you hope that maybe it’s only going to be somewhat bad.

On Friday night, June 9, it was as bad as it gets. My father Bob Allison topped a hill near the state line. Traffic was at a standstill. He couldn’t stop. He rear-ended a transfer truck. Dad was airlifted to Baptist hospital. It was too late. He was gone.

I’m the oldest of the siblings, and I live closest to my parents. I just went into autopilot and began making the calls and doing the things that must be done when someone in the family passes.

Telling my boys was the hardest. Caleb and Eli adored their Granddad. He taught them to fish and worked with them on Scout projects. He was going to go to Dan Nicholas Park this weekend to help with Eli’s Eagle project giving animal tours, and he had been helping Caleb get plans together to build a picnic shelter at Cleveland Methodist Church. The guys were planning to go fishing for a couple of days right after Father’s Day. They were really looking forward to that trip.

When I looked at my sister, Katrena’s girls, I kept thinking, “They will not grow up with the joy of having Granddad around.” Dad adored his granddaughters. I hope they will remember, but they are only 4 yrs (Hannah) and 2 yrs (Abigail).

My two brothers (Robert and Matthew), Katrena, and I have our memories, but it’s not the same. I’m okay if I stay busy and don’t stop to think about things like, “My Dad will never knock on the door and give us hot bread that he loved to make in the bread machine. He’ll never call to see if we’d like to come over for grilled steak (his specialty). He’ll never drop by to see if I’ll take a picture of his biggest fish yet.”

Then, there’s Mom. She’s never lived alone. She was 17 years old when she married my Dad in 1960. I can only imagine how empty that big house will seem in the days to come. You don’t expect your lifelong spouse who is still chopping wood, mowing the brush at the land in the mountains, and walking to the Post Office daily to be gone in a second.

Dad was very active in the community too. He played the organ at the church, helped with projects, did taxes for seniors at Rufty Holmes. He was always busy giving a hand here and there. Life does go on, but there will be some real gaps left with my Dad not around. The phone would ring often with someone needing help. Dad always went. I hope others will step up, because a lot of people need a helping hand.

Though Dad was mostly a worker, he did enjoy his fishing. He went three times a week or so. He’d look out and say, “Looks like a good day for fishing.” It could look like a gully washer was headed in, but any day was really a good day for fishing as far as he was concerned.

I’m glad the wreck was on the way back from fishing and that Dad got his last casts in before moving on to heaven. I hope God likes fried trout and hush puppies. I guess He must, or He wouldn’t have called my Dad home so soon.

*If you've got a beef with a family member, make peace. Tomorrow may be too late. The death of my dad has been really hard, but I'm so thankful that he left this earth knowing that he was loved. He popped in a day or two before and gave us some strawberries. He knew the door was always open and that he was always welcome.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pineapple on the Grill

Most fruits are too fragile for grilling. Pineapple is an exception and quite a treat when hit with a little fire.

For some reason, people seem to be afraid of fresh pineapple. OK. Yes. A pineapple does look like some sort of torture device with those spines. But, they are much sweeter than indicated by the cover.

As you can see in the picture, I found the perfect "opener" for pineapples. I hit them with an electric knife. And, you thought those were just for turkeys. Nope. Work just great on pineapples too. You can always use a knife too. It's not a big deal.

Once you have the pineapple cut in chunks as above, brush melted butter with some sugar on the pineapple. I usually melt the butter and sugar on the stove, but it can go to the side on the grill. Seasoning taste good on the pineapple too. You can with things like cinnamon or even hot spicy seasonings.

If you're a shortcut kind of person (love you guys too), then you can buy canned pineapple. Rings can be grilled just like the fresh slices, and they are really yummy on grilled hamburgers. Actually, it's not cheating. I go with canned rings if I'm doing Hawaiian burgers, so don't feel a bit bad about buying a can and jazzing up my burgers.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

We're wet. We're Cold. And, Mom is Dancing in the Mud.

Guys. Gotta love 'em. But when they're done, they're done. After almost two hours in the rain, they were ready to pack it in and go. Geez. And, I was just getting started.

The next Jimmy Buffett concert we go to, I'll bet will be indoors. My fellows do not dance in the mud and do not crawl under tarps with strangers. I had to peek out now and then--just to check. And, above you see my body guards. They do not look too friendly huh? And, my oldest (and very conservative) son gave me the sign.

OK. I so missed "Fins." I had to "hands to the left" and "hands to the right" in the parking lot on the way out. Then I took the fan Buffett shirt and jerked off my wet one and rode home nice and toasty. Hey, the guys turned the dry shirt down. There are times to be nice and times to grab the shirt and smile nicely (especially when wearing a nice sports bra). I waited. Then, I jumped right on the dry Buffett t-shirt. I am not a dummy.

That's our wild weekend. Next one will surely be our typical. We'll grill and be very model citizens. If it rains, we'll go inside.

I knew we should have paid more for the covered seats!

