Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Mmmmeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaat

Posted: June 15, 2018 in BBQ, Cooking, Food porn, Traeger

I had an interesting opportunity this week. I had BBQ class with a true expert. And now I want to BBQ the world.

A little backstory.

I’ve always been a fan of good BBQ. I love me some pulled pork and brisket. Love the taste and smell of something done on a wood fire. Supportive Partner Woman’s cousin and her husband have had a Traeger wood fired grill for years and were always raving about it. Never really considered getting one until last June. SPW (lover of 80’s music!) and I were attending a Tears for Fears concert at Verizon Center and the usherette in our section started saying how she was hungry for smoked macaroni and cheese. I looked at SPW and said, “I’m going to talk smokers with John when next we see him.”

The following week we were at a family function and we chatted a bit. Went home that night and ordered a Traeger Junior Elite. It was a small unit, but I figured what the heck, it’s a start.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and our local Costco was having a Traeger roadshow. They had a far larger unit that was on great sale (about $300 off). I said, “Want,” snagged it and returned the smaller one.

This has provided some tasty cooks over the year that I’ve had it… my biggest fear was to spend money on good meat and then screw up the cook. All that aside, this beautiful Traeger has saved my bacon at Christmas, providing enough space to cook a ham and a turkey, both of which tasted amazing. I recently did some Copper River salmon with alder wood pellets and some salt, pepper, and olive oil. SPW (consumer of tasty salmon!) stopped licking the plate long enough to express a desire for more.

Still, that touch of PA Dutch conservatism came to mind. Did I want to spend big bucks on a nice brisket that I could easily eff up?

No.

So when I saw that the Traeger shop class would be in the area for two sessions, I signed right up. I had read reviews of these classes… taught by real champion pitmasters, lots of knowledge and a great way to meet other pelletheads in the area. Let me sum up by saying that the reviews were spot on.

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Diva-Q talks the fine points of reverse searing with class participants.

The instructor for both sessions was Danielle “Diva-Q” Bennett. She’s brash, direct, passionate, and an accomplished pitmaster and teacher. She’s quick to point out that she teaches the fine art of BBQ to over 2,000 students a year. That’s a lot of knowledge imparted to some eager BBQ enthusiasts. I can’t say enough good about Diva-Q, even if she disagrees on my like of alder pellets (yes, it’s mild, but if I’m making fish, that’s what I want). I had taken a brisket class before… yet one hour in this class, I feel ready to tackle an expensive Wagyu brisket. That I’m willing to cast aside my usual fear of failure after such a short time speaks volumes about Diva-Q’s teaching ability.

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Not the official taste tester, although I’m sure she wouldn’t have minded

Both nights opened with a tasting of Traeger’s smoked lemonade. Available in regular and high-test (with Tito’s vodka), this is refreshingly tart, yet not overpowering. Diva-Q is quick to give credit to Natalie, one of the shop support folks, who has a more mainstream taste when it comes to tart things. On the first night, this was followed by Margherita pizza, which was excellent. It’s amazing you can use your grill/smoker to make a perfectly acceptable pizza. The lessons are marked with added tips… for example, if using a pizza stone, make sure you heat it WITH the grill rather than putting it on the grill when hot.

First night also included reverse seared steak and St. Louis-style ribs. I should state up front that I was not a rib fan. After trying these, I’m all in on good ribs. One of the biggest tips you get is how to pick quality meats, what to look for in terms of marbling, and also how best to trim the meat.

The last item on the first day was peach cobbler. We can sum that up with “YUM!”

Second night was called “Meat Master” and there was a lot of meat. Not quite meat sweats level, but very meat-centric (not a bad thing). First item on the list was spatchcock chicken. Learned the art of trimming chicken and how best to set it on the grill. This was followed by reverse seared ribeye. Basically, that means smoke the steaks BEFORE you sear them.

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Pulled pork (photo credit: @divaqbbq)

This was followed by the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. The photo is hijacked from Diva-Q’s Instagram since I couldn’t get close enough to get my own shot, but it’s a thing of beauty. No sauce needed… just tender meat with a good, solid rub.

