Holidays

The Return Of Ginger – 2018

Our sweet little, mischievous, elf has returned!  The jury is still out on whether on not this is a good thing.  Just as last year (here, here, and here), I will post weekly updates. We still have the girls weekends only, so I expect Ginger to do some silly stuff again this year.

Elf on the shelf in the christmas tree with a welcome letter.
Ginger returned Saturday, with a letter for the girls.

The girls think that Ginger put herself high upon the tree to keep away from our new dog. 

Elf on the shelf in a plastic tub with peppermint oil.
On Sunday, Ginger somehow got herself into a plastic tub, then farted. The note asks if you want to smell it.

Granddaughter-the-younger was first up that morning and was brave enough to open the tub and smell.  “She must have eaten too many candy canes!”.  Later the girls were practically shoving their dad’s face into the canister “Smell it!  Smell it!!” 

 

Elf on the shelf cutting out paper snowflakes and taping them to a french door.
Monday – Ginger used the computer chair to decorate the doors with hand made snowflakes.
Elf on the shelf in an igloo with other friends.
Tuesday Ginger was having a Igloo warming party. Kinda think that “igloo warming” sounds a bit counterproductive.
Elf on the shelf sitting in front of a Charlie Brown nativity scene, placing rhinestones on her outfit.
Wednesday – She’s all Bedazzled! 
Elf on the shelf with a finished Harry Potter Lego set.
On Friday, Ginger finished the Lego set for us!

Once again, Ginger The Elf has shown just what happens when a little elf gets bored. But she can also be helpful!

Elf on the shelf brought us a star for the top of our Christmas tree.
How sweet!

Got any silly elves at your place??  Check back next week to see what Ginger is up to!

Peace,
B

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Turkey Day!

Now. Let’s talk turkey.

I’ve smoked, fried, roasted, undercooked, overcooked, done damn near everything to that damn bird. One year we even did a bourbon brined and bourbon smoked turkey! That was interesting. I’ve cooked them whole, spatchcocked, even quartered, just the breast, you name it. But, I’ve never done this:

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I have lots of friends that are firefighters and I’ll feed them any time. But not like this!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (even when it doesn’t coincide with my birthday). One thing I like is if I take the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of turkey week off, I get a total of nine days in a row off (counting weekends). I’m always down for extra days off! (I’m just starting day 1 for this year). 

More importantly, family and food are what make this holiday special. Even though I end up cooking for days ahead, and the day of, I enjoy it. Wifey®, not so much. We are usually the hosts for everybody, and it’s very stressful for us. That’s why last year we took off, just the two of us, to the Smokey Mountains for the holiday. We also took a cruise one year, but it kinda sucked. Not only did it feel weird not having the usual Thanksgiving trappings but the cruise was rather boring. But we lived through it. We’re still deciding what to do for this year’s turkey day. But it looks like we’re going to a friend’s house this year (although we may end up here mainly because we have more room). All I can say is that the menu had better be set by the time I go shopping later today. Any turkey large enough to feed this crew will need to start thawing today! 

One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving over the years was my mom’s turkey pot pie that she made from the leftover turkey. That was to die for. I’m sure my siblings remember it.

As I mentioned above, last year at this time Wifey® and I were headed up to Maggie Valley, NC all by ourselves. (Start here to read about that trip. There are 6 total posts.) The granddaughters usually go with their other grandparents to somewhere in western Tennessee to visit the girl’s great-grandparents. And as much as I’d love them to be here, it’ very important they spend time with other family too. I just hope they tolerate the 15 + hour car ride well. 

But remember –

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‘Nuff Said

What are your plans for the holidays?

 

Peace,
B

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Veteran’s Day Smoke-Out (And A Birthday)

(I originally was calling this event a “Throw Down”, but since I was the only one running the smoker, that title just didn’t fit. Kinda hard to “throw down” against yourself!)

Yes, I’m a bit late, but it was a very busy weekend. I seriously doubt I had more than 8 hours total sleep between Friday night and Sunday morning. Keep reading and you’ll understand.

The Sunday party was excellent. We had about 30 – 35 people show up. We had friends and family come in from an hour or more away, and folks from just down the street. Several kids for granddaughter-the-younger’s birthday.  Lots of food, craftbeer, whisky (and whiskey), and did I mention food??

