Sunday, September 30, 2007

How to Grill the Perfect Chicken Leg Quarter


Getting a “Leg Up” on the Competition

(I must preface this by saying that the following is a recounting of an actual event.)


I can remember my first grilling experience on my own grill just like it was yesterday. My family had helped my wife and me move into our first home some years ago. My dad and I put my gas grill together, but what good is a grill if there's nothing to grill? So off to the store we go and came back with chicken leg quarters.


My dad said he was going to show me how simple it was to grill. He proceeded to light up the grill, cranking it on high, and then chucked the chicken inside and put the lid down. “It's just like an oven,” he says.


We then headed back inside the house leaving the chicken quarters in a cranked-on-high gas grill with the lid shut.


About twenty minutes later my wife tells me that black smoke is coming from the grill. So I run outside, followed by my dad, only to see fire coming from under the lid. Indeed black smoke was belching out from under the lid.


Once the fire had been extinguished and the severely charred remains of the leg quarters were removed from the grill, my dad grabs one of these partially incinerated chicken parts and takes a very, umm, “crunchy bite.” Smiling he says, “These aren’t too bad,” as the black char was blotting out his teeth and gums.


My wife gives me “that look” and seconds later I was on the phone ordering pizza for delivery. (I should have captured it all on video.)


Despite my true story introduction, grilling chicken is easy. One just has to keep a few simple things in mind, like:


• Chicken parts render off a lot of fat.


• Grills cranked on high will probably easily reach 450 degrees.


• Fat and very high heat will produce lots of fire. This is not considered, “good eats.”


• Chicken leg quarters are an excellent choice for grilling due to the higher fat content than chicken breast, giving you a juicier and more flavorful meal.


• They are more cost effective and can be substituted for chicken breast in any recipe.


• Certain care is required though, to prevent my first grilling experience from becoming yours.


Maverick Industries, Inc. Redi-Check Remote Cooking Thermometer and Timer




Maverick Industries, Inc. Redi-Check Remote Cooking Thermometer and Timer



Ingredients:
Chicken Leg Quarter – 1 leg quarter
Olive Oil – extra virgin
Kosher Salt – about ¼ quarter teaspoon
Black Pepper – about ¼ quarter teaspoon


How To Make It:

1. Prepare the grill for medium heat. It would be wise to use a thermometer to get a reading of 325-350 degrees.


2. If you are using a gas grill, only turn on one side of the grill burners. If you are using a charcoal grill, mound up the coals on one side. The reason for this is because you will be incorporating both direct (meat over the heat source) and indirect (meat away from heat source) cooking techniques.


3. Brush both sides of the chicken leg quarters with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper.


4. Place the chicken directly over the heat and grill with the lid open for about 3 minutes per side. (It doesn't make a difference which grill you are using here as long as you have an internal temperature of 325-350 degrees.)


5. Move the chicken to the other side of the grill (away from the heat source) and grill with the grill lid down for about 45 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the chicken leg quarter registers 170 degrees.


Although salmonella, a bacterium that causes food poisoning, is instantly killed at 165 degrees, chicken still has a slight pink color at that temperature and most people are hesitant to eat chicken that is pink. Therefore, 170 degrees is what I recommend.


(On a side note: if you prefer to cook legs or thighs, use the same techniques described above. Just reduce the covered grilling time to about 30 to 35 minutes or until a thermometer registers 170 degrees.)


6. Once this is accomplished, your chicken has just been grilled to perfection. Now there's just one more step to take and that is,


7. Bring in the chicken, serve it to the awaiting fortunate recipient(s) and bring on the accolades.


And that's, “How to Grill the Perfect Chicken Leg Quarter.”



Cooking.com Logo

Monday, September 24, 2007

Overnight Salad

This Baby’s an “Overnight Success”

O.K. My wife has this wonderful overnight salad that is to die for. The best part is you can make it the day before you entertain, giving you more time to be with your guest(s) and get your “drink on” (whoo-hoo).

Her friend, Beth, many years ago shared this recipe with us and it has been a favorite at our BBQs and other get-togethers since.

The longer this baby sits in the refrigerator the better it tastes. But I am talking a day or two, no longer. Any longer than that and you can submit it to become one of your kid's science projects.

Ingredients:

Bacon (regular) – 1 lb cooked and crumbled
Lettuce (Iceberg) – 1 head (shredded)
Cauliflower –1 small head (broken up into small florets)
Onion (white) – 1 medium; julienned or thinly sliced.
Mayonnaise – 1 cup (I prefer Hellman’s)
Sugar – ¼ cup
Parmesan cheese – 1/3 cup
Salt – ½ teaspoon

How To Make It:

1. Here's how to prepare the bacon. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place strips of bacon onto the baking sheet and place in a cold oven. Why a cold oven? The fat will render off the bacon as the heat slowly rises.

