Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today I am a Food Blogger

The table's set for a party, come on in...

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.
  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Well, those are my series, that should certainly keep me going for awhile. I try to make my blog conversational. I visit a LOT of blogs. I love to see who is out there, and what they think is important enough to share. i have a long way to get as good as the best of you all, but I am constantly trying to get better.

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"


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hi - My name is Dave, I am a food blogger and I am overweight

I suspect that 65% or more of foodie bloggers can reply... "Hi Dave"

For those of you that are not familiar with the friends of Bill W., that is a reference to Alcoholics Anonymous. It is also a reference to a growing (pun unintended) problem in America, and I suspect among food bloggers.

Here's the only verifiable fact that I will provide this posting, the rest is just going to be a guess, and an admission... According to the USA TODAY article you can find by clicking HERE, 30 % of Americans are 30 pounds or more overweight (the clinical definition of obese). BUT, 65% of Americans are overweight (anywhere from 1 to 29 pounds above "normal") or obese.

I have had weight issues for many years. In the 80's I was a runner, and consistently finished 10K races averaging under 7 minute miles. I lost the desire to continue, and I started gaining 3 pounds a year, until, 25 years later, my once slim 160 pound body became a bloated 235 pound (OK, I lied, my high was 240 pounds). Over the years, I recognized the problem (usually when I had to buy 5 new pairs of pants because I finally admitted I hit a new milepost). I never had real health issues due to weight. My blood pressure is normal, my cholesterol is in good range, pulse - normal and Heart strong. But my quality of life was deteriorating faster than my age deserves. I was on weight watchers for a year (lost 30 pounds), I tried Adkins (lost 20 pounds), I started running again (hurt a knee) and joined gyms three different times. Long term, not the results I wanted.

OK, that's my admission, but suddenly, something is happening. Tomorrow, I will be blogging my 100th post. I am preparing that post as we speak. I will be reliving some of my biggest hits, revisiting a few duds that I can improve on and talking about what I have learned in my 4 months as a blogger. I have been pondering about what I have learned. In many ways, blogging is adding quality to my life. Added many things because I blog...

But I have also lost something because I blog... 10 pounds. Sure, it is a small start, and I know from experience that it is a long way from a true lifestyle change. But the 3 pounds a year were put on without much effort, and honestly the 10 pounds came off without much effort. I have dieted in the past. Take a look at my blog from the beginning, I never talk about low cal, offer low fat alternatives or talk about depriving myself of foods I want. In the last 4 months, I have cooked what I want, and eaten what I want in the quantities I wanted. No one is more surprised than I am that my jeans have a little extra give now.

So, I wonder what is going on. I have been considering it, and here are four things I think I am doing better, that made a difference...

  1. I shop on the outside aisles at the grocery store. I was talking to my butcher the other day, and he explained the layout of grocery stores... The outside aisles have all the fresh perishable foods. Milk and dairy, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish and items with very few preservatives health food, allergy free items). The aisles in the middle of the grocery store have all the prepackaged high in preservatives, over chemicaled items. My favorite breakfast cereal, Sugar Corn Pops is full of... well, sugar. My favorite canned soup (Campbell's chicken noodle) is full of salt and a frozen pizza is full of cheese (that is not really cheese), over processed meat and more chemicals than recognisable foods. I also remembering a diet that the person only ate foods with ingredients he could pronounce. Without consciously trying that diet, that is exactly what I have become. I may eat what I had last night for breakfast, but I know every ingredient (including REAL sugar and not the chemical alternatives). If I use pineapple in a recipe, I am more likely to use a real pineapple as opposed to canned pineapple (again, filled with chemicals). Even items that are next to each other, I will opt for quality fresh ingredients, as opposed to prepackaged heavily chemicalled alternatives. I buy bread from the fresh bakery section that will go bad faster even though wonder bread will take a month to go bad. Ingredients matter to my food, and because I am blogging, I am making better choices. Those better choices are on the outside aisles of the grocery store.

