Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salsa Out of a Can?

You heard me right. Although the salsa doesn't come out of a can, only the tomatoes come out of the can. During the summer of 2008, there was a big scare regarding fresh tomatoes. The news said that only tomatoes from Mexico are affected and only those in particular states. Well, you know how people get when a scare hits. Every grocery started to pull tomatoes off of their produce racks.

Well, I don't like store bought salsa so I had to improvise a bit. I had some canned tomatoes and decided to work on my recipe for Salsa using canned tomatoes.

After a lot of trial and error, here is my recipe for the salsa. You can use regular tomatoes, but this is really good and works in a pinch.

1 1/2 cans canned tomatoes with juice
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 lime, juice of
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 dashes Louisiana Hot Sauce
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse it a few times for chunky. If you like a smoother consistence, put the spurs to her and pulse it until you get to the consistence you are looking for.

When handling peppers, use latex gloves. You don't want to rub your eyes or take your contacts out after you seed and chop peppers. I made the mistake once. ONCE!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chicken and Rice Bake

If there is one thing, I enjoy is a great chicken and rice dish. This recipe is a quick and easy dish for dinner. Easy preparation and easy cleanup. It doesn't get any better than that.

This recipe serves 4 and takes about 45 minutes to cook and about 15 minutes to prepare.

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup water (For creamier rice, increase water to 1 1/3 cups.)
3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Mix soup, water, rice, paprika and black pepper in 2-qt. shallow baking dish. Top with chicken. Season with additional paprika and pepper.
Bake at 375°F. 45 min. or until done.

I typically serve the dish with either green beans or asparagus tips.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Beef Stew for Those Cold Winter Meals

One of my favorite winter dishes is beef stew. I have a very simple recipe for making it and it works very well for a slow simmer on the stove or using a slow cooker.

2 pounds beef stew meat
8 carrots, cut in chunks
2 onion, chopped
6 stalks celery, diced
6 medium potatoes, diced
30 ounces stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 dashes thyme
2 dashes oregano
pinch salt
2 beef bouillon cube
3 cups water

Combine all ingredients in an 8-quart pot or 6.5 quart slow cooker.
Cover; cook on low for 7-9 hours in the slow cooker.
If you are using a stove top pot, you will need to bring the stew to a full boil and then back the temperature to low. Let it simmer for 6 to 7 hours. Keep it covered and stir occasionally.

I serve it with a crusty bread. A loaf of French bread or a baguette would be perfect for sopping up the gravy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Glazed Ham for New Year's Day

As I had mentioned in a previous blog entry, we serve pork for your New Year's dinner. Typically, it is served with black-eyed peas, collard greens or green beans, baked sweet potatoes and sweet cornbread. One of my favorite pork recipes is a Apricot-Brandy glazed ham.

Apricot-Brandy glaze is very easy and very taste. I would even say that you could put this on a leather boot and it would taste delicious.

1 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons brandy (not brandy flavoring)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or spicy brown mustard for more flavor)

While ham is roasting, purée preserves in a blender.
In a sauce pan, whisk orange juice, apricot preserves, brown sugar and corn starch until well combined. Cook over medium low heat until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.
Add mustard and brandy, whisk. Continue cooking over low heat 1 to 2 additional minutes.
Remove from heat.
Spread glaze on ham during the last 30 minutes of oven baking. Reapply during the last 15 minutes if desired.
Serve extra glaze along side of ham.

I will using the Big Easy again for this ham. It will take about 10 minutes per pound to cook. During the last 15 minutes of cooking in the Big Easy, apply the glaze. Don't apply during the last 30 minutes of cooking in the Big Easy. If you do, you will burn the glaze. It gets very hot inside the cooking chamber.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recipe: Grilled Bourbon Chicken

One of my favorite dishes to cook is a grilled bourbon chicken.

4-6 chicken breast halves
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Combine, herbs, bourbon, maple syrup, and olive oil in large bowl.
Add chicken to bowl and coat well with mixture. Cover and marinate for 2-3 hours.
Preheat grill for medium heat.
Remove chicken from refrigerator making sure to reserve marinade.
Put marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. (This is important!)
Place chicken on grill and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Flipping chicken breasts regularly.
Baste with marinade the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.
When juices run clear, remove from heat and serve.

As a reminder, although the alcohol evaporates, there still can be a trace amount. When using alchohol in cooking, make sure you don't have any problems with your guests and alcohol. In most dishes like this, you can substitute chicken broth.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Prime Rib Using the Big Easy

This evening I will be using the Char-Broil Big Easy to cook our Christmas dinner, a 12-pound prime rib. The prime rib will be served with a green bean casserole, broccoli and baked potatoes. For dessert, I will be serving a pecan pie.

In our home, Christmas means beef. In this case, it is a prime rib roast. Although I prefer medium-rare, the rest of the family prefers medium. No problem.

I took the roast out about 30 minutes before putting it into the Big Easy. Always bring the meat up in temperature before cooking. I then seasoned it with rosemay, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, onion powder and crushed red pepper. Then, coated it with olive oil.

After that, it went into the Big Easy with my wireless thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast at an angle. The tip of the probe should be close to the center of the roast.

Once done, let the meat rest for about 20 minutes or so.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Gift: Beef Wellington

In our home, our meal traditions are turkey for Thanksgiving, beef for Christmas and pork for New Year. One of the most impressive meals that you can serve to your guests is a Beef Wellington.

