Saturday, August 10, 2013

World Peas - Good Snack While You Barbecue

World Peas - Bringing Peas to the World

I know there is a lot of pea hate out there. I attribute that to the big mushy peas served in school cafeterias across the country. Those are dreadful and taste NOTHING like peas picked at the right time. I've grown garden peas and turned several pea haters to pea lovers.

World Peas (Bringing Peas to the World) has set out to bring peas to everyone in a snack bag with a variety of different international flavors like Hungarian Garlic, Sichuan Chili and Bombay Curry as well as classics from the States like Ranch and Bacon.

They peas are healthy all natural snacks and have antioxidants. You don't get any trans fat and no cholesterol. Some of the varieties are gluten free and some Kosher (but not all - so double check).

If you've had Wasabi peas, then you have the general idea here. But, World Peas are not shockingly hot. You get a range of flavors with some pretty strong and others quite mild. I like them all, but I think the Ranch may be my favorite.

For grilling, you can add some crunch and flavor to your meats or vegetables by crunching up any flavor of World Peas. Just put some in a zip lock bag and use a rolling pin or mallet to make them into crumbles.

Of course, you need something to make the World Pea crumbles stick. In this case, I used olive oil, lime juice, and honey. I let the chicken marinate in the zip bag about 30 minutes and then put them on the grill. Note that these are boneless chicken tender pieces so are small. I'd not put the oil and honey on beforehand if doing bigger pieces of chicken, or the outside would burn.


We've also enjoyed World Peas topped on salad. They give a nice extra crunch without piling on the calories. Here you see the Ranch flavor on a salad made from our garden.

Ranch World Peas on a Home Garden Salad

My son is a Ranch dressing fan from the get go, so he especially liked this flavor. I thought this was a great flavor as well. I also think the Hungarian Garlic is good on salads, and that is what I used on the grilled chicken too.

Although I've used the peas in some dishes, they are great right out of the bag. It takes a long time to smoke large cuts of meats, and the peas make a nice snack. They are easy to carry. They don't spoil. They are not messy. And, they taste great. I've put them out as an appetizer for cook outs, and they are quite popular with friends and family.

Easy, Yummy, and Nutritious Snack

The zip bags (which are actually easy to zip shut unlike most snacks I've found) that the peas come in are nice looking, but I like to put the peas in a pretty snack bowl for guests. If you don't have a nice little snack bowl, then this one came from Good Will and was a quarter. It matches my eyes, and it's one of my favorite bowls for one of my new favorite snacks.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Omaha Steaks - A Company I've Really Liked for About a Decade

Beef Strip Loin Steaks on the Grill from Omaha Steaks
The first time I ever ordered meat online was from OmahaSteaks. This was in the dinosaur ages of online – maybe 8 to 10 years back. Many companies were offering coupons, and I was shopping up an online storm and starting to find my voice online with some review companies and then my own blog (before many people had even heard the term blog).

Can You Really Get Good Meat Online?

I sent in an Omaha Steak order and crossed my fingers. I live in a town of 800 people (give or take one two now and then), and meat by mail sounded very odd. I was not sure what to expect or if the meat would even arrive way out here. I was also rather nervous about getting food products by way of the internet and snail mail.

Omaha Steaks made me a believer. They sent really good meat and sides (which were on special) right out and in perfect condition when they arrived on my porch. I still use the bonus cutting board they added as an incentive.

A Random Note to a Company I’ve Known for Years

Here recently I left a message on the Omaha Steak Facebook page about some social media issues. That’s what I teach. Basically I just made a suggestion.

There was a message to get back in touch, but I had an eye infection and then was scheduled for vacation. I didn’t have the energy or time to get in touch, but Paul hunted me down. I’m easy to find actually, since I’ve been online for ages. Still, that does take effort on the part of a company employee.

I was impressed that Paul who works social media for Omaha Steaks took the time to find me though and get more details about my quick comment on FaceBook. I was glad to share as I’ve always been. Many of you may know my day job is teaching (including social media), and I always enjoy chatting about my view of how writers/bloggers can work well with small startups to big companies.  No strings. That’s just the teacher in me.

A Surprise for Calling it the Way I See It

Paul did send me a thank you box from Omaha Steaks for taking the time to share from the blogger side and from the years I’ve worked and taught about online.