I picked up a not quite 10-pound pork butt and a not quite 16-pound beef brisket from my local butcher on Wednesday. While I have smoked a brisket this size before, I have never smoked a butt ever! I was somewhat apprehensive but very eager to try.

I started the butt about noon on Saturday. The plan was to heavily smoke it (I used a combination of hickory, cherry and apple woods) until it reached about 140º F internal temperature. I had recently purchased a little device to help maintain the temperature in my big ol’ smoker and to keep a better eye on the meat temperature as well. And I had nothing but problems with this device.

It’s called a “CyberQ Cloud”, put out by The BBQ Gurus. I had already done a test run two weeks ago to make sure it was working as expected. One excellent feature is that it can connect to my home Wi-Fi setup and I can sit inside and watch a webpage that has all my temps, timers, and just about anything else being monitored. But for whatever reason, it just would not connect to my Wi-Fi even though it showed it as available in the list. Iimg_20181110_105555.jpg tried calling the support 800 number, but they’re not open on the weekends? Seriously? You have to figure that most people BBQ on the weekends (unlike my family – we’ll fire up a grill anytime!). Yet there was nobody to answer the phone. “Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you” is NOT good customer support. I even tried to contact them via their Twitter, and never got a response.  I could still use the unit, I just had to run in and out to check the monitor since it wouldn’t connect to the cloud.

We used “Cool Smoke Rub” all over the outside and injected it with a basic solution of apple juice, salt & sugar and other stuff.  The butt reached the target temp about 6PM. I let it sit a little longer while we ate dinner.

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After the smoker but before wrapping and into the oven.

Then I wrapped it in foil and placed it in a low (225º F) oven for overnight.  It didn’t need any more smoke since I had very heavy smoke going the entire time it was in the smoker.

So it was time to trim the brisket, inject with a beef broth solution and dry brine it. It would not get its “Big Bad Beef Rub” until tomorrow morning.

The plan was to get up at 3AM Sunday morning so I could get the brisket on the smoker by 4AM. Due to the problems I had with the CyberQ, I changed my alarm to 2AM to give me time to get it working again.  And since the universe hates me, I was up and out of bed at 1AM. What a life.

It took a factory reset to get the CyberQ reconnected. Thankfully there is ample documentation on the web for the device. It only took about 45 minutes to get it back up and connected. Whew!

So the brisket when on the smoker about an hour earlier than planned. No worries, it can be held in a faux cambro (basically an empty plastic beer cooler) for up to 5 hours without a problem.

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This what a brisket looks like at 0 dark 30!

The brisket probably weighed in around 14 1/2 pound or so after trimming. And since I didn’t separate the two muscles that make up a brisket, I knew this would take quite a bit of time. Following a very basic plan for brisket is simple.  Smoke (I used all mesquite for this brisket) until it hits the “stall”.  This usually occurs around 150º – 170º F.  Mine kicked in about 160º F.  I then wrapped it in butcher paper in a process known as the “Texas Crutch”.  Some use foil for this step, but I prefer to use the paper. I believe it leaves the “bark” (that wonderful outer crispy edge) much dryer and crunchy. It also will help cut down on the cooking time. Once the brisket is wrapped, you return it to the smoker (or an oven at 235º F or so) until it reaches an internal temp somewhere around 195º F or so. When you hit the mark at 195º then cut the point muscle off from the flat muscle. I then test the flat for tenderness by sliding my temp probe into various areas of the meat. If it slides in “like buttah” then you’re good to go, if not you can continue to cook until it reaches the 203º to 205º F range. But be careful, it’s very easy to overcook and dry it out!

When I separate the point, they become the wonderful concoction known as “burnt ends”. What I like to do, and Wifey® requires that I do this any time I’m doing brisket,

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Chunking the point

is to chunk the point up and throw in the pan that has been set in the smoker to catch all the drippings along with some warmed Au Jus and then covered and set in a warm oven to braise for a time. There are no “set times” for any of this. Every piece of meat and every smoker are different. Throw in other variables like weather (I had to pull the brisket off the smoker early due to a sudden rainstorm and finish it in the oven), and you can’t go by time. The temperature and tenderness of the meat is what makes it done.

These little flavor bombs are damn tasty. And look how juicy those are.

