OK... Enough of that self reflection nonsense from yesterday. It's time for some self congratulations... My Blog turns 100 today!
Congrats to me - WHOO WHOO
Let's take this opportunity to see where I have been, and maybe give you a clue about where I am heading...
It's a funny thing about blogs, no matter if you get any better, your early stuff is there to haunt you. I am not sure when I turned a corner to better (still trying to be good, but I will settle for getting better in my first 100 posts), but my goodness, my early stuff sucks. Maybe suck is too strong a word. My early stuff was an imitation of other people's blogs. I had not found my voice yet.
And the photos... It hurts my eyes to see how bad the quality was in my first 50 posts.
But little by little, my writing improved and my photos became interesting.
Here's a few of my highlights - Please take a moment and check out some of my past postings. Anytime you see colored lettering, if you double click those words, it will take you to the posting I am talking about.
I have started 4 series that I will continue... these series take up 95% or more of my postings. If you understand what I am trying to accomplish, you will better understand my blog.
- I am publishing original recipes. I called my blog "My Year on the Grill" for a reason. At some point, I want a final record of my blogging experience. It may take 3 years, 5 or 10; but at some point, I would like to have an original recipe for each day of a year.
I am going to post a lot of photos this blog, if something is interesting to you, or if you have old eyes (like me), feel free to double click the smaller images, and by the magic of the Internet, you will See a bigger image)
My most popular original recipe was also my most visually interesting and fun to do. My nearly legendary, Raspberry Chipotle Marinated Spiral Stuffed Pork Loin with a Bacon Lattice was great fun to do. You can find this post by clicking HERE. It combined a few things i had learned how to do previously (the spiral cut and slow cooking smoking skills). But also it combined the intuitive skills I was learning. I made my own marinade, added stuff I thought would mesh well (sausage and provolone cheese), and came up with this wonderful looking weaved bacon look. TWO amazing things are going to be happening in the next month because I posted this recipe. So stay tuned for those announcements. I do think that this was my first post with above average photos, and I was pleased with my step by step instructions for a complicated recipe. Building the lattice is easy if you know the secret, and I think i showed that in a nice series of photos. It also solicited one of my favorite quotes of all time... From Chris at NIBBLE ME THIS, he commented, "meat stuffed with meat and wrapped in meat, I love it"
If you check the middle column on my blog, about half way down, there is a labels section that will help you navigate around my blog. There is a label section there called "MY RECIPES". it will take you to the postings of recipes that I am calling my own. Not saying that I am the first person to combine those ingredients and cooked in the procedure listed, but I am saying I either created without influence, or saw someone elses' recipe and I altered it to be something I would like, or changed the cooking method. I struggle with claiming something with only a few ingredients as original, but this is my definition, and .. well, if you disagree... well, tough I guess.
I want to highlight just one other recipe that I created. This was inspired by GIRLICHEF, and it is just about my favorite post I have written. I do think that this was a turning point, where I really found my voice when I wrote about my attempts to make -Recipe #12 - Desserts - Vermont Pecan Praline Cups with a Whiskey Sauce Which you can find by clicking HERE. I wrote in detail my thought processes when I altered her perfectly fine recipe into something I could call my own (stolen). I was also pleased I was able to make these in my smoker. I am struggling right now with desserts on the grill or smoker. There just do not seem to be that many great recipes for outdoor cooks (that i have found). And certainly cooking pastries on a smoker is very unusual. Of course, I still wake up screaming in the middle of the night with my fat fingers ripping that damn phyllo dough to shreds... CURSE YOU GIRLCHEF!!!
- My other popular (at least with me) series is my cookthrough book project. It is not an original idea, it is a bold, blatant rip off of the Julie/Julia Project blog from several years ago, and the movie that followed. Steven Raichlen has just an amazing book called HOW TO GRILL. You can get used copies on AMAZON.COM right now for less than $5, and if you search the site, you will find new copies for $16.50 (you will use this a lot, buy the used, it will hold up well, and get battered about while you cook anyway). Click HERE to go to Amazon and order your copy now. HEY, I just double checked my links and found out you can order a new copy for less than $10. An even better bargain.
I started this series for several reasons. But mostly i wanted to challenge myself. Grilling is easy to get in a rut. Steak, burgers, dogs, occasionally a smoked brisket and a beer can chicken are skills that anyone with a grill should have. But because I committed myself to following each recipe, i have jumped out of my comfort zone. Because the book is so cook friendly, with several pages of photo instructions prior to a recipe, even the newest of the new can turn out a successful project. Cooking recipes from the book gives me confidence to then expand, alter and create something new. I have a huge mancrush on Steven and his book.