2. Turn the heat on to 400 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes. The degree of crispiness that you like will determine whether you cook them for more than 15 minutes or not.

3. Remove from baking sheet and drain on paper towels. Crumble and put aside.

(If you enjoy cleaning up bacon spatter reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez from your stovetop, counters and floors, then frying bacon in a pan on the stovetop is for you.)

4. Place the lettuce, cauliflower and onion in layers. Lettuce on the bottom of the salad bowl, then the cauliflower, and finally the onion.

5. In a large measuring cup mix the mayonnaise, sugar, Parmesan cheese, and salt to make an incredible dressing.

6. Now pour the dressing on top of and evenly across the salad. DO NOT mix at this point.

7. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top of your masterpiece, seal over the salad bowl with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.

8. Let sit overnight and let “the magic” happen. All the flavors will blend to make a wonderful overnight taste sensation.

9. Mix well before you serve.

Feel free to add your favorite additions to this salad, such as: hard-boiled eggs, beets, carrots, etc. etc. The sky's the limit.

Believe me. This salad is good and good for you!

Cooking.com Logo

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to Grill the Perfect Steak.

Bring the Steakhouse to Your Backyard

The perfect steak starts with a good piece of meat. Some good choices are rib eye, porterhouse, New York strip, or filet mignon. Personally, my favorite is the rib eye because the price is right and it has just the right amount of fat. Always remember – fat equals flavor!

When you can, look for steaks with a Prime grade or Angus cut of meat. These types of steaks have the perfect amount of marbled fat rewarding you with rich taste, juiciness, and are great with the simplest of seasoning.

Prepping the steak for the grill is very simple. Some easy-to-follow guidelines are what's needed to ensure a very happy grilling experience. (Aahh, I can just smell the steak now . . .)

Prepping the Steak :

Fat (the fat on the steak I'm talking about, not necessarily on our hips, people) rewards you with great benefits to your palate but requires a little prep work before you grill.

1. If you find that your steak has a large amount of fat on the outside edge, just make a few cuts vertically through the fat at 2 inch intervals to prevent your steak from curling up and taking on the resemblance of a catcher's mitt from the 1930s.

2. Definitely brush your steaks down with a little olive oil before any seasoning is sprinkled on. This will ensure that your entire steak gets covered with oil resulting in great color. It also prevents the steaks from sticking to the grill grate.

3. Some people let steaks come to room temperature before grilling. Most professionals don’t bother, so, heck, why should we. Any meat left out to come to room temperature is an invitation for bacteria to grow.

4. Preheat your grill to high heat. Preheating the grill heats up the grates and helps prevent the food from sticking. High heat is required to sear the outside of the meat, thereby sealing in those fantastic juices.

5. You'll never hear a steak shout out and say, “Hey buddy! Stick a fork in me, I’m done!” I beg of you with my entire being, DON'T DO IT. You never ever want to violate a steak with a fork to turn it over on the grill. Piercing the steak will only release the juices resulting in a dried out piece of meat. Instead, what I suggest to use is a pair of tongs.

6. Brush the finished steaks that come off the grill with extra-virgin olive oil or butter for that little extra added richness.


Barbeques Galore Capt'n Cook 3-Burner Grill On Black And Stainless Steel Cart (Propane)



Barbeques Galore Capt'n Cook 3-Burner Grill On Black And Stainless Steel Cart (Propane)



When you take them off the grill let the steaks rest on a platter (or whatever you want to use) uncovered for about five minutes. You may be asking, “Why wait? Can't I start eating them right away? I'm starving!” You can, if you must.

But, did you know that when you cook meat the juices pull toward the center, huddling away from the heat source? So by letting the meat, after cooking, rest for about five minutes you will allow those wonderful tasty juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat. This makes the entire steak full of flavor. A little patience before serving will result in juicier steaks all the way through and make for satisfied palate.

Ingredients:

Rib Eye Steak
Olive Oil – Extra virgin
Kosher salt – About ½ teaspoon for each steak
Black pepper – About ½ teaspoon for each steak

How To Make It:

1. Preheat the grill for high heat.


Weber 22.5-in. One Touch Gold One Touch Gold BBQ, Black




Weber 22.5-in. One Touch Gold One Touch Gold BBQ, Black



2. Brush both sides of the steaks down with olive oil and then season them with salt and pepper.

3. Grill on a covered grill to the desired degree of doneness. For your aid, I've prepared a chart below that you can use for grill times.

(If you like those fancy crosshatch {+ or X} marks on the steak, simply rotate the steak 90 degrees after two minutes then continue for the remaining grilling times per side. Repeat this technique on the other side to get the same effect.)