The last item taught was brisket. Included how best to trim the brisket, what to do with the trimmings, how to properly wrap it, and the importance of letting it rest. Also, how it’s best not to skimp on your brisket quality.

These classes are fantastic… if you get the chance and want to up your BBQ game, do it. Next time they are in my area, I plan on taking SPW (Who can then make her own BBQ!). In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Traeger, I can recommend visiting their site and downloading the app. There are many fantastic recipes available, and it’s worth the time. Even if you don’t like the recipe, you can always make it your own by using different spices or different flavors of wood pellets

I’ve noticed something over the four years I’ve been doing this blog… whenever I let the blogging lapse, the weight creeps back on. Curious cause and effect, but it bears looking into.

I had a visit with Dr. McPhee today. He challenged me to avoid all processed carbs for a month and see what happens. I was expressing my discontent at the fact I’m pretty much sedentary due to the foot issues and he says he has patients that have found success with this approach. It’ll be  a challenge, since I do like my pasta and crunchy snacks. He managed to ease the blow by saying I could have some corn and potatoes. Not tons, but it’s a start.

I immediately enlisted Supportive Partner Woman (fellow lover of carby goodness!) who agreed to go in, just not right away, because we have a LOT of that stuff in the house and it seems a shame to throw it away. I can respect that… food is expensive, after all. I did start today and made a very yummy lunch… cedar plank roasted Copper River salmon with an ear of fresh, quasi-local sweet corn and some steamed broccoli. I was amazed at just how much protein is in the salmon… MyFitnessPal calculated 26.2 grams in a portion slightly less than 4 oz. That’s some serious protein.

I added something to the kitchen arsenal this week, as well. I finally got a food grinder attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. This thing is AWESOME! I took a nice sirloin, ran it through the grinder and made some caramelized sweet onion burgers for the grill. The meat was probably a little too lean for the purpose, as the burgers were a little dry, but the taste was spot-on. I’m looking forward to grinding my own turkey, since the stuff you get at the store is kind of nasty. I think it will make for excellent turkey meatloaf and turkey burgers, not to mention it can be cheaper to buy the whole piece and grind it yourself. Woot!

Other than that, there’s not too much going on. I find myself getting sad when I drive by the trailheads because on some of these lovely days we’ve been having, it would be nice to go out and take a walk/run/wog. Alas, thanks to Wayne being obstinate, no dice.

This pretty much sums up my feelings on soccer

This pretty much sums up my feelings on soccer.

In other news, many folks around the world are watching the World Cup. I realize I’ll take some heat for saying this, but I just don’t get it. I mean I respect the athleticism and skill, and I respect the fact that a lot of people love the game, but, on the whole, I’d rather watch hockey or baseball. I know, you people are saying, “You like baseball and you’re bored by soccer?” My usual response is to say that there aren’t many other sports where you can fail 70% of the time and be considered one of the greats.

At any rate, that’s going to do it for this post. Expect to see more in the coming weeks as I rededicate myself. I’ll also let you know how things go with the no processed carbs challenge.

Now where can I find some meat?

Greetings, my friends.

It’s been a little bit since I’ve written. There’s been a lot happening, but that’s no excuse. Fact is, I’ve been pretty darned tired and haven’t really felt like it.

So, the big news is that Wednesday was my one-year anniversary of my bypass. Hard to believe I was propped up in my bed moaning and begging for death. It was almost like having a hangover, except for the five holes in my abdomen. People have asked me if I had any regrets. I think my biggest regret (other than being in such a bad way that I needed the operation) was that I didn’t do it sooner. I could’ve maybe avoided the diabetes and not have the damage to my feet that will probably stick with me the rest of my days.

I had my one-year appointment with Dr. McPhee. He was concerned that I had gained 26 pounds back, but since starting in the Back on Track program, I had lost 11 of those 26. That’s been going great… I find that Dr. Collins has a way of hitting the root causes of why I eat like I do. She’s been able to get me refocused and nudge me in the right direction, which is a good thing. I was starting to really feel down about myself during the two months I was on the shelf. Between the group and the fact I can be back at the gym, well, it has made a world of difference.

