Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Candy Bar - Bacon and Potato Chips in Chocolate

Hamond's Pigs N' Taters Candy Bar

I was at the local and only high end candy store around here The Candy Shop on Main in Salisbury, NC. A student had told me about them, and I was hooked after the first visit especially since they had sugar free candy and my fabulous step father is diabetic.  Now I can get him nice candy and not just bags at the grocery.

I am so nosy (part of a writer's genes). I was looking at what the guy in front of me had. He had a Hammond's Pigs N' Tators candy bar. Hum. I got up like real close. Yes. This was a candy bar with bacon and potato chips. Nirvana for a BBQ freak. I want that. Yes. I want that.

"Excuse me sir, where did you get that candy bar?" I asked.

He pointed over there, but he said he got the last one.

I was going to wrastle (that's wrestle if you're not from the south) for that last candy bar, but I sized him up at over six foot and decided I might not win. Truth be told, he was also about 20 years younger, so I knew I stood not a chance.

I considered crying, but I can't pull that off. OK. I'm not getting a Hammond's bacon and potato chip candy bar. I got some other good stuff to take my mind off missing the last one. Chocolate covered cherries distract me easily - especially when they are good ones.

So, now it's May, and I went in and BINGO. I got my candy bar - Hammond's Pigs N' Taters.

Yeah. It's good. The chips remind me just a tad of the candy bars with Rice Krispies (but a little less crunchy) and the bacon is a back note. Oh yeah. It's there. But, they did not mess up the milk chocolate with mush (which bacon can be - if done wrong).

This candy is a little big dryer than a solid milk chocolate, but the extra flavors max it out. It felt like I was at a cook out even though I was not.

I need to get another bar or two if that big old guy does not beat me to them. I think these Hammond's Pigs N' Taters candy bars would be very interesting used as the chocolate in S'mores. My mind is always going grill like that. 

The bacon and potato chip candy fun bars are neat after a grill out whether you grill them or not. The bacon and chips add extra layers of flavor that I really found interesting and yummy. I'm going with a thumbs up and licking my fingers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Barbecue Master Takes On the Arby's Brisket Challenge

Arby's restaurant is featuring a yummy brisket sandwich that I wrote about. They invited me to be part of this special project in exchange for a little smoking, sharing and honest opinions (which is the hallmark of my blog). The company did compensate me with some funds to cover the supplies needed and the time to take on the Brisket project as well as a meal featuring their brisket sandwich.

The basic idea is that I check out Arby's special brisket sandwich and then make my own and see what I think. 

Brisket - Texas Needs to Share

First, I'll note that I'm in North Carolina which is pork country. We do get beef steak, burger, and stew beef, but something like a brisket is hard to come by. I found two, and this one looked the best. It is not a premium brisket. The fat cap is not on top. It wasn't on the bottom either. The fat marbling wasn't what I'd hoped for either. But, it's a do-able brisket.

Getting the Beef Brisket Ready to Smoke

I put rub on my brisket and then also a thin marinade. With the lower fat, I felt it needed some extra moisture, plus the marinade is tasty.

The brisket sat out for about 20 minutes while I got the smoker fired up. That gave it time to absorb some flavors and to warm up a bit. A cold brisket right from the refrigerator will drop your smoker temperature quite a bit. So, it's good to leave it out a short while but not a long time (unless you want bathroom issues).

On Goes the Brisket for the Arby's Challenge

I used my monster turner to get the brisket on the smoker. You don't want to poke holes in your meat when you smoke or grill, or you let out the juices and flavor.

Off to the Races - The Brisket is on the Smoker and Ready to Do It's Thing

I had to take a photo before I put the lid on. You don't want to be lifting the lid every few minutes, or your heat drops. So, I gave it a big smile and let it be for a couple of hours.

Waiting is Not My Strong Point

I kicked back and forced myself not to peek. But, I did watch the temperature. I run about 225 degrees F on a brisket. That's low and slow and melds the flavors and turns out a tender brisket usually.