Woudn't you know it. The Buffett concert kicked off right at 8 pm as scheduled (good job there), and the rain started on cue and song one at 8:05. Great weather all day. Perfect for tailgating. The show starts. Down comes the rain.

I just know Jimmy Buffett is sure to check in on my blog. Though he can't control the weather, I would suggest hitting some of the mega hits off the top when you've got a rowdy field of people getting wet clear through to the underwear. The first few songs were the typical "plugging the new CD" type, and that's all well and good unless you're dry and your fans are getting drenched.

Oh well, most Buffett fans are easy. A very few cut out early. Most huddled up and shared tarps or just rolled around in the mud. Certainly, it will be a show remembered by all who stuck it out.

To his credit, Jimmy did skip the typical mid-concert break. Played straight through. And, I know he didn't have to. Gotta give him credit for that. The show rocked on from start to finish and no rest time.

This was an evening more suited to my Southern Cooking than my Barbecue Master page. By the time we got home, we weren't looking to eat. It was right to bed. Monday comes early when you hit a Buffett concert on Sunday night. And that reminds me, Come Monday is another great Buffett song that most folks like.

OH YEAH! It's almost time for the show to start. This is our first time outdoors. It's like one big beach party--but no ocean. You can't have it all I guess.

If you're not familiar with Jimmy Buffett (gasp), then songs you've probably heard are Margarittaville, Son of a Son of a Sailer, and maybe Cheeseburger and Paradise. Best bet on a CD would be his best of, Songs You Know by Heart or Fruitcakes. It's wonderful background music for outdoor parties. Just be sure to toss some meat on the grill. I can get you started or give you some new ideas at Garden and Hearth where I run a BBQ micro-site.

My latest recipe up is for Pineapple Burgers on the Grill. I know. I know. Some of you are saying, "Yuck." It does sound odd, but the flavors blend perfectly. I think even Buffett would give these a thumbs up.

Heads Up - Beach Balls and Buffett

The hill packed out tight before the show. This was about an hour prior, and there were very few grassy spaces left. By the time the concert started, you really couldn't stir the crowd with a stick.

The beach balls were flying as typical at a Jimmy Buffett concert. If you bring a ball, don't expect to return home with it. They travel all over the field. Where they end up? No one knows.

It's also a good idea to call ahead about chairs and such. In Charlotte, you can't use your own unless they are the short beach seat type. If you have ones that sit higher, they check those and give you vouchers for the rentals.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Give me a hug!

Someone is having a blast before the Jimmy Buffett concert. He loaded up on Hawaiian leis (quite popular at Buffett shows) and was trading extras for hugs.

Yes. I got a lei.

This looks like a guy who would love my grilled pineapple. That's my latest barbecue recipe at Garden & Hearth. If you've never tried pineapple roasted over a fire, then you've got to try it out.

Frolicking Before the Buffett Concert

You never know who or what you're going to run across when you tailgate at a Buffett concert.

We were fortunate to be parked near a drummer who was banging out some of the classic Buffett tunes on his drums.

The "Party Patrol" stopped by. The girls were handing out garbage bags. We brought our own, but we chatted for a while anyway. That looks like a pretty good summer job there. But, I'll bet the clean up party patrol wasn't as much fun.

The folks parked right next to us were quite interesting. One of the fellows is a judge up in Winston Salem. He gave me a parrot sticker and a pin. His buddy runs a BBQ joint. So, we got his contact information. Sounds like a barbecue road trip coming up in the near future.

Buffett - Ultimate Tailgate Experience

We went to the Jimmy Buffett concert last night. Now, that is one heck of an outdoor party. Heck. You could just go for the tailgating and have a great time.

We made our Ultimate Burgers. If you ever try hand patting your ground beef with our secret marinade sauce (not so secret--if you click the Ultimate Burger link), then you'll know what you've been missing. Those little dried up puck burgers from the store will never taste the same again. Trust me. It's not hard to make your own burgers, and you'll really taste the difference.

It did seem fitting to go with burgers, since one of our favorite Buffett songs is "Cheeseburger and Paradise." OK. Everyone sing along. "I like mine with lettuce and tomato. Hines 57 and french fried potatoes. A big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer . . ."

French fries weren't really an option, so we made grilled hashed browns. Eli (that's the youngest) cleaned out the pan. Hash browns on the barbecue are one of his all-time favorites. Caleb is more of a meat guy. He put a hurting on the burgers as you can see.

We arrived three hours before the concert and were some of the late arrivals. Those Buffett fans make a day of it. If you've never been, then it's a real experience. Get those tickets early though. They go fast.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fire up the Grill for Memorial Day

I heard on the radio this morning that 78% of Americans grill on Memorial Day. Keith Todd on 105.7 out of Statesville, NC shared that little tidbit. He also said that steak was the top pick for grilling followed by hamburgers.

If you're firing up the grill today, then you ought to check out my Grill Web Site. I've been working my space for close a year now and have a good collection of recipes, tips, and product information.

It may be a little late to pick up a chimney starter, but that's my top pick of the grilling accessories for the year (if your're using charocal). You would not believe what a difference it makes in getting charcoal or wood chips started. I'd considered getting one for quite a while. After I did, I kicked myself for waiting so long.

