Finally. Spring.

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The mid-west polar vortex was a bit more than this missed-place southerner could handle. There is something not right about wind chills below zero and snow that stays around for weeks rather than leaving after a few days. During the bleak mid-winter of 2014 all I wanted to see was sunlit uplands made glorious summer by the smoke from my grill.

Finally. Spring. Summer. Grills ablaze.Grill-Steak1

A harsh winter provides nothing except thankfulness when it is over; gratitude is best shown with meals prepared out-of-doors. There is something hopeful and comforting about food cooked over a flame. Over the winter I read through cookbooks and subscribed to the Splendid Table podcast – just so I’d be ready when the gray of winter gave way to the blue of spring.

This being Memorial Day Weekend we splurged a little – bought some steaks and prepared a marinade. I found the marinade recipe in a cookbook by Bobby Flay rightly titled, Grilling for Life: 75 Healthier Ideas for Big Flavor from the Fire. It is marvelous and frankly easy. One huge plus is that it calls for red wine – which adds to the joy of cooking since we shouldn’t cook with a wine we wouldn’t drink!bobby-flays-grilling-for-life-75-healthier-ideas-for-big-flavor-from-the-fire-hardcover-book-467_357

To my way of thinking there are few better ways to overcome the doldrums of a bad winter than planning and cooking a great meal for the folks you love. So grab a few cookbooks at the library – or check out some great sites on-line and get to grilling something amazing. It’s a great way to share love and to show gratitude that the sun is shining and all that snow is gone!

Here is the recipe from Bobby Flay’s Grilling for Life: 75 Healthier Ideas for Big Flavor from the Fire:

  • 1.5 cups dry red wine
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • he calls for 1 flank steak, 2 lbs, trimmed of fat and cut crosswise into 2 pieces – but use what you want! Combine all these ingredients – stir them up – pour over your steak of choice and let it sit for 4 hours to 24.
  • Now fire up that grill and eat up!

Here are a few sites to check out:

  1. http://www.jackedupgrill.blogspot.com
  2. http://www.foodnetworkstore.com
  3. http://www.splendidtable.org
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A Son of the South Goes South of the Border: Fajitas

 You may think this is strange but I’ve discovered that my love language is cooking. What I mean is that one of the ways that I show my family I love them is through cooking. I love it – and I especially love it when my wife and sons really, really enjoy what I’ve cooked. That is not to say that I’m a great cook – but I want to be and I am trying to learn. What makes this all the more enjoyable is that cooking isn’t so much about me (although I benefit) but about my family.

Last night I stumbled across a new dish that was amazing. One of the best parts is that it combined a marinade that Sherry created a few weeks back with something I did. Perhaps even more importantly it helped to get my youngest son to eat veggies (something he does not care for). So – I thought I’d share – first because I was thrilled with the results and because of that I want to offer it.

Sherry’s Simple Marinade:

A few weeks back Sherry experimented a bit and came up with a very simple marinade – which is amazing on beef and chicken. We’ve tried it on both – grilled the meat – and it has been awesome.

In a large zip lock back “dump,” as Sherry put it, Italian Seasoning, Olive Oil, and Soy Sauce. Then put in either beef or chicken. Zip that bad boy up – shake it around and then place it in the fridge for a few hours. That’s it. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Fajitas

Ingredients:

  1. Strip Steak – (or Chicken): it is important to get good quality meat, well marbled.
  2. Sherry’s Simple Marinade
  3. Red Pepper
  4. Yellow Pepper
  5. Orange Pepper
  6. Garlic (one clove)
  7. Onion (1/2)
  8. Fresh Basil
  9. Salted Butter
  10. Worchester Sauce (thick and thin if you’ve got them)
  11. Sea Salt
  12. Crushed Black Pepper

Grill your Steak:

I love to grill – so I recommend grilling the marinated strip steak (or chicken). Since this is a thin cut of meat be sure to keep an eye on it. Don’t overcook – you do not want this meat to be dry (but you do want to make sure you cook it thoroughly – 165 degrees). I actually cooked my steak the day before and took it from the grill and immediately put it in an airtight container and placed it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Prep the Steak (chicken) Veggies & Stuff

  • Cut up the peppers into smallish – thin strips.
  • I cut ½ an onion – I like mine sort of small so they will cook up better
  • Chop up the garlic clove
  • Cut up the fresh basil very fine
  • Cut the steak into long strips – not too thin

Cook it up:

In a large skillet – over medium heat – melt salted butter (I like the flavor butter adds. Yes I know Olive Oil is healthier but we are going for love here). After the butter has melted toss in the veggies, garlic, basil, salt & pepper. Toss that around for a while – let those flavors mingle. Add a little of the Worchester sauce (thick if you’ve got it). When those things have cooked up add the steak (or chicken). Add a little more Worchester sauce if you want. Make sure that you mix the meat into the other ingredients. Cover it for a while and let it sit on low heat.