4. Remove steaks from the grill and let rest for about five minutes before serving.

Enjoy the praise. You deserve it. Now that you have successfully brought the steakhouse to your backyard, you just may never order a steak out again.

Steak Cooking Times

3/4 inch thick:
medium rare – two minutes per side
medium – three minutes per side
medium well – four minutes per side

1 inch thick:
medium rare – three minutes per side
medium – five minutes per side
medium well – six minutes per side

1 1/2 inch thick:
medium rare – six minutes per side
medium – seven minutes per side
medium well – eight minutes per side

Personal note: Steaks cooked “well done” are not my idea of the perfect steak. But if you consider this to be your perfection then just add another minute to the “medium well” times per side.

Cooking.com Logo

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Art of Mastication

How to Masticate Properly

Ted has a limited time for lunch. He quickly leaves his job, dashes to his car and goes to the nearest fast food restaurant. He decides to go through the “drive-thru” to save time. Ordering a numbered meal on the menu board, he then pulls up ahead, pays the cashier clerk, gets his meal bag and drives off.

Hurriedly unwrapping the burger while widening the orifice in his head called a mouth to the full extension of the jaw muscles, he takes a gargantuan bite. Forcibly swallowing the chunks of beef only after three hasty chomps, he quickly inserts several potato fries into his mouth while negotiating traffic ahead of him.

The soft drink he sucks through a straw seems to take on the role of a liquid plunger compressing the food down his gullet to avoid choking. He repeats this method of consumption until his entire meal is inhaled with world class speed.

(Unbeknownst to Ted, he has just broken the record held by a Wet Vac on how fast spillage can be cleaned up emanating from a fifty gallon drum.) Arriving just in time to report back to work, his lunch time is now over.

Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you know someone who eats like Ted. To consume food in this manner is extremely taxing on your digestion system, not to mention being unsafe to eat while you are driving.

Our gulping friend Ted would do his body some good if he could just learn to master the art of masticating. How to masticate properly is perhaps the most important and fundamental requirement of healthy digestion, for it is the first step of digestion.

What is Mastication?

It is, basically, chewing. It's the process by which food is mashed and crushed by teeth. “Masticate” stems from the Greek word, mastikhan, which means to “grind the teeth.” During the mastication process, the food is positioned by the cheeks and tongue between the teeth for grinding.

Some Benefits of Masticating Properly

• It generates saliva. Saliva is allowed to break the food down so that you can absorb the nutrients.

• Salvia also helps kill potential food-borne bacteria. (Saliva in your mouth contains an enzyme called lysozyme which kills bacteria.)

• It increases the surface area of foods in your mouth to allow more efficient break down by enzymes while still in your mouth.

• The food is made softer and warmer and the enzymes in saliva begin to break down carbohydrates in the food.

• Salivary enzymes can digest as much as 30 to 40 per cent of starches before food even reaches the stomach.

• The digestive system is being prepared for the reception of the food, stimulating the production of digestive enzymes in the stomach. (The various glands of the stomach that perform such important work in digestion begin to pour their juices into the stomach.)

• The more we chew our food, the less work we leave for the rest of our digestive organs, including the stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and intestines.

• You allow the taste buds in your tongue and your mouth to fully register the flavors of the food, whether bitter, salty, sour or sweet, which can enrich your eating experience making it more pleasurable and enjoyable.

• The act of chewing is relaxing. It is no coincidence that the digestive system is hindered during stress.

Stress is hard on the stomach. Our entire physiological system is extremely sensitive to our moods. Remember how you felt the last time you spoke in public? Those butterflies weren't in your head.

In fact, experts now see stress as a major player in a wide range of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and heartburn.

As we masticate properly, it is a relaxing act of food intake. We are only able to digest properly if we are relaxed.

• Thorough chewing helps to prevent the heavy feeling that sometimes follows a meal.

• It is believed by many to also facilitate managing and losing weight because it slows down the eating process, allowing time for the body to signal to the brain when it is full.

How To Masticate Properly

• In a hurried lifestyle that so many lead, it may be difficult to allow enough time to eat ones' food. But, it is worth the try. As with our friend Ted in the beginning of this piece, he had very little time to eat the amount of food he ordered so he attacked it ferociously. Try to give yourself enough time to eat your food so that you can chew slowly.

• Perhaps one of the most important thing to remember is to please take small(er) bites. I've seen spoons, forks and even knives pilled so high with food that I've wondered how in the world could it ever fit in a person's mouth. But, lo and behold, they manage. Wow.

