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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer off?

    Well, summer is here and in full swing. I have not completely caught up to the realization that summer is here, however, with my classes being over until September, I am finding that I do not seem to have enough to keep me busy throughout the day.
    Oh, I know, I can hear it now, "not enough to do? really?"
    But it is not that I don't have things TO do, just not enough of what I WANT to do. There is a difference, you know.
    One thing that takes a beating in the summer is cooking--or at least cooking in my kitchen. I live in an old, VERY old, farmhouse, that has no ventilation in the kitchen other than a few windows and a ceiling fan. No exhaust fan at all. It makes for a quite toasty kitchen when the temperature outside is over 80 degrees, and you are running the oven at 350 degrees, or higher. The kitchen heats up very quickly and does not like to cool off. So to avoid working inside an oven, I tend to use my gas grill and  side burner for the side dishes; I have found even just boiling macaroni or potatoes for salads in the kitchen rings the temperature up to unbearable levels. My grill also has an oven in it...yes, my husband likes his cooking toys, as well, but the oven is rather small so most of my cookware do not fit inside the oven (he should have done a little more research before he invested in this particular grill--or he should get us a set of smaller roasting pans to fit). Of course, I could probably use those foil things you can pick up in the grocery store, but until this minute I had not thought of that option. Hmmm. I will have to reassess my position.
    Well, for the purpose of this post, let's forget I thought of that and tackle some things I do on the grill to fight overheating the inside kitchen.
     I make just about anything on the grill that I can make in the oven, except I have not tried cakes just yet, but the wheels are turning, so maybe before the summer is over I will attempt some of those on the grill, not in the oven part. Hmmm. Grilled cake? I am going to have to do some research or rethink my position on that as well.
    One technique I use quite often is indirect heat cooking on the grill. I light all four of the burners, close the top, and bring the grill up to about 325 degrees. Then I shut off the two left side burners, lower the other two, and place my roast or chicken or whatever, over the two burners that are off, usually in a roasting pan. Close the top of the grill and let it roast. The temperature will go down somewhat and that's okay. Depending on what you are cooking, and the preferred "doneness" of the food, it can take an hour to three hours to cook, but remember, "low and slow" makes for delicious moist meats.
    I make an eye of round beef roast in a roasting pan, usually about 5 lbs. and it can take about an hour and half to two hours, but ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat--especially foul--undercooked chicken and turkey makes for many sick family members. And always use the USDA recommended guidelines for internal temperatures which you can find here: USDA Kitchen Companion. This guide covers all the food safety issues we all should be aware of to keep our friends and family safe so be sure to check it out and save a copy to your computer so you can have it handy whenever you need it.
    I found it beneficial to read the entire guide because sometimes you don't know you don't know something, so reading all the available information before you need it helps avoid problems later. And if you remember you read something about a food safety issue, having a copy on your PC alleviates the hassle of having to search the internet for it in the middle of preparing something. That's my tip for today, I guess.
     I use the same indirect cooking technique for chicken, in a roasting pan, or a loin of pork, or pork tenderloin. With the chicken I finish it on direct heat with barbeque sauce, to crisp it up, but the primary cooking is over direct heat.
    And I use a dry rub for just about everything. My newest love is smoked paprika. It smells like barbeque all by itself, and I realize that that must be the "secret" ingredient in all those prepared barbeque mixes...ha..I knew sooner or later I'd find what gives things that BBQ aroma! Now I can mix up my own mixes and still get that BBQ flavor that I like.
    I mix about a cup of  brown sugar with  2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon granulated garlic, and 2 tablespoons of Emeril's Essence ®, or instead of the essence stuff I just grab a few pinches of this and that. If I am doing fish I add grated lemon peel. Just rub a few tablespoons of the rub into the surface of the meat (or sprinkle over fish), add no liquid or salt. Lightly oil the grill if you are putting the meat directly on the grate, or lightly grease the pan just to keep things from sticking.
   How about you? You have a great rub recipe you'd like to share? Love to hear from you!

