Sunday, May 31, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Carolina Cook Out on the Yadkin River (after the trauma and drama)

Carolina Cook Out on the Yadkin River at the Bull Hole RiverPark

The South is all about family, friends, and food, and the Carolina Cook Out would have been a literal wash out if I didn’t have such wonderful people in my life. I can’t begin to say how much all my people did to make this Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 a special day to remember. So, I send a shout out to all my cook out buddies who shopped, packed, carried, grilled, and helped me find my kid who dove in the river after a drowning teenager and ended up down at the canoe landing. Be sure to read about the rescue.

Our Carolina Cook Out was on the Yadkin River near the old mill dam. The water is usually calm and shallow, but it was a raging river on the day of the cook out.

For anyone who is not familiar with Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24, it’s a monthly food-fest with 24 chefs in 24 cities around the world cooking over a 24 hour period.

I was selected this month to share a cook out here in North Carolina and let folks know about all the great products and recipes we have here in the Tarheel state.

After shopping and prepping and getting the truck loaded, I discovered that my battery had gone dead. Hum. That’s not good. So, my boys’ dad got his truck, and we reloaded everything and headed down to the Bull Hole in Cooleemee, NC.

Actually, the RiverPark is right across the line in Rowan County – my home county. I used to go there as a teenager – before it was a park – and always thought it was one of the prettiest places around this area.

Joel Leonard and his brother Lorin met us down the trail which must be a half mile from the parking lot and quite a trek getting grills, gear, and food down to the falls. The brothers were the head grillers for the cook out with Joel making his signature Joelburgers and Lorin was on the beautiful pork loin donated by Phil Crawford of Fresh Cuts in Asheboro.

Dueling Grillers. Joel and Lorin Leonard are experts at outdoor cooking and fun to hang out with too.

My 7-year-old niece was the assistant chef on the Joelburgers and Eli’s buddy Jacob jumped on the assembly line to build the burgers. Joel was great with the young people in the group and helped them get a taste of outdoor cooking. That's how we pass down our traditions in the South.

My niece is learning how to be a grill chef - helping Joel with Joelburgers.

Jimmy was going to do the chicken, hot dogs, and corn, but he had to head down the river to make sure our kid didn’t drown. Some men told me that the kids did get up on the bank, so I grilled the other meats and put on the mixed grilled Catdaddy Moonshine beans and hot dog chili. The beans and chili were made ahead so just needed to be heated.

I stayed busy grilling as you can see.

Chicken, hot dogs, and beans on the smaller gas tailgate grills.

My Mom and new step Dad Harry came next with cantaloupe from Wetmore Farms in Woodleaf, NC. It’s a family farm, and we’re just down the road so can get fresh produce which is really nice.

Mom organized the stuff at the picnic tables, since we had quite a jumble of coolers, bags and boxes. There’s always loads of food at a Southern shindig. And, some friends who couldn’t make it even sent stuff along. Bryan from the Bagel Shop in Asheboro sent bags of his homemade bagels which are too good for words. My sons sure get excited about Bryan’s bagels.

My girls showed up next. They aren’t my biological girls. I have sons. But, the three fabulous young ladies were work study students and on the college newspaper staff at Catawba College where I teach. They’ve all graduated now, but we keep in touch. And, they will always be my girls.

Hilah is great with a camera and took photos of the cook out. My sister did too which is quite a feat when chasing after three little ones. My nieces are cute and funny and always make family get-togethers even more fun.

Tara’s Mom made Southern potato salad and a beautiful coconut cake. With all the excitement and picture taking, I missed out on the cake. Bummer. Next time, I’m having dessert first to be on the safe side.

Speaking of dessert, everyone went wild for the Strawberry Punch Bowl Cake. That is such an easy dessert to make, but it is one of my favorites.

Strawberry Punch Bowl Cake is very easy to make and is always a hit at picnics.

I really did bring serving spoons. Where they were, no one knew. Oh well. That turner worked just fine.

We also had a big, juicy watermelon. It looked so good that a couple of little girls asked if they could have some. I cut them big slices. My boys said that their mother asked where they got watermelon, and they pointed at my sons. I guess the boys looked safe enough, so the girls got to enjoy their melon treat.

My son puts the watermelon off to the side of the dam on the Yadkin River to keep it cold.