According to tradition, the dish was named after the Duke of Wellington. Some say it was his favorite meal, and others claim it resembled the boots that he wore. Whatever the case may be, the Duke of Wellington has a grand dish named after him, which became the entertaining extravaganza of the 1960s.

2 -to 2 1/2-pound beef tenderloins
Ground black pepper (optional)
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 egg
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Heat the oven to 425°F. Place the beef in a lightly greased roasting pan. Season with the black pepper, if desired. Roast for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 130°F. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature for 40 minutes or until it's easy to handle. Heat the oven to 425°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.

Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onion and cook until the vegetables are tender and all the liquid is evaporated, stirring often.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a rectangle 4 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the beef. Brush the pastry sheet with the egg mixture. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto the pastry sheet to within 1-inch of the edges. Place the beef in the center of the mushroom mixture. Starting at the long sides, fold the pastry over the beef. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Tuck the ends under to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and a meat thermometer reads 140°F. Slice and serve warm.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with Green Beans Amandie. For dessert serve with cheesecake topped with sliced strawberries.

For this dish, I would recommend a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. With the beef and the earthy mushrooms, it is an excellent pair.

This dish will serves 10 guests. I can guarantee that your guests will not only enjoy this feast, but also feel honored to be at the table. So, I would recommend using your best china and flatware for this meal. No paper plates here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wireless Outdoor Cooking Thermometers

One of the best Christmas gifts I received was a wireless outdoor cooking thermometer. The one I have has 2 parts. The first part is the transmitter that has a temperature probe that is inserted into the meat. The other part is the receiver which looks like a big pager. The one I have talks and has LCD screen that shows me the current temperature and give me an estimate of the meat's doneness. If you cook outdoors year round like me, you don't want to stand outside in the freezing weather or the sweltering heat.

The talking portion is cool. It tells me about 5 degrees before the desired doneness that my entree is almost ready. When it hits the temperature, it announces that my entree is ready. I usually take the meat out of the grill or Big Easy at the almost done mark. Remember, carry over cooking will increase the temperature of the meat by 5 to 10 degrees.

The one I have came from Brookstones, but there are several on the market that do a fantastic. Here's a link to my list of wireless outdoor cooking thermometers. If you are looking for a last minute gift for someone who grills, barbecues or smokes, consider the gift of a thermometer that will a man's outdoor cooking experience wonderful.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicken Salad

One of the things that I cook is chicken salad that people talk about all of the time. I usually make about 5 pounds of it at a time. If I make it for the family, it is gone in about 4 days. If I make it for a church potluck, it disappears in the first round of eating fairly quickly.

I have learned a couple of things about preparing it. My recipe is not very different from everyone else's recipe. The biggest difference is how I prepare the chicken. I either grill it or cook the chicken using the beer can chicken method. I have used white wine in the beer can chicken method or chicken stock with a little garlic. No matter what I use, the flavor penetrates the meat and it is more flavorful. Most will poach cook the chicken. I find the grilling or beer can chicken methods add more flavor to the chicken meat and makes the whole salad more flavorful.

The other thing is that I use the whole chicken. White meat and dark meat are used. The flavors of both meats compliment one another. Besides, when you get a deal on chickens, you should take advantage of it and use the whole chicken.

The recipe that I use has been modified. My dad used this recipe, but I added a few things to it to make it mine. I am sure my daughter will build upon my recipe and make it hers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oil-less Fried Turkey and Chicken

I am absolutely amazed by the Char-Broil Big Easy. I have cooked a turkey in it for Thanksgiving, chicken for Sunday evening dinner and beef ribs for Saturday night.

The turkey turned out perfect. Moist and juicy on the inside and the skin crispy almost like fried skin. I had done a favor injection of the turkey and the meat was flavorful. My mother-in-law enjoyed it. If she enjoyed it, then I think even the pickiest eater will find this turkey delicious and succulent.

As for the chicken, I used Weber's Kickin' Chicken rub on it. The rub is spicy and adds a great flavor to the chicken. My wife ate the white meat and loved it. Once again, the meat was moist and juicy. The skin crispy. It took about 10 minutes per pound and it did a great job.

For Christmas, we always have beef. So, I will be cooking a prime rib roast for the family. This year I will be using the Big Easy. So, stay tuned to my blog for Christmas dinner.

Yes, You Can Cook Beef Ribs in the Big Easy

Yes, you can and it does a great job of them. Since my wife does not like sauce on the ribs, I left it off. I could have easily added the sauce to the ribs during the last ten minutes of the cooking process to give a nice caramelized and smoky taste.

The one thing I had to do was use bamboo skewers to hold the ribs up against the cooking basket. Make sure your soak the skewers for 30 minutes before using them. If you don't, they will burn and fail to hold the ribs up. I placed the ribs against the basket and then used the skewers pin them to the cage. I put 2 slabs of ribs in the basket which works out to about 6 pounds of beef rib.
For a Christmas party that is coming up at a friend's house, I will be serving these as appetizers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Beef Rib in the Char-Broil Big Easy?