• Chew, chew, chew and chew some more. There are advocates of chewing anywhere from “3 - 5 times” to “35 - 100 times” before swallowing. Personally, I prefer not having to apply any of my math skills while eating.

Here is what I do and it's much easier. Just continue to chew until the food becomes somewhat of a liquid or is broken down enough so that it actually passes down your throat involuntarily. Allow your involuntary muscles in your throat, all by themselves, to pull the small pieces of food down.

Each mouthful should be retained in the mouth, being masticated up to the point of involuntary swallowing. And you know what? As you develop this habit, you will be swallowing before you realize it.

• Use your tongue to periodically position the food between your teeth while you are chewing so that your teeth can break down the food properly.

• Endeavour to eat in a nice relaxed manner. Digestive activity slows down significantly when worry or anxiety cause tension in the abdominal area. Be stress free while masticating. (See the point, “the act of chewing is relaxing” handled above in the section called, “Some Benefits of Masticating Properly.”)

• Sit in an upright position when eating. Hunching over your food is not only poor eating etiquette, but it also hinders the food, when it is swallowed, to travel down the esophagus smoothly to the stomach. Try it and see, or rather, feel it for yourself.

• Use of liquids during a meal may be necessary when they are needed to satisfy thirst, rather than to force or wash food down one's throat. A certain amount of liquid is essential to carry on the digestive process. But even liquids should be drunk by taking small mouthfuls (sipped), not guzzled.

If one does not properly masticate food, what is eaten goes through the digestive system as large pieces of food, making the digestive organs work that much harder. Let's face it. You do not have teeth anywhere else in your body. After you swallow your food, there are no other opportunities to break up large pieces of food, so give your body some help.

In the beginning you may have to give some very conscious attention and effort to reform your eating habits. But with discipline, desire and proper application, over a period of time, the art of mastication can be established and mastered for the rest of your life without further thought.

Cooking.com Logo

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Southern Sawmill Gravy and Biscuits

Something Good from Down South

Having grown up in the north I never was exposed to the wonderful delights of southern cooking. To me “grits” meant the various grades of sandpaper and “greens” were the colors found in the park. Boy, was I in for a culinary awakening.

My wife and her family are from Tennessee. Because of this I have been educated in some good old down home southern cooking over the years. The mere mention of hog jowls, pig knuckles, greens and grits now brings forth a respectful and heart-felt, “them's good eats.” And I mean it, southern cooking has very tasty dishes.

I have learned quite a few recipes from these wonderful folks and think you may be enlightened by the simplicity and BIG flavors found in southern cuisine.

Sunday mornings are known for “Dad’s Big Breakfasts,” as my kids endearingly call them. This is usually when I lay out a feast “fit for a king” (and my queen of course.) Everyone looks forward to these meals with great enthusiasm. Whenever I do decide to take everyone out for breakfast instead, they all try to make me feel guilty for not cooking them breakfast by saying, “Why do we have to go out to eat?!” Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

Here is my recipe for Southern Sawmill Gravy and Biscuits that I think you will enjoy. Just a few ingredients are required. And the taste? Well, according to all accounts, it's aaawesome.

Ingredients:
Bulk breakfast sausage – 1 pound (available from your butcher)
Flour – 5 tablespoons
Milk – 2 cups (any kind will do but whole milk is preferred)
Salt
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper

How To Make It:

1. Cook the sausage in a cast iron skillet or whatever heavy skillet you have available. I have, on occasion, used an electric skillet which works great if you have one.

Lodge 12-in. Cast Iron Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
2. When done, remove the sausage from the pan and place in a bowl and set it aside for now. Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of fat. (I just eyeball it the best I can.) If you happen to get lean sausage that doesn't render off much fat you may have to add a little butter to the pan.

3. Whisk flour into the fat adding a little bit at a time, getting it to be the consistency of creamy peanut butter. If all you can get to mix into the fat is 3-4 tablespoons of flour to get it to the right consistency then so be it. (We don't want to make wall spackle here.) Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes to remove any floury taste. This is called a “roux.” It's done when you notice that the roux gets to be a light brown color.

4. It's now time to whisk in the milk a little at a time. It may start to get a little lumpy, but as it heats up and you continue whisking, it will smooth out.

5. Now return it to medium-high heat and stir occasionally while the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens. (Flavor note: Scrape up any yummy bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan; that's where the flavor is.)

6. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne to your taste, put the sausage back into the pan and mix it in with the gravy.

7. Serve over your favorite biscuits. I like to use Bisquick for its simplicity. Want it even easier? Use Pillsbury Grands Biscuits.

How simple is that. As you can see, just properly using a few ingredients can go a long way. This one can be whipped up in “no time at all” and can be kept warm while you make your “big breakfasts.”

