Author Archives: TaMara

Friday Recipe Exchange: Smokin’

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Last week I found a nice, small pork roast on sale and decided it would be perfect to make a slow-cooker pulled pork. That reminded me that it would be a good idea to revisit JeffreyW’s smoking adventures with his backyard smoker. I’ve pulled a few recipes, but if you search for “smoker” on the blog, you’ll find a whole lot more of his mouth-watering pictures and recipes.

Let’s start with my slow-cooker Easy Pulled Pork, I posted two ways to make it here.

Next up, JeffreyW makes an assortment of goodies in his smoker:

Here is his recommendation for a smoker and some tasty Ribs.

Homemade Pastrami (click here) – serious mouth-watering photos.

Smoked Chicken (photos and recipe here).

My youngest brother also jumped on the Smoker band wagon and sent me photos of a great meal that included Smoked Macaroni and Cheese (link here). He didn’t include a recipe, but I think it’s safe to say, make your favorite Mac ‘n Cheese, place in an aluminum pan, cover and smoke it for about 45 minutes to an hour at 165-180 degrees.

Smoker people seem very passionate, so if you’ve got the bug, hit the comments and share your experiences and expertise. What delicious things do you have planned this weekend? Anyone getting the grill out yet?

Tonight’s featured recipe from JeffreyW:

Smoked Brisket

I thawed a beef brisket and was thinking corned beef but changed my mind.  I have a fresh made pastrami on hand so I decided on a straight smoked brisket.  The procedure is much the same as with making a pastrami except you are starting with a fresh beef beef brisket rather than a corned one.  I suppose you could use the same dry rub for both but I wasn’t sure how the juniper berries in the pastrami rub would taste so I went with a more traditional rub.  I was tossing various ingredients in and didn’t keep track of the amounts of each so I can’t do more than list them from memory:  Black pepper, kosher salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, ancho powder, regular chili powder, fresh ground cumin, some powder out of a bottle of Goya “Adobe Seasoning” (it’s yellow – go figure), creole/Cajun seasoning, oregano, and probably a few more.

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I placed it on the top rack of my electric smoker, threaded the temp probe through the vent and into the thickest part, placed a drippings pan with an inch of apple cider under the meat, added the soaked hickory to the smoke chamber, closed the door and fired it up.  It’s been cold and snowy so I knew it would take a good while to get to the “done” temperature but I wasn’t thinking 23 hours.  That’s how long it spent in there before I pulled it.  The probe was registering 176 degrees.

I pulled the first drippings pan out because I think it was keeping the inside temperature in the smoker too low and replaced it with a dry pan after about 12 hours.  The quart of cider plus the drippings was reduced to what you see above.  If I could make it by the gallon I’m pretty sure I would be a millionaire in short order.  Awesome stuff.

That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, but he turns 10 months old this weekend, so I’ll put something together soon. Have a great weekend. – TaMara

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Two Ways

Slowcooker pulled pork

This recipe is so simple and so very good. It’s great to make and then have ingredients for sandwiches all weekend. Eat cold or reheat, both are good.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

  • 2-3 lb boneless pork roast
  • salt and pepper
  • cayenne or red chili pepper flakes (opt)
  • red wine vinegar
  • favorite barbecue sauce (JeffreyW and I are both fond of Sweet Baby Rays – I like the spicy)
  • favorite rolls (I like multi-grain hoagie rolls)

Slow-cooker

Remove the string ties from the pork roast. Spread the roast out, season all sections with salt, pepper and if you like, cayenne or chili pepper flakes. Roll back up and place in the slow-cooker (don’t tie it up again). Add red wine vinegar (about 2 tbsp or more as desired). Cover and cook according to slow-cooker directions – usually 8-10 hours on low. Keep that lid closed.

Once its cooked, remove the roast and pour off all but about 2 tbsp of the liquid and fat. Shred the roast and return it to the slow-cooker, add barbecue sauce, start with 1/4 cup and add more as desired. I eventually used about 1/2 cup and a little bit more each time I reheated.

Don’t want barbecued pork, how about Carnitas? Just change out the spices:

  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 orange, cut in half

Mix together spices and oil and rub over the roast liberally. Add the roast, garlic and jalapeno to the slow-cooker. Squeeze the orange over the meat before adding it as well. Cover and cook as above. No need to drain, just shred the pork and serve on tortillas.

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See You Again

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Sweet Treats and Devilish Eggs

Green Chili Eggs

Big weekend, Passover, Easter, baseball Opening Day, Final Four…

We had a quick and wild storm pass through yesterday which left me a lot of time to cook. I wanted to whip up a batch of Tomato-Spinach Soup, but son-of-a-cheese-biscuit, I completely forgot to buy spinach when I was at the store, so I browned some ground beef, added diced tomatoes, carrots, green beans, garlic, onion, spices and barley to make a nice tomato-barley soup instead.  I might have forgotten the spinach, but I did find a small pork roast that was perfect to make a slow-cooker BBQ pulled pork for sandwiches for the weekend. It was simple and came out tasty, so I’ll probably post that recipe next week.