Yes, sir. This evening I will be cooking some beef rib in the Char-Broil Big Easy.
While my wife and I were doing our grocery shopping, I had a taste for ribs. Don't get me wrong. I love pork ribs just as much as the next carnivore, but I love beef on a bone. There is something ancient about gnawing on a big bone with a lot of meat on it. Think Fred Flintstone at the table.
So, I went over to the meat section of the local Wal-Mart. Yes, I do buy some meats from the Wal-Mart and found some beef ribs on sale for $1.30 a pound. Not bad. Not great. But, it will do.
You are probably asking, "How do you cook beef rib?" Same as pork rib, partner.
I use a dry rub on my ribs and finish them off with a barbeque sauce during the last ten minutes of cooking. My dry rub is a simple mixture of spices and seasonings. This recipe has been in the family for generations. Not really. I actually came up with one that I like and I believe in sharing my experiences and recipes with everyone. Here's the recipe.
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup mild or medium chili powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
Preparation:Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Put the mixture in a shaker. Medium holes on the shaker lid would be great. Apply the rub liberally on the ribs. Don't be cheap with the rub. I said, "LIBERALLY!"
Once done. You are ready to cook. In this case, I'm going to use the Big Easy to cook the ribs. I'll let you know how it turns out and give you some tips and hints on cooking the beef ribs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Review of the Char-Broil Big Easy with Video

Well, I finally did it. I created a couple of YouTube videos for my blog. I hope you enjoy them.

If you would like to leave your comments, please do so.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oil-less Fried Turkey

OK. I now have your attention. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't done it. I purchased the Char-Broil Big Easy to cook our Thanksgiving turkey. Using a new cooking method for a big family meal is not a great idea, but I did it anyway.
I purchased the Big Easy at Lowe's and got it home. It took me about 30 minutes to assembly it and 15 minutes to season the cooking chamber.
After preparing the 14+ lbs turkey for cooking, I placed it into the cooking basket and started the Big Easy. The controls are very simple. One knob is used to turn on the gas. There are only two settings, on and off. The second knob is the ignites the gas. Yes, it uses propane.
From the directions and information given, it takes about ten minutes per pound to cook a turkey. It took about two hours to cook the turkey to the proper doneness.
The skin was crispy like a fried turkey. I have had fried turkey and there is a difference between one done in a deep fryer and this one, but if you have a problem with cholesterol, I don't think you want to fry a turkey. Besides, the cost of oil has skyrocketed and it is dangerous to use 375 degree oil on a turkey. I have friends who have fried turkeys and they do a great job and haven't burned down their homes.
If you are like me, you might consider this method for cooking. Besides, it cooks chickens, beef, ribs, etc. For Christmas, I will be cooking a seven-pound prime rib roast with the Big Easy. I'm so impressed with the product that I added it to my online store. If you wish to purchase one, click here.
My daughter took some video of me assembling the Big Easy and cooking with it. I will be posting the videos shortly for you to see this great product in action.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Longhorn Beef: Delicious

My wife purchased some Longhorn beef from a friend of hers at work. We received some ground beef and we cooked some Longhorn burgers this evening.
The preparation was very easy for the burgers. A little onion powder, a little garlic powder, some worchestershire sauce, a little salt and some fresh pepper. Each patty weighed in at about 1/2 pound. In short, they were very generous in size. The other thing I noticed was how lean the beef was.
I heated the grill to about 425 degrees and oiled it so that the burgers wouldn't stick. I placed the burgers on the grill and seared both sides. As a reminder, do not press down on the burgers with your spatula.
As for the temperature, I would recommend that you cook until the burger is medium rare. Since we knew the source of the beef and the butcher, cooking it to medium rare is just fine and the burger are perfect and juicy.
For more information on the dietary benefits of Longhorn beef, click here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Review: Happy Dragon Chinese Bistro in Round Rock, Texas

I have eaten twice at the Happy Dragon Chinese Bistro on Louis Henna and have enjoyed each meal. The lunch specials are very well priced and the quantity and quality of the food is great. For an inexpensive meal, you can't go wrong.
The one thing that I enjoy is the spice of the meal. The cook in the kitchen isn't afraid to make things spicy. In short, he has hot spices and isn't afraid to use them. My friend, Kim Pierson, introduced me to the place and I have enjoyed my meals there.
The wait staff is very friendly and very attentive to the needs of the patrons. That's refreshing. My tea glass didn't get to empty. Nothing upsets me more than an empty glass at a restaurant.
I had the Mongolian Beef today and the Kung Pao the time before. Both spicy. Just the way I like it! The meal was served quickly.
The lunch specials include egg roll, soup, and rice. Not bad at all.
The only things that annoyed me was the music. I didn't care for the choice or volume of the music. Oh, well. I guess when you get older, your taste in music changes to softer and slower.
So, if you are looking for an inexpensive place to eat that is fast and has good Chinese food, I would head to the Happy Dragon Chinese Bistro.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: Bush's Fried Chicken

In Cedar Park, we had a Bush's Fried Chicken pop up on 1431 near the Wal-Mart. The chicken is very juicy, but lacks favor. The batter isn't seasoned. So, if you are looking for a basic fried chicken, it is ok. The pieces are fairly large and can easily satisfy a big appetite.
I don't recommend ordering the livers or gizzards. They are over-battered and fried too long. So, they are very dry. Thank goodness for the gravy. If you had to eat them without it, you would choking them down.
The unsweetened tea is good, but nothing to write home about.
In Cedar Park, there is a Popeye's and Bush's, I prefer Bush's over Popeye's. I do like the spicy chicken, but the size of the pieces are seem to be getting smaller. I have noticed the same about Church's. Additionally, there is KFC (I have always preferred the name Kentucky Fried Chicken) and a Golden Chick near us. If I had to make a choice on chicken, I would pick Golden Chick.
The chicken at Golden Chick is alway fresh and the pieces are fairly large.
What drives me to Golden Chick or Bush's is the fried okra. I can't pass up fried okra.
So, if I had to give Bush's a rating, it would be average. Not bad. Not great. Just an average chicken place.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hayashi Sushi & Grill: Hip Sushi Restaurant

