Well, good morning.
I am Dave, a retired (young at 53) empty nester. Happily married (yesterday was my anniversary) and living the good life in the suburbs of Kansas City.
Today, I am going to divert my normal recipe and rambling style and leave out the recipe. This post will be all about me, my cooking and blogging philosophy and why I think I qualify to be the Next Food Blog Star.
The Next Food Blog Star (for the rest of the post, let's abbreviate that to NFBS) is a contest arranged by the good folks at Foodbuzz. While I do intend to blog my best during the contest, I already like to think I qualify as a blog star. So, I am most excited to accept this first challenge. A chance to define myself as a blogger, and share with the world why I have what it takes to win.
With apologies to Socrates...
The unexamined blog is not worth reading. So, let's examine who I am and what I do and why.
Among food bloggers, I am sure a few of you caught the literary homage in my photo. This NFBS challenge is my opportunity to define myself as much more than my blog title implies. I do grill often. But I also bake almost all my own bread, as well as make all my own stocks and broths. I am comfortable making vegetarian dishes and entire vegetarian meals. My sweets are works of art and I just recently discovered that the secret is not in the sauces, but in the paste that allows you to control the intensity of the sauce.
The name, "My Year on the Grill" was selected as a goal. Spend a year cooking as much on the grill as possible, share what I did and move on to a new hobby. In the process, I discovered that I love all things cooking. I actually enjoy chopping and dicing. Making items from scratch gives me a sense of pride, but also defines my results. No boxes, mixes or processed foods for me. Largely from the things I gleaned from reading other bloggers posts, I became a "buy local, buy fresh" guy. I am no longer just a griller, I am now a cook.
And in the process, I changed my life.
Before blogging, I was a mess. Morbidly obese (what a shock when I peaked at my doctor's chart and read that). I was taking over $250 a month worth of medicine each month... High blood pressure, bad cholesterol and asthma limited my activities and my quality of life.
I tried several well known systems. All worked short term, all were long term disappointments. Then, I started cooking "real" foods. Nothing drastic, just a few vegetables. I learned the health benefits of grilled items and my blog was born. One step.
While learning how to blog, I discovered other bloggers. I was inspired to try new recipes, but more, I was inspired to examine what a healthy meal could be. The meals that I like to serve are not just bland tasteless diet food. But they are filled with spices and herbs, filled with flavors and different tastes. My meals are made with fresh foods (you know, the food on the outside aisles of the grocery store). The next step.
Through blogging, I was inspired to cook more fun interesting foods. That often made an extra trip to the store for an ingredient a necessity. I decided to change my life in another way. I now walk to the store almost every day. Depending on my route, 6 to 7 miles. Before blogging, before eating right, I was winded walking up the stairs from my basement to my kitchen (where I always kept a bag of Doritos in stock). Take a close look at the photo. Can you see the fresh vegetables and fruit, the whole milk I carry home? There's not a Dorito in sight. Because I blog, because I challenge myself to cook new foods, with beautiful presentations, I am more conscious and more inspired to be physically healthy. Another step.
In no way do I pretend to be a diet specialty blog. I cook with real ingredients. Whole cream, real sugar and lots and lots of butter are common ingredients. I cook with fresh vegetables whenever possible. The pink and blue packets are not sugar and skim milk is not half and half. I avoid boxes, mixes and processed foods and use real food. Processed foods contain too much salt and worst of all is their shocking use of high fructose corn syrup and other additives. Healthy eating is not using artificial and low calorie alternatives to real food. Healthy eating is real food, real ingredients eaten in moderation with a healthy "move it to lose it" plan, a step I learned during my time blogging.
So, since starting to blog, my health issues are gone. I have gone from a 44 inch waist to a 38 inch waist with a lifestyle change that has nothing to do with dieting. I am taking zero medication. A vitamin and a fish oil capsule are the only drugs I take now. I walk where I want, but more importantly, I have the energy to be a real partner to my wife, instead of a burden. I am a better friend and neighbor. All the steps made me a better blogger and a better ...me.
And that is also what makes me qualified to be the Next Food Blog Star.
I post every day, nearly 400 days in a row and counting. Of course some posts barely qualify as space holders, but by posting everyday I get a chance to explore themes. My current week is a perfect example. Last weekend I hosted the farewell to summer neighborhood BBQ. 73 of our neighbors and friends gathered in my back yard for a meal of smoked pulled pork (Carolina style, with a finishing sauce of home made Raspberry Chipotle sauce that I am very proud to have made). I smoked plenty of pork, didn't want anyone to go home hungry. So I have a gallon size bag of pulled pork leftovers. I could easily just freeze some and have sandwiches with the rest. Instead, I am exploring the concept of leftovers as an ingredient.
So far, I made cupcakes with a base of pulled pork, a topping of beer bread and icing made from melted provolone cheese. A GREAT taste, a great lunch for my wife to take to work and a delightful presentation.
Sure, they are leftovers, but using the pulled pork as an ingredient made for a better meal than just heating up a sandwich in a microwave.
But, if you read the post, I offer up ideas that I hope my readers put in the back of their heads. How about spaghetti and meatball cupcakes with an Italian bread topping and Parmesan, or mac and cheese cupcakes with with a French bread topping and cheddar.
I also made a shepherd's pie with similar suggestions for using your leftovers to create something new.
Later today, I am making meatloaf replacing sausage with pulled pork (but that's a post for another day). Or how about a three cheese Mac and Cheese from scratch, topped with caramelized pulled pork? Or a pulled pork enchilada meal, or... Well, you get the idea. A gallon of the same ingredient, no two meals the same, but also ideas for readers to think beyond the microwave when dealing with their own gallon of a leftover ingredient.
The best blogs are not just filled with recipes and spectacular presentations. I can get those from magazines and books. The best blogs inspire a thought process. If I can make this sauce, I can use that to flavor this dish. And if I can make that dish, I can create a menu around that item. And if I can create a menu, I can feed my family interesting foods, control the additives in their food, provide healthy alternatives and make your kitchen the most exciting room in the house.
Recently I made a savory bread pudding, using kalamata olive bread (yes, freshly made in my kitchen). I was trying to envision a French onion soup as a bread pudding. I used an herb mix of my own making. It was a classic recipe made my own with the thought process of; if I can make my own herb mix, and if I can bake my own bread, and if I can envision a classic and think beyond the original; I can be a cook.
And that's what the Next Food Blog Star should be.
The NFBS should not be a professional, but a home cook. Someone just trying to put a healthy attractive meal on the table for their family and friends. But, they also should inspire creativity. Not just to have their recipes repeated, but have their thought processes, their applications become something different and personalized to the readers' family tastes.
I am going to close with a comment one of my readers left me after reading my French Onion Bread Pudding post...
The best reason why I am qualified to be the Next Food Blog Star...
Tv Food and Drink said...
Most excellent post. You don't just convey what food to use, but why and how it works together, which is really important to fully understand and really widen your appreciation of cooking, something I have been working on for a year now. Great work!!