He sent steak and the potato balls that my younger son think are the best ever (like he can eat the whole pack of twelve if we’d let him). Paul also sent some of the big Omaha Steak burgers and the berry tartlets which I think may be new (as I’d not seen them), but he said they were a favorite at his house.

Party Night Before My Younger Son Goes Off to College

Tonight I decided to celebrate with my younger son headed off to his first apartment at college, and I grilled the Beef Strip steaks Loin from Omaha Steaks and (of course) made the potato balls. He’s the one who could always eat the whole pack if not reined in. He ate all his other food and saved the potato balls for last like dessert.

I nailed the steak even though I got caught in a thunder and hail storm. My older son said he loved the New York Strip and that they were spot on (medium – our family favorite).  The flavor was really spot on, and these steaks had almost no fat. Maybe one to two teaspoons. But, they were still marbled and full of flavor.  Quite impressive. I can’t remember what I ordered prior, but I don’t this was the cut. I would recommend the NY Strip from Omaha Steak.
Always Nice To Nail the Grilling on a Very Nice Cut of Steak

Eli, my younger son, had four of the potato balls and was quite the happy camper. I must confess to also loving the potato balls but hold back, since the kid loves them so much.
Omaha Steak Potato Balls - My Son Adores These (and I do too)
Paul also put in some mixed berry tarts. He said they were a favorite at his house, so I was thinking they must be really good.
I did not cook them on this same night, because we were quite full after the big dinner. Also, I did them in the oven. I'm sure I could do a closed lid grill on the desserts, but I wanted to try them per the directions. 
Mixed Berry Tart by Omaha Steaks
The tart was heaven on a plate. I don't make pastry dough that good, and the mix of berries was just perfect. The older son was here the afternoon I made these, and he was very impressed. Although these are specifically grill food, I have to say they are wonderful. I can see why Paul's family love these.
Companies That Listen

I gave a thumbs up to Omaha Steaks years ago. We’ve never had any contact until I made a quick comment about how they do social media. It was just a quick tip, and I was surprised Paul took the time to find me and to get more details. That is impressive today when companies often farm out any contact with customers and leave you on hold and then have someone talking who does not even understand Southern English very well.

The only thing I can think of that I’d change at Omaha Steaks is to put the directions on the bags inside the boxes. Not all foodies have big freezers. I have to unbox products to fit them in, and then I have to remember the directions or cut out and save the side section of the boxes with the time and temps. This is really just the side dishes. The meat – no issue. Something like the potato balls, it would help to just print the directions on the bag inside the box. That would be easy to do. (Note: See the comment section - Paul sent directions to where you can find cooking instructions. He said he had the freezer jam problem too.) 
Not All Foodies/Chefs Have a Ton of Space (maybe some day I will)

Thoughts on Omaha Steaks

Every order I’ve made from Omaha Steaks has been a good experience. They mail fast and pack carefully. The foods are delicious. I’ve never had company contact from Omaha Steaks until now, and that was a very nice experience too. I told Paul that I had been a fan for years, and I don't fudge on that. As always, I call it the way I see it. It's nice when some listens. Thanks.

McCormick Grilled Lemon Pepper Herb Shrimp Party

Shrimp with McCormick Lemon Pepper Herb Seasoning

It’s rained here almost all summer, so since we had a sunny day, we decided to have a barbecue party. After looking through the McCormick Grillerhood recipes, the Grilled Lemon Pepper Herb Shrimp Kabobs caught my eye.
Everyone in the family loves shrimp, and we don’t get it very often as we’re not real close the coast. My son went into town and was able to find a couple of pounds.

The boys and I also picked fresh garden vegetables. We had green peppers, squash, and red beans ready. The recipe calls for a mix of vegetables. We enjoyed our combination, but I’m sure there are loads of combos that would be great with the shrimp.

This recipe is super easy. All we had to do was marinate the shrimp and vegetables with some olive oil and McCormick Grill Mates Lemon Pepper with Herbs. We just loaded up a zip lock bag and shook to coat the vegetables and shrimp.  Super simple.
Grill Wok is Quicker and Easier for a Party

I used a small gas grill tonight and added some pecan wood chips in an aluminum foil cup. You just make your own little cup to hold the wood chips and add some extra smoke flavor to the grilled food. That was placed under the edge of the grill wok. Using wood chips for flavor is just one of the many great tips from the McCormick Flavor Forecast.
Flavor Up Your Food with Tips from McCormick - Adding Wood Chips Adds Flavor
This is actually a kabob recipe, but I find it so much easier to use a grill wok for a party that I did my shrimp in my wok. You get the same flavor. It’s just quicker and easier if you’re grilling for several people.