My wife, daughter and I visited a new sushi and grill in Cedar Park, Texas called Hayashi Sushi & Grill this past Sunday. The restaurant is located near the Cinemark Theatre on 1431. When we first arrived, we were greeted by the friendly staff. When we first entered when noticed that the decor is more modern and would be suited for more of hip type clientele. I would define it as Japanese nouveau with the cuisine to match. We were seated in the back of the restaurant at more traditional tables. The ones located near the front are bar stools and tables. We were told that there is a lounge that there are live music events. If you are looking for an Asian fusion type of place, I would recommend this place for the atmosphere. An older crowd would find it a bit uneasy. The furniture looks like it came from Ikea.

We ordered from the menu. My wife ordered the salmon. My daughter ordered the shrimp. I was a little more adventurous and ordered the sushi and sashimi meal. Our waiter was very friendly and took his time to introduce us to the menu. He explained that he was a customer when he visited the restaurant. Because of the atmosphere and food, he decided he wanted to work there.

For the price, the portion sizes were ok. Quality of the ingredients scores high on my meter. The sushi was very fresh. The cuts of the portions were a little poor, but not bad. My wife liked her salmon which was prepared very well. Not dry. My daughter loved the shrimp. I would say, overall, that the visit was pleasing to the palate and not too bad on the wallet.

I understand that there is one located in Georgetown. From the pictures that I have seen of the decor, it looks more traditional and less hip which would be more in line with my tastes. I will give it a try later on. Stay tuned to my blog for the review.

For your convenience, I have added the link to their website. Click here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Momiji Hibachi & Sushi: A Hidden Treasure

I highly recommend Momiji Hibachi & Sushi for a couple of reasons. The first is the service. The staff is very knowledgeable of the menu and the food choices. My wife and I were greeted warmly and in a very friendly manner. The cashier asked if it was our first time there. When we answered that it was, he took the opportunity to explain the menu and make suggestions. For example, he discussed the hibachi section and provided us with options. After we had placed our food order, the wait staff brought out our food quickly and explained the different sauces to us. The great thing is that you can actual watch the chef prepare your meal. If I had remembered to bring my Flip camcorder, I would have filmed it. The ingredients were very fresh. The beef was very lean. We had order the steamed rice with our meal and it was perfectly cooked. The vegetables were done perfectly. Cooked, but still retained the crispness. We had the Miso soup and it was delicious and served piping hot. We also had the Gyoza (Pan-Fried Dumplings). Delicious as well. Full of meat and balanced perfectly with spices. There are a few things that may cause a person to rethink the visit. The first is the ordering process. There is an ordering counter. So, if you are expecting to order at the table, you will be waiting for a while. There is a TV there and the music is a little loud. It does remind you of a fast food place. I think that if they changed it a bit, it would be great. When I have lunch, I like watching the news and listening to music. At night, I would suggest turning off the TV and using softer music. Just a suggestion. Aside from that, my wife and I will be returning for the sushi. Check out their website for the menu. You find it is very complete and has a great selection. We walked by the sushi case and saw that the seafood was very fresh and were quality cuts. Try the Mango Ice Cream for dessert. It is wonderful and is a great finish to an excellent meal.
Pros: Quality ingredients, friendly staff, great menu choices
Cons: Ambiance (choice of music and volume)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Church Potluck on 9/14

When I have time to cook, I do enjoy it. As I begin my preparation for the church potluck, I think about all of the times I have prepared meals. To me, it is a wonderful moment in the kitchen. The reward is seeing the smiling faces when they enjoy a great meal.
I will be preparing the following items for the potluck. As my salad course, I will be preparing an Oriental cole slaw and a fresh fruit salad. My main course will be a chilled shrimp salad and a Chinese Chicken Chop Chop salad. As my sides, I will prepare a chilled sauteed green bean salad oriental style and a macaroni salad. For my dessert course, I will preparing a fruit cocktail cake.
I will be adding the recipes shortly. I just need to get back to the kitchen to continue my preparation for tomorrow's cooking.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Omaha Steaks!

When I want to impress my guests, I order the best meat and seafood from a premier source. You can't go wrong with Omaha Steaks. I have cooked pork chops, steaks, seafood and a host of other items that they offer. Each time, my guests say the same thing.

OH MAN! What a meal!
I have created a web page of some of my favorites at some great prices.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cooking Salmon Saturday Night!