What a coincidence... both Flexes that we got in the same picture. Mine is the black/gray colored band and SPW's is the slate blue band.

What a coincidence… both Flexes that we got in the same picture. Mine is the black/gray colored band and SPW’s is the slate blue band.

One of the other things I did was to get a FitBit Flex. It adds a bit of a game to my daily routine and I love those days when I hit my goal and my Flex will start buzzing at random. I guess I’m intrigued by the gamification of calorie counting and fitness tracking. The sleep tracking is a nice feature as well. I also got one for Supportive Partner Woman… I hope she likes it as much as I do. I must remember not to cheer or taunt too much because that can get to be annoying. It’s like when someone will comment on EVERY Facebook status you post. It’s irritating and the last thing we need is more irritation.

The actual process of getting these bands was kind of comical. I had swung by my local Best Buy with the intention of looking at the band. In a surprise move, no one was around to help when I could’ve actually USED the help (Usually, I get one creepy dude who keeps asking me what he can help me with… when I really don’t need any help), so I left there and swung by the Apple Store, on the off chance they had them. They did, although the associate there tried to talk me into the Nike+ Fuelband. I tried, but it’s too rigid and didn’t fit my wrist comfortably. I took it back the following day and so far, I’m very happy. Supportive Partner Woman wanted a different color than I got, but they only stocked pink and black. I had the black and, well, she’s so not a pink person. Luckily, the Apple website had the blue band available and was able to ship it to the store in a couple of days. Problem solved. The website said shipping it to our home would take a week, but I could pay an extra $10 and get it by Friday. Or, I could ship it to the store for free and I could have it Friday. That’s a basic no-brainer, so, yay me.

Speaking of Dr. McPhee, he recently published another cookbook for bariatric patients. It has many of the same recipes from the first edition, but there are plenty of new ones, along with portion guides and some nutrition information. Not to mention the fact that the stuff is tasty. So, if you are a bariatric patient or know someone who is, click over to lulu.com and check out the book. It’s only $4.99 for a digital download and well worth it.

That’s all I have for today.

Song of the Day: Colin Hay – Overkill
Currently Reading: The Chariot Builders – Steve Matchett

Yes, I’m a day late… but better a late Festivus than no Festivus at all.

We did have it all yesterday, though. A Festivus miracle, feats of strength AND Airing of Grievances. See, I’ve complained often about the previous owner of our house and his inept construction technique. So, yesterday, Supportive Partner Woman (Decorator of trees!) was putting the finishing touches on the Pop Culture Tree when she heard a loud crash. She went to the basement to see if the heater had blown up, only to find no problems. She went back upstairs, heard another crash and looked in the garage. There’s where she found the source.

Thankfully the rake and Jolly Roger flag stopped the potential bad damage.

Thankfully the rake and Jolly Roger flag stopped the potential bad damage.

Seems that Former Owner Guy’s use of shitty materials had caused a bit of an issue in the garage. You know, it would make sense to attach a big shelf by using something more than drywall anchors and very short screws that don’t quite bite into the stud. But maybe that’s just me.

After the Feat of Strength

After the Feat of Strength

At any rate, SPW was able to manhandle the stored closet doors and heavy totes off the shelf after safely removing Mario the Super Honda from the garage without damage. That constituted the Festivus Feat of Strength. The Festivus Miracle was that no serious damage was done. The Airing of Grievances consisted of me colorfully and masterfully cursing the previous owner’s ineptitide and my desire to hunt him down and kick him in the junk with the Boot of Shame.

Mine is twice as big!

Mine is twice as big!

After all the fun was done, including SPW’s Feat of Strength (accomplished whilst wearing flannel penguin loungewear… no lie), I was able to rettach the shelving when I got home from work. It’s funny… you can see a bit of difference between the screws Captain Asstastic used and the type of screws that should’ve been used. They really weren’t that much more expensive. Or maybe he could’ve used an anchor rated for heavier weights, rather than a cheap one that’s best for hanging a picture.

The most important thing is that no one was hurt and everything was back in its place by the time SPW was home from work. I even got to use power tools. Woot!