The shrimp and vegetables came out just right. I did stir a few times to make sure everything was grilled evenly. The end result was shrimp and veggies with some tasty crusting from the lemon pepper and herbs.

Set Up and Ready for a McCormick Barbecue Party

We set up for the party. In addition to the McCormick shrimp dish, I made a pot of rice as a bed for the shrimp/vegetables and cut up fresh British melon from our garden and peaches from a local stand. Sweet potato rolls rounded out the meal.
Main Dish - McCormick Shrimp with Vegetables from My Garden

The shrimp recipe made quite a statement served in a colorful dish, and everyone was hurrying to get the drinks poured so that the McCormick party could start.
Time to Dig In as We All Enjoy the Grillerhood

As you can see, I did not have to ring a dinner bell to get the crowd out to the picnic table. Everyone was looking forward to digging in.

The shrimp and vegetables were awesome. The McCormick Lemon Pepper with Herbs was perfect with shrimp. It’s hard to beat some lemon flavor with seafood. The pepper gave it a little extra zip, and the subtle herbs just brought it all together.

We pretty well cleaned the table out. There was a little rice left over that a certain puppy was thrilled to get as a treat.

If you’ve not tried out Grill Mates by McCormick, they have some really awesome flavors to spice up your grilling. It’s also helpful to have the McCormick Grill Mates Facebook page which features a ton of delicious recipes and has search functions to find just what you have on your mind when the grilling urge hits you.

*Please note that I’m a paid ambassador for McCormick this summer and that I got some seasonings for free (but purchased the McCormick Lemon Pepper Herb out of pocket). As always I do give my honest thoughts and opinions.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blaze 21 Grill Grate Cleaning Brush Review - Nice Quality Grill Brush

Ugh! Dirty Grill Grates are No Fun

I love to grill, but cleaning grates is not such a good time. Since I use a lot of marinades and sauces, I end up doing a lot of grill cleaning.

Finding good grill grate brushes has been a challenge. Some don't last more than one of two cleanings, and that gets expensive.

John Fazio, owner of Flameria which is a new barbecue tool company, sent an email and asked if I'd like to try out his grill brush - Blaze 21 now at Amazon. I like working with new companies. They often have some of the very best stuff. I'd told him I'd be glad to give it a try, so he sent me out a free brush.

Blaze 21 Grill Brush

When the package arrived, my O Grill needed cleaned up as you can see. So, I opened up the package and got to work.

I heated the grill first, since we were ready to grill immediately. Sometimes I pull them cold and use Goo Gone grill cleaner. That works well too.

The handle on the Blaze is 21 inches long, so that made it easy to use on a heated grill. It was very sturdy and took the ick right off. With the groves here, I turned the brush sideways and got between the grooves too. That was a good idea to have the bristles up the sides as well.

Much Cleaner Grill Grate

As you can see, the Blaze 21 grill brush worked very well. There are a few spots I could touch up. I only cleaned about three minutes here, so if I wasn't in a hurry to get a meal on, I could have this grate looking brand new with this grill brush.

I can't say how this (or any other grill cleaning brush) will hold up long term. I can say that the Blaze 21 bristles did not mash down like some I've used. And, I was brushing hard to get this grate ready for some grilled chicken. It is definitely better in terms of quality than most I've tried.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Grilled Chicken with Herdez Mexican Cooking Sauce Tomatillo Verde

Dinner - Grilled Chicken with Herdez Tomatillo Verde

Herdez contacted me to see if I'd like to sample their line. I've not seen it, but a couple of my Facebook BBQ buddies said it's the max. My griller friends never steer me wrong, so I got the samples and then thought about what I'd grill up.

The Herdez sauces are Mexican cooking sauces so would more traditionally be used for indoor cooking, but you really can use almost anything I can think of outside on the grill that you can inside. And, it's more fun cooking outdoors.