My wife loves salmon. So, when I find it on sale, it is a special night for cooking. Salmon is a fatty fish and stands up very well on the grill. When I say fatty, I'm talking about the good fat, the omega-3 fatty acid.
There are a number of ways to cook salmon on the grill. There is direct grilling. When I do that, I leave the skin on so I can easily flip it. Another method is plank cooking. I enjoy that if I want to add a smoky taste to the salmon. I use cedar planks especially created for this. Don't buy just any cedar for this. If you go to a home improvement store, you will find cedar, but it has been treated for outdoor use. DO NOT BUY IT! It is not for cooking. Another favorite method of cooking is pouch cooking. It is a very good method for cooking salmon and it guarantees a moist salmon.
When you grill salmon, I recommend having the salmon cut into steaks. Alton Brown, one of my absolute favorite chefs, has an episode of "Good Eats" which shows you exactly how to make a salmon steak. I have included a link to the video for your convenience. The actual segment is about 5 minutes into the video. Click here for the link. Once you get your grill up to temperature and oil the grates, you are ready.
As for cooking a fillet, I recommend flesh side down first to give your salmon great grill marks and then flip over to the skin. Yes, I said, "Skin." I recommend that you leave the skin on the fish for a couple of reasons. The first is that most of the omega-3 fatty acids are near the skin. In fact, it is in the layer between the skin and the fleshy part of the fish. The second is when you cook fillets with the skin with the flesh side down first, when you flip the fillet, you are now cooking the oil into the meat. That's right. The fat is begin pushed up into the meat due to the heat. The third reason is that the skin keeps everything intact. You don't want your salmon falling apart.
What about seasoning? I am a purist when it comes to seasoning. A little salt, pepper, maybe some dill. My wife likes her salmon with lemon pepper. That's why I buy a whole fillet. I cut it to sizes for my wife and myself.
Safety tip. Before you cook, check for bones. Small bones called pin bones are sometimes messed. Just use a small pair of CLEAN needle nose pliers or a hemostat (you can buy them at tackle stores and most culinary stores). Pull them out and you are done.
As for sides, I prefer to saute some green beans in REAL butter with garlic and server with grilled new potatoes.
As I always say, no matter how, what or when you cook, it's all good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lunch with a Friend at the Saltgrass

A friend of mine and I had lunch yesterday at the Saltgrass in Round Rock, Texas. She had the salmon and I had the chopped sirloin steak cooked to medium rare. It was very tasty. The chop was made from Certified Angus Beef® fresh ground steak and topped with sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions & a Cognac Pepper Sauce.
It was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. As my side, I picked the garlic mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Subscribing to My Blog

You can now subscribe to my blog via RSS. The subscription box is located on the left side of my blog. As I update my site, you will notified of new items added.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food and Flame Web Store Now Open!

I opened up a web store so that I can highlight cooking products. I'll be adding more products over the coming months. Drop into the store and poke around. You can find the link in my favorites section of my blog or you can click here.
Take care and happy grilling. Remember, simply because the summer is coming to an end doesn't mean you stop grilling, smoking, BBQing or cooking. As long as you are doing what you love, it is all good.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grillin' Chicken!

I got a great deal on Tyson boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Walmart. Normally, I don't like to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts due to the expense. I tend to buy whole chickens and cut them up myself or frozen chicken breasts. I can save a lot of money that way. However, when meat goes on sale, you can bet I will take advantage of it.
Well, I decided that I needed to grill some chicken. As I had mentioned before, I like to cook for the week. So, I grilled 9 chicken breasts that can be eaten over a period of a couple of days.
When the chicken breasts are already ready to grill, preparation is reduced to just a quick marinade or dry rub. I use fajita seasoning and it does a great job.
Simply rub the chicken breasts with some vegetable oil and then sprinkle on some fajita seasoning. Set your grill to medium heat and make sure the grill grates are clean. Wait about 15 minutes so that temperature is about 400-450 degrees F. Once there you are ready to grill.
There are a couple of points.

  1. Chicken is very lean so you need to cook with oil. It allows the heat to transfer into the meat quickly. Also, without fat, the meat will stick to the grate. If you are watching your fat intake, you can oil up the grate prior to cooking.

  2. Let the meat cook for a about 4-5 minutes per side. This will let the meat cook and sear properly. So, when you flip it, you won't be scraping the chicken breasts off the grate and ripping them apart.

  3. Remember, chicken breasts need to reach 170 degrees F or until the juices run clear. Very important.

  4. Watch the meat. Don't start talking and forget about the meat. Chicken breasts will dry up very quickly.

If you follow these steps, you can enjoy a delicious, moist chicken breast. If you want a juicier and more favorful chicken breast, you can use a brine and it will increase favor. It is all in the planning.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pork, the Other White Meat

One of the biggest things that people say about pork is that it is dry. In the past, most people cooked the living daylights out of a pork chop or use breadcrumbs. But, if you know what you are doing, then grilling a delicious pork chop is easy.
I look for thick pork chops. Cooking thin pork chops requires you to watch them very closely. The pork chop pictured here is about 1 inch thick. It also has its bone in. By keeping the bone in the chop, it stays moist. As for temperature, I take my chops to about 150 degrees F and use carryover heat to take it to its final temperature of a 160 degrees F. If you overcook, the chop will be dry and tough. Because of modern feeding practices, trichinosis is a no longer a concern. Although trichina is virtually nonexistent in pork, if it were present, it would be killed at 137 degrees F. That is well below the recommended end cooking temperature for pork, which is 160 degrees F. Many outdated cookbooks, commonly found in the home, were written many years ago, when trichinosis was a concern, and will instruct, even warn that pork must be cooked until there is absolutely no pink in the meat (to an internal temperature of 170 degrees to 185 degrees!); or as one popular cookbook put it, “The meat must be white or grayish throughout, without a trace of pink, even in the very center of a large roast.” This is not at all necessary today. Nor is it good.
Seasoning is simple. Salt, pepper and vegetable oil are the only things you need. Yes, simple and easy. Everyone loves them.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Food News Link!