This past weekend we attended a beer cheer event hosted by one of SPW’s co-workers. The basic premise was that each guest brought a six pack of something interesting, everyone sampled them, and at the end of the night, pretty much everyone went home with a new selection of brew. I also whipped up a pretty decent Cajun crab dip at 3:07 AM, because, as Jeanine says, there’s never a bad time for crab dip.

Festive Death Star!

Festive Death Star!

We also did up a batch of SPW’s granny’s cutout cookies. We were faced with a dilemma, though… we had really cool Death Star cookie cutters, but I couldn’t find the black sugar (from when we did Halloween cutout cookies. My answer? Festive Death Stars! I also made festive X-Wings, festive TIE Fighters, and festive modified Corellian YT-1300 freighters.

At any rate, I wish all of you a very happy and safe holiday season, whether you celebrate Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or something I forgot to name. Check back next week for my take on the final Cinematic Titanic show and my New Years Resolutions.

As the major winter holidays approach, a few things come to mind. But before I get into those, I want to take a few minutes to thank all those who donated to my Avon Walk page. So, a huge thank you to Mike & Katherine, Mike & Mary, Mark, Mindy & Chris, April & Janet, Charlie & Joan, Candi, Jed & Maureen, Becky, Janet, Mary, Melissa & Nimesh, Rodger & Karen, Jim & Elena, Fred & Renee, Ann, Donna & Jim, and most importantly, my mom and sister, as well as Supportive Partner Woman (culinary creative genius!). I never thought I’d get to my original goal, much less triple that. It’s very humbling knowing that folks out there are willing to support me and believe in what I’ve accomplished.

And to think, in a little over two weeks, I’ll have that first 5K under my belt. Then all bets are off.

In the meantime, I’m focused on rehabbing Wayne. I saw the foot doctor on Thursday and Wayne is healing, just not as rapidly as I would like. That’s primarily due to the blister’s location on the bottom of my toe. Of course, when I first saw the doc about this toe, he was concerned about infection and prescribed a liquid amoxicillin. Now, I’ve had amoxicillin before and never had any issues, but the liquid stuff gave me a nasty drug rash that itched so badly I had to pay a visit to the Urgent Care. Thankfully it’s started to heal up already, because while Benadryl keeps the itching down, it puts me down as well.

Mmmm... chocolate caramel shortbread.

Mmmm… chocolate caramel shortbread.

So, we’re rapidly closing on the Christmas holiday. Once again, with everything going on, we are woefully behind. We don’t even have a tree set up. Maybe this weekend. We have managed to do some baking, however, and that’s gone rather swimmingly. I made my semi-famous chocolate chip cookies, as well as lepp cookies. SPW chimed in with spritz cookies, chocolate cookies, something that looks like a flying saucer with a Hershey Kiss in side, and her ever-evolving chocolate caramel shortbread. This year she baked the shortbread into a cup, made her own caramel and topped it with melted chocolate. A nice, bite-size portion. They are actually kind of cute, as well as yummy. I’ll try to pry a recipe out of her to post on here.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to the holidays and having a day off to spend with family.

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and I can’t wait to tell you all about my 5K experience.

So, fresh on the heels of completing my 5K yesterday, I thought I’d do it again.

Yeah… I’m getting the bug. I’ve been told it’s expensive.

Yikes.

Supportive Partner Woman and I hit the Rec today. We took adjacent treadmills and got started. I didn’t start the workout thinking 5K. I just set the timer for 45 minutes and thought I’d take it easy. Three minutes later, I’m clipping along at 3.8 mph and I’m not really winded. I added some 30 second running intervals to get the heart rate up, but as I got closer to the 45 minute mark, I opted to see if I could get 3 miles in 50 minutes. I managed to do that with 4 second left and finished my workout having done 3.06 miles in 51:15. That was a 16:44 pace, which is pretty much the best pace I’ve ever recorded (since doing 9 minute miles in high school).

This really gives me hope that I’ll be able to break 50 minutes at the WDW 5K. I still have four months until the race, so there’s still time.

The other good news was that Wayne & Stubby came through with no new injuries… no blisters, corns or whatever foot ailment you can think of.

