Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pollo de cerveza

No they aren't about to tango, or fight, just go on the grill. Those are the chickens we grilled up for Memorial day this past weekend. The one on the left has a little salt, pepper and garlic powder on the outside. The one on the right got a full rubdown of chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and cinnamon. Both birds were sitting ever so comfortably on cans half full of Coors Banquet beer with a bay leaf crumbled into the can, extra herby flavor.

These guys spent about an hour and a half on the grill and turned out great. The bigger one was a touch under cooked and the skin that was touching on both birds wasn't super crispy, but grilling only one of them at a time should resolve both of those problems. Unfortunately we dug in so fast after they came off the grill we didn't get a chance to snap any after photos, but they were good lookin' let me tell you what! We served them up with some oven fries and a salad, a nice easy dinner on a rainy Memorial Day.

Your mission if you choose to accept it . . .

. . is to find natural casing hot dogs. I wish I could tell you that was the message my Dad left me on my voice mail, but instead I answered the phone and deprived him the pleasure of leaving me a Mission Impossible style message. I of course accepted the challenge, it was food after all, and I would get to eat one of these hot dogs. First of course I had to figure out what a natural casing hot dog was. Wikipediamobile away!

Hm, OK. Dad suggested Sabretts as a brand to try to find. I think this is because he found their hot dog sauce recipe online, but I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions. So onward and upward on my quest for hot dogs, first stop Sunflower Farmers Market, well first phone call anyway. No luck, well surely Wild Oats/Whole Foods would have them right? Once I was connected to the meat department, and once someone answered the phone . . "Maybe the Cherry Creek store has them, they make their own hot dogs, but they are skinless". Skinless hot dogs are not natural casing hot dogs, if I wanted skinless I'd just go to Safeway, but I would not be deterred.

I called Sabretts, specifically the rep who sells to distributors in Colorado to see if he'd sold to any retailers in the Denver metro area. They don't, they don't sell to anyone in the state, but they have a very helpful website if you'd like to order via the Internet. This of course would have been helpful if I needed the dogs in 2 weeks. Not 2 days. Still undeterred, and realizing that if you say frankfurter instead of hot dog it makes more sense to the guy on the other end of the phone, I surfed on.

A coworker popped up over the cube wall and said she was stopping at Tony's that night, she'd see if they had them. "Tony's . . . what?" I said. She couldn't believe I hadn't heard of Tony's Market, of course why would I, the closest one is down in Littleton on Bowles, not exactly a quick trip. I was willing to let somebody else make a trip for me though to check it out. Not only were my coworkers helping out but so were my wife's. They suggested Edwards Meats, conveniently on the way home from work, for my wife.

Edwards is legen . . . wait for it . . . dary! OK maybe not that cool, but it is pretty great, and they make their own sausage. This was deemed an acceptable substitute for natural casing hot dogs by the big boss, aka Dad. Once I got home we headed to Edwards to pick up some sausage, and check out the other wares of Edwards. As I was waiting for our sausage order my lovely wife was taking a stroll through the rest of the store and found . . natural casing hot dogs. So armed with a dozen assorted sausage and half a dozen natural casing hot dogs we checked out and headed home to throw it all in the freezer so it could make the trip north.

The sausage and dogs were enjoyed by all. The dogs have a great bite to them, they kinda snap when you bite into them, and the dog sauce on them was pretty tasty. All in all weekend was a good one, and I was reminded that there are deer that come into town in Guernsey from the river, but not usually in the middle of the day, that's new! These guys were in the neighbors yard just an hour or so before we left for Denver on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

75,000 more say "Yes we can"

Barack Obama isn't saying fixing this country after 8 years of mismanagement is going to be easy, it's going to be roll-up the sleeves hard work, just like anything worthwhile doing is. In Oregon this weekend 75,000 people came out to see him speak and say Yes, they are there to do the hard work with him.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Garden Update: Beds are planted

Now it's a garden. We bought a surprising amount of veggies and herbs on Friday night at Lowes, and we're still missing oregano, rosemary and pablano peppers not to mention seeds for peas, beans and carrots.

Our shopping list on Friday night that did get fulfilled was:
  • Tomatoes - Roma and Early girl
  • Peppers - New Mexico, JalapeƱo and Anaheim
  • Cucumbers
  • 1 zucchini, and only one
  • Sweet Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Italian Parsley
  • Petunias
  • Marigolds

I got the plants we did buy into the beds on Saturday morning and the soaker hose snaked through one bed and into the other. Still on the to do list is borrowing tomato cages from my father-in-law, setting up a trellis for the cucumbers and mulching around the plants.

I'll try to do some updates throughout the year to track how things are going, especially come July once there is produce to actually harvest and eat!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Last Night's Dinner: Burgers and fries

I almost forgot to take a pic of last night's cow usage, in fact I didn't remember until I'd wolfed down half of dinner, d'oh!

We got to enjoy the new grill last night for the first time, we were pretty excited, and nothing is better off the grill around our house than some hamburgers. I was in charge of dinner while my wife was at the gym with a coworker. First up was getting the potato wedges peeled and in the oven roasting. Next up was making patties with the rest of a package of ground beef (the offer half went into tacos, no need to re-post that though).