Next up, cupcakes. In January, my not-yet-year-old car had an issue. I was running errands with Bixby in the back, I got out, locked the car and it made a funny sound. When I went to try and open it back up, the door locks didn’t work. Not with the fob or with the actual physical key. Inside were Bixby, my purse and MY PHONE. I borrowed a phone from a total stranger, called roadside assistance and was told it would be 3 to 4 hours (!!) before they could help me. I live in a town where you can drive anywhere in less than 15 minutes. What the frack! I was more than frantic so they put me through to my dealership where I related my story (not nicely, may I honestly add). After the service manager verified everything, he and a driver drove an hour round trip to get Bixby and me. They jumped my car which unlocked my doors and we took it in to the shop to find out the battery was defective. Free new battery, treats for Bixby in the back of their shuttle van and we were back on our way.

I had planned on taking them treats for weeks, but a persistent cold kept me from baking for them. I thought it would be terrible to take them sweet treats laced with a virulent cold virus. So yesterday, I finally bought the ingredients for cupcakes and I’ll drop them off on my way out of town.

These are my favorites:  Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes, recipe here.

And speaking of Bixbya quick update with lots of photos here.

Coconut Lemon Cake c2011 W4DS

Need something to take to a holiday dinner, how about this beautiful Coconut Lemon Cake, picture above and recipe here. I love it and am seriously thinking of baking one today.

How are you spending your weekend? What’s on the menu? What food traditions do you have for the holidays and/or sporting events?

For tonight’s featured recipes, I thought it would be good to have a couple of recipes for those Easter Eggs the Easter Bunny will be bringing. I love a good deviled egg, so here is the basic recipe with several variations:

Deviled Eggs

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (more if needed)
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • smoked paprika for garnish

saucepan, bowl, plate

Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with water. Heat on high until water begins to boil, then cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and leave covered for 14 minutes, then rinse under cold water continuously for 1 minute.
Carefully peel eggs, slice in half lengthwise and scoop yolks into a large bowl. Arrange whites on a large serving plate. In the bowl, mash yolks with a fork, add mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well until mixture is creamy – add more mayonnaise as needed. Scoop or pipe into the egg white halves, garnish with paprika.

Variations:

Green Chili Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard boiled eggs, halved
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped green chilis
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 1/4 mayonnaise
  • dash of lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro leaves for garnish

Remove yolks to a bowl, add remaining  ingredients, except cilantro, mix together, add more mayonnaise as needed, until creamy.  Fill egg white halves and top with a cilantro leaf.

Tomato and Bacon Deviled Eggs

  • 12 hard boiled eggs, halved
  • 1 small tomato, quartered
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1/4 mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard (or ground mustard if desired)
  • dash of vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove yolks to a bowl, add mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper mix together, add more mayonnaise as needed, until creamy.  Finely chop 3 of the tomato quarters, dice the final quarter into small pieces and reserve for garnish.

Gently fold in tomatoes and bacon crumbles and fill egg white halves. Top with small diced tomato pieces.

Finally, here is something to NEVER do with your Easter leftovers. Have a great weekend – TaMara

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A Little Missy

Missy Elizabeth1

 I was putting together tonight’s recipe exchange and found this on my camera. I took it just a week or so ago. Love that little tail.

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Bixby Diaries: Growing Up Fast

B & K the Race is on

Just a quick update this week. Bixby is 127 lbs now and doing great. We still struggle with a couple of things, mostly pulling on the leash to get to dogs and people. He wants to meet and love everyone. We continue to work on it and he’s very proud when he remembers not to pull. It’s adorable.

Bixby and Kodiak April 2015a

After a very rough week we needed a play date to blow off some steam. We headed up to LFern’s property where the dogs could run to their heart’s content. The surprise for LFern, Kodiak and me was how big Bixby had gotten since our last visit a few months ago. But Kodiak still ruled the yard and Bixby was happy to follow his lead.

Here’s their first meeting, not long after Bixby came to live with me:

Bixby and Kodiak Sept 2014

He was such a wee little thing. Not so much now:

Bixby and Kodiak 2a

I’m so pleased with how far we have come. It took me a while to understand what I was doing that created situations where he would get totally crazy (and run away). He was overstimulated. And instead of trying to wear him out with lots of activities, only to have it backfire, I started to restrict his input – no more tag, tug or walks on a long lead. We switched to three short walks a day, instead of one long walk, used the crate as a quiet place where he could calm down when visitors arrived, and I often had to use my ‘stern’ voice.