Now, I need to decide what we want to toss on the grill. Decisions. Decisions.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Where is your SPECIAL barbecue spot?

I know most folks hit the porch, deck or back yard when it comes to outdoor cooking. No shame there. You work with your environment.

But, if you have a some mileage on you, then you probably remember some of the more rustic outdoor fun. Maybe it was some fire cooking with Scouts or maybe with family off the beaten tracks. There was a time when "leave no trace" was not a thought or concern. You just struck the match and stuck the meat on a stick. It was all good in the best sense of it.

I revisited one of my favorite spots for that sort of old time fun this week. After a hard day of clearing brush, it was just natural to burn off the excess and make it a party. Hot dogs were rather the meat of choice, since it's hard to keep most other meats on a stick (or coat hanger--the metal type).

Actually, I made sandwiches and carried in this time. But, I remembered all those nights after working hard when the reward was meat on a stick and going to bed drop dead tired and full.

It's mostly a different world now. My town still asks that we burn off brush, but I expect that to change in the near future. Coat hangers are mostly plastic now. That sure won't work for a brush barbeque. And, trees are not so plentiful these days, so a quick green stick is harder and harder to find.

All that doesn't change the memories. I can always go back to the family farm even with sandwiches and drift off in time to when work and food were connected and when it wasn't a sin to stick a weiner over a fire on your own land and skip the kitchen altogether.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Grilled Cheese Potatoes - NO - I don't think so.

Don't you just hate when you find a recipe that sounds heavenly; then, you make it up, and it's just a mess.

Sure. There are cooking errors to factor in. But, there are times you just KNOW the person never made the dish and just pumped out some junk to get readers. There is just no way the dish could work. The idea sounds good, but it's just not going to work out no matter how good you are at cooking.

Tonight, I decided to try some jazzier tin foil potato packs on the grill. I found a recipe online that had cheese and bacon. Yum. That sounded like a good side dish. We have some great potato recipes including my traditional potato tin foil packs and even potato slices right on the grill, but I wanted something new, different and extra special.

What a mess! You can see in my photo exactly what I'm talking about.

When I got to thinking about it, I should have known better than to put cheese in foil packs. Foil packs are basically a baking method. I'd know better than to throw potatoes in a baking dish with a little cheese and butter. There's just not enough liquid there.

What happened here was that the cheese (which is soft) melted and then burned to the tin foil as the potatoes were cooking. It takes a good while to cook potatoes. So, even with butter in there, the cheese just cooks way too fast to be in there with a root vegetable.

We were able to salvage some of the potato side dish. It was not easy. It was not pretty. And, it didn't even taste that good. The cheese that did manage to hide between potato slices was kind of rubbery. Ugh.

I guess the moral of the story is to get your recipes from someone who knows what they're talking about. Anyone can write up or post a recipe of random items that sound good. That doesn't mean that the recipe will work out.

All my recipes at G&H Barbeque Master are right from my grill with photos in many cases. You better bet you won't see cheese potato tin foil packs on my space. I don't set my readers up for failure before they even get started.

Free Recipe Magazine - Summer Outdoor Issue Out

My free summer edition Kraft Food and Family magazine arrived, and I was thrilled to see that the focus is on outdoor cooking. "Kick Back and Relax--50+ Recipes for Grilling and Chilling" is stretched right across the cover.

This issue has loads of ideas for the grill including some of my favorites like steak and corn on the cob. There are also some delicious looking side dishes. I've got my eye on the Light Lime Chiffon Pie. That looks great.

I found out about the free Kraft magzine from my friend Robin in her Fresh Cooking from the Garden blog. Be sure to check her out. She always has something good to share. I enjoy fixing her dishes to go along with my barbecue.

I thought the Kraft mag would be a little booklet, but it's a full scale magazine. It comes out quarterly. Just go to Kraft and look under "Daily Dish." You can also find loads of recipes right there on the site and also can sign up for email if you like electronic info better than mail info.

There are no strings with this wonderful freebie. I'm on my second quarterly issue. Kraft does email to let me know it's on the way, but they don't spam my box. I'm mightily impressed. I think you will be too.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mobile Concessions - Barbecue on the Road

I always love to talk to barbecue chefs, and it was great fun hooking up with Dennis Correll at the town festival. He was loading ribs, burgers, and pork chops on a custom industrial cooker out of South Carolina. Now, that's a grill I can tell you. Would have made me drool even if it hadn't been covered with meat.

The Corrells don't barbeque full-time, but they do hit the festival circuit from time to time and also are glad to cater for parties. The young lady handling the french fries said they had a party for 200 coming up soon. Wish I had an invitation to that.

Mobile Conessions is based out of Salisbury, NC. The owner is George Correll. If you live anywhere near the area and need to feed a big crowd, give him a call at 704-636-5430.