  2. I eat at home. Have any of you readers ever seen that movie, SUPER SIZE ME? You at least heard the premise, one guy eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. Sure it was a gimmick, and no one really would do that, but one fact really stuck out when I saw it. There is only one item on the entire McDonald's menu (other than prepackaged sealed items like milk and bottled water that is provided by separate vendors) that does not have salt added to it. Go ahead and ponder that for a second before I give you the answer (in fact, gold star to anyone who comments what that item is (no far if you remember from the movie)). The milkshakes have salt added. Same with the cherry pies (with no real cherries), salads, soft drinks (there is more salt in a McDonald's diet cola than in the same brand canned diet soda). It is very easy to pick on McDonald's, and they serve what people want. But that lesson is not lost on most restaurants. Too much salt and industrial ingredients with chemicals added for preservatives are in just about everything you order in a restaurant. But by eating at home, I avoided many of those hidden calories, salts and chemicals. I have dined (dinner) out 2 nights when i took a brief vacation with my wife, and one trip to a pizza parlor with friends since I started blogging. The rest of the food I ate is from the outside aisles of the grocery store.

  3. I move a bit more. Nothing crazy, I don't run and I have not joined a gym. But two hours of prep work in the kitchen and an hour on the grill 2 or 3 times a week is 6 or 9 hours of me standing, walking from one cabinet to the prep area, deep knee bends to find that lost cooking pot, up, down, all adds up to moving. I do listen to my iPod while I cook, and I have been known to disco dance a little during Barry Manilo's Copa Cabana (sorry to the head bangers for my choice in music). At least once a week, I have everything I need except one ingredient. Instead of driving the 2 and 1/2 miles to my local underpriced grocery store, I will ride my bike and even occasionally I walk it. It's not a lot, it's not a lifestyle choice, but it is better than walking up the stairs from my TV room to the kitchen to microwave a Hotpockets for lunch. I honestly can not think of a day when I have not moved just a little bit more only because I blog.

  4. I GRILL. My blog is a specialty blog, and I try to grill as much of my meal as possible. For that reason, I try to find foods that grill well. Vegetables grill great. Very few desserts grill well. I eat more vegetables than I eat desserts. Also, meats are healthier when cooked on a grill. Remember the George Foreman grill ads, with all the fat dripping out. That is what happens on the grill. Great flavor, and less fat. Because I grill, I make healthier choices, and the food comes out tastier and less fat (not no-fat, just less).
In the 4 months since I have been blogging, I lost 10 pounds. I am still obese (more than 30 pounds from my goal weight). I am not actively altering my lifestyle to lose weight, but I have altered my lifestyle in ways that will improve the situation. I eat great food, visually appealing, great tasting, and I lost weight. I move a little bit more directly because I blog and I lost weight.

But, this is me, covering a very short period of time. I hope that this is a trend that continues, so I would like to hear from fellow foodies... Has blogging improved your choices? Have you gained weight since starting blogging? Have you lost? Is it a constant struggle that you think about with every meal (been there), or have you just decided to enjoy life and let the chips (or fat rolls) fall where the may (kind of where I am now)?

Many of us participate in the FOODIE BLOGROLL, that red boxed listing of blogs and giveaways on the far right side of my sidebars towards the bottom. You can reach their site by clicking HERE, or cut and pasting this address into your browser...

This month, The FoodieBlogroll is helping to advertise a new book by Hank Cardello author or "STUFFED: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat". You can reach his blog by clicking HERE, or but cut and pasting this address into your browser...
"Food policy is a very important and heated topic these days. You hear about it in the news, and the popularity of books like Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, as well as Barbara Kingslover's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Nina Planck's book Real Food really shows a trend of consumers being more and more concerned about the food we eat.
With this wave of books, comes Hank Cardello's book "Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat", where he discusses from an insider's perspective (he is a former food executive turned anti-obesity exponent) and offers solutions for how this trend can be changed. He provides novel but concrete steps food companies can take to fatten their profits while slimming down their customers. In addition, he stresses the realistic role that consumers must play in America’s new health equation, explaining that unless they demand healthier food with their wallets, America will continue to tip the scales for years to come."

I am using this opportunity to tell my story.