Serve it up:

Warm up some tortillas. Place rice and beans in the middle of the tortilla and add a little cheese – then add the fajita mix on top. Top it with sour cream if you have a mind to – or a bit of hot sauce or salsa. Serve it up to your family for an awesome meal!

Resources:

The Jacked Up Grill – http://jackedupgrill.blogspot.com/

The Flavor Bible – http://www.becomingachef.com/flavor_bible.php

An Obsession with Pancakes

 

Great Pancakes - Great Coffee - Great Saturday

The whole “love language” thing has always been a mystery to me. Not because I think it is weird or untrue but because for years I didn’t think I had a love language. In fact someone once asked me if I knew my wife’s love language and I was able to fire it off quick. But then they asked me mine and I stood there looking dumber than I usually do. Never again. Now I know my love language. It’s pancakes.

Pancakes are the way that I tell my family I love them. Almost every Saturday morning – unless soccer, lacrosse or something else dictates otherwise – I find myself in my kitchen, mixing and flipping. As you can imagine – as an act of love – these are no ordinary, just add water pancakes. Nope. These are made from scratch and they are tasty.

I started making pancakes years ago – first as just something different and fun. What I noticed is that my kids thought it was cool that Dad was making them something special. It took on a life of its own after that. I started researching how to make them better and better (partly out of love and part because I get a little crazy and super focused). One of the best places that I’ve found for learning how to do anything in the kitchen is America’s Test Kitchen (if you want to really learn the science of cooking check them out). 

What I have now is a simple recipe that I’ve pulled from different places and made my own – and one I’m glad to share. But remember – it is an act of love. I’d recommend to every dad – tell your family you love them by making really good pancakes – or really good grilled cheese sandwiches or burgers or BBQ.  Go the extra mile and make it extraordinary.

Pancakes:

  • 2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cups of Milk
  • Butter
  • A bit of Lemon juice (I go for fresh but you can use the bottled kind too)
  • Pinch or so of Salt
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Drop of Vanilla
  • Some baking powder
  • Some baking soda
  • A little sugar (sometimes I use brown sugar) not too much of either
  • Griddle (I don’t use a skillet go for a griddle – heat to about 350-400).
  • Spatula – a really good – large, floppy kind so you can flip ’em over
Directions:
Add this to the other ingredients – mix well but do not over mix. You want the lumps in the batter.
Throw some batter on the griddle in pancake size shapes. Wait till the edges have started to firm up a bit – then carefully flip ’em and let ’em cook for a minute or so.
Then serve them up nice and hot with some great syrup.

Cooking 'em up

Fun with Syrup:

  • Jack Daniels Syrup: put a good amount of syrup (two cups or more) in a small pot and put on medium heat. Add a few table spoons of Jack (I don’t want to “waste” my JD) to it and let it come to a boil. It adds a little kick to the syrup for Mom & Dad. (BTW I saw a guy use this syrup and pancakes with his BBQ on Diners-Drive Ins and Dives not sure about that but I guess if your BBQ is bad JD makes it eatable).
  • Organic Molasses add a nice touch as well.

 

In Search of the Perfect Home Brewed Cup of Coffee…

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I don't have a problem...I can quit anytime I like...but who likes a quitter?!

You may not know this but if you Google Trout Fishing in America the first link has nothing to do with tying a fly to a line. Instead it takes you to the site of the 4 time Emmy Nominated children’s music duo of Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood. Be careful if you check them out – you’ll get hooked.

I first heard their music a few years ago and my family and immediately liked them. Their songs are fun and clever. One song stands out in my mind. The song is entitled, What I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee. The Chorus goes like this:

“‘Cause all I want is a proper cup of coffee
Made in a proper copper coffee pot
I may be off my dot but I want a proper coffee
In a proper copper pot”

“Iron coffee pots and tin coffee pots
They are no use to me
If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee
In a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll have a cup of tea”

Let me be frank. I do not love coffee. I love good coffee and there is a difference. For those who want to argue otherwise I’d suggest that their taste buds have long since given up and died – probably due to drowning in an overly sugared and creamed, toxic, soup in a styrofoam cup. I’ve tried all sorts of coffee and I’ve tried many different ways to make a good cup of coffee at home. In the last few years I have succeeded and I have proof of my success. The proof is that my wife, who at one time would not touch coffee, now drinks at least one cup a day with me. What changed? The coffee and its maker.

Here is what I’ve learned about making a good to great home-brewed cup of coffee:

First, I think for coffee to be made properly it must be made in a certain way. In order to get a proper cup of coffee it probably shouldn’t be plunged through paper. I also think that coffee is something that should be enjoyed and savored. Most of the time folks are in such a hurry to grab their cup and go they don’t even bother to taste the brew – which is probably best since a lot of it stinks. Just because it can be made cheaply and quickly doesn’t mean that it should be. It’s like rushing to make wine, beer and bourbon. Sure you can do it but why on earth would you? So the thing I’ve learned about making a great home brewed cup of coffee is take your time in both the brewing so you can enjoy drinking it.