No Smoke - Not a Good Thing

My smoker temperature went below 200 which meant no smoke. That's not good. So, I added another chimney starter of charcoal. That got me right back up to smoking temp and more time to kick back.

Double Checked the Temp After the Coals Calmed Down

My heat spiked a bit with the new coals, so I waited around to make sure I got back around 225 degrees. Bingo.

Barbecue Master is Not an Early Bird

I really should have rolled out of bed earlier to start a brisket. They take a long time to smoke. Arby's runs about 13 hours on their briskets. Mine ended up in the 12 hour range. As you can see here, it's starting to get dark which put my brisket ready around 2 am. Yum. Post midnight snack.

That Brisket's a Beauty - I Want to Eat It Right Now - But It's Not Ready

This was around midnight. I double checked the brisket and then set my iPhone to ring me up in an hour. Unlike babies, briskets do not cry and wake you up when they need checked.

Bingo - That's a Smoked Brisket

I pulled the brisket after the alarm went off and I checked the temperature of the meat - right around 200 degrees. It also was like butter in texture which is what you shoot for.

The outside is quite dark. That is a sign of brisket. It's bark and tastes great. The red you see is a smoke ring. You don't get that in your oven. It's a sign the meat was actually smoked. Inside it's soft and juicy.

It would have been better if my brisket had been thicker. This is heavy bark and smoke ring for a small cut brisket with little fat.

But, you work with what you have in your area.

Barbecue Master's Arby's Challenge Brisket Sandwich

My brisket sandwich is served on rosemary bread given to me by a close friend, Angelia. The barbecue brisket was smoked with rub and marinade, and I did add raspberry barbecue sauce but not a heavy dose.

Sometimes I doctor up a sandwich with a lot of toppings, but I wanted the brisket to be the star here.

My Brisket Sandwich Versus Arby's

Cyndi Trying out Arby's Brisket Sandwich

Comparing brisket is like comparing apples and oranges. I've never had any two briskets that tasted the same. Mine was a little plainer (and tougher) but with more heat flavor due to the rub and sauce. The brisket sandwich at Arby's was more in the sweet category and also more fully dressed with smoked Gouda cheese and fried onion rings.

I enjoyed both brisket sandwiches.

One good thing about the brisket sandwich at Arby's was that I did not have to babysit a smoker for 12 hours. That's a lot of time and work. Arby's does the work behind the scenes, and you just walk in and relax and have your sandwich.

The nice thing about smoking your own brisket is that you can play around with flavors and hang out with family and friends (especially if you don't wait until after lunch to put your brisket on).

If you want to talk brisket and get more ideas and tips, Arby's will have a Twitter Party on Thursday May 15, 2014 from 8-9 EST. Use the hash tag #BrisketIsBack to catch up with everyone. Hope to see you there.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Have You Tried Arby's Brisket Sandwich? Now You Can Win One (contest ends May 13, 2014)

Off to Arby's for a Smoky Brisket Sandwich

I'm part of the barbecue blogger team that Arby's asked to check out the Smoke House Brisket sandwich. So, today, my son and I took a break after exams and went out for lunch and got our brisket on.

Checking Out the Brisket Sandwich at Arby's

I love to eat and especially smoked foods. It's hard to get brisket here in pork country, so this was a treat.

The Smoke House brisket sandwich has thinly sliced brisket which is moist. There is a very fine bark on the edges and just a tiny sliver of the fat cap. I usually remove all fat at the table, but this was thin and did not detract (for me).

On top of the meat is smoked gouda cheese (one of my all time favorites) and then the house onion rings. I don't usually put things like that on my sandwiches, but this worked perfectly. Even if you think you don't like onion rings, the balance is better with them, and you don't get a big onion ring flavor.

The sandwich was lightly sauced with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. I could not detect the mayo. The flavor is sweet and tasty. I like heat so I added the Arby's horsey sauce (horseradish). Do a taste test on that first, because it might be too hot for some. I'd call it a low heat, but tastes vary.