I had the ribs. They are huge slabs and Dennis gets them done to perfection--tender and smoky. They sauce them up with a tomato based mix that is mild. Some of the die-hard BBQ folks spice ribs up big times, but when you're looking at feeding a group with a range of taste buds, these will be perfect. Just hand the "hot" lovers a bottle of tobasco sauce.

I'd also note the slaw. It was a nice southern cabbage mix with tomato chunks. I'm not a super big fan of cole slaw, but this was very tasty.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Support the Troops One Box at a Time - Small Town Style

While I was at the town festival enjoying the funnel cakes and later the barbecue, I ran across Malinda. Well, I saw Curly sitting there at the table, so I had to drop by. Curly is one of my favorite women folks around these parts.

The women were taking donations for "Operation Troop Support." This is a true grassroots effort. They don't even have a sponsor--just the good folks of the community. That's plenty though. They've sent out over 1500 pounds of gift boxes to our troops.

Lots of people in the community help out on collecting supplies to send. Others, like today, kick in a few bucks here and there to help with the mailing costs (which we all know have gone up again). I, of course, hit the jar with a little to help out. If every person at the festival today put in the change from their pockets, well, you know, that would cover a lot of boxes to our men and women serving overseas.

Malinda and Curly were also gathering names and addresses for the care packages. My boys' uncle is on his third tour over to Iraq, so I put his name down and will email his address. I had to come home to get my hands on that.

If you have a loved one over in Iraq or know a military member needing support, then email Malinda at As long as she has things to send (and she'll find stuff if she doesn't), then you can be sure that packages will go out. Let her know your special person's name and address. And, give her a big thanks for doing this. A lot of people talk about helping out. She steps up and really does something.

I know that many people do not support the War. That's fine. But, the young men and women over there are doing their jobs. I think most people do recognize that. If you want to help out too, then also let Malinda know. I am sure she will find a way for you to pitch in.

I really hate that I can't cook up a bunch of ribs or beer butt chickens and pack them out. I've seen those rations in the brown sealed bags. Ugh. No slam on the people who come up with these field meals, but even they, I am sure, would say it's not home cooking. I hope that my boys' uncle comes home safe and sound. I'll cook up a feast, because that's the least I can do. And, I'll keep supporting the hometown boxes and the time, work, and effort that goes into coordinating this big project straight from the heart.

Small Town Festivals, Barbecue, and Funnel Cakes

We had our local town festival today. In a town of 800 people, it's really more like a family reunion. Of course, some folks drop in from town (the county seat) and around, so the population probably triples here on festival day.

One of the big draws today was the Funnel Cake booth. It's hard to beat a funnel cake after a good plate of barbecue. But, these were extra special funnel cakes. Instead of the usual fried dough with powdered sugar (yum), you could top these off with all kinds of fruit and with cinnamon.

I must confess that we hit the funnel cakes BEFORE the barbeque. I'm as bad as the kids. Life is short, and dessert is a necessity and not a luxury.

Bernadine was manning the fryer, and we got to chat a bit. She told me that they had driven down from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Someone gave them "back road" directions, so they ended up out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, this town is the middle of nowhere too. But, they were in the wrong nowhere. In any case, someone helped, and they managed to make it over.

Shawn is the owner, and he's in the background in the photo. Shy guy he is. That's OK. He has a great product and a friendly front gal. If he wants to duck and run when the camera comes out, then that's fine. My boys do the same.

If you're looking for traveling food vendors, then check out The World's Best Funnel Cake. Yep. They really have a web site. That's rather the exception at small town festivals. I'm glad they came out and gave us a look and a taste of the funnel cakes. Hopefully, they'll be back next year.

Food Lion Grill Guy and Summer Cookout Giveaway

Today, I saw the Grill Guy out in front of Food Lion. He was handing out free samples of rib eye steak hot off the grill. So, naturally I had to stop and gab (and try out the steak).

The Grill Guy’s name is Rick Dobrowski, and he is traveling around all summer in a big truck and setting up grill stops to promote Food Lion’s Butcher’s Brand meat. I started to ask him if he needed a sidekick, because that sounds like a heavenly way to spend the summer. I never see jobs that say: NEEDED – person to grill and travel.

While I was at the grocery, I picked up the information on the Summer Cookout Giveaway. If you shop at Food Lion 4 of 7 weeks and spend $45 or more on each of the visits, then you get a coupon for $15 for your 4th of July cookout (good on any food items). That starts this week (May 17) and runs through July 4. Weeks run from Wednesday to Wednesday just as the sales run at the store.

Food Lion is a southern chain in eleven states and is based out of my hometown. They are the food store that helped drive down grocery store prices years ago by buying and selling in bulk. They still come in with great prices and excellent sales especially if you sign up for the store MVP card. You’ll need the MVP card to take advantage of the summer special I mentioned.