A lot of it seemed counter-intuitive, but it works and without breaking his beautiful spirit. The more I am able to communicate to him what I’m looking for, the happier he gets. The sweeter he gets. It just took me a while of watching him to see where I was going in the wrong direction. He is always doing the best he can. I believe that over time we’ll be able to continue tag, tug and letting him take the lead on walks again.

Bixby March 2015 Sleepy

This is how he spends his afternoons by my desk when I’m working. Terrific office mate. He’ll be nine 10 months (denial or typo, you decide) soon, maybe I can get him to write an update then. – TaMara

<3

Missy Miss 9 12

<3

Missy 2003-2015

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After initially being fine, I’m very sad to say that Missy did not make it through surgery. We don’t know why. She recovered enough to come home, but passed about an hour after. I was able to hold her for about a half hour and snuggle with her. I’m sure Harley was there to greet her, he was always taking care of us.

I love this picture of her, because that was her attitude, always just a bit judgmental of me and my pet skills. RIP

Paw print

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A Sister’s Worst Nightmare

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Paul and John (Harris), shamelessly stolen from my brother’s facebook page. 

This post is a bit different, but I wanted to share this interview with members of my brother’s Army National Guard Unit.

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Ten years ago my youngest brother was stationed in Kuwait, running convoys to Iraq as a National Guardsman. It was a tough time on a lot of levels. I’m sure tougher for him :-D. But from my perspective, there were a lot of sleepless nights, waiting by the computer when he was out on missions. He would always check in when he got back, via Yahoo messenger, where I could IM or video chat with him.

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Then one day the phone rang. It was my brother. Dread set in, because a phone call meant something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. He didn’t tell me much, just that their convoy had been ambushed, some of his friends had been injured, but he was okay. I have always said it was the worst/best phone call I’ve ever received. Worst because of the sound of his voice, best because the SOUND of his voice. I’m glad they all made it back home.

In all honesty, we’ve never talked much about it. Most of what I know about it I have learned over the years from various news accounts and interviews with the soldiers. On the tenth anniversary, Nebraska Public Radio aired this piece.

To listen to the full story, as told by several members of the convoy, and watch video of the attack,  click here

Ten years ago today a group of Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers was in a life or death battle on a highway in Iraq. Mike Tobias looks back at the Battle of Bismarck, with reflections from the soldiers who fought it.

“One of the most beautiful days I can remember weather wise, the entire deployment I was over there,” is how Jay Schrad remembered the morning of March 20, 2005.

Schrad and 13 other soldiers from the Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1075th Transportation Company were rolling out of a base in Kuwait, taking a 33-vehicle supply convoy into Iraq. They were young, most in their early 20s. Most were from the Columbus area. They’d been doing this for several months at this point, halfway through the deployment. This convoy included pairs of Nebraska soldiers in green semi-trucks, civilians driving white semis and three Humvee gun trucks providing security.

They had been attacked on previous missions with roadside bombs and small arms fire, which was no surprise, because regardless of tactics, mile long convoys attract attention in a war zone. “We made our presence known,” A.J. Bloebaum said. “They knew when we were coming.”

But they’d always sped away from the trouble.

“You’re in a semi with a 40-foot trailer. You’re not equipped to sit there and fight,” said Josh Birkel. “So our SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) honestly was to hit the gas go.”

Normally this worked. But soldiers say that beautiful day, 10 years ago, was different from the moment their trucks pulled out on a four-lane divided highway called Route Bismarck.

“There were things that kind of triggered a sense of, hey, there’s something weird going on today,” recalled Schrad, driving a semi toward the back of the convoy. (the rest is here)

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been ten years. They all got together this weekend and I’m guessing it didn’t feel like 10 years to them, either. Always grateful for their service – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Spices and Sauces

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I’m heading out for a much needed girls’ day out with LFern. But I didn’t want to leave you without a recipe exchange. I thought it would be fun to focus on one of JeffreyW’s specialties, he likes to make his own spice mixes and hot sauces. Tonight’s recipe exchange was inspired by his great post this week, Chinese Five Spice.

I was a believer in making my own spice mixes when I put together his Fajita Spice (recipe here), which is better than anything pre-made in the store.

He also loves to make hot sauces, recipes and photos here and here.

One of the most requested sauce recipes is a guest recipe from Down Under, Piri Piri (recipe here).

Not technically a spice, but JeffreyW made his own Garlic Breadcrumbs this week, (click here).

What’s on your plate for the weekend? I’ll going to a few open houses and taking Bixby out to enjoy the predicted spring weather. Do you make any of your own spices mixes or sauces? Give us your favorite recipe.

I knew what tonight’s featured recipe would be as soon as I saw JefferyW’s beautiful photographs (top and below).