To do this you’ll need to by-pass a coffee maker. Yes – put those things away. They don’t seem to get the water hot enough to really brew the coffee. If you are buying good beans and putting them through a paper filter and barely hot water you are wasting money and coffee. Plus who wants to drink something that has gone through paper – most of which is bleached.

Go for a French Press or a Stovetop Glass Vacuum Coffee Pot.  We’ve used a French Press for three years and they are great. However, my wife got me a Bodum Stovetop Glass Vacuum Pot for Christmas and it is amazing! We’ve been using it the last few days and man is it good coffee. Plus a Vacuum Pot is fun to watch and easy to clean. In either case there is no paper filter to mess with so you get the full taste of the bean. If you go for a French Press you’ll need an electric kettle (one with multiple water temp settings is preferable a proper water temp is very important). Top those things off with a good supply whole beans (I like Nicaraguan personally) and a bur grinder (avoid whirr grinders) and you are set.

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One Way to Get a Perfect Cup of Home Brewed Coffee

Going the route of a French Press or a Vacuum Pot will need a bit more attention than plunking grounds in a drip machine – but it is worth it. But I will warn you. Once you go down the road to drinking good to great coffee you’ll have a tough time drinking anything else. In fact, like the song says, if you can’t have a proper cup of coffee you’ll probably just ask tea.

A Really, Really Great Burger!

Ever had the craving for a great burger? Now there are a ton of burger places dotting every town and city – but don’t go there to get a great burger. You’ll be disappointed. In fact, we as a family don’t go to those places at all – ever. We’ve declared them the evil empire. I think it is a terrible thing to serve bad food – bad for you – tastes bad – which means they are probably not doing good in the world…

Okay – I’m off my soap box. I just think that food and coffee should be made with great care. They are also things that, if they are made well – full of good ingredients and flavor – they are to be savored and perhaps something which we should actually be able to “give thanks for.” There is something to be said about being able to sit down and eat a meal and not in a hurry.

Okay – that being said – I’ve got this great burger recipe. It’ll take some time to prep but it is awesome. We love it. They are not meant to be small burgers. They are meant to be big. They are meant to be made for a room full of folks. This recipe is not original with me – although I’ve tweaked it and made it my own in lots of ways. I hope you enjoy it!

Mark’s Triple B’s Burgers

I usually make these for six people – adjust the recipe accordingly. I can’t take all the credit for this recipe – I saw the apple slaw somewhere. The burger is something that I’ve picked up from different places and tweaked after getting feedback from different folks.

 For burgers

1.5 lbs of lean ground lamb

1.5 lbs of lean ground beef

2-3 Portabella Mushrooms

½ Sweet Onion

½ Fresh Garlic Clove –

Whole grain mustard- a tad

Worcestershire  – just a dash

Horseradish – just a tad

Black pepper

Feta Cheese – slices if possible

Small amount of olive oil

Buns

For slaw

1 granny smith green apple

2 stalks celery

1 ½ teaspoon Apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Mayo

¼ Teaspoon Sugar

1-Teaspoon Whole Grain Mustard

1-Teaspoon Olive Oil

Slaw Prep:

Cut celery into matchsticks – slivers.

Cut apples into matchsticks – leave skin on apple

Mix other ingredients together and then add celery and apple matchsticks.

Season to taste – you may have to add this and that to get it just right.

Refrigerate –until you are ready to apply to the burger.

Burger prep

  • Early prep:
    • Place mushrooms, garlic and onions in a food processor (separately if you so desire).
    • Once the mushrooms, garlic and onions are cut fine – but not overly – place in a skillet with just a tad bit of olive oil. You may not even need the olive oil. Sauté the ingredients until they have cooked well with each other. They might appear a bit gray – but they should smell amazing. Take these off the heat and allow them to cool. After they’ve cooled add in the mustard, horseradish, and Worcestershire (just a bit).
    • This is a good time to prepare the slaw and enjoy a nice glass of wine or cold beer.
    • Once these have cooled combine this with the lamb and the beef. Mix those thoroughly. Once this is done it is time to make the patties. I do not make small burgers – I like my guests to leave full – fat and happy.
    • I like to cook my slow on the grill – searing both sides for about 3 minutes each – and then just let them slow cook on low heat. This is a good time to enjoy another glass of wine – or – a cold beer.
    • When the burgers have cooked to your liking – I’m a medium well guy myself (170degrees is preferred thermo reading) – place them on the bun. Put a slice of feta cheese on top and top that with the slaw – top that with the bun – combine that with another glass of wine or beer and you’ve got yourself an amazing burger.