Hopefully you’ll run across the Grill Guy and stop and chat. He’s got some great tips on outdoor cooking. If you don’t see him, then just visit Barbeque Master at Garden and Hearth where I have loads of information on grilling, smoking, and other outdoor cooking.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Barbecue and Politics Don't Mix Well in North Carolina

Well, shut my mouth. The barbecue folks in North Carolina are stirred up. Seems some state legistator decided to slide through a bill to make Lexington, NC the official BBQ city of the state. The beach crowd didn't take too kindly to this. In fact, the Washington Post found the little in-state feud quite interesting and headed south to get the scoop.

If you're not from around these parts, then you probably wonder about all the fuss. Is barbecue really that big a deal? Yep. Sure is. Just stop at any Q joint in the state and ask who makes the best slow cooked pig. You will get an ear full (and a mouth full of "the best barbeque" to back it up).

It basically boils (or fires up) to ketchup vs. vinegar. Fans fall on one side or the other. As Dennis Rogers says in the Post article, "People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of most anything." He represents the eastern portion of NC.

Lexington is in the piedmont (not the west--that's the mountains). Don't go look that up. Piedmont just means the flat land between the mountains and the beach. The sauce in the piedmont is vinegar based with just a tad of tomato. That "tad" is enough though for the coastal dwellers to draw a line in the sand. Ask anyone from the piedmont if the barbecue is tomato based and they'll laugh and "set" you straight.

It's those people out in Kansas that lather meat up with ketchup--not the good people of central North Carolina. Just try slapping the bottom of the sauce bottle in the piedmont like you would a ketchup bottle, and you'll see. Your chopped pork sandwich will be floating like a boat. Of course, the sauce is the best part. So, no big deal.

The beach BBQ folks know that the piedmont folks don't use ketchup, but it makes for a good insult (sorry about that Kansas que cooks). Saying a sauce is ketchup base is about as bad as insulting someone's momma in this state. But, that's the best they can come up with out in the sandhills, since the slight color variation is the main obvious difference in the two cooking styles.

As for the taste, I'm not even going to go there. Don't talk politics, religion, or barbecue in North Carolina unless you have all day and nerves of steel.

Nice weather we're having, by the way. Good day for a "fill in the blank."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Something fishy to think about.

Man (or woman) can't live by bread alone, and I'd say the same thing about meat--even grilled meat. Love it. But, anything gets old if it's not spaced out some. It's hard to beat a good steak, but I'd say that it would not be special if it was on the menu every night.

We'd been hitting the grill pretty hard lately, so I pulled out a can of Phillips Crab Meat. Now, that is even better than sliced bread. Why it was a problem to cut bread in the first place, I'm not sure. But you know how the saying goes. "Best thing since sliced bread."

Actually my Carolina Crab Cakes do require two slices of sliced bread, so I better not tick off the sliced bread folks. I'm glad I don't have to bake a loaf and then cut it up to make my crab cakes. Well, really they are not MY crab cakes. They're my Granny's. She has passed on, but she taught me how to make these before she went on to a better place.

Granny first gave me her recipe verbally with the old pinch and splash of this directions. Mine did not turn out near so tasty. So, I offered to help make them the next time and watched. My Granny's idea of a splash would be more like tablespoon. I played around with it and finally managed to figure out pretty close measurements. My Carolina Crab Cakes will never taste as good as Granny's, but nothing does when you have to do the cooking--if you know what I mean.

For you gas grill folks out there, use that side burner and make crab cakes to go along with grilled fish or steamed oysters on the grill. Have a REAL seafood fest. Charcoal can be trickier but can be done. You need to use a pan though and something like cast iron that will take the heat.

I'm more likely to do my Carolina Crab Cakes in the house. After all, the weather is not always good, and there are days when you're out of charcoal.

If you want a great potato salad to go with the crab cakes, then I shook down one of the church ladies for the Best Potato Salad Ever. I've never even been a big fan of potato salad, but I could eat a gallon of this stuff. Really super. If you want something a little easier, then my Super Easy Pasta Salad is just the ticket. It's impressive and folks will think you worked hard, but nope. Just throw a few things in the bowl and chill, and you have a wonderful side dish to go with seafood, grilled food or special holiday meals.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Beyond Barbecue - You need some sides dishes of course.

If I haven't put a few pounds on your frame with my Barbecue recipes, then buy some fat pants and check out my newest space at Garden and Hearth--Southern Cooking.

I have a few great side dishes like Best Ever Potato Salad in with my outdoor recipes. I was thrilled when I talked one of the local ladies out of that one. Some of the great southern cooks won't share their secrets. I'm not even big on potato salad, but that one totally rocked. In any case, it made sense to branch out with side dishes and desserts. After all, what's a cookout without the extras. Now, I can share all the family cooking secrets.

Of course, I'm really cooking like crazy now. This makes my boys very happy.

Strawberries are just coming in around here. And, they're even good for you. I love foods that both taste like heaven and don't clog my arteries--and those are rare I must add.

For a little sample, here's the strawberry pie we had this evening. It's so easy to make that even the kids can nail it, and it tastes great too. If you're close a refrigerator, then this one is perfect with a grilled out meal.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

It's a Beer Butt Chicken day here!