Tomatillo Verde, Lime, and Cilantro Marinade

Herdez has a range of Mexcian cooking sauces, but my son really loves tomatillos. I thought I'd toss it with chicken strips (fast food grilling) and add a little lime and cilantro.

I let the chicken sit for about 20 minutes on the counter, and boy was it smelling good while I was cooking up a pot of white rice.

 Herdez Chicken Hot Off the Grill

I grilled the chicken strips (here's how to grill chicken strips). They came out really pretty. Though you can't see much as far as the green color, you got the flavor kick was really nice.

We all loved the chicken right off the grill but did add more of the tomatillo verde sauce at the table. It was so yummy, we wanted more flavor than just lightly on the outside although the marinade set the stage for the chicken to taste especially good. The cooking sauce just had such a nice taste - faint heat but not a lot. It's hotter if you add more for dipping.

If you're not familiar with Herdez, here's the jar to look for. I'm going to check here and see if I can find Herdez. The Tomatillo Verde was a thumbs up all round on the grilled chicken, and I already have several other ideas of things I'd like to try out with this yummy cooking sauce.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Grilled Loaded Nachos with El Restaurante Nacho Chips

El Restaurante Nacho Chips

Courtney with Tim's Cascade Snacks sent me a free bag of nacho chips to try out. I test out products from time to time, and since the whole family loves Mexican food, this seemed like a good bet.

The idea with these new nacho chips was to have chips like you'd get at an authentic Mexican restaurant. I know they are better out than what we usually get in a bag, so I was hoping . . .

Grilled Loaded Nachos with El Restaurante Nacho Chips

We decided to go with loaded nacho chips on the grill which is a quick and easy dish and very tasty too.

How To Make Grilled Nacho Chips

First I put the chips down and added around a pound of cooked and drained ground hamburger mixed with a pack of taco seasoning.

The guys put on some of their favorite toppings, and then we added cheese. In this case, it's basic cheddar cheese.

The guys again added some toppings. You can kind of see the dividing line between the son who loves hot and spicy peppers and the one who goes for black olives.

I put the pan in the grill and put the lid down. I checked every few minutes, since these get done super fast. It can take less than five minutes if the grill is pretty hot. When the cheese is melted, the nachos are done. Just that easy.

Grilled Nacho Chips Ready to Eat

Our El Restaurante nachos were ready, and we had homemade guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side. We also had a few chips left for dipping in our condiments.

 Dinner at Our House with Grilled El Restaurante Nachos and a Hand Tossed Salad

The El Restaurante Tortilla Chips were absolutely fabulous. They are the best nacho chips I've had even comparing to ones made at Mexican restaurants. They have a nice full 100% corn flavor, and the sea salt is just perfect on the nacho chips. These chips are all natural with no preservatives, no added colors, and no trans fats, so that's an extra bonus.

We don't have these chips locally yet, but I'll look for them. They are sold in Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas right now. I did look them up and found that they can be purchased soon online in the restaurant style or the rounds at Tim's Cascade Snacks.

If you see a bag of these tortilla chips, be sure to pick up a bag. I'm sure you'll be impressed. They got all thumbs up here, and the guys hate we're out now.

Monday, July 01, 2013

McCormick 4th of July Red, White and Blue Grilled Beans with Apple Wood Smoke

4th of July Red, White and Blue McCormick Beans Smoked with Apple Wood
I decided to test drive a new patriotic side dish for the 4th of July. We usually go pretty traditional with hamburgers and hot dogs for the 4th of July, but I like to serve up something unique and special on the side for the big summer holiday.

This year I decided I wanted to make red, white and blue beans. Let me warn you that blue beans are a challenge, and I actually used back beans. I suspect there’s a farmer somewhere with heirloom blue beans, but I don’t know where to find her. You still get the general 4th of July color theme even with the black beans, since they are dark and balance nicely with the white and reds.

McCormick Montreal Steak Sauce

I also wanted to showcase the new McCormick Montreal SteakSauce. After having a little taste, I thought the sauce, which has a really beautiful flavor, would really pop nicely in the bean dish.