Check out my new web page for news about food. Click here to view Food News.
It has news stories about cookbooks, cooking, local restaurant reviews.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Love Eating Oriental Food!

I love to eat Oriental food. Since my mom was Korean, I grew up eating Oriental food. Finding places around Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park is too difficult. So, here are a couple of places that my wife, Karla, and I enjoy going to.

Great Wall
1906 S Bagdad RdLeander, TX 78641(512) 528-8146

Try the Hibachi Beef or Chicken. My wife and daughter love the Jumbo Rainbow Shrimp.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What's for Dinner? STEAK, BABY!

What's for dinner? Steak, baby! That's right. At the Johns household, chicken, pork and seafood are good. But, if you are looking for something special. Steak is what's for dinner. You add a big bake 'tater that is fully loaded to that and maybe some sauteed mushrooms and onions with some Southwestern seasoning and you have got all of the makings for a perfect meal.

In this case, the meal was a ribeye steak that I had purchased on sale in bulk. If you find meat on sale, you need to buy and break it down yourself. By doing that, you save money and you can have steak almost every night. I know. My doctor is probably rolling his eyes and about ready to send me a dirty note about my cholesterol. (It is sad when you are able to spell "CHOLESTEROL" and the names of most of your medications.) Oh, well. Back to the steak.

Take a close look at the steak. You see the diamond sear marks on the steak. You can do the same thing. It just takes a little practice. When you put your steak on the grill. A very hot grill is an absolute must. How hot is hot? 500 degrees or better. Do not take your burner all the way up with the lid down. You will cause damage to your grill. When I preheat my grill, I set the controls to about medium. That will get you there. Once you open the lid to start cooking, you can put the spurs to her and turn your gas jets to wide open. You can then put the steak on the grill at a 45 degree angle and after about 3 minutes or so, you can rotate it to 45 degrees in the opposite direction. That will give you the sear marks you are looking for. Your friends will think you are a chef.

As for seasoning, I have made my own and tried a ton of different ones. The one I'm using now is the Chicago style blend from Webber. It has some bite to it and it gives the steak a great favor. If you ask me what do people love consistently on their steaks, I would say salt, pepper and some butter. If you are a purist, that's all you need.

Some people have asked about the potato. My daughter loves a good baked potato and my wife loves a good baked sweet potato. Well, there are some secrets to that, pilgrim. Let me tell you how to bake a great potato. First, select a good solid potato for baking. When I look, I look for fairly good sized potatoes. The other thing is that all of the potatoes should be the same size. Don't pick big ones and small ones. That will throw the cooking time off. Next, wash them good and dry them with a paper towel. After that, poke a few holes in them. Place each potato on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Rub them down with cooking oil and salt them. If you like your potatoes to have a crispy skin, you can forget the foil. If you use the foil, wrap them up semi-tightly and place them on the grill. If you are preheating for your steaks, a good 450 degrees would be perfect for both the steak and potatoes. Place them on the warming rack and close up the grill. It will take about 1 hour to cook most potatoes. Use a knife to check for doneness. If it goes through the potato without resistance, you are done. As for the sweet potato, you can do the same to it except you don't need the full hour. I usually give the sweet potato only 45 minutes and I do use the aluminum foil. Since it has a higher sugar content, it burns easily. So, use the foil. Plus, the skin comes off easily when you use the foil method.

There you go. One top-notch steak dinner. Remember, you don't need a lot for seasoning when it comes to a steak. Salt, pepper and butter are great.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Brisket! Happy 4th and Memorial Day!

Each year I do a brisket for the 4th of July and Memorial Day. I love doing brisket. Briskets aren't hard to do as long as you know how to handle them. The first thing is that you don't buy a trimmed brisket. If you want a dry brisket, buy a trimmed brisket. If you want an extra moist brisket, buy an untrimmed brisket. You may need to trim some of the fat, but most of it will remain. The reason is very simple. The fat will keep the meat moist. The goal is to cook this piece of meat low and slow. There is no such thing as high and fast when it comes to brisket. You can buy one of those pre-cooked briskets and serve them in a couple of hours, but I don't believe they have quite the taste as a beautifully done brisket. It takes me, on average depending on size, about 12 hours to do a brisket from start to finish. So, don't think you are going to just throw it on the fire and walk away. No, sir. You will need to stay on this one for a while, cowboy.
The other secret is giving your brisket a dry rub. A dry rub is a seasoned mixture of salt, brown sugar, chili powder, etc. that will add favor to the meat as it cooks. The other little secret is mopping your meat during the cooking process. A mop is a liquid mixture of spices that is used to keep the meat moist on the outside while the fat does the work on the inside. I will mop my meat on a regular basis and rotate it so that it does cook too fast on one side. That's why I say this isn't a missile. There is no "fire and forget" on a brisket. You are going to be with this meat for a while.
Now, there are those that say that you can't do a brisket on a gas grill. It just ain't right. But, I'm here to tell you that you can if you know what you are doing. First, thing I do is prepare a smoke pouch. What in the world is a "smoke pouch"? It is a pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil. Inside of it, you place your soaked wood chips. I use hickory or mesquite wood chips and soak them in water for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I drain the water and put them inside the foil and roll it up. I make a couple of those pouches and using them on the grill. They heat up and start smoldering and then they start smoking. YUMMY! You get the picture. The smoke gets into the meat and you have that wonderful smoke ring in your meat. The smoke ring is that 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch near the surface of the meat that receives the smoke. It looks like a dark pink ring in the meat. If you have that, then the smoke pouch did its job.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Part 1: Planning the Meals