Cooking.com Logo

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sweet n' Spicy Southern Slaw

Mmmm, Just the Way I Like It

OK, so the perfect side dish recipe that will have even coleslaw haters asking for is my southern slaw that's sweet and spicy. This dish goes great with grilled ribs, chicken and fish fry’s. If you need something that screams outdoor entertaining, besides an exotic belly dancer or something, its this slaw.

(Pardon me while I brag a little bit now.) At all covered dish functions that I have brought this particular dish along, I've had just about everyone ask for the recipe. Heck, even a caterer asked for it once.

It has the wonderful crisp crunch of cabbage with the added spicy sweetness that compliments your next outdoor dish.

Ingredients:
White and red cabbage – 1/2 head each, shredded
Fresh spinach – 1/2 bag pre-washed and julienne
Red onion – 1 medium sized, chopped
Mayonnaise – 1 cup
Zatarain’s Creole mustard – 5 tablespoons (found in your grocer's ethnic food isle). If you have trouble finding this you can substitute any spicy brown mustard.
Garlic – 2-3 cloves, minced
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne pepper – 2 or 3 pinches
Honey – 1 tablespoon
Parsley flakes – 1 tablespoon


How To Make It:

1. In a salad bowl toss the cabbages, spinach, and red onion.
Tree Spirit 15-in. Solid Wood Salad Bowl

2. In a measuring cup mix the mayonnaise, mustard and garlic together.

3. Add a pinch or two of salt and some pepper to taste.

4. A couple of pinches of cayenne pepper and the honey complete this awesome dressing.

5. Mix it all together thoroughly and take a taste. (Incredible, isn’t it?)

6. Now toss the dressing with the ingredients in the salad bowl, cover and refrigerate for about an hour to let all the flavors marry.

7. Before serving sprinkle the parsley on top and prepare for the accolades.

Cooking.com Logo

Friday, September 7, 2007

Maple Glazed Pork Ribs

A Tender Sweet Goodness You Can't Deny

There are so many ways to prepare pork ribs on the grill that I thought I would share one of my favorites with you. I know, I know. Everyone has a “method” to it and I employ many a kind, but it all depends on what you want that final product to feel like in your mouth.

Some want the meat just “melts in your mouth and falls off the bone” feel. Others like it where the meat requires a good “bite and tear” feel to get it off. Personally I like the “melts in your mouth and falls off the bone” feel, rather than having the latter.

The method we will use for this particular preparation of pork ribs will be parboiling, then grilling. (Parboiling is partially cooking food in boiling water before finishing the cooking process by another method.)

Parboiling helps render off some of the fat from the ribs, which helps to prevent flareups, as well as reducing the cook time on the grill.

In order to eat these ribs, please keep in mind that this method will probably take about a good three hours before it is all said and done. When done these ribs will have a great dark maple syrup glazed coating that just looks amazing on the platter and have the “fall off the bone” tenderness that slow cooking provides. Let me tell you, it's worth the wait!

Ingredients:
Pork Spareribs – 2 slabs about three pounds each
Maple Syrup (pure) – 1 cup
Soy Sauce – 1/4 cup of lite soy sauce
Garlic Cloves – 2 cloves (minced)
Mirin (rice wine) – 3 tbsp. This item can usually be found in your grocer's ethnic foods isle.

How To Make It:
1. Place the ribs in a large stockpot and add water making sure the ribs are all under water.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a medium-high and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. To make the Maple glaze, stir together the maple syrup, soy sauce, minced garlic cloves, and the Mirin in a measuring cup. You can set this aside for now.

4. While the ribs are parboiling in the water, get your grill ready to go. Clean and oil the grates with vegetable oil and preheat the grill.

For this recipe we usually use a gas grill for convenience. I like to have an thermometer handy to check the temp of the grill and keep it at about 325-375 degrees. We are going to cook the ribs over INDIRECT heat, which means that we are going to light only half the grill burners and cook the slabs over the unlit side.
Maverick Industries, Inc. Redi-Check Remote Cooking Thermometer and Timer

5. When the ribs are done parboiling remove them from the water and place them on a platter.

6. Using a basting brush paint some of the maple glaze all over the ribs reserving some for basting later.

7. Place the ribs on the grill over the unlit side and close the lid. Check the thermometer to ensure the temperature stays between 325-375 degrees.

Hey, hey, hey. Don't give in to the temptation to open the grill and look at your “grilling masterpiece” because every time you do the grill temperature drops and it takes a little while to come back up to temperature.

(Constantly opening the grill will obviously take the ribs longer to cook and, who knows, the natives may get restless and start an uprising.)

8. After an hour you can finally open the grill and rotate the slabs, meaning place the slab closest to the heat away from the heat and the slab farthest away from the heat closer to the heat.