Praise and Thanks to - CrazyAsianGal

Another day went by, and no new followers (that box in the center sidebar with all the little faces) signed up to take a look at my blog. That's a terrible thing for my ego, but a great opportunity to recognize one of my favorite bloggers. A long overdue post about a wonderful friend to bloggers, one of my very early followers, frequent commenter on my posts and encourages me in many ways...

I have mentioned before about my writing style. I try to be conversational, and it helps to imagine that I am having coffee and talking over my post with a few people. Facts are, there are 3 ladies at my imaginary table (don't tell my wife). Two of the gals I have already identified, GirliChef and ReTorte. The third is an odd choice for a grilling specialist to invite to the table. CRAZY ASIAN GAL, who calls herself Palidor, and has not yet complained when I call her Pal; has admitted to not even owning a grill. Of the thousands of foodie blogrolls, I really have no idea why she choose to be a regular on my blog, but I sure am glad that she is. When I plan my postings, she reminds me that I am not just talking to hairy knuckled back yard grilling neanderthals (insert grunt grunt noises) ((and truth is, no regular grilling neanderthal has much hair left on their forearms, let alone their knuckles... but I digress)). Because she chose to follow me, because she chooses to comment frequently, I write for an audience I never anticipated. Because of Pal, I try to explain in a little more detail, I try to use photo images more often and I try to add tips that relate to cooks in general, not just hairy knuckled neanderthals that already know more than I do about grilling.

So, thanks for your early encouragement, thanks for looking in on me and I just wanted to let you know that I am a better blogger today because you look in on this blog.

So, let me tell you a little bit about CRAZY ASIAN GAL... You can find her blog by clicking HERE. She crams a lot of mental images in her profile... She claims to be 29, but when I was 29 I lied about being older, and when I was 30-35, I lied about being 29, so I take that with a grain of salt. She is an unemployed lawyer (insert your lawyer joke here, everyone has a favorite), but don't hold the lawyer part against her. The unemployment thing is tragic, and I certainly hope that situation improves soon. BUT, she has never made that situation a downer part of her blog. Her blog is always upbeat and her comments are equally a joy to find in your inbox.

It is amazing how many food bloggers are cat people (like me) as opposed to dog people. Palidor owns two, and they are frequent guests in her posts. Misty and Minky are lucky cats indeed. Recently I did a post featuring just one of my two cats. She remembered that I have two and asked me to post a shot of my other cat. While Chang and Eng could be memorable names (the original Siamese Twins, and the biography my wife was reading when they adopted us), it takes a special reader to remember that I own a cat, let alone two and let alone remember the name of the one I didn't include in the post. So Pal, here's a shot of Chang lifting her head just long enough to say HI, prior to going back to sleep.

She is a runner (Crazy Asian Gal, not Chang), who strength trains and maintains physical fitness. A rare combination in food bloggers, and a bit of encouragement to me (just a bit).

Her blog is a work of art. Occasionally she discusses Asian influenced ingredients that I have never heard of. But mostly she cooks "normal" (sorry, wrong word, but couldn't think of a better word...maybe "western", could be "good old American" (but she is Canadian), so let's just say "normal", and you all know it is not the word I wanted to use) food with an Asian influence. Her sidebar has her recipes divided into categories so they are easy to find and navigate. She does several photos per post, offers very clear instructions to recipes that you know she tries herself before posting. If it is on her blog, you know it is the real deal. Most of her posts have a couple dozen comments, so you know she is well liked.

One thing I noticed, she makes no attempt to monetize her blog at all. No links to, no Google ads, no sponsors, no FOODBUZZ, none of the standard ways that many bloggers try to guide (trick) our readers into giving us a $10 a month stipend towards our food budget. She is truly one of the good guys that blogs for the fun of blogging. HMMMM, a lawyer who makes no attempt to be a money grubbing whore like the rest of us... If I were cruel, I would insert a joke like "no wonder she is an unemployed lawyer", but I would never want to make a joke at her expense. At lawyers in general, I have no problem. But no jokes at her specific expense.