Hi, Grill enthusiasts! Memorial Day weekend was a big cooking weekend for me. I had decided to cook chicken and beef fajitas for Saturday night, Ribeye and New York Strip steaks for Sunday night and brisket for Monday.
I took some pictures of the meals and I hope to get those up quickly.
One of the things I have to say about a long weekend is that if you plan everything carefully, you should be able to make it through the weekend with a lot of leftovers for the following days. Considering I work, cooking is the last thing you want to do. So, I try to cook big batches of food during the weekend and use them throughout the week.
Take it from me. Planning a menu works very well if you follow these steps.

1. Check the weather closely. If you are cooking indoors, that should be a problem. If you are grilling, smoking or barbequing, you need to be aware of the weather.
2. Use the local grocery ads. With holiday weekends, you can take advantage of the sales.
3. If you cook outdoors, make sure you have enough propane, charcoal or wood to do your cooking. Nothing ruins a cookout more than running out of fuel. I have never done that, but I have had friends whom have had that happen. Not a pretty sight.
4. Create your menu. Figure out your entree and sidedishes and prepare a grocery list.
5. Take advantage of items in season. Buying things out of season is going to be costly.

I use a vacuum sealer to extend the life of my leftovers and try to make sure that my menu for the rest of the week can use the items I have already cooked. Planning is key.
In the next couple of blog entries, I will be discussing the fajitas, steaks and brisket. Stay tuned for the entries.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cooking Frozen Burgers

Yes, you read it right. Frozen burgers. Normally, I don't grill frozen burgers. However, they are convenient for weeknight dinners. If you know what you are doing, you can turn these frozen pucks into wonderful burgers for the whole family.
With the price of fooding going up almost on a daily basis, you have to stretch your food dollars. So, I buy frozen burgers in bulk.
When I'm ready to cook, I take the frozen burgers out of the freezer and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil and turn up the edges a bit. You ask why. Well, I'll tell you. You take the burgers and the foil out to the grill. I put the aluminum foil on the warming racking of the grill and then put the burgers on it. That's right. Oil up your grill grate and you are ready to put the spurs to the grill. I set the burners to medium so it begins to warm up. The heat will warm up the burgers and thaw them out. After about 15 minutes, the grill is ready and the burgers have thawed out and you are ready.
Turn up the burners to high. Then, start taking the burgers off of the warming rack and season them. Start cooking!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Omaha Steaks

This evening I cooked some Omaha Steaks Filet Mignons for dinner. My wife, Karla, and I celebrated our 17th anniversary of our first date this evening. So, I decided to cook some steaks to celebrate the special occasion. I also prepared Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions. Since my wife is on a diet, I prepared a baked sweet potato for her.

When preparing the sweet potato, I use a little vegetable oil on it to keep the skin moist. The other thing to remember is that it takes about 45 minutes to cook a large sweet potato. If you cook it for the same time as a baked potato, you will burn the sweet potato. Remember, sweet potatoes have sugar and will burn easy. I set my Weber grill for medium for about 15 minutes. That will take the temperature up to about 425 degrees. This is a great temperature for pototoes. I wash my potatoes and then dry them. I rub them with vegetable oil and then salt the skin. My daughter loves it and eats the skin. Put the potatoes in heavy duty aluminum foil to keep them moist. You can cook them without the foil, but the skin dries out a bit. You have watch them carefully. Once the temperature is at 425 degrees, you can now add your baking potatoes. After about fifteen mintues, you can add the sweet potatoe.

Once the potatoes are in the grill, you have time to prepare the mushrooms and onions. I usually cook enough for myself. My wife and daughter aren't big fungus fans. So, I cook just enough for me. Now, if I have time, I like to cook with fresh mushrooms, but I usually just used canned. I use 2 small cans and 1 small white onion. I drain the mushrooms and put them in a plastic bag and them cut the onion into julienne strips. I add about 2 cloves of garlic to the mix. Then add 2 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a little salt and a little pepper. Depending on my mood, I might add about 1 tablespoon of chipotle sauce to the party. In the words of Emeril, I'll use the sauce "to kick it up a notch." Once done, I squeeze out all of the air from the bag and seal it up and let it set for a bit to marinate.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to grill, take the thawed steaks out and begin preparation. I used the Weber steak seasoning (Chicago Style) for the meat. I recommend that you season the meat and then add some vegetable oil on the steaks. These steaks are very lean and need a little oil to make sure they don't stick to the grill. Remember, your grill is fairly hot at the point. Let the meat sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Cover it with some plastic. Don't worry about spoiling the meat. The salt in the seasoning will kill anything on the surface.

Once I have checked the potatoes and we are close to done, it's time to do some grilling. I will take a cast iron skillet with me, the steaks, my Grillslinger Sport, a grill mitt, about 2 tablespoons of butter and a platter. I'll set the skillet on my sideburner and set it to high. Once that bad boy is hot, I'll add the mushroom and onions. BE CAREFUL! You have oil and liquid in the mix. When it hits that hot, hot skillet, it will splatter. So, be careful. You don't want to go to the emergency room or have to pencil in facial features. Once it starts to steam up a bit, you can start moving the mushrooms and onions around. Not too much. Remember, we are looking to saute the mushrooms not sweat them.