9. Also take this time to give those babies a little basting bath with the reserved maple glaze.

10. Close the lid and let cook for another hour, basting two more times in this final hour.

11. Remove the ribs from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before chowing down on those juicy, mouth watering maple glazed pork ribs.

Enjoy!

Cooking.com Logo

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fresh Fruit Salad



A Cool and Tropical Delight

I never thought one day that I would ever like a fruit salad, let alone have and write my own recipe for it. But, ladies and gentlemen, here I am about to do just that. I suppose my taste buds have changed over time. I can honestly say that I love fruit salad – at least my “special blend” fruit salad.


I've had years preparing and serving this dish to many a populace. I now offer my personal and treasured recipe to you for your consideration and perhaps (should you care to prepare this cool and tropical dish), your consumption as well.


Ingredients:
Fruit – The following are my choices. I try to put in all of these for this dish. You may add or delete to your liking.
Apples – I like using red delicious apples.
Bananas
Peaches
Plums
Strawberries – Try to get these as fresh and as red as you can.


It's great that there's a strawberry farm so close to where I live where I can pick fresh strawberries from rows and rows. If you can ever get to a strawberry farm and pick your own, please, mark it on your calendar and take the time to go picking. It's lots and lots of fun. Bring the kids, your date, or your whoever.


Raisins – I prefer the “normal” raisin, not the golden raisin.


Besides the nice sweet taste of a raisin in this dish, I like the different textures in my mouth when I chew this meal. My tongue gently rearranges and positions the fruit in my mouth so I can masticate properly. (Aahh, the art of masticating is, I'm afraid, just about lost. But that's another topic.)


Coconut Flakes – The kind in a bag that is often used for baking cakes.

Granola Cereal – The brand I use is Heartland Granola Cereal (original), in a box.


I buy it from the local grocery stores in town. If you want, you can try buying it from a “health food” market where they have bins and bins of various grains. You may be able to find the granola cheaper at a place like that.


Almonds (natural) – Optional for some people. I like this in my fruit salad. You can use either the whole almonds or the sliced. Avoid the salted, coated or the fancy funky kind of almond. The plain natural almond is the best.

Yogurt – I get from the Publix grocery store in town their brand of the “fat free light” yogurts.


I use their vanilla flavor and one other flavor, either mandarin, strawberry or strawberry with banana. Not matter what I use, I always, and I mean always must have their vanilla flavor. It's the best vanilla yogurt I've tasted in quite some time and it blends nicely with all the ingredients.


But you may have a favorite brand of yogurt that you like to use. You have my permission to use whatever your taste buds prefer.


How To Make It:
Depending on how many people plan on eating this ambrosial dish, determines how much fruit you'll be slicing and how much of the other ingredients you'll be adding.


The following directions are for one serving, the serving size that I normally have. Remember this is not a snack dish. This is a full size meal portion. I eat nothing else after this fruit salad. I'm done.


1. First get the bowl that you will be eating this dish from. I use a glass bowl about 1-2 sizes larger than a normal cereal bowl, or the smallest mixing bowl I've got.
222 Fifth 5-pc. Red Sunflower Pasta Bowl Set


2. Begin chopping, slicing, or cutting the fruit to comfortable bite size pieces and put them into the bowl. Here's the breakdown:

Apples – I use just less than a quarter of an apple.
Bananas – One whole banana.
Peaches – Less than one quarter, depending on the size.
Plums – Half or more, depending on the size.
Strawberries – Five or so, depending on the size. I like to de-core the strawberries before slicing.

Raisins – One box of mini-snacks. This is the real small boxes that come in a bag of 14 mini-snacks.


I recommend not cutting too much at first. If you are hungry when you start to cut, you may wind up putting way too much fruit in the bowl and then find out that you don't have the room in your tummy to eat all of it. Saving the leftovers and putting it in the refrigerator for another time loses that fresh taste when first prepared. I've done it often enough to know it just doesn't
taste the same.


So cut what you know you can eat. You can always add more of the fruit you
like best. The extra fruit you don't need can be stored in a zip lock bag and
put in the fridge.


3. Add the coconut flakes to the bowl. I sprinkle in about 1-2 tablespoons.


4. Now pour in the granola cereal. I like the “crunchy-ness” of granola so I put a nice coat over the fruit in the bowl.


5. Next, put in the almonds. If they are whole, I put in about 6-10. If sliced, about 1-2 full tablespoons.


6. Now add the yogurt. I'll use half of their vanilla flavor and half of one of the other flavors I mentioned. The extra I'll put back in the fridge for the next fruit salad I make.