I gathered up my ingredients for my Red, White and Blue Beans which included the following:

  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white Navy beans
  • 1 can black beans
  •      *Note: All beans were in the 14-15 ounce sized cans, and I drained the beans.
  • 1 can undrained petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
  • 1 pound of cooked meat (I used smoke pulled pork, but hamburger or sausage cooked and the grease drained off also works in this dish)
  • 1 small onion diced fine
  • 2/3 cup McCormick Montreal Steak Sauce
Directions for McCormick 4th of July Beans:

Put all the ingredients in a grill pan (the toss away size 13x9x2 works well) and stir until evenly mixed. Place on any type of grill over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Consider adding some smoke flavor which is a great new trend this year as noted on the McCormick Flavor Trends page. No matter how you grill, you can add a little wood either in the fire or in a homemade aluminum foil cup to put on the gas grill grate beside the food. In this case, the guys voted for apple wood to pump up the flavors for the beans.


 Mix Red, White and Blue McCormick Beans Right in the Pan - Super Simple

The Proof was in the Empty Pan . . .

My Red, White and Blue (black) Beans were a hit. We had a family gathering last night with a dozen of us with a whole table full of food (as always), and the beans went fast.

The Red, White, and Blue bean dish looks really pretty, and the flavor is spot on. The Montreal Steak Sauce gives the recipe the special “something” I was hoping for.

If you want a really yummy side dish for the 4th of July (or even a main dish since it has meat), then you can’t go wrong with Red, White and Blue beans.

For other great ideas for the 4th of July, be sure to check out the McCormick Grilling Flavor Forecast where you’ll find new and creative ideas ranging from grilled fruit drinks to 5-minute marinades dishes. You can also get lots of new and creative ideas at the McCormick Grill Mates Facebook page which builds on the great company information along with lots of new ideas from creative fans.

*Please note that I’m a paid ambassador for McCormick this summer and that I got the steak sauce for free. As always I do give my honest thoughts and opinions.

Farmer's Garden Vlasic Pickles - When You Crave Home Canned Flavor

Vlasic Farmer's Garden Dill and Zesty Garlic Pickles and Veggies
Nicole emailed to see if I'd like free sample bottles of the new Vlasic pickles. As most readers know I test out products when I have time and then let everyone know my honest thoughts (which can be a gamble). Since I'm on summer break, some pickles seemed like a good idea.
There are two new Vlasic offerings out in the Farmer's Garden line. One is a dill version so a rather classic style pickle while the second is a garlic flavored mixture. Although these would be billed as pickles, they also have other home vegetables mixed in like red peppers and carrots.
Both come in a home canning style jar which reminded me of Grandma and Mom's pickles. They always made various types of pickles with an old pickle crock. My sister backed up and sat in the crock once, and she got stuck. We were all kids so could not get her pulled out, so Mom had to come pry her out of the pickle crock.
I love the looks of the wide mouth jars, but I must say I have some problems getting really wide lids twisted off the first time. My sister (the same one who sat in our pickles) bought me a gizmo that helps on that, so I was able to get the jar open without help (other than from the blue gizmo).
The dill pickles were strips and had a nice zing and were good and crisp. The flavor was nice and did remind me of homemade pickles.
I'm a garlic fan, so the thick cut rounds that they bill as zesty hit the spot. I am thinking about making some potato salad and cubing some. I suspect that would make really good potato salad with that extra garlic note.
My favorites were the vegetables - the peppers and carrots. I've never been a huge fan of cucumbers, although I like pickles now and then and with sandwiches or in recipes like salads. I really, really loved the mixed vegetables, and I hope Vlasic will consider doing a jar with all pickled mixed vegetables some day. I already know I'm going to be a pig and pick out the peppers and carrots. The guys will humor me, because that means they get more pickles.
While we were enjoying these really yummy pickles, my son came up with a grilled sandwich that called for pickles. I'd have to say it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten, and the pickles really made the sandwich stand out. I call it Eli's pulled pork club sandwich, but some of my friends told me it's a Cuban inspired sandwich. In any case, here is the sandwich, and you can also check out the Pork Club Sandwich recipe too if you want a really great sandwich with Vlasic pickles.
Loved the Vlasic Pickles Which Really Rocked Our Pulled Pork, Ham, and Cheese Grilled Sandwich

How to Make a Pulled Pork Club Sandwich with Ham, Cheese, and Pickles

Pulled Pork Club Sandwich (photo by Eli Wittum)

With a small family now, we have a lot of pork when we smoke a pork butt (the upper part of the shoulder). With several pounds of meat, I must confess we often get burned out before we finish it all.