Someday, she will own a grill and I hope the time she puts into visiting me pays off, but until then, I am sure I get more from her than she does from me. I am humbled that she is a follower.

So, there you go. I have voices in my head. Three of them specifically make me a better blogger. Anytime you come back, picture me, Palidor, Coyote and a Girlichef from South Bend, IN (incorrectly moved her 50 miles down the road yesterday). Each of these bloggers contribute in a huge way to anything you read here. Even when it is just voices in my head telling me there are real people out there.

Thanks Pal.

I have said it before, and I will say it again... I LOVE Blogging and Bloggers. Having followers is a great way to let me know that you are out there. My blog improves with each new follower. I feel a connection, as well as an obligation to be witty, entertaining, informative, accurate and consistent. Knowing that I am being looked at makes me a better blogger and I hope you will be patient as I continue to improve. Looking at all these terrific sites shows me how far I have to come, but gives me great ideas from everyone!

Take a look at these guys. If you like what they have to say, come back for more. Drop em a note (comment) of encouragement. Newer bloggers need to know someone is out there, and older bloggers need fresh blood to feed on, let em know you were directed to their site from me and you may make a new cyber friend too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's a Party - I am a Vegetarian Cook

First, there is a little bit of bookkeeping to do, this is my third post of the day, so I want to make sure that everyone seeing this also looks in on my earlier post...Orange Juice ICE CUBES flavored with BOCCE BALL cOcktail for Ovarian cancer awareness Which you can view by clicking HERE. It is a fun post, great recipe, but also an important message.

My second post of the day was a long overdue celebration of one of my earliest and best blogging buddies... GIRLICHEF, the hardest working girl in blogdom! You can find her blog by clicking HERE.

And now... On to my Vegetarian party...

If you read yesterday's post about a wonderful day at the Art Fair in Kansas City, you read about me, the MRS and my neighbors sitting around talking art. Additionally, my good neighbor Herme commented that at one time, she was a vegetarian (challenge extended). We got to talking, and I announced that I could indeed make a vegetarian meal that she would enjoy, everything cooked on the grill (challenge accepted), and was more than just a fancy salad. In fact, no salad at all would be served...

Later in the week, I will be blogging individual dishes, but for now, here's the setting and menu...

Lot of people are saying it is the end of summer, and the end of outside entertaining... It is close, but not yet. Yesterday was another great day for weather, bright blue skies and temps in the 70's. So we set the vegetarian party outside...

And even without meat, it can be classy... Crystal glasses came out for the second time in the season (scares the heckfire out of my wife, she pictures busted glass everywhere, but all was returned to their proper places undamaged), table cloth, cloth napkins, and our new red square dishes...

Grilled eggplant appetizer dip with grilled pita bread...

notice the classy presentation, with lettuce lining the bowl (presentation only, still not a salad)...

A pitcher of Bocce Ball drinks, with frozen Orange Juice Ice cubes...

Grilled eggplant (even more classy presentation with even more lettuce bed, but still not a salad)

Everyone got a grilled salt lick potato...

The march of grilled corn continues (although the quality took a step backwards, still good, but not great).
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with garlic, rosemary, pine nuts and whatever else I could find to hide the taste of nasty, slimy, disgusting mushrooms (some of that may be a personal opinion, 3 of the 4 people attending loved these). I even topped them with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Wine... White goes with fish, red goes with beef, what pairs with this meal...

I decided on a good but cheap wine, one of those double sized bottles for only $12. People who don't like meat obviously have no need for the better stuff...

And we finished up the night around the firepit with a chipotle creme brulee. Yes, it was indeed cooked on the grill... Everything above was cooked on the grill!

So there you go, a complete vegetarian meal, cooked on the grill. My wife and neighbor, Herme completely enjoyed the effort (as i enjoyed the challenge). They were very full and no meat was needed by them (challenge Completed)...

I am not them...

My neighbor, Jim and I enjoyed all of the above plus a grilled Mediterranean inspired marinated LAMB CHOP.

Stay tuned this week for details...

Praise and Thanks to - GIRLICHEF

First, a couple of bookkeeping details...
I need some help, yesterday I had a new follower...