7. Mix it all up making sure everything is fully coated with the yogurts.


There you have it, folks. This is a perfect refreshing dish for a hot steamy day, or if you just want to have a “no-meat meal” for a change.


So, from one fruit salad lover to perhaps another, Enjoy!



Cooking.com Logo

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I Love Cooking BBQ

Got Gas?...or Charcoal

I love cooking. In some way or another, who doesn’t love cooking. If you are reading this blog you probably love cooking as well.

Hey, either you love to eat what is cooking or you love the act of cooking itself. In any case, cooking is always a good thing because that means there is something to eat. Mmm, yum yum.

My favorite way of cooking is by way of BBQ.

Everybody has their preferences when it comes to this style of cooking. Personally, I love charcoal grilling. My wife, on the other hand, likes gas grilling. We have both types and “fire” them both up equally.

In my opinion, charcoal grilling imparts a “grilled flavor” to foods that gas cannot achieve. My wife says I’m nuts. I say she's full of – gas. (Sorry. I had to get that in.)

I like that getting-back-to-nature feel of building a fire and tending it. Very zen, very manly, very . . . -- well you get the point.

(Uh, my wife says I need to choose my next words wisely.) Anyway, in her own right she can throw down with the best of them (gas or charcoal) and that's not me just kissin' up. Gotta' give her props.

And don’t forget, most kids love to roast marshmallows over the fire when dinner is over. (Charcoal has got the kids' vote; otherwise they may as well put a marshmallow on a twig and hold it over the stove in the house. Boy, is that ever fun.)

Now, let us quickly explore a few simple differences that I notice between charcoal and gas grilling. First, let's check out:

Charcoal Grills:
Charcoal grills are inexpensive.

They are easy to cart around with you to different locations. By the way, have you seen the grills that attach to the trailer hitch of your vehicle? They are great for tailgating and so freakin' cool.
BBQ Guys Big Go Griller

Although you may have to wait a short bit of time for the coals to heat up, you won’t even notice the wait time if you time things right like prepping the food. (Hey, if you're ahead of the game you can even pop a couple of icy cold beverages. Wink.)

Gas Grills:
Gas grills will give you greater control over the temperature and are fast to light and heat up.

They usually come with a side burner, which is pretty cool for making sauces and vegetables.

They also have options such as steamers, smokers and electric rotisseries.
Choose a grill with two or more burners for greater control over heat.

Also the food grates that have angled metal bars over the burners are usually the best to prevent flare-ups during grilling, as the ceramic briquettes and lava rock tend to collect grease on them.

Features you might want to consider when purchasing a grill:
Find a grill made of aluminum or high grade steel with a baked-on porcelain enamel finish. They will last longer and they look good as well.
Barbeques Galore Capt'n Cook 4-Burner Grill On Black And Stainless Steel Cart (Propane)

Thankfully they don't make many grills with viewing windows anymore. They are plain dangerous (window breakage) and don't hold heat well. Grillin' is serious business. You ain't cookin' with an easy-bake oven here.

Most important, purchase one that is heavy for its size. One way you can estimate the “heaviness” is to check to see if the lid of a grill feels heavy to swing open for its size. If it does, more than likely it is going to keep the heat in the grill and cook food more evenly.

(Another way of looking at it is to think of two identically sized frying pans, one made of aluminum and the other made of cast iron. The cast iron one is heavier and conducts heat better than the aluminum one can.)

A grill that is large enough to cook both directly and indirectly over the heat is important too.

Wooden or plastic handles are a plus because they will stay cooler.

Whatever your preference – Grilling Rocks!

Whether you are new to grilling or a seasoned pro, we trust you will find some great recipes and tips throughout this blog that suites your taste.


Cooking.com Logo

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mom's Saturday Mornings French Toast



A Damn Good Tasting Breakfast Treat

Here's a favorite of mine from my childhood. My mom used to cook this in the morning for the family just about every Saturday. It was a breakfast I looked forward to the whole freakin' week.

People always thought that I played Pop Warner (little league) football better that day because of the “energy” this meal gave me. Yeah, yeah, I must admit that the sugar rush did help initially, but it was mostly my astounding athletic ability that catapulted me above the other “earthling opponents.” (Smile)

Anyway, I learned to cook this meal while still in grade school (with my mom's help) and through the years I've, you might say, “made it my own.” Whether you've got a sweet tooth or not, or you just don't mind indulging once-in-a-while in a damn good tasting breakfast, then people, “I've Got Something to Put in Your Mouth.”