I need to refocus on my diet, though. It’s not bad, but it’s slipping a bit. I just need to wrap my head around it, because what I was doing was working. My first step was to cut the amount of pasta I had with my meatballs. I’ve been using higher-fiber pasta for a while, but there’s still carbs and carbs are still the enemy. At least the meatballs have plenty of protein. I use 90% beef, plus cheese, eggs and spices. There’s also some bread crumbs, but they aren’t that big of an impact in terms of diet.

My hope is to knock the Happy Birthday Harry Potter 10K out this weekend. Then I can focus on the Banned Books race at the end of September. I’m thinking of that 13.1 miles as a goal. I know it won’t be fast, but I’m hoping to be able to at least walk it in one day without blisters.

It’s a goal… and I think it’s attainable.

One more blurb… if you would care to sponsor my 5K effort for the Avon Walk, please click here. They do amazing work and if you can spare $1 for every kilometer I’m going to finish, that would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great day!

Song of the Day: MLK – U2

Currently Reading: The First Counsel – Brad Meltzer

Today’s weight: 269 lbs – total loss of 111 pounds

I’ve posted a few times about participating in the Nerd Herd Racing Series. It’s a series of virtual 5 and/or 10K and half-marathon events based on pop culture themes sacred to nerds everywhere.

I was late to the party, but I managed to register for the entire series, which means I have three races to do by September 28. The first one was themed after Star Wars and Star Wars Day. It was originally intended to be completed by May 4, but I’m slow. 🙂

My first race bib

My first race bib

It’s a pretty warm day here in cow country. Sun beating down, humid as the dickens, still air. But I knew I had to get my work done. I figured I’d knock the 5K out since it needed to be done and, well, doing it on the treadmill at the air conditioned gym would be sort of like cheating. We have a nice loop in the neighborhood that’s a tad over a half mile. I figured six laps would do it and I could cross that 5K off my list.

Started out swimmingly. The sun felt good, just being outside felt good. Started up my pedometer app and walked. The iPhone served up a nice selection of tunes to keep me moving (Ozzy, Cake, Chic, Iron Maiden, Eminem, and NWA, to name a few). All good.

Made the first and second laps and I could feel the pace start to slow a bit. I wasn’t killing it, coming back from Wayne‘s missing toenail, but I was working up a sweat. That’s when I realized how much of the marathon game is mental. You feel the sun beating on your head. The head and humidity surrounding you, and while your body can take it, it’s your mind saying, “Screw this, let’s go back, grab a shower and watch The Price is Right.”

My respect for the folks who run marathons soared because I was feeling that at one mile and they actually run for 26 miles.

I buried those doubting feelings and gave the voice in my head a smack down. Because it had to be done. If I couldn’t walk a 5K without giving up, well, that would mean all that I’ve been through was worthless.

I wasn’t going to let that happen. I’ve taken the easy way out waaaaaaaaay too many times.

Not this time. No way, no how.

Not the greatest pace, but it's the distance that really matters.

Not the greatest pace, but it’s the distance that really matters.

So, I finished. Hot, sweaty, but I completed what I started. And I feel good about it.

As you can see, it was a pace slightly over an hour. That’s not optimal, but it’s a start. When I do the second leg (the Happy Birthday Harry Potter 5K/10K), that 5K number will be under an hour. And I’ll have a photo to prove it.

In other news, Supportive Partner Woman and I got to pay a visit to the holy temple of Wegman’s over the weekend. Got a lovely piece of swordfish that I just simply baked with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Very flavorful. I also picked up some 7.66 pounds of ground beef. SPW has been asking for meatballs, so I thought I’d make them for her. I’m always amazed by the selection and quality of meat at Wegman’s. And the price… that 90% lean beef clocked in at $2.99 a pound. Can’t beat it unless you want to butcher your own cows and I’m pretty sure Wanda would take issue with that.

Oh, almost forgot that SPW and I appeared on the most recent episode of the Mickey Miles Podcast. Click here and choose Episode 96 if you want to give it a listen. I’d like to thank Mike & Michelle for having us on and letting us share our story. They do a great job and I’d encourage you to give them a listen.

That’s all I have for today. Hope you have a great day and remember to stay active. Keeps you young.