Archive for the ‘Food porn’ 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

Let’s flash back, shall we?

When Supportive Partner Woman (lover of gelato!) and I were dating, I once promised I’d take her to Italy. I finally made good on that promise… We arrived in Rome on Thursday and will be touring our way up and across the boot.

So far, it’s been a lot of what I remember… beautiful art, awesome food, insane drivers…

It’s also a spot where Stubby and Wayne have decided to get ornery. It’s already cost me part of the Colosseum tour. I’m hoping they don’t cost me much more, because this place rocks.

There was some drama before we left. Somehow, my credit card number wound up in the hands of someone in Illinois. No offense to the fine Illini, but I’ve never been to Illinois, other than stopping at O’Hare to change planes. I’ve certainly never been to a Home Depot in Illinois. Anyway, the card company was suspicious, denied the charge, contacted me and said they would be issuing a new card and would send it overnight.

Sure enough, they shipped it, but they opted for Federal Express (who need to change their tagline to “The Postal Service for a New Millennium). That’s when the hijinks ensued.

According to the tracking data, the new card went from Chesapeake, Virginia to Norfolk, then to Memphis, TN. Then, for whatever reason, it went to Dubai. As in the United Arab Emirates. When I called FedEx about it, the customer rep said, “Uh, I’m not sure why it’s there.”

Wow. And Chris Christie wants to track illegal aliens like FedEx packages?

Anyway, they put it on a plane to Paris, then back to Memphis, then on to Harrisburg, then to Lancaster, where it finally arrived on Monday. It’s about 325 miles to drive from Chesapeake to Lancaster. My package travelled some 17,000 miles. Ahh, progress. All I wanted was the frequent flier miles, but alas, FedEx does not give them.

Anyway, Wednesday afternoon saw us arriving at the economy parking lot at Philadelphia International Airport. I opted for PHL, not because of its stellar reputation, but because it was cheaper. Plus, I didn’t relish the thought of driving to JFK. We finally found a parking spot (no mean feat) and were treated to the most horrendous, kidney-bruising ride you could ever ask for. We were in a bus, which probably hadn’t had a working suspension in years, careening through airport property, just hanging on for dear life.

We finally made it to the terminal, checked our bags with the fine folks from British Airways, and approached security. The line was insane. As we were queueing up, a young man (who looked so much like Pharrell I expected him to put on a bad hat and start singing “Happy”) pointed out that the wait for security at Terminal A East was about two minutes. We said, “Why not?” walked over and were through in no time.

We got to the gate, and started boarding our plane. I’m an aviation geek and this was my first ever flight on the Boeing 777. We had seats in the World Traveler Plus section, which was pretty darn nice. Food was tasty (a shock for airplane food), the seats had some space, and there was plenty of IFE to keep us going.

747-400s at Heathrow with 777 taking off in the background.

747-400s at Heathrow with 777 taking off in the background.

Landed in Heathrow (which is kind of like O’Hare, except it’s British and polite – also I couldn’t detect the usual O’Hare odor of hopelessness and desperation) and was treated to a view you never get in Philly. A row of 747s just waiting at Terminal 5-B. I know the A380 is larger, but the 747 is still the Queen of the Skies.

Cleared UK security (memo to SPW… only one bag of liquids allowed) and headed off to Rome. Couldn’t see much from the air due to the distance of Fiumicino from the city, and also the direction of travel. We cleared passport control and were met by an Adventures by Disney representative who escorted us to baggage claim and waited as we reclaimed our bags. The rep escorted us to a parking structure and left us in the capable hands of a Mario Andretti wannabe. After three near-death experiences, we made it to the hotel.

It’s a beautiful hotel… rooms are a tad smaller than I am used to, but it’s Europe.

We did a city tour yesterday… I maintain it’s not the walking that kills the feet, but the standing. We did a lot of that because there was a biblical rainstorm as we got to the Colosseum. The tour was supposed to include access to the underground levels as well as the third level. Due to the storm, the Italian authorities (rightfully) opted to close the areas off. We finally got to the main levels, took some pictures, then they were about to whisk us off to the Forum. By this time, the feet were starting to protest and I had an inkling as to what to expect, so I opted to head back to the hotel.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Big mistake… the folks who remained were able to run back to the Colosseum and get to tour the underground portion. Granted the run back would’ve probably killed me, but the chance to see that is rare.

rigatoniI’d also like to add that the food has been amazing so far. The first dish I had was a rigatoni in a light tomato sauce with very tasty bacon. Seriously smack your grandma good. The bad thing (or good thing) is that I’ll never want to eat Olive Garden again.