SHELLY W... Who also follows

decided to follow my blog. I appreciate to no end those that think I am worth looking in on, and I would like to get to know her. But, I can't find a reference to her... Shelly, do you have a blog, let me know, I want to see who you are. Does anyone know Shelly W (does not have a photo connected to her name)? Any clues to who she is? Let me know.

Next, this is my second post of the day, so I want to make sure that everyone seeing this also looks in on my earlier post...Orange Juice ICE CUBES flavored with BOCCE BALL cOcktail for Ovarian cancer awareness Which you can view by clicking HERE. It is a fun post, great recipe, but also an important message.

And now, a long overdue celebration of one of my earliest and best blogging buddies... GIRLICHEF, the hardest working girl in blogdom! You can find her blog by clicking HERE.

Girlichef and I have had a strange and wonderful relationship (she's wonderful, I'm strange (flashback to junior high) since the very early days of my blog. For some reason I was captivated by one of her postings for WALNUTS + MAPLE SYRUP + PHYLLO = HEAVENLY BITES (which you can find by clicking HERE). I attempted to honor (steal) her fabulous recipe by altering (stealing) her idea and claiming originality. You can see how I butchered her beautiful thing by clicking HERE to find...Recipe #12 - Desserts - Vermont Pecan Praline Cups with a Whiskey Sauce. But equally important, I celebrate elevating her to Deity status when she has been documented twice altering weather patterns in eastern Kansas just to make my cooking life easier. I first discovered her godlike powers when I jokingly asked her to pray for rain so that I could duplicate her recipe for homemade potato chips in black truffle sea salt (click HERE for that incredible post of hers). Sure enough, next day the Sky opened up and the rains came down (and I got a bowl of chips... I learned long ago not to toy with the whims of deities. You can find my version of that story by clicking HERE. I was hosting a back yard party with the forecast reading 60% chance of rain. I asked Girlichef to use her powers to make a nice day, and low and behold, blue sky. Click HERE for that story. I am not sure if her godlike powers are limited to affecting the weather in an obscure corner of northeast Kansas or can work worldwide, but getting on her good side cannot hurt.

Coincidentally, those two posts are among the favorite things I have ever written on here. Girlichef inspires in many ways.

I am not sure why, but she seems to have taken her "about Me" section off her blog. But I remember she is a Midwestern girl, living in Fort Wayne, Indiana (go Irish). She has a family, and I seem to remember a part time job connected to the college in some way (keep going Irish, they are currently 3 wins, only 1 loss for the season... Is Girlichef's godlike power expanding???). On rare occasions she does grill, but mostly it is just great way above quality average daily cooking. She takes everything to the next level. For example, recently she posted about stuffed peppers wrapped in bacon. A great item, many people do regularly (including me). BUT, she takes it to the next level by making her own cream cheese to stuff em. You read right, SHE MAKES HER OWN CHEESE! Just in the last week, she makes cheese, bakes bread (twice if rolls count), forages for mushrooms, fancies up something as mundane as popcorn and nuts party mix. This girl has chops.

She is also a big lover of blogs. She comments regularly on whatever I do, but also many bloggers can count on her reading, enjoying and encouraging their work. She has a following list larger than just about any blogger I have ever seen at 175, her posts regularly have dozens of comments and she is friends to many people.

Her blog is very clear and easy to follow. She regularly has several photos illustrating her technique and her recipes are all tested and you can count on them being the real deal.

I recently discovered she is expanding her blogging world with additional blogs...
From fabulous photos to cookthrough book club to a new (this week) blog about making her own cheese to her non food thoughts, these are all worth a look.

As i have said before, i try to write my blog in a conversational manner. I really do picture a dining room table, me and my blogging friends having a cup of coffee and me telling my story of the day to them. Imagining Girlichef at my coffee table makes me a better blogger. She helped me find my voice early on, and I am glad I stumbled (or she stumbled on me) onto her. Whoever found whoever first, I am so glad we found each other. My praise for Girlichef is heartfelt indeed, and you should make friends with her as well. One of the good guys indded.