Today we're making Beer Butt Chicken. My recipe is at Yes You Can Grill. That version is for the grill. It's quicker than smoking which is what we're doing today. If you decided to smoke your bird, then expect to spend between 4 and 5 hours cooking up the chicken. That sounds like a lot of time, but you just need to check the chicken every hour or two, so it's not as labor intensive at it sounds.

If you don't drink beer, you can use soda. It works out better to use regular rather than diet (for some reason). My pick is Pepsi, but yellow soft drinks work out well too.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

For those rainy days when it's not fit to barbecue!

Not to worry. I'm not packing away my grill. But I have branched out and started writing about good old indoor cooking.

My newest site is Southern Cuisine at Suite 101. Suite 101 has been around 10 years now, and they are getting ready to launch with a whole new look. That should be some time this month or next (April-May 2006). I have no clue what they're doing with the space, so I guess we will all be surprised.

I have a couple of pieces up already including Fried Dandelion Blossoms and Electric Skillet Meat Loaf. If you stop by, be sure to check out my poll. I'll use feedback to help select upcoming recipes to share.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pork Chops and Texas Toast on the Grill

Pork Chops Grilling - Will Add BBQ Sauce Near the End

The dad person wasn't the keen on the idea of slathering BBQ sauce on the pork chops. He's rather a pork purist as he grew up on a hog farm in Kansas. Hey, I'm easy. If someone else wants to grill, then whatever they want to try out is fine by me. I read some stats that suggested that more males grill, but the females decide on the menu and how the stuff is cooked. Come on girls. Let the guys play a bit. If it gets you out of the kitchen, then it's no skin off your nose. And, the fellows come up with some good stuff if you give them free rein.

Anyway, those were some massive chops. I know he used lemon pepper--a real staple for grillers. Other than that, I don't know and didn't ask. I'm not ruining a good thing. I'm glad the guys are doing some of the outdoor cooking. Gives me more time for writing and blogging. Plus, they're just darn fine. So the lesson of the day is: Don't micro-manage.

We had some Omaha Steak potatoes with the pork. I think they were called au gratin potatoes, but they tasted more like potato pancakes but a bit stiffer--in a ball shape. I did those in the oven while the guys manned the grill. My youngest son loves those, and we're definately buying some more.

To round out the meal, we had Texas Toast. Those come in the freezor section. You just toss them on the grill about the time the meat is done. Yum. They are tasty and especially with the char marks and the smoke flavor. It only takes a few minutes to heat up frozen Texas Toast. Check out the frozen section of the grocery and add some easy bread to your outdoor meal.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Great weekend for grilling - Burgers and beer

After a cold snap here in North Carolina, we've got a great weekend going. Naturally, I rummaged around in the freezor and pulled out some meat for grilling.

My oldest son wanted hamburgers, so that's what we cooked up last night. Generally I hand pat my burgers using the recipe I posted at Yes You Can Grill. Man, those are some killer burgers. I'm the official burger maker for our family gatherings. Some of the family men will buy the meat if I'll prepare it. I even had the same deal going in college. When the fellows wanted a good home cooked meal, they'd buy up the beans, and I'd cook.

This time, though, we had some burgers from Omaha Steak. They offer some good deals from time to time, so I've ordered from them several times. I'd give thumbs up on the meat and the service. The only note I'd make is that the portion sizes seem a tad small. Then again, we're from the south where food is always served super sized.

Tonight we're looking at making pork chops. My favorite way to do those on the grill is with barbecue sauce (put that on the last 5 minutes or so). That's another recipe I need to post up. Pork is a little trickier on the grill than beef, but it's delicious when you get it right.

We'll probably round out the weekend with steak. If you want to grill the perfect steak, then you've got to plan a bit ahead. The marination makes a huge difference. And, it's fine to use bottled Italian dressing.

In other news, we're getting tickets to see Jimmy Buffett. Yippee! If you've never been to a Buffett concert, then you're missing out. It's like one big family reunion--inluding all the very odd relatives. We always tailgate (as do most Parrot Heads). Hum, now to decide on what to cook when we hit the concert.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Peace, Love & Barbecue came in. I am doing the happy dance.

I had been waiting for "The Barbecue Bible" by Steven Raichlen to come in the mail.

It came.

Oh yes. I am a happy camper. Well, I don't actually like to camp. I always thought that was a form of torture designed by my parents to ruin my teenhood. I was the oldest, so we did not hit that circuit until I was over the age of "getting it" I think. The main things I remember about camping were that all the bugs ate me up, it rained and my baby sister put her feet on the tent causing leaks, and the camp stew gave me the runs. Oh well. I now have Scouts and must do this camping thing from time to time but still think it is not what it's cracked up to be--that sleeping under the stars. I like a bed, a pillow, and a real toilet. I especially like the toilet. Women were not designed to go behind trees.

Anyway, my new book looks interesting. It will take me a while to soak it up. It says "over 500 recipes" on the front, and it has 556 pages. Yep. That is looking like a bible or a doorstop. I may still be looking it over when the maker comes back for us all. It does appear to have everything I might even think about doing outside (that is legal) and includes all the ways every sort of person might barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ. I am going to be most busy.