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Chinese Five Spice from his post:

I was browsing among various recipes for green beans and noticed a call for Chinese five spice in one of them and wondered if I had the ingredients to make my own.  Yes!  –  or at least close enough for my purposes.  I looked over several recipes and they all had the same ingredients with a few variations:  Star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns.  Some used Szechuan peppercorns and others called for the more familiar black peppercorns, one recipe used cassia bark in lieu of the cinnamon, there were differences in the ratios so I just eyeballed mine as I loaded them into my little spice grinder.  I ended up with about a quarter cup of some great smelling stuff.

Those are the Szechuan peppercorns between the cinnamon sticks.  They have an interesting effect in the mouth, some heat and a numbing sensation on the lips.  Another name for them is prickly ash seed.

After all of that, I used about a teaspoon of the spice powder in the soy sauce marinade of the chicken for the green bean dish pictured above.  That was a simple enough recipe, the most prep went into the sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup chicken stock, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar with a little corn starch to thicken it in the pan.  I steamed the beans for five minutes while the chicken was cooking then added them to the pan with the chicken and then poured in the sauce and cooked until it thickened, a few more minutes.

That’s if for this week. No Bixby update, but he’s doing great, each day he surprises me by what he learns and understands. My little black kitty, Missy has to have surgery next week, so good thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks and have a great weekend – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: A Little Irish In It

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March is winging by and bringing spring with it. We had a relatively mild winter, so I won’t complain, but still glad to see warm days, birds returning and crocus popping up. I’m hoping house hunting will also pick up. You know it’s slim pickings when your real estate agent calls to apologize there’s not more to offer.

Despite still having to cook in the postage stamp kitchen, I decided to try something new. I did some research on Irish Soda Bread. I never tried any before, because it always looks dry and then there are those pesky raisins. Raisins only belong in bread if there is a large helping of cinnamon/sugar swirl joining them. At least in my kitchen. But when I went looking for recipes, turns out that the raisin/caraway seed concoction is a strictly American invention.

I did find one that seemed to be more authentic and that’s what I went to bake. Before we get to the recipe, let me say this, I’m not sure this is one I would make again. I think I would rather just bake a nice batch of biscuits.  But if you need something to get you through a long, cold winter night, I guess I can see the appeal. Cheap enough to make, heavy enough to fend off starvation. Or as a friend quipped, “Heavy enough to be a weapon if you throw it.”

So why include it tonight? Because you should be unafraid in the kitchen. If a recipe fails or isn’t to your liking, all you’ve done is waste a few ingredients. But if you never try anything new, how will you ever discover that new family favorite? And besides, someone might like this one, even though I didn’t.

I think failure is just part of cooking. I’ve burnt the main course with guests waiting, forgot to add leavening to one cake, added too much leavening to another and my first attempt at corned beef turned out more like beef jerky. One time a friend and I almost set her house on fire trying to grill chicken. How about you, what’s your biggest kitchen disaster? Besides potentially drying out the corned beef, what’s on the menu for the weekend?

For tonight, how about I start out with some recipes that did work:

A bunch of different ways to make Corned Beef and Cabbage can be found here.

JeffreyW makes Guinness Irish Stew (pictured above), photos and recipe here.

Really good Biscuits to go with that stew can be found here.

For the pet lovers, I have three fun things for you: JeffreyW introduces us to the newest nursing home resident (scroll down), Zander poses pretty for me and finally a Bixby update where we tackle the troublesome teens (his look in the top photo is really all you need to know).

Tradional Irish Soda Bread

The featured recipe tonight is a more traditional Irish Soda Bread. This is a rustic loaf and can be baked in a loaf pan or as a rounded loaf in a cast iron skillet. The key is not to handle the dough a lot, once it forms into a ball, place it in the pan, cut a 1-inch deep X in the top (I did several) and bake. The more it’s handled, the tougher it becomes.

Irish Soda Bread

  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 tbsp toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tbsp old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tbsp (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups water (add 1/2 cup at a time, using only what is needed)

loaf pan (I used mini pans), well buttered

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Whisk together the first 8 ingredients. Add butter and crumble together by hand until all the butter is incorporated. Add water in a bit at a time until it forms a soft dough that holds together. Mine took the full 2 cups. You can smooth it and then add to the loaf pan. I left mine a bit more rustic because I was afraid of over-handling it.

Cut 1-inch deep Xs in the top. This makes sure the dense dough cooks through.  Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

This is a very moist, if heavy, loaf because of the buttermilk. You can do an all “white” loaf if desired, just substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat. I’d leave in the oats and wheat germ for added flavor.

*why buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk? – because you can keep it on hand and it doesn’t go bad (keep in the refrigerator). You can also make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk.

That’s it for this week. Probably try for something very spring-like next week. Until then – TaMara

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