I have said it before, and I will say it again... I LOVE Blogging and Bloggers. Having followers is a great way to let me know that you are out there. My blog improves with each new follower. I feel a connection, as well as an obligation to be witty, entertaining, informative, accurate and consistent. Knowing that I am being looked at makes me a better blogger and I hope you will be patient as I continue to improve. Looking at all these terrific sites shows me how far I have to come, but gives me great ideas from everyone!

Take a look at these guys. If you like what they have to say, come back for more. Drop em a note (comment) of encouragement. Newer bloggers need to know someone is out there, and older bloggers need fresh blood to feed on, let em know you were directed to their site from me and you may make a new cyber friend too.

Orange Juice ICE CUBES flavored with BOCCE BALL cOcktail for Ovarian cancer awareness


There is a contest Out - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) there, but more importantly, there is an awareness campaign going On - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness). I just found Out - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) about this at midnight last night for GIRLICHEF's blog, which you can see by clicking HERE. The deadline for the contest is midnight tonight, but we are a long time (too long) away from the need for awareness deadline.

So, let's celebrate growing awareness with a cocktail...
In yesterday's blog, I discovered a new (to me) cocktail called the BOCCE BALL! Ingredient list and mixing instructions are very simple,

2 part Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness)
1 part Amaretto

Shake with ice to chill, pour in rocks glass Over - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) ice, top with a splash Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness)

Pineapple juice

Garnish with an Orange Slice. - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness)

But as with all simple things, let's try to Original - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) this recipe up and make it better...

First, here's a little tip I got from watching Oprah - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness). If you are going to have a party, rather than trying to stock a full bar (very expensive), try just offering One - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) specialty cocktail and wine. Saves money, and creates an illusion of subliminal unity when everyone shares the same thing. At my little party last night, I planned ahead and greeted each Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) my guests with a Bocce Ball cocktail. But since I knew I was going to do this, I made Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) ice cubes. Somehow Or - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) Other - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) , we all have those weird ice cube trays in Our - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) junk cabinet. I have no idea where this came from, who bought it Or - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) when, but I have moved this a hundred times while I rooted around trying to find something useful. Time to use that silicone ice tray that makes seashell pattern ice.

Can not possibly be easier... Fill the tray with Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) , freeze for about three hours, store the cubes in a bowl back in the freezer, repeat as Often - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) as possible to get a bunch Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) seashell shaped Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) ice cubes. I started early in the morning, and was able to get three batches.

At a convenient time before the party (I did these about an hour before guests arrived, that weird time when everything is cooking that should be cooking, and all the prep work is finished, and you find yourself thinking, "There should be something I need to be doing...".), I assembled my ingredients...

I was going to make a pitcher of these rather than make individual drinks, so easy to make in advance.

I measured,

I mixed,

I sampled,

I sampled,

I sampled,

I sampled,

I sampled, I added more Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) and Amaretto and pineapple juice because the samples drained the pitcher, and was satisfied that I hit the formula.

While waiting for the guests to arrive, I put the pitcher in my free standing freezer to keep as cold as possible...

When the first guest knocked on the door, my wife answered the bell, while I put the pitcher on the table...
I added some of the Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) ice to a glass...

Poured the drinks and waited for the OOOOOHS - (Lots of O's for Lots of Ovarian Cancer awareness) and AAAAAHS as they tasted this gift from the gods. One - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) Our - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) guests is a beer drinker, but happily played along, drank about half Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) his drink before asking for a beer. The rest really enjoyed the effort, presentation and taste, and there was no shortage of volunteers happy to finish his leftovers.

Final note, by using frozen Orange Juice - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) in the drinks, I prevented melting ice diluting the drink and changing the taste. It is the best way to serve a drink, but can really Only - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) be done practically when serving pitchers Of - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) the same drink. Oprah - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness) is a genius. A little extra effort, and your drinks stand Out - (O for Ovarian Cancer awareness).

Let me get personal for just a second...

Of all the diseases afflicting our world, this is the most ironically cruel. A woman's ovaries are the source of life, arguably, God's Divine plan begins and continues in the Ovaries. To have a woman's life end because the source of life is attacked is a horrible ironic joke.