July She will Fly

   Just love July, but she flies by so fast. Hey, wait, don't I mention that about every month? It is true, I do, however, I hate how fast July goes by, because up here in rural NYS it is summer, and summer upstate NY is way too short.
   We just went through a rough patch of hot, dry weather. A statewide burn ban has been issued--that means you cannot have any open fires--no campfires or bonfires to sit around toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories, one of my most favorite things to do in the  summer. Oh, bother.
   It has been too hot to do a lot of cooking, also. Living in a very old farm house I do not have sufficient ventilation in my kitchen to keep it cool enough, so for most of July and August I do most of my cooking out on my back deck--on the grill and side burner, which does not allow me to bake bread or make many of the usual meals I make the other ten months of the year. It is both a welcome respite and a dreaded sentence. I have only one side burner on the grill and the oven that is with the grill is not working correctly--it is blowing out big blue balls of fire, so we have refrained from using it--I do not care to blow the place to kingdom come, although some days.....but that's a topic for another blog.
     So what about July? Besides being the month of my birth, making it my all-time favorite, many many foods I love are celebrated this month. July is National Baked Beans month, National Hot Dog month, National Ice Cream month, National Culinary Arts month, and it is National July belongs to Blueberries month! Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, right there is enough to keep this blog up and running for well--a month! But wait! On the 6th it was National Fried Chicken Day, the 7th was National Strawberry Sundae Day, and the 9th was National Sugar Cookie Day. Yum!
   National Blueberry Muffin day was the 11th, and anyone in central NY will know blueberries are ripening, so start picking and concocting some awesome things with blueberries--one of the super-fruits for the amount of antioxidants they are loaded with. Packed with vitamin C and dietary fiber, blueberries belong in everyone's diet. Click here for blueberry information.
   Today I mixed up some blueberries with quartered strawberries and 2 sliced up peaches, a spoonful of sugar (that is optional) and just tossed it a few times before I served it along with dinner instead of a vegetable. My husband asked for pineapple as well, but I did not have any but I think I'll grab some pineapple tomorrow and toss it in. On a hot night serving cool crisp fruit adds a little refreshment to the dinner table, and that is a nice change. But I digress.
    July 13th was Beans n' Franks day, which only seems reasonable being Baked Beans and Hot Dog month; the 14th was Pick Blueberries day  but I bought them from a farm stand that picks their own, how fresh can you get? The 14th was also National Macaroni day; the 17th was National Peach Ice Cream day, that is a double love for me! The 19th was both National Daiquiri day and National Ice Cream Day, but I have never had Daiquiri ice cream...hmm, maybe something to work on? The 20th does not let us forget about ice cream, as it is National Ice Cream Soda day, oh, boy, I'm beginning to salivate! July 23rd celebrates National Vanilla Ice Cream day, the 25th is National Hot Fudge Sundae day, the 26th is National Coffee Milkshake day, the 28th is National Milk Chocolate day, the 30th is National Cheesecake day, and the 31st celebrates Cotton Candy day, Jump for Jellybeans day, and National Raspberry Cake day. Now if that isn't a month of awesome food celebrations, I don't know what is!
     Other notable days in July are: July 2nd was National Anisette day, July 4th was National Barbecued Spare Ribs days; July 10th was National Pina Colada day; the 18th was National Caviar day; the 24th was National Tequila day--I shall leave my comments out; and the 27th was National Creme Brulee day and National Scotch day. Now THAT is a diverse month!

   So I have done the beans and the franks, and the beans n' franks, the barbecued ribs, the ice cream, all flavors, the sugar cookies, although I did not make them--no baking in July, thank you, and I have blueberried and blackcap berried myself silly, and oh, my currants are ready--I think I'll pick some tomorrow and probably freeze them to await a break in the hot weather so I can make some scones. I will share that recipe when the time comes, I promise, but I assure you its no secret recipe--it's a Bisquick recipe, although I do use homemade marmalade in it. And you know what else? I have not made fried chicken. I love fried chicken and I love MY fried chicken. So maybe next week I will  fry up a couple of chickens. I think that is a good plan. The leftover chicken can be used for a ton of things, or just eaten cold, but of course, for the dinner meal I will make milk gravy and mashed potatoes, and maybe I'll pull out the electric frying pan to make some biscuits--dang, I wish I had an exhaust fan in my kitchen. I want biscuits!
    I have some research to do. Can I make biscuits in a crock pot or electric fry pan? I am leaning toward the crock pot because suddenly I realize I don't know where my electric fry pan is...hmmm. Now I have to venture out to the garage and see if my fry pan is out there. Dang I cannot remember the last time I used it, but I do recall loving it when I was using it. I wonder what happened there? Til next time!