My son was watching his favorite news channel for the weather when he saw Chef Danny making up sandwiches. Chef Danny is an indoor cook, but Eli thought he could do something similar outside with some chopped pork in the refrigerator.

Putting Together a Pork Club Sandwich

Eli got aluminum foil and made packs for each sandwich.

Above you can see that he has slathered bagels with spicy mustard and put pulled pork on the bottom bun and provolone cheese (his favorite) on top.

Add the Ham and Pickles

Eli then added thin sliced ham and a Vlasic Country Style pickle to finish off the smoked pork club sandwich.

He put the sandwich together and wrapped each in aluminum foil (or tin foil as we say in the South) and put the packs on our tailgate gas grill for around 8 to 10 minutes. Everything is cooked, so the sandwiches just need to be heated through with the cheese nice and melty.

Dinner is Ready - And We've Got a Whole New Spin on Our Pulled Pork

I can't begin to say how delicious these sandwiches tasted. The balance of the smoked pork, ham, cheese and pickles was just spot on. The little kick of mustard was also just right with this combination.

If you have extra pulled or chopped pork and want something different after a day or two of straight up pork sandwiches on a white bread bun, then I can tell that this is a wonderful way to dress up the pork leftovers and have something that tastes totally different and absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Barbecue Master Checks Out McCormick Flavor Forecast 2013

I grew up on McCormick seasonings and was using the McCormick products for grilling before McCormick even came out with their specialty grilling lines. I can’t even begin to count the number of McCormick lemon pepper bottles we’ve gone through over the years. It’s amazing what a sprinkle of lemon pepper will do for a steak or grilled burger.  

 Yum! I Am Going to Have a Delicious Summer

When I started seeing McCormick grilling products I was excited, and when they invited me to join the team in getting the word out about the new and exciting grilling flavors, I was even more excited.
What’s New in the Flavor Forecast 2013?

I’m always looking for new outdoor cooking ideas, and the McCormick Grill Mates &Lawry's Flavor Forecast 2013: Grilling Edition is packed full for great ideas from five minute marinating to grilling fruits to add a hint of smoke flavor to summer drinks.

Seriously you’ve got to try putting some lemon slices on the grill and then in your tea. You’ll be amazed at the extra kick you’ll get with a classic summer drink.

Home Brewed Iced Tea with Grilled Lemon Slice

McCormick is also offering help on pairing seasonings with wood flavors. No matter what type of grilling you do, a little smoke from chunks of wood gives food that extra oomph. Try out the Grill Mates Backyard Brick Oven with alder over seafood for a sweet but not overpowering zing.

Grilled Shrimp with Grill Mates Smokin' Sweet Tea Marinade and Backyard Brick Oven Seasoning

Another creative idea from McCormick is to put condiments center stage. Condiments tend to get overlooked, but they won’t be when you mix up your own. And, you don’t have to spend all day either.
One simple condiment idea is to combine McCormick Perfect Pinch Cajun Seasoning with ketchup which takes an old fashioned favorite but flavors it up for adults. Top a grilled hamburger off with that, and you have a winner. 

Don’t Miss Out on the Fun with McCormick
If you’re wondering what’s hot for this summer, just check out the Flavor Forecast page. You’ll be busy and eating great off the barbecue grill all summer with the tips and ideas from McCormick.

 Also check out the new McCormick Grill Mates products and recipes and enter to win a prize pack of delicious seasonings at the McCormickFaceBook page. Your mouth will be watering when you see the great reader entries.

*Please note that I’m a paid ambassador for McCormick this summer and that I got the basket of seasonings for free. As always I do give my honest thoughts and opinions.

SpeedyPlus Instant Marinater by Jaccard - Fast Flavorful Steak

Checking out the SpeedyPlus Instant Marinater

Jimmy saw steaks on sale down at the IGA and decided to pick some up for dinner. Since this was a last minute idea, he thought he would try out the SpeedyPlus Marinater by Jaccard.

Todd had sent this out to see what I'd think about the time I got an eye socket infection, so I had not been feeling up to grilling for a few weeks. But with steaks on hand and the guys willing to pitch in, it seemed the perfect time to try out the fast marinater machine.