My current favorite barbecue book is Peace, Love and Barbecue. I do need to warn you that you're looking at bbq as in smoking if you go with this book. So, if you're using a grill, then you will be in for a shock if you buy Peace and Love. It does tickle my fancy, because it has all kinds of cool stories, and I'm a sucker for good stories. That is my mountain heritage coming to the surface. I wouldn't even care if I ever smoked meat at all. I'd read the book. It's that neat. But, it's not a cookbook for grillers if you lean that way. It does look like Barbecue Bible would work for those grilling but also for most other outdoor cooking types. I'll have to get back with you all on that. But, it looks like a good bet (unless you like pictures). This is not a photo cooking book. You need some experience and/or imagination.

One of my editors sent me an email today. She said that my Beer Butt Chicken article was getting some notice. Seems some discussion group was linking that one up and talking about trying out the recipe. It appeared to be a British group as they were talking about shoving the beer can up the bum, and I don't think many folks on this side of the pond talk about bums. I could be wrong on that, but I just don't hear that around the States. Anyway, some of the women thought you had to go out and buy special equipment. NOPE. A can of beer, a chicken, and a grill (with a lid). This is not rocket science. But, it's sure good eating. It's hard to beat beer butt chicken.

I am thinking I should check again on that message board and tell them that they don't need to cut the can. Someone said something about cutting the beer can in half. Unless your chickens are really scrawny (like bitties), I sure don't see doing that. You drink the extra beer. Then you try cutting a can. You are going to end up at the ER. This sounds like a safety problem. Those English folks. They are making this too hard. They don't need to do a thing to the can. Just shove it in.

Now I will probably go down in history as the Beer Butt Chicken lady. I can just see my tombstone--Here lies Cyndi . . . she wrote lots of articles . . . but she is best known for telling the world that she sticks a can of beer where the sun don't shine up a chicken. The family will all be most proud I am sure (not). And, most of the rest of them don't even buy beer. Of course, most of the relatives don't ride a Harley either. But, that's another story for another day.

I must get myself to bed. The only reason to stay up way past dark is to watch a smoker or for a really fun party. Neither is happening here this evening. So, I will grab my Barbeque Bible, put on my flannels, and call it an evening.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can you be a barbeque master and skinny too?

We had a church luncheon today--soup and salad with mega desserts. If I can't be at a barbecue, then a southern pot luck is the next best thing.

I went over to say "hi" to one of the dear church ladies. The first thing she says is, "Have you put on a lot of weight lately?" Hum. Is she searching for a conversation topic or spoiling for a fight? I kind of mumble, "Yeah probably." Really, what can you say in such a situation? This should end the topic I'd think, but she continues with more commentary. "Yeah. I looked over and thought, 'She sure has gained some weight,' then you stood up, and I thought, 'Not really.' I think your face is just puffy." This, of course, made me feel ever so much better.

In the south, folks are typically polite to a fault EXCEPT when it comes to weight. I have, in fact, added some pounds in the last 4 or 5 years, and it's rare to go out without someone making this keen observation. These are people who would probably never dream of telling you that you had broccoli stuck between your teeth or toilet paper caught on the bottom of your shoe. But, put on some weight and they sure like to talk about that and not behind your back.

It's not like I'm at risk of breaking the scales which I refuse to have in the house. I wear a 11 or 13 in Levi's and usually need a 14 in shirts due to being busty as they call it around here. Of course, the weight loss commercial today featured a woman who was so thrilled to have gone from an apparently gross size 10 to a 4 and was feeling absolutely fabulous. All I can say is that it's a good thing Marilyn Monroe didn't come of age in this era of anorexia as normal. I think she was a size 12 or 14, and she didn't have to apologize for it either.

I love to cook, and I love to eat. There would be something a bit suspect about someone who wrote about grilling and smoking and wouldn't eat the goods and was skinny as a bone. A body would have to wonder if she (or he) really did cook up good grub.

Then again, it's not much fun to deal with the "comments" when you're not the same size you were in 7th grade. I'm tempted to say that I have some terminal disease and the medications make me swell when someone asks about my weight. Might make them squirm a bit. But, then I'd probably get something terminal for telling fibs. So, I'm still just saying, "Yeah. Uh-huh" and then trying to redirect the conversation.

I told my guys not to bring me anything back from BoJangles today. Now, that's some good fast food eating. If you've never tried BoJangles, then you've got to check them out--spicy fried chicken, fluffy mashed potatoes, zippy dirty rice. Yum. The fellows wanted to know if I was feeling sick or something. When I finally confessed that I'd been called a fatso at church, they said to ignore it and enjoy my food and the ballgame. Apparently it would put a damper on their meal for me to skip. So, I had a wing and some sides and called it good.

Maybe I'll look at some lower calorie, lower fat recipes for the grill. Maybe not. I guess it depends on how many people tell me I look fat tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What the heck is barbeque, barbecue, BBQ?