Ingredients:
Eggs – I like to use 1 egg for every 2-3 pieces of French Toast when I make it.
Nutmeg (powder) – the first of three ingredients that are on this list are some of the greatest aromas on earth to live for.
Cinnamon (powder) – the second great aroma.
Milk – Use whole milk if you can, but if you need to use 2% or less, you'll be fine.
Vanilla Extract (pure) – the third great aroma on earth to live for.
Toppings – Aahh yes, this is where I (or you) can go ape nuts with this, and let me tell you, I have many a time. You can add strawberries, blackberries, peach slices, banana slices, or my favorite “special” topping – which I'll tell you more about later.
Maple Syrup – The pure stuff. I use the brand Spring Tree 100% Pure, All Natural maple syrup, grade A dark amber.

Whatever your brand choice, please use the pure stuff. It makes a big difference when you pour that warm syrup over those perfectly cooked juicy pieces of French Toast and oohh baby, . . . I better stop. I'm getting a French Toast fix right about now, so let's move on.

Butter – We're talking real butter here. But if you need to cut down on it, use the “lighter” butter.
Sliced Bread – My choice is the 7-9 grain whole wheat bread that are the soft slices. (I don't like the hard slices for this recipe.)
Sausage – This is optional. You can either have patties or links. It's up to you.

How To Make It:
This recipe is for 2-3 pieces of French Toast. Make needed adjustments for ingredient portions according to taste and number of servings.

1. Get a mixing bowl. The size of the bowl you'll use will depend on how many pieces of French Toast you are going to make. For me a small – medium bowl will work because I'll make 2-3 pieces to put in my pie hole.

I like to use a mixing bowl with somewhat of a flat bottom to it so that the bread can soak up the batter without having to move the bread around too much when placed in the bowl.

2. To make the batter, crack the eggs in the bowl and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. I like to use about 4-5 good shakes of each spice.

3. Then add about 1/4 to 1/2 cups or more of milk and mix very well with a fork or a whisk. Make sure those eggs are broken up all the way. I personally rather not see any white from the eggs on my French Toast while it's cooking.

(The reason for the amount of milk that I mention is because I like my bread pieces soaked well in the batter and really soggy. Some people don't like it that way, so I say start with less milk and then you can always add more milk to the batter according to need.

Also, if you later need to add more milk, you may want to add more nutmeg and cinnamon as well since you might lose the “full flavor” of these spices with more milk added to the batter mix.)

4. Now add a good quick dash of the pure vanilla extract. It doesn't take much for this exotic liquid to bring flavor to this dish.

5. Mix all the ingredients well but make sure you don't over do it. Just mix it well enough so that everything is blended together nicely. We don't want it to look all bubbly. We're not making whipped topping here.

6. Cut any toppings you desire and put them to the side for now. They will be ready to be put atop the French Toast when all the cooking is done.

7. Get your pure maple syrup set it aside. The moment the cooking is done, have the syrup warmed (I use a microwave rather than heating it up on the stove)and pour it over the golden entrée.

8. Use a 10-12 inch (or bigger if you've got it) non-stick skillet or fry pan and put it on a middle to high heat setting. If you don't want the bread to cook quickly on the outside, leaving the inner portion of the bread to remain soft, then set your stove to a lower setting.

9. Coat the entire bottom of the skillet with butter. Keep that butter close at hand as you may be using it more than once. Once the butter has melted and the skillet and nice and hot, start soaking the pieces of bread in the batter to your liking.

10. Tilting the spatula slightly to drain any excess batter from the bread, put the bread piece(s) in the skillet and watch this new tasty breakfast treat come into fruition before your very eyes.

(Note: you may want to have a splatter guard to cover the skillet just in case you have some “spitting” from the skillet. I know I need it because I have my heat setting on high when I cook this.)
Cuisipro 11.5-in. Round Splatter Guard with Feet

While cooking, check the bottom of the bread piece(s). When they have cooked to your liking, turn over the bread slice(s). You may want to add more butter so that the skillet stays slightly coated.

Because I love my bread slices to be soggy, I will see that the down side of the slices are dark, dark brown first before I flip the slices over, making sure there is ample butter on the skillet for them to slip and slide in.

11. When all your slices of bread are cooked and delicately placed on the plate that is graced to have such a noble breakfast resting upon it, pour your warm amber sweet syrup upon it and then add your favorite selected toppings that you pre-cut earlier.

Aahh, you thought I forgot about my favorite “special” topping I mentioned earlier. I did not, my curious friend.

Warning!! You may not want to put what I put on the top of this mound of food, but if you think you can handle it, be my guest.

12. The finishing touch, the ultimate crown topping to this meal is 1-2 scoops of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream!! Nothing beats that brand of ice cream for me.

This is the time to shut off the TV, radio, computer and all that is around you in the world and eat with honored reverence, “Mom's Saturday Mornings French Toast.”

And the cheering of the crowd swells as another touchdown is scored! Enjoy.


Cooking.com Logo