So, today we will be touring the Vatican. Maybe I should pray for less foot problems. Either way, it’s going to be awesome and I already have a foot doctor appointment for when we get back.

Ciao!

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, the saga of Brian’s toes continue.

Wayne had a callous that cracked last week. It was not pretty to look at, but then again, my toes usually are NOT things of beauty.

Then Monday, I noticed Stubby had a crack in the callous on the tip as well, plus Wayne was looking kind of nasty. I had an appointment to see the boys, so on my way, I called my podiatrist.

He could see me in about 90 minutes.

I did an abbreviated workout at the fitness center, went home, washed my hair, collected Supportive Partner Woman (Brave little toaster!), and went back to the Health Campus (or should I call it the Suburban Outpatient Pavilion?).

Dr. Miller was right there, and gave me crap about needing my Dr. Miller fix, since I had only been there the week before. He looked at Stubby first. He (Miller) wound up trimming the edges of the crack and gluing things back together.

Then it was on to Wayne.

Turns out, the reason Wayne was getting a little gushy was that there was a blood blister under the nail. So, it was off with the toenail. I do have some increased feeling, so it did ache pretty good, but I’m happy to report he’s healing nicely.  I was sent off without being sentenced to the Boot of Shame, but I was also admonished to rub my feet every day with ammonium lactate cream to keep the calluses soft and less prone to cracking.

See, Monday was an all-around lousy day.

Mom and Dad in happeir times

Mom and Dad in happier times

It was my dad’s birthday, and that’s always tough to deal with since he’s gone. He would’ve been 78 and I still miss him every day. Of course, tomorrow would’ve been the folks’ 43rd wedding anniversary. That’s also tough. It reminds me of the last one the celebrated. Dad was in the rehab center at the hospital and my sister and I brought in a nice steak dinner from a local restaurant, dressed in nice clothes and acted as the wait staff, even had candles. It was one of the last happy times… he was gone a month later.

Losing him to cancer has been one of the major reasons why I support many of the cancer charities. I’d give anything to have him back and if, through my efforts, I can save someone else from the anguish that I’ve been through, I’m going to do it.

Whether that be supporting the Avon Walk with my participation in Team AllEars or my newest endeavor, the Nerd Herd Racing Series (which supports stupidcancer.org), either way, I’m doing something to help others because so many folks have helped and supported me with my efforts against my own diabetes.

Now, many of you might be wondering what the Nerd Herd Racing Series is all about. Simply put, it’s a series of running (or whatever form of locomotion that you prefer) events themed around various nerdly events. The first race was the May the Fourth 5K (Star Wars), the second was a Happy Birthday Harry Potter 5K or 10K (Harry Potter, duh!) and the third will be a 5K or half-marathon to celebrate Banned Books Week (We’re talking really subversive stuff like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird).

I came late to the party, but there were a few slots open for the trilogy and I managed to get signed up for all three of them. Not only do the proceeds go to stupidcancer.org, you get some sweet bling to display. The best part is that you get a week to complete each event and you can choose to do it all at once or break it up into manageable chunks for those of us who are running-challenged.

Now, if you’re thinking these folks are small-time, well, allow me to enlighten you. The series (through two races) has donated some $10,300 to stupidcancer. That total is only going to go up. If projections hold up, the total should eclipse $15,000. That’s pretty good numbers.

Good people doing good work.

That’s the real lesson… do something good with your life. There’s more to life than petty jealousy and selfishness. Make an impact on someone else’s life. Even if it’s just throwing a couple extra dollars in the Salvation Army kettle or dropping your spare change in one of the myriad good cause cans at your local pizza joint. You’re helping someone less fortunate. Hell, by donating blood, you’re helping someone in dire need.

The Big Whoop

The Big Whoop

In other news, SPW and I managed to make it to Root’s Market on Tuesday. Managed to get some nice produce and some fresh turkey bacon. I have to cook that up (probably tomorrow) and see how it is. I’m constantly amazed by how much local food is available at Root’s. There are so many local farms and butchers selling fresh stuff, not to slight the folks making baked goods and the fast food-type places. We passed the “Big Whoop” which I thought would send SPW (Fan of Whoopie Pies!) into a swoon. It was the size of my head! Thing was huge!

P.S. I managed to walk 20 miles last week. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. Makes me think I’m going to complete that banned books half marathon.

Song of the Day: Tears are Falling – KISS

Currently Reading: The Book of Fate – Brad Meltzer

Current weight: 271 (109 pounds down)

Greetings!