These cute little girls enjoyed our ice cold watermelon too.

We also shared some food with a little dog there at the park. He thought, “Shoo. Go away” meant “Hey, come here, and I’ll pet you and give you a treat.” He was right, and he gave paws up to the Carolina Cook Out too.

I planned to do S’mores too, but I forgot and also I think everyone was “full enough to bust” as we say around here.

We washed everything down with Cheerwine in the glass bottles that I picked up Friday at the bottling company in Salisbury, NC. That’s our local soft drink and a favorite in the area. You can order Cheerwine online, and it’s definitely different from the average soft drink.

Cheerwine is a Southern soft drink and made right here in Rowan County.

Everyone pitched in to help carry everything back up the hill, and it was up the hill going back to the trucks. But, with extra hands, it didn’t take too long to wrap up and head on home where I’m sure the whole crowd slept sound after a very exciting Carolina Cook Out sponsored by Foodbuzz.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Carolina Cook Out – Most Dramatic 24 Ever

“Eli went in the river,” my Mom told me as I was grilling up chicken and hot dogs for the Foodbuzz 24/24/24. “They can’t find him.”

This is definitely not what you want to hear when you’re having a Carolina Cook Out with your family and friends.

The Bull Hole is a beautiful park near my home. Normally, the water is about knee deep and slow moving. With all the rain this past week, the Yadkin River was roaring rather than rippling. The falls were thunderous, and the water was muddy and churning.

Eli is my 16-year-old and my baby. I have two sons. He’s the youngest. And, he was missing. Even if you’re not a Mom, you can imagine how that chilled my heart.

I raced down the path to the beach area and started running along the bank of the Yadkin. Some men fishing said the boys went across and were on the other side of the river. They weren’t real fluent in English, but I tracked back to the cook out area. If my kid was on the other side of the river, then someone needed to drive up 801 and cut around the mill to the Davie County side.

Most of our grillers were on down the river, so Joel and I hit the grills. If I didn’t stay busy, I knew I might break down. I prayed it was true that Eli was on the other side and okay. I flipped chicken and rolled hot dogs around on the grill on auto pilot.

Grilling chicken on auto pilot - since grilling is in my blood.

We heard ambulance sirens . . .

I stirred beans and hoped that the sirens were a good sign.

Mixed beans make a great side dish at a barbecue, and they can be made ahead which is great especially when things get hectic. But, I hope they do not get this wild for anyone else out there.

One of the men in our group got back up to the cook out area and said that Eli was fine. Another kid was drowning, and he went in after the kid. The current pushed them down the river where they got hung up in some trees on the side. Eli got hold of a branch and held the other teen above water until someone helped pull him up on the bank.

I wondered about him being in the river. Eli took lifeguard training and was just hired at the Salisbury YMCA. He starts next week. I couldn’t imagine him getting in the churning water to play. He would know that would be dangerous given the circumstances. But, I know he’s the kind of kid who would go in if he thought someone else was in trouble. And, that’s what he did.

The other child should be okay. He was drifting in and out but had a pulse and was breathing. Eli checked that and then borrowed a cell phone and called 9-1-1. The siren I heard was the ambulance coming for the other boy. They took him to the hospital. I will call tomorrow and double check on him. I know how his Mom must have been feeling. And, I’m thankful that her son is not missing down the river like mine was for a while. Not knowing is a really hard thing.

My kid is back at the Carolina Cook Out and muddy but not even keyed up about this river rescue.

With Eli back in the fold, the Carolina Cook Out continued. We had all kinds of great food and most of it local. I blogged about some of our fabulous North Carolina products and companies before we headed out for the cook out. In true rural Southern fashion, we had way more than we could possibly eat, and it was all yummy. I savored every bite but mostly I rejoiced in seeing my son sitting there at the picnic table along with so many other people I care deeply about. I am truly blessed.

Enjoying our Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Carolina Cook Out - once my son is safe and back in the fold.

It was a great cook out - made sweeter by having all our loved ones together.

Tomorrow I will blog about the Carolina Cook Out and the food. Tonight I am just celebrating my kid and his courage in jumping in a raging river to save another child.

Eli got some scratches when the boys got caught up in the tree, but he is fine and is now sleeping sound in his own bed here at home.