Up Close and Personal with the Arby's Brisket Meal

I really enjoyed my meal. It did not taste like my brisket. It did not taste like any I've had. But, I've never had two briskets that tasted the same. Brisket is a slow cook meat, and the time, rubs, sauces and so on make every smoker's brisket a little different. Frankly I'm surprised a fast food restaurant could pull off one of the harder meats to get right. And, they did a very fine brisket sandwich. It was really tasty.

Want To Try Arby's Brisket Sandwich?

Want to try this out yourself and for free with a fun contest? Arby's gave me two free brisket sandwich coupons. If you leave a comment on my blog and any way to let you know if you win, then two lucky readers can get a brisket sandwich for free with the contest ending on May 13 at midnight EST. Can't beat that.

If you want extra entries for the giveaway (some readers ask), you can do the following and leave a separate note on the blog for more slips in the hat:

- Like Arby's FB page
- Share the contest on FB
- Tweet the contest
- Google+ about the contest
- Get a friend to enter (and have them say blank - your name - sent me)

There it is. Easy as can be. No hoops. No spam. Just leave a comment and if you want to do extra entries, that's fine too.


I'd also like to note that our local Arby's in Salisbury, NC was fabulous. You know it's kind of odd when a woman comes in and starts taking photos. I spoke to the cashier who got the manager to double check beforehand. Both women were extremely nice and helpful when I explained about the blogger project and were excited about the idea. I'd also note the location was ultra clean including the bathroom. It's across town, but I'll get out there more. They really were doing an extra nice job across the board.   

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Cookina Barbecue Reusable Cooking Sheet

COOKINA Reusable Grilling Sheet

Cookina reached out and asked if I'd like to hear about their new products debuting at Home Depots this summer. I'm always up for what is new in grilling and barbecue, so I said I'd be interested.

The company selected the free product to send out for a fair review. I did let them know when the reusable cooking grilling sheet arrived that I never cover my grates. I once broke up with a guy after he grilled out steaks over charcoal on a sheet of tin foil (aluminum foil if you're not from the south). Well, that wasn't the only reason, but that did not score him any points when the steak was greasy and did not get much charcoal flavor.

With that being said, I did try out the Cookina sheet.

Fajitas on the Cookina Grill Sheet Over Charcoal

This was an evening home alone, so I decided to make fajitas with chicken, green peppers, and onions.

I opted to do chicken which does not have a lot of fat, because part of what I love about grilling is that the fat falls through the grates and makes the meal healthier. 

The Cookina barbecue sheet was large enough to do my meat, vegetables, and to add my tortillas right at the end to heat them up. If you just did meat, you could get quite a bit on the sheet.

The grilling sheet cover held up fine to the high heat and did cook my meal. It says you get grill marks on the box. I did not on the chicken, but small chicken tenders do grill fast. The green peppers did get some markings, and the onions browned but not really with stripes. Frankly I think grill marks are overrated, but that's just me.

Grilled Fajita Dinner Off the Cookina Grilling Cook Sheet

I enjoyed my dinner. It was quite tasty. This is before I took them in and doctored them up with toppings. Then the only real clean up was washing off the Cookina sheet which comes with a scratchie cleaner. Clean up was easy. Much easier than grate cleaning.

Thoughs and Tips on the Cookina Barbecue Grilling Sheet

I'd recommend the Coookina Cooking Sheets for those using gas grills, since you're not looking for charcoal or wood flavor. They would be especially nice if you use a lot of marinade or barbecue sauce. Those make a mess.

Higher fat meats would be a good idea. The marinade on my chicken and vegetables helped prevent sticking, but I had to add marinade about half way through when things started to stick. Do remember that what I was grilling had almost no fat at all. That's going to stick to anything. That's why I used marinade.