Among my very favorite Raichlen projects was my attempt to make RUBS. You can find that post by clicking HERE. I was no stranger to making my own rub, but reading the chapter and following the recipes for 9 different rubs, all made the same day taught me a lot. I have a few of the rubs that I like, and will certainly use as back ups whenever I attempt to create something new. Learning to crawl with these recipes will help me walk with newer ones. But also, I found one that I would never have done on my own, never considered, and now I have fallen in love with. the Chinese Five Spice recipe is incredible. It was nice to find a rub that had no salt added, but it also advised a technique I had never tried. By gently toasting the seeds and larger ingredients (Star Anise and peppercorns) for just a few minutes really makes the flavors POP. It also makes your kitchen smell INCREDIBLE. I was expecting to breeze through this chapter, but I probably gained more skills by following the entire chapter in one day than any other project from the book yet.
But the easiest and biggest confidence builder was when I followed Steven's recipe for Grilled Rack of Lamb with a mustard Crust. You can find that posting by clicking HERE. This was incredible tasty, and VERY visually awe inspiring. It looked GREAT. There is very little as exciting as taking that rack off the grill and letting your guests talk about it before you cut into it. But I also made a different lamb chop recipe from his book. I will be blogging about it soon, but a different look and a different taste for his Mediterranean inspired grilled chop also taught me a lot. Honestly, I had rarely made lamb before, and having cooked one that I enjoyed, if I was not doing the cookthrough project, i would probably have never tried anything different (how many lamb chop recipes on the grill do you really need?). Well, let me tell you I am glad I did not stop at just the rack of lamb recipe. But I am jumping the gun, you are going to have to come back in a few days to see what I think of this new recipe.
Of course, even though these recipes are tested and actually cooked (ugly secret about some cookbooks is their editing process... but I digress), not every recipe is a winner. I rate the recipes on a scale of 1 to 5. My lowest rating has gone to what Steven called "Steven Raichlen The Perfect Hamburger That you can find by clicking HERE. It was not so much the recipe, which I thought was fine, but I strongly disagree with his cooking technique. Don't want to rehash it, but go ahead and click the link if you are interested.
- Another series that I started is a review of my parties. Much like my goal of 365 recipes, I am going to set a goal of having 52 parties on my deck. When I first started, I was calling any get together with friends a party and claiming it in the number. I have since decided that only "real" planned events will be listed as a party. We had a grilled pizza get to know the new neighbors party that was a huge success (and a great way to become quick friends). I put on the Ritz for a friend's birthday, I created a vegetarian meal all cooked on the grill, and hosted many more nights of fun. It has been a grand summer in my back yard, and making this commitment to my blog has truly made my little spot in the Cul De Sac the place to be!
My grandest adventure was when I hosted the neighborhood Labor Day BBQ for 55 people and 35 pounds of pulled pork. Neighbors are still talking about it, and are asking if we are planning on repeating next year. OF COURSE WE ARE! Something about grilling more than any other form of cooking just screams party.
I also did a couple of posts on party prep and party planning. These two posts are certainly worth looking at next time you have a large group coming over. It's easy to be overwhelmed if you don't have a plan. In a different life, i was an event organizer. From travel guide to 18 people for a week in NYC to 4 day conventions with over 2,500 attendees and three stages of events, I do have a bit of experience, and maybe something to share.
- Recently, I started a series honoring fellow bloggers who have chosen to "follow me" (you know, those little pictures in the middle column towards the top). By blogging about these friends in the making, I get an opportunity to look over their blog, and share something about them. From experienced bloggers with hundreds and hundreds of posts (that are giggling cause I am making such a big deal about my hundredth post), to newbies that only have a few dozen posts under their belt, I love bloggers. I am always curious about what makes someone do this, and what makes them different. This little series is my chance to spread the word about their blog, and to know something more about the people who chose to read my stuff daily. It is quickly becoming my very favorite part of my day when I check if someone new has joined the cult and finding out new things about them. If you haven't joined my followers list yet, please take a moment and do so. i want to get to know you.
I try to be entertaining, with an occasional joke (many more jokes are in these pages than most people know about... But again I ask, if you have to explain a funny, is it really a funny?). I always want to be encouraging to others, and friendly to those that visit. the food blogging community is among the most pleasant group of people on the Internet. No one wants to see a cooking attempt fail, and everyone is happy to see a successful meal put on the table. I think I have a niche place among foodies, with such a heavy emphasis on grilling and outdoor entertaining, and I think I have an original voice amongst the community...
After 100 posts and hundreds more posts needing to be placed to complete my goals, I am honored to take my place as, "One of us, One of us". I feel like I can finally truthfully say,
"Today I am a Food Blogger"