Getting Ready for the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 Carolina Cook Out at the Bull Hole

I’ve spent the day getting ready for our Carolina Cook Out for the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24. Foodbuzz is one of the largest foodie communities online, and they select chefs to highlight each month. It’s 24 food bloggers with 24 meals across the globe over 24 hours. Then, everyone blogs and shares the experiences.

My idea is to share our local North Carolina flavor which includes the food, the people, and the companies in the area. We’re Southern, so a cook out is way more than just the food, although we do love some good eatin’ around these parts.

North Carolina Soft Drinks

My first stop was the Cheerwine bottling company. That’s our local soft drink. Like Ginger Ale which is not an alcoholic beverage, Cheerwine is a soda and not wine. The color is just similar to red wine, so that’s how the name came about – just like ginger ale looks kind of like ale when poured in a glass.

I got the Cheerwine in the old fashioned bottles. Those are the very best. The cans are great too. The flavor is . . . hum . . . I hate to say cherry cola. It’s not really that, but it’s as close as I can come to explaining this very unique Southern soft drink.

We’ll also have Pepsi products. If you didn’t know, North Carolina is also the birthplace of Pepsi.

North Carolina Grills

Since this is a cook out, we’ll be grilling. Holland and Big Drum Smoker both make NC grills and both excellent products. I just don’t happen to have those, so I’ll be rolling out to the Bull Hole or RiverPark in Cooleemee, NC with a couple of Weber kettles, a City Grill, a CADAC, and the Cobb. The City Grill, CADAC, and Cobb are all excellent tailgaters. The kettles are 22 inches, so those will be going in a pick up truck.

North Carolina Grill Supplies

With my local theme, grill supplies turned out to be really easy. Lowe’s Home Improvement started up in 1946 in Wilksboro, NC. They have headquarter offices around here, and some of my students go work for Lowe’s after college graduation. Some of my neighbors work for Lowe’s and also my Aunt Betty.

They have all I need for grilling over at Lowe’s. I got my charcoal and gas bottles there. They are also super helpful there at Lowe’s. I don’t usually like the big super stores, but I’m fine at Lowe’s, since they do act like you’re a real person and take the time to help out.

Meats from North Carolina

Joelburgers - Southern pimento cheese and sour dough bread - yum!

Our burgers will be grilled by my friend Joel who makes the Joel Burger. That’s a burger with pimento cheese on sourdough bread – both very popular North Carolina products. You can check out Joel Burgers at Finecastles in Greensboro (215 South Elm Street) if you don’t know Joel and don’t know how to make a unique Carolina burger.

Phil Crawford from Fresh Cuts Butcher and Seafood out of Asheboro is bringing some pork loin. He does things the old fashioned way rather than buying meat in those containers that are frozen and shipped in. He gets fresh meat, and he cuts it himself. That's going to be some good eatin' as we say in the South.

Pork Loin with John Boy & Billy Barbecue Sauce

We’ll also have chicken from Tyson, a NC poultry company. Some of our guests eat gluten free, and Tyson is gluten free chicken. We’ll just grill some of that and then do some with John Boy & Billy’s Grillin’ Sauce. Those guys are syndicated radio hosts, and they love grilling so put out their own line of sauce here in the tarheel state.

The hot dogs are BallPark which I like on the grill, since they do “plump up.” We do have some pink hot dogs local to North Carolina, but I couldn’t manage to find those. Maybe on the next cook out.

Our other local NC meat won’t be grilled but will be featured in the baked beans. That’s Frank Corriher sausage. That’s the best sausage ever – other than what my Poppaw made at home with lots of sage and quite a kick on the heat. To add even a little more kick, I poured in a little Catdaddy Moonshine. On the sweet end with the beans, there’s local North Carolina honey.

Local Bread

Bryan Vaughan with the Bagel Shop in Asheboro is bringing - of course - some bagels. These are real bagels, and there's a world of difference. The inside of Bryan's bagels are like clouds. The texture is perfect and very different from the mass produced bagels at the grocery store.

Our other bread (the hot dog buns) are Bunny Bread. Those come out of South Carolina - our sister state. I remember when a student from up North was calling all our bread Bunny Bread. She thought we called our white bread Bunny Bread. I explained to her that there's really a bread called Bunny Bread.

Condiments from the South

A friend is making the potato salad, and since this is the South, I’d bet the mayonnaise is Hellman’s. It’s got just a little kick of vinegar or something, so it’s tangier than most mayonnaises.