Sorry I never got to write yesterday. We got busy with doctors appointments and errands and whatnot. It happens.

I did manage to spend most of the day out yesterday. First off, I had a foot doctor appointment. I managed to keep Stubby in check, but Wayne’s next door neighbor is a little ulcerated. Dr. Miller unroofed it and we’re doing the Betadyne and bandaid treatment until it dries up. This was a regular appointment, so I also got the toenails trimmed and all that.

Afterward, we went to visit Supportive Partner Woman (Practiced good eating habits!)’s mother. Had a nice visit over lunch, well, Mom ate, SPW and I kind of watched and chatted. Afterward, we took the car to the Three Minute Car Wash. This is a Reading, PA institution. You drop your car at the entrance and they clean it inside and outside, and clean it well, all for around $12 without any extras. It”s in a sketchy part of town, but the quality of the cleaning is far superior to some of the other full-service car washes in the area (cough, Cloister, cough) AND it’s less expensive.

Then it was off to the Lego Store at King of Prussia. It’s like Mecca for Lego geeks. We looked around and considered the new Architecture series release, the Imperial Hotel, but opted instead for the Palace Cinema. It’s pretty cool and bears a resemblance to The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I think that’s the real reason we went with it. It was a double points period, which means more VIP points for later. It’s like free money, so you can’t turn it down.

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Some really yummy tomato soup at Wegman’s

After that, we went looking for a place for SPW to grab a bite. I had my trusty pudding and Jell-o in the car, so I was good, but she needed to forage. We swung by Gino’s, which was a big fast food joint in our youth, recently resurrected as an “upscale” burger joint. It smelled fantastic, but SPW was underwhelmed by the menu and we hit the road for Collegeville and Wegman’s (insert choir of angels singing). This is a rather new Wegman’s and it’s in a huge retail complex that features an Eastern Mountain Sports, Best Buy and a Movie Tavern location. This Wegman’s actually has a pub with a sit down menu, and a huge cafe area. SPW managed to located a few tasty items and we found an organic tomato soup that was right up my alley. It was spicy instead of salty and really sit well with the pouch, which I think we will call Joe. I also brought in my pudding cup. Shhh.

It was my first meal out since Red Robin a couple of weeks ago and while it was only soup, it really went down well. I couldn’t finish it all (no surprise) but that’s OK. I have some more of that yumminess for today.

On today’s agenda will be registering for the 5K in January.

Yup… I’m we’re really going to do it. And you’d better believe that when we get those finisher medals, we’re wearing them. Other than that, not sure what’s on the agenda. A walk, for sure.

OH… one other thing that I wanted to share. The last three days, my blood glucose has been at 88. It’s weird, but three days in a row, slightly different times, same number. I guess consistency is key.

Have a great day and get out for a walk!

 

So, today had the promise of a pretty good day. I got some sleep, write a post, did stuff for awhile, the Supportive Partner Woman (Understanding!) and I went to visit her family. I’ve alluded to the fact that SPW’s mother has had some health issues and she is currently in a care facility for therapy and rehabilitation. As such, we’ve been known to take the holiday meal to her. SPW’s sister and brother-in-law brought a ham, potato filling, green bean surprise, corm, rolls, basically an entire feast.

I brought a container of sugar-free Jell-o and a container of sugar-free pudding.

easterI thought I’d be OK with it. I really thought I’d be OK with it. Then I made the mistake of thinking about it. Then, as a lark, I took pictures of the great disparity. Then I wanted nothing more than to eat real food. It was a physical longing such that I never really felt before. I just wanted some ham and potatoes and bread. Lots of bread. I just wanted to eat and eat and eat and eat. And the worst part is that I wasn’t even hungry. It was a compulsion

I was a junkie in search of his fix.

It scared me so much I couldn’t even talk about it with SPW, who was feeling incredibly guilty for eating real food in front of me.

I started wondering whether I had just made one huge mistake.

I’ve been pondering that since I got home. I was even trying to plot a way to put some leftovers in the blender and puree myself some Easter dinner.

Pureed ham. Ain’t nothing better ‘n that.

Seriously, though… I have to wonder if I’m always going to feel that way at a holiday table. Or if we go out. Will I always be craving that next meal? Was this just a moment of weakness or am I doomed to this feeling every time? I just don’t know.

In a way, those of us who are overweight have it tougher than folks addicted to alcohol or drugs or smoking. We still need food to survive. This whole episode today has me wondering if I can do this. If I really can succeed.

I guess I need to take it one day at a time.

Thanks for listening.