I grew up with a strong sense of barbeque. Barbeque was, of course, slow cooked pork served on a bun with vinegar based sauce. I didn't question this "fact of life," because it was "fact" in this area. If you asked for barbeque, you knew what you were getting.

The first time I questioned my definition was when I moved to Texas. I ordered barbeque. The waitress brought out a huge plate of beef ribs smothered in tomato sauce.

I said, "What's this?"

The waitress said, "Barbecue. Wasn't that what you ordered?"

I covered well (I think). I said, "Yep. And, it sure looks good."

This was over 20 years ago, and I remember it like yesterday. The ribs were good, but they were ribs to my way of thinking. This was a date, and I would not order ribs on a date. They are a might messy. I try to order neat meals on a date. No spaghetti. No ribs. Not when you're trying to look cool and impress a guy. I had my work cut out for me and quite by surprise.

I don't think I ordered BBQ again the entire time I lived in Texas. It's not that I don't like Texas BBQ beef ribs, but I do like to know what's coming when I order food. I did learn to say "OK" to putting my stuff in a "sack." Around here, a sack is a big burlap sack for potatoes. In Texas, they just mean a paper bag. I turned down sacks for a while until I figured out they just wanted to put my purchases in a paper bag. I was thinking they ran out of bags there for a bit and didn't want a sack to store in my small apartment. After a while, I got that down. But, I neverdid catch on to barbeque that didn't come neatly on a bun. When I saw the word barbecue in Texas, I was quite confused. Kansas further added to my confusion, but that's another story.

To further complicate matters, some of my northern friends (years later) invited me to a barbecue. I was thinking pig again, and they had hamburgers. Whew. That was odd (back then). I finally figured out that my northern buddies called anything grilled out barbeque. They were using the word as a verb (what I'd call grilling) while I used it as a noun (chopped pork on a bun). At least, those burgers were on a bun and not messy to eat like the Texas BBQ ribs. I love grilled burgers and cook up some great ones. I've got some great tips for burgers if that's your idea of BBQ.

Now I understand that barbeque is a mixed bag. And, I'm old and worldly enough that I'll flat out ask what folks are talking about. I do love all kinds of barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ. I do, however, like to know what to expect. It is rather a shock to think I'm getting pork on a bun and then to get ribs or to think I'm going to a pig roast and find out that it's going to be hot dogs on the grill. On the flip side, I know to let folks know (from other parts of the country) that if they are in these parts and ordering barbeque that they'll be getting chopped pork with slaw served on a bun or white bread. It's fun, in fact, to not say and watch the expressions, but I like to be a kind person. Our local barbeque is rather an acquired taste I'd say, so I'm usually one to step up to the plate and explain the local customs.

Folks in the south take barbecue pretty seriously and don't play around with the words. If you tell a southerner they're getting barbeque, then they are going to be shocked if you give them ribs or grilled chicken. They aren't trying to be difficult. They are just being southern.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy Martin Luther King Day

I had the day off work. That's always a good thing!

I spent some time looking over my favorite barbeque book Peace, Love & Barbecue. It's all about smoking meat and the folks who do that. There are as many stories as recipes, so it's fun to sit and read. I tried one of the sauce recipes this weekend--Lexington style BBQ sauce. It sounded too bland with only ketchup and vinegar as the base, so I added a little Texas Pete and Louisiana Hot Sauce. That was a real hit with our Boston butt smoked on the Smokey Mountain by Weber. That's one of our best buys of 2005. We'd been wanting a smoker for a long time and were thrilled to get that.

Our most recent outdoor cooking toy was a turkey fryer. I was a little hesitant on that, since I'd heard they are pretty dangerous. The Masterbuilt electric has a UL rating and also an auto shut off, so I felt better about that. It really does make the best turkey I've ever tasted. I didn't know what I was missing until we fried one up. I don't think we'll be baking the big birds any more. That also frees up oven space to do the other foods for a feast. Gotta love that.
Tomorrow I go back to work. The boys have the day off and also Wednesday. Hope they don't make too big a mess at home while I'm gone. I won't hold my breath though.

Welcome to the Barbeque Master Blog!

I have been cooking outdoors as long as I can remember. My family grilled out a lot. Both my brothers are in Boy Scouts. So, we camped and made all sorts of interesting foods wrapped around sticks, dumped in Dutch Ovens, or even sizzled up on the camp stove.

Now I have two boys of my own. They're in Scouts too. Though I'd always done a lot of outdoor cooking, I began trying out even more techniques and recipes, so I could help the troop with the cooking part of Scouting. They'd catch fish. I'd try out various grilled and Dutch Oven recipes for fish.

We even built a fire pit in the back yard. That was simple enough. We simply dug a hole and surrounded it with rocks. The pit is high enough to add a grate for outdoor cooking over wood, and it's also perfect for Dutch Oven cooking.

I'm a freelance writer on the side, so a blog seemed like a natural extension to my scribblings. I write for national newspapers, magazines, and for corporate sites and I also have my own web site - Yes You Can Grill.