If you hate grate cleaning, then these grill cooking sheets are the ticket. You do have to wash the sheets. Well, I guess you could buy new ones every time, but that's not very "green." They really aren't very hard to clean especially when they add the cleaning scratch pad, so that's a plus for a lot of outdoor grillers. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Goumet Giveaway Marukan Rice Vinegars SUPER NICE (ends Sat May 10 2014 at midnight EST)

 Marukan Premium Rice Vinegars
The UPS man came by today with a beautiful package. Marukan had emailed to see if I'd like to try out their gourmet rice vinegars developed in Japan and in business since 1649. They offered me a free set and one for readers if I'd try them out and post and honest review. 

I lived in Japan for a year or so, and even though this is crunch time at work, I wanted to check out these rice vinegars. 

Marukan uses ancient and slow methods to develop the flavors on the vinegars with all natural, certified organic ingredients. They are also certified with no GMOs and are Kosher too. All this means lower acidity so a mellow vinegar kick without making you pucker up like many of the cheap ones. 

These vinegars are quite hot with the high end chefs and TV celebrities like Martha Stewart, Hoda Kotb, Marie Oser, and Walter Staib. 

The pack looks fit for a superstar as you can see below:

 You can win this wonderful set which includes:

• MARUKAN GENUINE BREWED Rice Vinegar: This exceptional artisan vinegar takes 2 months to brew in the traditional way with NO sodium and all natural ingredients to heighten the flavor of any recipe. The delicate acidity is versatile and excellent as an addition not only to Japanese but also Chinese, European or American dishes. You can use it straight from the bottle, or as an ingredient for salad dressing and sushi rice. This product contains NO sodium, fat, sugar, artificial ingredients or calories. Naturally gluten free and non-GMO.

• MARUKAN SEASONED GOURMET Rice Vinegar: Marukan's best-seller for sweeter marinades and more flavorful dressings, dips and sauces. We have more recipes featuring our Seasoned Gourmet than any other variety. Blended with care according to Marukan's very own processing technique, it can also be used in preparing delicious sushi rice at home by simply mix 1 oz. Marukan Seasoned Gourmet with each cup of steamed short-grained rice. Because it does not contain any fat, it also serves as a healthy ingredient for marinades by mixing it with your choice of oil or creamy dressing. Non-GMO and naturally gluten and fat free. 
• MARUKAN All Natural PONZU – Premium Soy Dressing with Sudachi Citrus: Our premium ponzu is made from natural sudachi lime extract imported from Japan. The ponzu is a perfect match for steak and BBQ, but it can also be used as an alternative to regular soy sauce for almost any dish. The sudachi citrus is high in vitamin C with a refreshing citrus flavor. This 100% vegan ponzu contains gluten.

How Can You Win This Special Prize?

Just comment here on the post to be entered in the Barbecue Master giveaway which will end on Saturday night at midnight for a Mother's Day treat for someone who loves to grill or rock it out in the kitchen (May 10, 2014).

Do leave me some clue as to how to find you if you win. It can be an email or something like your FB name if you're on my list. I only use this data to send in the winning name, so Marukan can mail the package to you. 

Extra Entries for the Barbecue Master Marukan Giveaway

Some readers like extra entries. Do any of the following and just add as a new comment, so I'll get your extra slip in.

- Share the contest link on FB.
- Share the contest link on Twitter.
- Share the contest giveaway on Google+.
- Post the contest and link on your blog if you have one. 

You don't have to do any of the extras. A comment gets you entered. These are just extra entries if you like to do that.  

 Where Can You See or Buy Marukan Products?

Where to Buy: Find Marukan in the Asian foods section or wherever fine vinegars are sold, including major retailers nationwide like Whole Foods, Ralphs, Smart& Final, Stater Bros, Jons, Albertsons.

You can also check out the Marukan company at these spaces:

Website:             http:// www.marukan-usa.com
Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/MarukanVinegar
Twitter:                    https://twitter.com/marukanvinegar
Tumblr:           http://marukanvinegar.tumblr.com

 Good Luck! This would be a great Mother's Day Surprise. 

The winner is Mary. CONGRATULATIONS!