The other big North Carolina barbecue sauces are Carolina Treet which was a barbecue joint sauce for chicken initially and is a thinner style sauce as are most North Carolina BBQ sauces and Bone Suckin’ Sauce (more of a traditional thick barbecue sauce).

Produce from Rowan County, NC

Fresh strawberries from Patterson Farms in Punch Bowl Cake

This is a farming community, so naturally the produce comes right from the farm, although some items are brought in from further South. It’s not quite time for some of our crops, although the strawberries are prime currently as well as the summer squash.

I got strawberries from Patterson’s Farm to make Strawberry Punch Bowl Cake. You can stop and buy some or even pick your own. Even Wal-Mart is now selling Patterson Farm strawberries, but it’s a lot less stressful to go to the farm than to big, loud, crowded Wal-Mart. One of the last things I did with my Dad before he died in a traffic accident two years ago was go to Patterson’s and pick baskets of strawberries.

Mom and Harry (my new step dad) went down to Wetmore’s Farm for the cantaloupe. They’re neighbors in Woodleaf, NC. Super nice family. Some of the local teenagers work down there as well. So, that’s always a nice stop.

Shopping Local

Yes. It does take more time to go to the individual stores or farms and to look on the shelves at Food Lion (which is home based here in our county) for products from the area, but these are friends and neighbors. You know where your food came from and who made or grew it. Everything is fresher and less processed, since it doesn’t have to travel all over the country.

Time to Get Rolling

I have 10 minutes to get the last of the food packed and get the trucks rolling down to the Bull Hole which straddles the Rowan and Davie County lines. The park is also called RiverPark in Cooleemee. It's a beautiful place. And, after rain all week, we have a glorious sunny day. Yippee!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grilled New York Strip Steak and Corn in the Husks on a Weber

We broke out the Weber kettle grill tonight. Really, I can't think of a grill that's easier to use. With the lid and the vents, it's very easy to control this grill. It does take a little practice as with any outdoor cooker, but Weber is one of the most forgiving of all grills.

We put on New York Strip steaks and corn on the cob in the husks. Both are easy to cook and take about the same amount of time. There are fancier recipes for grilled corn on the cob, but it's hard to beat grilled in the husks corn. You don't even have to husk and silk it. Everything just falls off after the corn is grilled, and you have perfect sweet corn that just melts in your mouth with that smoked flavor.

The boys love Butter Tators. Those are just frozen hash browns on the grill with butter, green peppers, and onions plus some seasonings. Yes. They are really good. Not so healthy, but we make them from time to time for a splurge.

Grilled hash browns can be made on top of the grill in an aluminum pan or in a cast iron skillet, but we used the CADAC outdoor cooker this evening. The wok lid works great for the hash browns.

The CADAC is a really cool cooker that would be perfect for camping or tailgating. It is a gas powered cooker with five different cooking plate options. You can do burgers, steak and so on like a regular grill. We just used the wok lid turned upside down for the grilled potatoes. That kept all the cooking outdoors on a muggy North Carolina day.

I had thought about giving the CADAC to my sister who likes to camp. I really don't. That is an understatement. I am not a happy camper. My sixteen year old was looking at this CADAC and asked if we could keep it. Of course. I'm always glad when my boys think something is neat. So, I'll just loan out the CADAC to my sis or any others who around here who might want to take it camping. But, the kid can hang on to this super neat cooker that will work for almost any outdoor food I can think of to cook.

Yum! The steak was a perfect medium, and the corn was just right. The husks may look burned, but the husks are just protecting and covering the grilled corn. Inside was yellow and juicy and very good.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kicking Off the Weekend with Chicken and Potatoes on the Cobb Outdoor Cooker

I didn't want to babysit a grill this evening, so I fired up the Cobb outdoor cooker. It's a neat little enclosed cooker that cooks a chicken and potatoes with 8 to 10 pieces of charcoal (and is still hot enough to do more food).

I would consider the Cobb grill ideal for campers and tailgaters, but it's also fun at home. If you want to read more about the Cobb, I wrote up a Cobb review at Yes You Can Grill. That covers more details for readers who may be interested in this unique outdoor cooking machine.