I don't guess I'd exactly call the SpeedyPlus Marinater a machine, although it does have a pump. It's more like a well made plastic container with a lid and tight latches. Then there is the pump to pull the air out of the pan and a little rubber piece that sucks in when the air is cleared out. This all, of course, made the marinade absorb quickly - like in five minutes or so. This is commercial level pressure according to the company.

 Getting Steaks Ready to Grill with SpeedyPlus Instant Marinater
Jimmy put the steaks in the SpeedyPlus and then added spicy Kraft Italian dressing, Worcestershire sauce, and McCormick lemon pepper. This is our easy, go-to marinade, because I always have these items on hand and because they do taste great on steak.
Pumping Things up with the Marinater from Jaccard
Once the lid was latched on, Jimmy pumped the red handle as you can see. The red dot to the side is the rubber type piece that inverts like an "innie" belly button (which it did).
This was the only part that was a little tricky. I double checked, but I could not find anything that screwed together to keep the pump from coming out of the cylinder. Being a guy, Jimmy kept going up to far and then having to line up again. Then, I tried. I did the same thing (and I'm obviously not a guy). So, I'm not 100% certain we did that part right, but it still worked (but had to be lined back up a few times).
Fire Up That Barbecue Grill - We're Ready to Grill and FAST
It took 10 minutes or so to start the charcoal, and Jimmy put the steaks straight on. They were clearly juicy and smelled wonderful. You can see below, although sadly I can't add smell online yet.  
Chuck Eye Steak on the Weber Kettle
One great feature on the marinater is that the top has a ridge or lip all around, so you can use that as a tray and not get raw meat juice on grilled steaks (which is not healthy). In fact, we did put the steaks on the top which worked great.
I was in the kitchen and missed getting a photo of the top, but that is a really nice idea and saves on washing so many dishes. We don't have a dishwasher, so I notice things like that.
The SpeedyPlus Instant Marinater worked really well. Even with the short time to get the last minute steaks on the grill, they had the full flavor that I get when I marinate for an hour or so. The marinater box is pretty and would look nice to take out to a cook out, and I really love the top doubling as the serving tray.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Big Green Egg Stainless Steel Vent Cap - Big Improvement

BGE Stainless Steel Vent Cap - Looking Sharp and Working Better Than the Floor Model Vent Caps

The Big Green Egg smoker ceramic grill is a premium outdoor cooker. People who own them love the BGEs, and many who don't own one have the Big Green Egg on their ultimate "wish list."

One part of the BGE has always been a bit of an issue, and that's the vent cap. The green ceramic cap will fall off if you open the lid, and it (being ceramic) can break pretty easily falling from that distance. The cast iron cap which is used for actually smoking to adjust temperatures gets really hot, and if you open the lid, the weight of the cast iron metal vents will open or close them after they've been set where you want them to keep your heat steady.

Matthew Merritt noted the issues with the caps on the Big Green Egg and decided he'd come up with something that would work better. The result was his stainless steel BGE vent cap which fits the BGE (medium, large, and x-large) as well as other ceramic cookers like the Kamado Joe (classic and Big Joe), and Primo (Oval Jr. and Oval x-large).

Benefits of the Stainless Steel BGE Vent Cap
There are a number of benefits to adding the stainless steel vent cap starting with the weight. This cap is easier to carry around and work with than the heavier caps. This may not be a big deal for a big guy. For me, it's great to have a smoker vent cap that doesn't weigh so much.
The lighter weight also means that the settings hold. The vents do not slide due to the heavy weight of cast iron. You can lift the ceramic lid, and the vents there on the cap hold position. Those who smoke know that it takes work to get a steady temperature, and it's a pain to lose the perfect venting when checking out the food. On top of this, the stainless does not get so hot. Touch cast iron, and you are going to get burned. Unless you're at a really hot temperature, you don't have that problem with stainless steel.
The design of the vent with the side adjustments mean that rain (or snow) don't get in if you are smoking out from under a cover. There is nothing like rain dripping in your smoker to mess up the temperature (and make a mess in general). This takes care of that problem.
Another plus is that you can leave the vents open, since they are placed on the side. If you lock down a BGE, then you may open up the unit to a big old moldy mess. That is not a pleasant surprise. I'm from North Carolina where it's really humid, and it's a real pain to have to clean out mold (which I'm also allergic to). But, you sure don't want to grill or smoke up food with mold in the outdoor cooker. Now, that's gross as you all know.