My wife's was a fairly standard burger, just some salt and pepper and topped off with some cheese the last minute on the grill. I wanted a little more zip last night though so I stuffed it with some roasted Hatch chili diced up fine and some shredded cheddar. I have always used the stuffing method that involves making two really thin patties and smooshing them together with the good stuff in between, this usually ends up making a giant meatball instead of a burger though. Last night I tried the method where you make a ball with the meat, poke a hole in it for stuffing and then flatten it out into the patty. I did find that this method worked really well and with no loss of stuffing. You can just see some cheese and chili's oozing out in the pic above.

Of course it isn't really summer for us until there is a cucumber/tomato salad with dinner. We are really looking forward to August when the produce for that is sourced from the backyard. The grill worked great and we're looking forward to using it again tonight on some pork chops. Adventures this summer on the grill will include pizza, beer butt chicken and maybe an adventure in smoking, of course all of this, success and utter miserable failure alike will be shared with all of you, including the gory pics ;).

Chili Stuff Burgers
1/4 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
1 oz chopped roasted green chili of your choice (I have Hatch on hand)
1 oz grated cheese

1. Mix the salt and pepper into the beef
2. Form the beef into a ball and poke a hole into it just past the center.
3. Stuff the chili and cheese into the hole and cover it over.
4. Form a patty by gently pressing/patting the ball into shape, about 3/4 of an inch thick.
5. Grill over a medium-high grill for about 5 minutes per side.
6. Serve it up

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Is it a garden if there are no plants?

Since we moved in to the house I have wanted to put a garden in the back yard, there was a perfect place for it along the fence on the north side of the property. The previous owners had almost triangle shaped area covered with redwood chips and yard fabric that they kept a play set on. Here is a photo from our inspection a couple years ago of said play set.

Last summer we grew some herbs in containers on the back patio and we enjoyed having fresh herbs so much we decided to finally take the plunge and grow some vegetables. Instead of doing more containers though we thought we would take on some raised beds for veggies and herbs. A few things played into this decision; 1) I really wanted to take down the sucker elm that was growing in the bed of wood chips before it got any bigger and 2) we knew that if a few containers went well we would want to do more veggies the next year anyway so we figured it was smart to just skip ahead ;).

The first step in this little adventure was taking out the redwood chips (as we discovered the day we moved in the previous owners had already taken the play set with them) which was a much easier task then we had imagined it would be. Once we discovered that the yard fabric under the chips was laid down in such a way we could effectively lift it and push the chips up the slope towards the gate that leads to the compost pile it just became a matter of pulling up yard fabric and using the pitch fork to move the piles when they got too big. We now have a nice supply of wood chips for the compost pile for a few years.

Next up was the tree. That means it's time to use the chainsaw, ah yeah! A few quick minutes with the chain saw took down the elm. An hour or so of snipping, cutting and swearing broke it down into twigs and some decent sized pieces for the fire pit. The stump, if you could call it that, wasn't going to go as easily. (that is me taunting the tree after I took it down, it made me feel like a big man)

This is pretty clearly a sucker elm, there are a ton of them in the neighborhood, as such there is not a traditional root ball to dig up and remove nicely. So I started digging, not sure what I would find. I dug down about 2 feet and it was pretty clearly just a runner that had turned up and started growing into a tree. A little work with an axe wasn't really getting me anywhere, and when the axe head flew off above my head I was done with that. The simple answer was dynamite, but the hardware stores now a days do not carry it (I did not really consider dynamite mom, relax) so it was back to the chain saw. I dug a little farther down and just chopped the stump off as far down in the hole as I could get, filled the depression in with dirt and paid a gypsy to put a hex on it not to grow again.

All of this happened between the middle of April and last week. Knowing that I wanted to put in two 5'x5' raised beds and grass seed in the rest of the newly bare spots I thought it would be "smart" to break up the compacted dirt and dig in some leaves/compost to help aerate and feed the new greenery. Well it was technically a "smart" idea, it just was not the easiest to implement. A friend loaned us a hand tiller that made getting into the top couple inches pretty easy, but the clay underneath that wasn't as easily moved, this required some shoveling. So over the course of about 3 hours I managed to get all the dirt turned and leaves/compost turned into it about 6 inches down.

Now that we had a nice base it was time to build the beds. This was much easier than I was anticipating, a few minutes with the circular saw and my 10' lengths were cut up. A few minutes later and we had some deck screws in and were ready to place the beds. The hardest part of this last step was turning in some steer manure and digging up some extra soil so as to actually have "raised" beds.

Next weekend we will put the first plants in and get the soaker hoses laid out. We are also going spread the topsoil and get the grass seed down, hopefully the weeds will take it easy until then so the grass doesn't have to compete. So, is it a garden yet, or not till next week? ;)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Last Night's Dinner: Cottage Pie

The lilacs are in bloom in Colorado and Spring is making way for Summer slowly but surely. Spring in Colorado though is not all sunshine and tulips, it's snow in the sun and days of 50 mph wind. On days like that nothing beats a nice warm plate of Cottage Pie and a beer.

This cottage pie is a little de-constructed from the traditional cottage pie, mostly because I didn't want to wait for it to bake ;). It was just a quick browning of the ground beef with an onion, a couple carrots and some peas thrown in. We served it on top of some mashed spuds, traditionally it's covered with the spuds and baked. This attempt was lacking the gravy base that is usually associated with cottage pie, but we'll work on that.

Using a whole package (1.5 lbs) of ground beef yielded way to much beef mixture for us to use last night so we have at least half of last night's beef mixture in the freezer for another pass at a more traditional cottage pie.