On Sunday, the CyberQ redeemed itself. It worked as expected, and I enjoyed sitting in the garage with my music playing and watching my cook being recorded on the web.

The butt shredded up very nicely! I had also made a vinegar sauce for the butt. As much as Wifey® loves her brisket, I love pulled pork even more. My grandmother taught me that if any meat is seasoned and cooked properly it won’t need sauce.  Seeing as she had, as a widow, at the height of the great depression, a successful BBQ restaurant, I’ll believe her. But I do like a vinegar sauce with my pulled pork. MVIMG_20181111_172713

And I’m very happy to say that several folks said the magic words – “Best I’ve ever had!” and “It didn’t need any sauce”.  I take that as the highest compliment to be had. Thank you all!

I guess it was a good cook in any event. With all that meat, there was damn near nothing left. I was really hoping to have a pulled pork sandwich from lunch Monday, as I think I had one burnt end, one slice of brisket, and maybe two tastes of the pork.  I did graze on all the other side dishes that friends brought, and some we made, but I didn’t get much of the meat.

 

This is all that was left.. (And I brought it for lunch today!)

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A little bit of pork, and one lonely brisket slice!

And my beautiful granddaughter-the-younger had a good birthday with her friends as well. I do believe her uncle’s (son-the-elder) gift was the hit of the party! A Harry Potter Lego set.

I have no idea what time it was when I fell asleep. I remember most everybody leaving, especially those that had to drive an hour or more. All I remember was sitting down with a nice craftbeer and nodding off. It was a very long day. It started at 1AM, and didn’t end until that evening. I’m way too old to be up that long. Wifey® and I were smart enough to take Monday off. We knew that we’d be in no shape to do anything. I slept most of the day away.

Here are some links to the recipes and instructions I’ve been using.

Amazing Ribs. Meathead Goldwyn’s website. I have used many of the FREE recipes several times, and for this cook I used both his Big Bad Beef Rub Recipe and the Lexington Dip North Carolina Hill Country BBQ Sauce Recipe.  He has a great book too.  Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling available everywhere.

Smoking Meat. Jeff Phillips website. This was the first website I found several years ago. I have used many of the resources available here. For this cook I based my pork butt on this guide.

Cool Smoke.  BBQ Champion Tuffy Stone’s website. The website doesn’t have much in the way of free recipes, but his book; Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue has a crazy amount of good stuff. 

CyberQ Cloud. The BBQ Gurus have a whole line of BBQ stuff. From full on smokers, to tongs and other accessories.

I hope this little post was something enjoyable for you to read. Hopefully, the food porn didn’t make you drool too much!

And thanks again, to everyone that came over. I enjoyed myself, and I think ya’ll did too! (And a special thanks to those that helped put away the food, the grills and other parts and pieces after I had crashed for the night!)

Peace,
B

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P.S. Who’s up for Turkey Day???

It’s Gone Too Far (A.K.A. Jumping The Shark)

For those that are Twitter or Facebook buds (no? – why not? links below), you know of my “love” of anything pumpkin spiced.  For those new to the game, this expresses my “love” perfectly.

ps_ass

Anything pumpkin flavored sucks. Yes, this includes the pie…

So yesterday Wifey® and I were doing the weekly shopping, and lo and behold what do we see in the cereal aisle? Pumpkin Spice everywhere!

Seems that life has jumped the pumpkin spice shark…  So sad.  I’ll just leave you with this tidbit.

Pumpkin-Spice-tacos

Pumpkin Spice no! Tequila yes!

 

Peace,
B

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A Quick Thought On Memorial Day

While it’s never wrong to thank a veteran for his or her service, that is not what today is for. Save that for Veteran’s Day. Today we remember the ones who never got to take off the uniform, those that never came home, the ones that paid that ultimate sacrifice. So we do not “celebrate” Memorial Day, we respect what it stands for. Now granted I will have my cookout and drink several adult beverages, after all, it is an extra day off of work. But in the back of my mind, and hopefully yours too, we will remember our brothers and sisters of all branches of the military and hope that their sacrifice wasn’t in vain. As an Army retiree and the proud father of a soldier, today weighs heavily on me and my family, I am so very grateful for those that served before me and after me. So lift a glass of whatever beverage you choose, and thank those we can only remember, those who fell on the battlefields the world over. And pray that the wars will end, and peace will reign. Amen.