Ok, time for the steaks. I lift the lid on my trusty Weber and put the spurs to her. I turn the burners from medium to high. I want HIGH heat for the steaks. Remember, grill marks are good. So, I will then add the steaks to the grill. I will point them in a 45 degree angle. After about a couple of minutes (2-3 minutes), you should have a good set of grill marks. Use the tongs and turn them to the opposite direction. 45 degrees in the other direction so you can get a great set of grill marks.

Remember, the mushrooms! Check on them. When the liquid has reduced down, it's time to add the butter. Turn the temperature down to about medium. We don't want to burn the butter. Mix it into the mushroom and onions. By now you should have them nice and brown. Carmelized! BINGO! Lower the burner to low, just to keep it to warm for dinner.

Time to flip the steaks! Do the same thing. Point them in the same direction 45 degrees for a couple of minutes and then in the opposite direction. You will have great grill marks. When I'm cooking a tenderloin. I don't go any higher than medium rare. Just a little red in the middle. My mother loved her steaks well done. OUCH! Don't do it! If you want to incinerate good meat, well done is the way to do it.

Once all done, you should be ready to serve and eat. I took everything in to the family and everyone was happy. I tried something a little weird with my potato this evening. I forgot to pick up some green onions for my potato. I love fully loaded. I added some fried onions I had from a green bean casserole recipe. WOW! It was fantastic! You might give it a try at your next steak dinner.

In May, we will be having some friends over for fajitas. Stay turned. I love to grill and share my recipes and tips with everyone. If you are interested in the steaks that I used you can order them through

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stretching the Dollar when Purchasing Food

With the price of gasoline going up each day, as consumers, we need to work harder to stretch each dollar. This clip provides you with some points to consider.

Here are a few things I do to stretch my dollars when purchasing food.
  1. Use the grocery store flyers. The grocery stores near me send out their flyers and I find great deals in them.
  2. Use the coupons! It doesn't take many of them to start saving money.
  3. Buy fruits and vegatables in season. You will be surprised by how much you can save. If you want something that is not in season, consider frozen. Canned is ok. But, frozen is better.
  4. Buy items in bulk if possible and use a vacuum sealer. Yes, it is expensive, but it will save you money if you use it.
  5. Buy store brands rather than name brands. You will definitely be surprised to find out that the store brands are often produced by the name brand companies. There is no shame in buying store brands. When you have to make every dollar count, you should do it.
  6. If possible, cook food in batches. I cook for an entire week if possible during the weekends. In order to keep the air conditioner from running, I cook outdoors as much as possible. By cooking chicken breasts on the grill for example, you have meals for several days. As unintended benefits, you save time during the week by reheating the chicken and save on your electric bill by not heating up the entire house when cooking.

In no time, you will find more time and money by following these tips. If you have tips you would like to share, please post them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Italian Sausage Hoagies

If you need to feed your mob, this recipe is for you.

10 uncooked Italian sausage links
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 jar (26 oz) meatless spaghetti sauce
1 can (6.5 oz) sliced mushrooms
1 medium green pepper, julienned
1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
1 medium white onion, julienned
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 loaves French bread

Cooking Instructions

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausages in olive oil. Drain when done.

  • Transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients.

  • Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until sausages are no longer pink on the inside.

  • Slice French bread loaves lengthwise but not all the way through.

  • Cut French bread loaves widthwise into five pieces.

  • Fill each with sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms and sauce.


  • I grill my sausages so that they have grill marks and a nice smokey taste. Do not cook them through. Once they start to turn golden brown on the outside, remove them from the grill and place them in the slow cooker.

  • As for serving, I garnish with red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Grillslinger Sport Barbecue Tool Belt

I have to tell you. I'm a tool fan. I love tools for the kitchen and for the grill. Of all of the tools I own, I have to say that one of my favorites is the Grillslinger. It looks great and has all of your grill tools right at your finger tips.

I own both the Sport and the original. When I'm just doing burgers and hot dogs, I use the Sport. When I'm doing steaks or fajitas, I use the original.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How to Cook Pizza on a Gas Grill

I was out on YouTube looking around for recipes. Well, I found a video by a guy name the UrbanGriller. He had some good points on how to cook a pizza on a gas grill. I have done it several times myself and it is very easy to do. I highly recommend using the 3-can tripod method. It keeps the crust from burning.

You can get some fancy items for your grill to cook your pizza. I have included a few items that can make it easier for you.

One of the things I have discovered is using Pillsbury Pizza dough. It is very good and it will save you a lot of time in preparation.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Traeger Wood Pellet Outdoor Grills - Taste the Difference

Last Friday, I dropped by my Ace Hardware store in Cedar Park to pick up a couple of items and ran into the general manager of the store, Tom. As we started to talk, my attention turned to a grill I had never seen before, the Traeger Grill.
This unique grill doesn't use gas or charcoal. It uses wood pellets. I was truly amazed. I found a video about the grill.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The First of Many Entries to Come

Hi, fellow Food and Flame enthusiasts! This is the first of many blogs to come. This blog is devoted to cooking food. It doesn't matter where. Indoors or outdoors. Gas, charcoal, solar, whatever the source of heat.