I also think it's great that the vent cap can go in the dishwasher, although I do not have a dishwasher. Maybe one of these days . . . Anyway, it's not hard to wash the cap, since it's small enough to easily fit in the sink.
How Does the Stainless Steel Vent Cap Work?
It's super simple to add the stainless steel vent cap to your BGE or other ceramic smoker. All you have to do is put on the gasket as below. Wash the unit first, so it sticks well. Then peel off the paper and wrap it around. Cut off any excess. Then put on the vent which fits snug but can be lifted back off without any problems.
Big Green Egg Accessory Vent Top with Gasket Installed
Once you have the base on, you slide on the vent top. This again is super easy as you can see below.
Stainless Steel Accessory Ceramic Cooker Vent Cap

The fit is perfect, but it's still easy to slide the vent to get the right amount of air flow going and set your temperatures. Then, you're set, because the cap stays on, and the vents stay as placed.

What Are You Waiting For? This is a Great Product for Your BGE.

This accessory vent works like a charm, and it's attractive as well. It matches the lower vents on the BGE in terms of the metal, so it does not look like an add-on.

The Big Green Egg vent cap is sold by Eggware online. They sent me a sample. It was packed well and shipped out quick. I wasn't sure what I'd think of it, since I'm used to the cast iron topper, but I definitely like this vent cap better for all the reasons mentioned.

Mattew is working on a smoking pan and vegetable basket. If they are great as his BGE vent cap, then I can't wait to see those.

Good News if You Order Before June 15, 2013

You can save 15% off the vent cap if you order before Father's Day 2013 (June 15th). Just use the code: DAD. You can surprise Dad plus save money, or you can even treat yourself.

"All Fired Up" by Southern Living and Troy Black - Excellent BBQ & Grilling Book

All Fired Up: Smokin' Hot BBQ Secrets from the South's Best Pitmasters

I was really excited when Aimee emailed to see if I'd like a copy of the brand new barbecue book All Fired Up to review. First of all, my Mom has always subscribed to Southern Living, so I've been reading and loving the magazine for years. Then, I saw that Troy Black worked on the project, and he's one of my FaceBook friends.

I try not to make up my mind before I actually see something, but I couldn't imagine that this outdoor cookbook would be anything other than great, and I was not disappointed. It's a big, beautiful cookbook with amazing photos, lots of help and barbecue grilling tips, and the recipes are sure to impress no matter what you want to do on the grill or smoker.

Understanding Grilling and Smoking

All Fired Up starts out with some really great help guides. Often people fail at grilling or barbecue, because they don't understand the concepts behind the art. Troy is spot on with his guides, and I'd strongly recommend sitting down and reading the front sections before moving on to the recipes.

The Secret is in the Barbecue Sauce

Another often overlooked aspect of barbecue is the sauces. The sauce can really make or break the grilled dish, so I'm glad Troy gives a nod to sauces and the variety across the country. I'm a fan of all the various sauces, and learning how to make a mustard or mayonnaise based sauce means that you can use the same meats and have a totally different tasting product.

 Yum! I Love the Grilled Shrimp Recipe.

Of course, most people buy a cookbook for the recipes, and these are great. Maybe it's our Southern roots, but Troy grills many of the same dishes I've been doing that I don't see very often. He even has grilled nachos which are a family favorite here. And he does seafood which many people are afraid to tackle on the grill, but it's actually easier and quicker to do seafood than most other grilled favorites. The shrimp you see above are my favorite from the entire book, although I've not tried any recipes that disappointed in any way.

 Grilled Meals - From Start to Finish

I really love that All Fired Up has a range of dishes from appetizers to desserts. I'm waiting on the peaches to come in here, so I can try out Troy's grilled peaches you see above. My mouth starts watering just looking at the picture and thinking about peaches with a hint of smoke. That would have to be some good eatin'.

What Did Barbecue Master Think of This Barbecue Cookbook?

It's probably pretty obvious that I was impressed with this grilling smoking book. It's the kind of outdoor cookbook I'd put together if I was looking at writing a barbecue book. It covers the critical information needed to be successful and has easy to make recipes that are absolutely mouthwatering.

All Fired Up is definitely a thumbs up. It would be great to have on your shelf or to give as a gift. It is one of the best outdoor cookbooks I've reviewed.