Peace,
B

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Retired Army

So This Is Christmas.. Already?

If you’ve read the other posts about how I don’t feel that Christmas can start until I hear John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), you will understand this post just a bit better.  If you haven’t read them, go find them and come back here.  I’ll wait…

(Hums Jeopardy theme song)

Back now? Good.  So for some reason, my Spotify playlist just played the song.  So I guess Christmas 2018 can now start? We just got the decorations down! At least it gives me an excuse to start the Christmas shopping early. And with the Central Florida Highland Games (Albannach & Rathkeltair providing the music, and another visit to And Sarah Smiled for more Celtic pottery) this weekend, we’ll have the chance to pick up some early presents!

So Happy Holidays, I guess??

Peace,
B

Gynger Makes Her Debut

It seems our little Elf had a bit of mischief just before she left us on Christmas Eve. We kept these pictures from the girls.  Maybe when they’re old enough, we’ll show them.

 

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I thought Elves drank maple syrup? Don’t think she knew that that’s a jar of ‘shine from North Carolina. The apples and cinnamon stick must have confused her. And on our ancestor altar too!

The liquor really got her into the mood..

 

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She tried a little “pole dancing”. She said it was “for exercise”, but I fail to understand what taking the skirt off had to do with exercise.

 

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And, as usual, She ended up “praying to the porcelain god”. Happens to the best of us!

 

 

Ginger The Elf – The Last Week

This is our last week with Ginger. She will return home to the North Pole (a.k.a The Shed) on Sunday the 24th.  I hope she gets a good employee evaluation from the Head Elf, or Santa or whoever.

Here’s what she’s been up to this week;

 

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Quite the engineer she is!

 

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I guess this is a game of “tag”? The Gingerbread man got caught.

 

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Let it snow baby!

 

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Just how many pieces of bubblegum did it take to get a bubble that big?

 

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It’s a nice thought to welcome the girls back (how did she know they would be with us a day early?), but those post-its ain’t cheap!

In case you can’t read her note it says “I brought you a snowman from the North Pole”. But this is Florida and it melted. Silly elf!

 

Caught her with some popcorn watching “Christmas Vacation”. At least she has good taste in Christmas movies.

 

 

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On her last day, she tried to make breakfast for the girls. She needed a little help. The note says, “I brought you breakfast. Daddy needs cooking, can you help?”.  I did the bacon, daddy did the chocolate chip pancakes. 

So Ginger goes off to the North Pole until next year. We hope she didn’t do anything to get into trouble with Santa so she comes back next year. We’d hate to have to train another Elf all over again!

 

Peace,
B

Winter? I Call Shenangians…

Here we are, just two days until the official beginning of “winter”. And it’s 80 freaking degrees. I know this is Floriduh, but this is the time of year we should be sleeping with the windows open enjoying the relative cool breezes. Instead, I have my AC cranked down to “morgue” setting and I still have sweat dripping off my body parts that you don’t want to hear about.

No climate change?  Sorry, but I call bullshit. There is less Arctic Ice this year than any year since Arctic Ice has been measured. In school, I was always taught that we were headed towards another Ice Age. More like a flood of “Biblical” proportions (and no I don’t believe the story of the ark is a true story, just another legend in a collection of legends). But it interesting that most ancient cultures have a flood story of some kind.

But! We “just may have” a Christmas Day cool down into the 60’s! May need to break out the parkas and gloves. Of course, this is only a “maybe”. I should have gone into meteorology, it’s got to be the only profession where you can be wrong 90% of the time and keep your job.

Growing up in Miami it was quite common to get bicycles, skates, water skis and other “summer” type of gifts for Christmas. Miami lies in a subtropical region (the line is right around Vero Beach on the East and Bradenton on the west. Daytona is about 4 hours north of there and not in a “subtropic” zone, merely a “tropical” zone. More here.

“Hazy Shade Of Winter” indeed…

Peace,
B

Tuesday Morning Blues

Tried to get Rashi, the cat to cover for me at work today as I have virtually nothing to do (Christmas holiday means damn near everyone is off). But as you can see, she was already into the catnip and was in no shape to do anything…

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I’m just a bit jealous..

“They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad…”

Peace,
B