We had a little rain this afternoon, but that was no big deal. The Cobb stays cool to the touch on the bottom. Lid does get a bit hot. But, it's easy to move the cooker up under the porch if needed. It can also sit on a table even with a tablecloth, so that's a bonus. It would be safer than most grills around kids, but do tell them not to touch the top. Well, don't touch any part. But, the Cobb is insulated so that even though it burns charcoal, it's not blazing hot like most units.

Here's right after I wrapped up the Cobb meal. You can see the various parts. There's the housing, grill top (with lifter), a metal grate above (accessory add on), and the lid. Very compact.

The chicken was absolutely fabulous. Really moist and juicy. Potatoes came out a bit dry. They are better on the top, but I'll play around with cooking them in the moat in the bottom. That's pretty neat, and I figure I just need to practice and try some other ideas. Generally, I just add some beer there in the channel or moat to add some moisture to the food cooked above. That's works really nice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beef Recall - May 21, 2009 - Check Before You Grill for Memorial Day

Just a meat safety quick note:

The FDA has posted a recall notice by Valley Meats of Illinois. There are a number of brand names involved including, to name a few, 3S, Grillmaster, J & B, and Klub. In total, about 96,000 thousand pounds of meat are potentially involved.

The meat was processed in March and in larger packages including a number of the recalls involving burger patties, pre-formed and ready to grill. So, this would be a freezor check.

The concern is E-coli. There are reports of three people being hospitalized with food poisoning from eating the products.

The recall is NOT on fresh meats out on the shelves now. But, if you buy ahead, then do double check the brands and numbers on the link at the top of the post. No one wants to be sick on a three day weekend.

Post - May 21, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If You Grill with Charcoal, You Really Want to Get a Chimney Starter

I looked at and thought about a chimney starter long before I actually broke down and bought one. After I got the chimney starter, I could have kicked myself. It was so easy to use. It only costs a little bit, and the cost of the chimney starter is quickly recovered with the money saved on quick start charcoal or lighter fluid (which does give grilled food an off taste).

The main reason I held off was that I wasn't 100% sure how a chimney starter worked or if it even worked well. Turned out, it was super simple to use a chimney starter, and it has perfect coals ready in less than 10 minutes. I put up photo steps, directions for using a chimney starter and details at Yes You Can Grill. So, if you're not sure, just check out that charcoal chimney starter guide.

You can see below the nice even and red hot charcoal from our Weber chimney starter. This has made it much easier to grill out. No more issues with getting the fire going. Thumbs up to that!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carolina Cook Out Selected for the Food Buzz 24/24/24

Some Family and Friends at a Cook Out Last Year

I was really surprised to be selected for a Food Buzz 24/24/24. Now, you may be wondering what the heck that is. OK. I would too if I wasn't a member of Food Buzz which is kind of a FaceBook for foodies with members having food blogs. You can see Food Buzz over to the right here on the site. I have a badge about being a featured publisher.

The idea is that each month Food Buzz coordinates 24 chefs (although I consider myself a down home griller) with 24 meals (mine is Carolina Cook Out) in 24 hours. Since it's international, it does take 24 hours. Trust me. I lived in Greece and Japan. The sun rises and sets at very different times. Calling home was a juggling act back then.

My idea was to grill down next to the Yadkin River at the Bull Hole as it's called locally but listed as River Park in Cooleemee. It's one of the prettiest places I've seen. There's a dam that helped power the mills back before those went under here in the United States. As a teen, I'd go down there when it was probably not legal. Now, they have made that into a park. It's still rustic which I like. And, I think it will be a great place for a grill out.

As far as the grill menu, I want to feature as many local products as possible. We have some great foods and businesses around here. The whole idea is to share our various cities, towns, or villages around the globe, so I hope I do our area proud.

My head is kind of spinning in thinking about all the details. The main thing I hope is that it does not rain. That would be a bummer. They have a very nice shelter at the Bull Hole, but it was rented for the one day I needed it. Isn't that just the way things go. But, OK. I will do the no rain dance.

On the menu, I know we will have Joel Burgers. My friend Greta and her husband Joel are coming in from Asheboro to make those. They are burgers on North Carolina sour dough bread with homemade pimento cheese on top. Yum. I'm thinking also chicken and hot dogs. For sides, Wetmore's farm has great local produce. Frank Corriher sausage will be super in baked beans (actually grilled beans in the CADAC grill wok top - cool little camp grill). Cheerwine is home based right here in our county, so I know what the drinks will be.