As with most cancers, Ovarian cancer is treatable if discovered early...

Who will be able to tell those left behind who you were, and who you could have been...

Click that play button in the center of the TV screen... Ladies, on behalf of your men, please have your tests scheduled.

Alright, here's the details about the contest and awareness campaign, as copied from Girlichef's blog ---

O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

◦1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;
◦2nd: Signed copy of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali (winner chosen by Sara);
◦3rd: Signed copy of Vino Italiano: The Regional Italian Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (winner chosen by Michelle).
TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

◦One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

◦Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
◦The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
◦There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
◦In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
◦When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer.
Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

How I Spent a Saturday in God's Country (Kansas)

Today is going to be a big day on the grill for me, another Lamb Chop recipe, several grilled vegetables (eggplant, portobello mushrooms, and a new dessert, Chipotle Creme Brulle)!

But yesterday was a great grilling, but a great day non-the-less...

Started with inviting out neighbors over for breakfast, Jim and Herme, the MRS and myself were going to head out, and we had a perfect day for it... Temps in the low 70's, no humidity and scattered clouds just enough to look pretty.

Since this is a food blog, let's talk just a little food... I had some of the bacon wrapped sausage wrapped around stuffed peppers that you are probably sick of hearing about. If not, Click HERE for how I made em the day before.
Nothing is plain around here...Take those silly little pancake shappers, or large metal cookie cutters and put a slices of the sausage in the center, carefully pour pancake batter around the edges making sure they get in all the hidden spaces (and be sure to spray them VERY well with a spray canola oil so they don't stick.

Flip em over carefully and let the ooohs and ahhhs start, Pouring a little maple syrup on the sausages taste fabulous!
Then we were off to the PLAZA ART FAIR. The plaza is a local outdoor shopping mall with lots of yuppie overpriced restaurants, beautiful setting and yuppie shops. Once a year, they close the streets down and invite artists from around the country to pay a huge fee and sell their wares. Very expensive, or very cheap if you just want to walk, look and enjoy... Guess which category I feel into.

Kansas City is known for Jazz, and the good folks that organize this event add a stage for a little walking around background music.

Art is in the eye of the beholder, but a string of hand carved, hand painted chili peppers is art to me!
Jim and Herme are drinkers, dog lovers (they have two), and lovers of art that features dogs drinking... It's art to them!
This was very popular, wire mesh dancers, hung in a mobile with that pretty blue sky Kansas is so well known for (Wizard of Oz and that whole tornado nonsense really set the states' image back, this is how Kansas looks almost 5 or 6 days a year, why we get a bad weather rep, I'll never know).
Kitchen utensils are art to us foodies as they are, but if you have a certain creative eye, they become art to everyone else (love the forks for feet)...

Music lover and closeted head-banger Jim liked the heavy metal guitar playing statue...

I personally liked this image of metal monsters invading your garden and stealing your garden gnomes. I would have loved to add this to my Deck landscaping, but was too cheap.

It's a little hard to tell from this angle, but these are mostly mouth bodies, bulging eyeballs and legs and toes made from spikes

We walked around for a couple hours,

We enjoyed the architecture (YES, Kansas has Architecture),

We walked some more...

We enjoyed the setting...

Jim and Herme offered to spring for drinks at the yuppie bar... That beauty with the orange slice was mine, something called a Bocce Ball that I LOVED. I browbeat the bartender into giving me the recipe...

2 parts Orange Juice
added to 1 part amaretto liqueur
shaken to chill and garnish with the orange
and just a splash of pineapple juice


'We were lucky enough to get seats on the balcony over looking the street, great for people watching, and art discussions while enjoying our afternoon cocktail...

Felt very classy (burb)

Then the waiter announced half priced appetizers (did I mention how cheap I am), and our friends demanded we order a few to split... Their treat...whoo whoo.

these little Bruschettas with fresh mozzarella and some really good balsamic vinegar were perfect...

And then we ordered our car and chauffeur to take us back to the Cul de Sac...

All in all, just a typical day in Kansas... Don't you wish you lived in Kansas???