If anyone has other ideas, please feel free to leave notes. I have a little over a week to get this all together. I think it's going to be loads of fun.

Check back for full coverage!

Join the She-Smoke Virtual Barbecue Contest and Help Fight Hunger

More women are grilling every year according to HPBA, and some new barbecue books are reflecting that trend including She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book by Julie Reinhardt.

Julie is the co-owner of Smokin' Pete's BBQ in Seattle, so she's had plenty of experience.

Along with the release of the outdoor cooking book, Julie is hosting the She-Smoke Virtual Barbecue Contest. In addition to prizes, she is donating $1 per entry to Heifer International to fight world hunger.

The contest is open to guys too, of course. And the fellows will find Julie's new book helpful too. Just buy a copy for a lady friend and then borrow it (-:

Here's the information on the virtual barbecue cook out:

1) Check out the contest web site.
2) Have a barbecue and video tape it.
3) In your 1-3 minute video tell what you are smoking or grilling and say what barbecue means to you.
4) Upload your video in response to the trailer.
5) For every entry they will donate $1 to Heifer International.
6) Contest dates are now through June 15th 2009. Winners will be announced by July 5th 2009.

Categories include:

1) Best looking barbecue (we can't eat it virtually, so make it a feast for our eyes!)
2) Best Video
3) Best Party - let us feel like we are there!
4) Most Interesting Smoker
5) Best Overall Entry/Grand Champion

Winners will receive a signed copy of She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book, and the Grand Champion will receive other fabulous prizes.

Check out Julie's blog for updates. I just peeked again, and Traeger is donating a pellet grill for a top prize. That's a good one. We love smoked ribs on the Traeger and can also bake casseroles and even biscuits. It's a whole new experience in outdoor cooking.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ready for a Nap After Grilling for the Newspaper

First, you may be wondering why the Barbecue Master is going to be in the local newspaper. Or not. But, the story makes more sense with a tad of background.

This winter I tested grills and wrote an article on grills for Consumers Digest. Sounds simple enough, but it took about four months.

A friend I work with tipped off the Salisbury Post, our local paper. Now, I'm not big on media attention. I prefer to be doing the coverage, but the photographer who was coming out was Jon Lakey. I know him, and he's a good guy. That made it more comfortable. Maybe he will delete all photos where I look goofy and/or fat. Let's hope so.

I don't suppose I'd have to have any food grilling for photos of the grills here on my porch, but how strange is that? Grill Girl is not grilling. Just standing next to empty grills. That's rather dull. Plus, the boys have to eat anyway.

So, I selected simple grill items. When doing multiple things at once, it is not a good idea to go with either new recipes or the harder ones.

But, I wanted good food.

One thing we really love are beer boiled brats. Here, I simply simmered the uncooked type brats in beer and onions. You can add a couple of tablespoons of butter, but I sure forgot to do that. They turned out fine anyway though.

There are a lot of ways to do brats, and it depends on the type you get. If you are having the urge for some, then check out my brats grill guide. That should cover you on all the basics.

I also had some chicken tenders to grill. Those are super simple and take 5 minutes or less per side. My boneless chicken breast grilling guide tells you how to do these but just cook for less time with the fingers or if you split the breasts.

There's also a pack of hot dogs. I figured it Jon wanted to see any other grill in action, that would be easy enough. Crank one up, and hot dogs really just need heated. Very simple.

I had also picked up Texas Toast and canned biscuits. Texas Toast can be made on virtually any grill. Just don't get the kind with cheese as that sticks and burns. The biscuits work well on the Traeger pellet grill which I know is more unusual so wanted to show Jon.

OK. Those are my super duper easy grill foods that are quick and do not require much attention. It would be a darn shame to burn up some food and make the front page of the paper with loads of grills and charred food. That would be worse than looking fat or having a bad hair day in the photos.

I started yesterday on the porch grills, because even if they were clean, they do not stay that way in North Carolina. We have yellow pollen and red dust. Also, I was lazy and flat didn't wash a couple after grilling.

One thing I can tell is that grills that are used don't look brand new even if you do scrub, but they look better than ones not cleaned at all. If you have OCD, you may not want to own grills. They tend to be dirt magnets.

But, everything cleaned up pretty good I think. If you do not think so, you can come help out next time. I am also thinking that the family rule should be that those who eat the food off the grill should help clean them from now on. SHHHH. I have not sprung that one yet. The boys probably think they are all self cleaning. Actually, the Char Broil gas is pretty close which I appreciate.

The guys all got in at various times before I was putting the food on. The oldest got in from a summer college class in Spanish at Catawba College. As you can see, he is hungry. The younger one is still full days at the high school but will be out for the summer soon. Their Dad teaches, so he also got in before 3 p.m. Those school lunches are skimpy these days, so my crowd comes home hungry. They often snack, and we have a late supper. Or, we have an early supper and they snack later. In any case, we tend to have two meals of some type before dark. On a happy note, I don't make breakfast but do buy quick stuff. Mornings do not do me proud. So, that works out.

Jon got all the photos he needed, and he had some grilled food with us which I'd emailed about. That's just Southern. You don't have someone over and let them watch you eat. How rude.

Media folks can't take gifts, but sure they can have some food. Same goes with the police. If you have a party, and it gets too loud and the police come, give them some food, say "sorry" and tone it down. Common sense. But, some folks just don't think about it. I'd say take that tip and run with it. Breaking bread together just makes sense. I always have plenty, and I enjoy seeing others enjoy it.

We didn't need the hot dogs, but the grill was hot. I put those on while I cleaned up. And, the boys did help out. Yay them. When they get hungry here in a few hours, they have some hot dogs grilled over charcoal on the Weber Grill which are the very best. So, I can put my feet up and relax. That's good, because being in the paper is more work than you might think. It's like, "Who put those spider webs in the corner of the porch? And, why did I run out of catsup and not know it? And, why didn't I think to get plastic forks and knives?"

In the end, it's all good. Media people are just people (I've been one and still am). It was a pleasure to have Jon over today, and I look forward to seeing the article and pictures he shot. I'm not sure when the grill article is going to run, but I'll link it when it goes up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cleaning Icky Grills so Newspaper Photogragher Won't Gross Out

If you thought cleaning a dirty grill was not much fun, try cleaning up 19 grills. Whew boy. This took all afternoon. And most weren't really dirty but just have that pollen and red dirt so common in North Carolina.

The sidewalk was covered with the grates, but the yard was littered with grills drying in the sun.

A photographer is coming tomorrow from the local newspaper, The Salisbury Post, so I needed to get my grills looking sharp.

The charcoal grills are always the most work, and I have a charcoal grill cleaning guide at my web site, Yes You Can Grill.

I need to add one for gas grills, but they really are easier. The main tip I would toss out is that you need to be careful with the grates especially if they have a finish. If you break the finish, then the metal under can rust. Heat the grates a little, and they wipe off pretty easy.

Also watch for drip pans on grills that aren't charcoal. If you don't notice one and it fills up or sits, whew, that's bad news. You have gunk that can grow mold. Not pretty.

Taking care of a grill of any type will greatly expand the life of the grill. If you don't have a garage or some place where the grill is really out of the weather, then be sure to get a cover. Lots easier to hose off a cover than a grill. And, it does add a lot of protection.

Cooking Out in Asheboro, NC with Foodie Friends

My son and I enjoyed a terrific cook out in Asheboro, NC last night with Greta and Joel and some of their neighbors. The plan was to watch a movie on the side of the water tank. No kidding. Of course, it rained. But that didn't put a damper on the party. Joel set up his projector in the house, so we had a movie anyway even if not on the water tank.

Chef Joel was hard at work on the meat. He sent around the grilled Texas Toast and sauced up the chicken and pork chops. He used a variety of different sauces including a mustard based barbecue sauce from our sister state, South Carolina.

Greta and Joel have two nice porches which was great. Most of the guests hung out here on the side porch with the food (of course). The grill was around on the back porch. Joel just got a big gas grill and is enjoying that. Gas is more convenient and easier when you have a crowd over.

Since we were shopping at the local IGA which is a small grocery, our appetizers were very traditional Southern. We brought sausage balls made with Frank Corriher sausage which is our favorite, Seven Layer Dip, and a veggie tray. The sausage balls were quite popular or else my son ate almost all of them - not sure on that.

Neal from Jugtown brought some really fabulous finger foods. He had spinach wraps that were much like those that I had in Greece (very yummy), barbecue shrimp (my son went wild for those), and crab appetizers.

When the meat came off the grill, yum! Joel had them just perfect. Very moist chicken and chops with loads of flavor.

Jerrod Cook Launches New Wild n Mild Barbecue Maridade Sauces

Jerrod Cook from Mississippi had been thinking about bottling his home brewed barbecue mardinade sauces for a while. There's a lot to putting barbecue sauces on the market, but he has made his first run and the first bottles of Wild n Mild are out including a milder version and a hotter version.

We decided to break out some boneless pork tenderloin chops and try out the hot Wild n Mild. Before putting the pork chops on the grill, we let them marinate in the Wild n Mild sauce a while.

Then we used my basic pork chop grilling tips and started cooking the chops. While Wild n Mild is a thin type sauce, more of what we call a mop in North Carolina, so it can be brushed on every time the meat is turned. This helps keep the meat moist which can be a problem for some people when cooking cuts like pork and also adds flavor. When cooking on a gas grill as we were doing, the extra flavor is important, since gas not provide that charcoal or wood smoked flavor. Marinades and sauces are the key.

Wild n Mild looks darker in the bottle than it does when added to the food. It's a medium toned color with darker spices and seasonings. As it cooks, it blends with the meat even with lighter colored meats like the pork chops. The sauce also makes for some very pretty grill marks as it sears to the meat.

The pork tenderloin chops cooked up very pretty. They were moist and had a lot of flavor. The flavor of the sauce is unlike any I've tried before. We all decided that it had kind of an Asian flavor. In fact, I think it would work very nicely with a stir fry as well or as a splash for grilled vegetables.

Next time, I think we'll marinate some sirloin beef chunks for grilled kabobs. I could see this working well with beef and veggies. It could also be interesting on our grilled pineapple. We usually go with a sweet wipe for pineapple, and I think this sauce is sweet enough to work with pineapple.

We wish Jerrod all the best with his new Wild n Mild sauces. He has a different product, so if you're tired of the same old thing, this is a chance to check out something different. He has some interesting recipes on his new web site including one for venison. Now I'm wondering if any of the hunters have any extra venison. Yum. That sounds really good. I think this would be a nice flavor with deer too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grilled Snow Crab Legs - Going Gourmet with the Guys

Last night we had grilled snow crab legs on the Char-Broil Big Red Infrared grill. It was the first time my younger son had crab legs. The older one had some last month at his fraternity ZBT at UNC Chapel Hill. He loved the crab legs and was stoked that we going to put some on the grill.

Crab legs are super easy to make on the grill. Just marinate in Italian dressing or brush on some olive oil right before grilling. Heat the grill to medium (300 to 350 degrees). Cook about five minutes on each side depending on the size. The end meat part will look white and still be soft. Shells will turn a little brighter in color and have some grill marks. Yep. That's simple enough. Just don't overcook the crab legs, or they will be rubbery. That's about the only way you can mess up grilled crab legs.

Why haven't I done these before for the guys?

Good question. And, mothers can tell you. When kids are little, they may go "yuck" about something that looks different. Also, you spend a lot of time cracking crab or deboning fish with little ones. Then, you're all messy and too tired to enjoy your own food.

Here's my college kid carrying in the grilled crab legs. He's excited, because he has only had them boiled. He knows grilled food is the max, so he is all ready for this crab feast.

See. Told ya. This kid can't wait to dig in. Just waiting for the rest of the crew to get on over to the table.

The younger one is wondering about this food that is trapped inside hard shells. Actually, the shells are softer off the grill from my experience. Still, it can take a little work to get the king crab shells cracked. The kid is a sport, and he's working it hard as you can see.

Oh yes! Crab crackers. While you don't have to use crab crackers especially with king crab legs, they are nice to have.

My sister gave me a set of restaurant quality crab crackers when I lived on the eastern shore of Virginia and was cracking blue crab which really does take a lot of work. My sister worked at Blue Bay Seafood restaurant as a waitress in Cleveland, NC. They've closed that one but still have two Blue Bays in Salisbury, NC and a couple of other places I think. In any case, her boss let her order them way back then through the restaurant. So, I have nice crab crackers. And, now both boys are grilled king crab fans.

As you can see, my younger son was mighty glad to have a tool for getting to that crab meat.