Friday, October 28, 2011

A Master Pumpkin Sculptor

Since we're only a few days away from Halloween, I thought it would be nice to find some tips on carving your pumpkin.  Now, you might already be a pro when it comes to carving up interesting, scary, creative pumpkins for your porch or yard, but I've never possessed more than just the rudimentary skills required to produce a pretty basic jack-o-lantern style face with a votive candle placed inside.

These videos showcase the work of master pumpkin sculptor Ray Villafane. But, sculpting isn't just a passion for Ray. As you'll hear in the second video, it's more like an obsession.


So, now that you've had this brief tutorial, maybe you'll be able to create works of art just like Ray's by Halloween! ;~)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roasted Root Vegetables

We had the pleasure and good fortune of finding beautiful herbs, vegetables and organic meats at our local Farmer's Market over the summer and although the selection available these past couple of weeks has lessened some, there is still an outstanding choice of Autumn root veggies and thick leaved, late season greens to choose from.  These beets and carrots are just two examples.

Down through the generations many of us grew up repulsed by the flavorless, over-boiled, mushy, colorless veggies piled unceremoniously next to our meatloaf or pot roast. Now, I can't in good conscious lay the blame for that on my mother. She learned how to cook from her mother and naturally, grandma learned from hers, etc. Today, we've (thankfully) realized how much better it is not to boil the heck out of them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another Bad Spell AND Something To Ponder

Hello Friends,

First.... Many, many thanks to everyone for such a wonderful and heart-felt welcome back to the blogosphere. You guys truly are the best of the best!  I just hope that you'll accept my apologies (yet again... sigh) for the amount of time that it's taking for me to get back into the swing of things. I've been a bit slow adjusting to some new medications, including dealing with a few of the (hopefully temporary) negative side effects that come along with the benefits they provide. It's a mind numbingly slow process getting back into some sort of day to day rhythm, but I remain cautiously optomistic. At the moment, the word "Lupus" is being tossed around. I don't even know how to wrap my brain around that one.

Over the years it's become quite clear to me that just when I think I'm finally in a better place with my health, well...  you know the drill, right?  Murphy's Law and all that. With the way that my luck's been running lately, I probably jinxed myself  in my last post. Hmph! I suppose I should make a concerted effort in future posts to avoid mentioning that I'm feeling better or that I'm actually functioning. ;~) Recovering from a bad spell is not only extremely inconvenient and physically unpleasant... It's beyond frustrating.  I guess the best way to describe it is to say that it can leave you feeling like you've been grabbed by the shoulders and tossed (rather unceremoniously) into this kind of "limbo" where you start to see yourself as, well... useless.  Some days you feel as if you've lost your purpose for being here. Then, as if to add insult to injury, nobody ever warns you about this sad little reality. You just have to (hopefully) learn how to deal with it as you live it.

Some of what I've learned between my own experience and from meeting other folks who live this life, is that the primary goal when diagnosed with a chronic illness is to reach a place where you can 1) accept your limitations and 2) be at peace with the idea that life as you've known it has been forever altered. The next goal that you should strive for is to be able to consciously choose to make the best out of what you've been dealt, in order to live life to the best of your ability. Frankly that's what I'm attempting to do... but sometimes the fates simply don't appreciate any of the progress that I make.  Hmph!

So... Where do I go from here?  Well, considering the above apology and my recent long absence(s) from the blog, what I'm about to say might have you scratching your heads, wondering if I've totally lost it. BUT,  believe it or not, I've been considering starting a second blog. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm sure the majority of you are thinking "What?? Has she totally stepped off the edge? Is she seriously going to attempt to handle a second blog when she can barely post regularly to this one?"

OK. I don't blame you. But here's the thing... When I started thinking about it, I kept coming back to the way my life has been lately. Because my health has been less than stellar in recent months, I haven't been cooking much. (if at all)  For this reason, I really don't have many recipes or pictures of recipes to post.  Aaaand, since this has basically been a "food blog" from it's inception, that silly little detail leaves me a bit lacking when it comes to posting material. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it could be possible to also do something more in line with my "old" blog format, which was more of a journal style or personal blog. Sans the "heart-felt letters", of course. (If you aren't familiar with my "previous blog life" or if you just got to know me when "Go Ahead Take A Bite" was launched and have no idea what I mean by that last remark, trust me... it's better that way. LOL)

Anywhooo, All things being what they are and even though I've sort of started the process of creating a second blog, it's by no means a done deal as of this post. And, because I truly value and appreciate the feedback that I receive from all of you, if  anyone has comments, suggestions, or an opinion on the matter, I certainly welcome them with open arms (and ears).  I promise that I'll happily take all thoughts under careful consideration.  Also, even if I do start a new/second blog, I still plan to keep this blog active and to continue to post recipes and other things food related. Just not as often. (Well, at least not right away)

Finally, since I do have a couple of photos (and the recipe) from one of the few meals that I (with my awesome hubby's collaboration) actually prepared over the summer, I've posted it today. (This one's for you, George) It's a grill/barbecue recipe and generally suited more for summertime cooking, but since many parts of the country are still experiencing relatively mild temperatures, most everyone should be able to prepare and enjoy it on their outdoor grill or smoker. Plus, it can also be prepared in the oven with pretty similar results as well.

Please scroll down to the previous post (or click here) for the rib recipe!

That's all for today folks! Have a blessed day and a great weekend!


Slow Smoked Baby Back Ribs


For The Rub
  • 1 Tbls Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tsp Mild Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbls Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tsp Smoked Paprika or Sweet Hungarian Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • And of course... 4 to 6 racks of Pork Ribs

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle liberally over trimmed ribs and rub it in well. Cover the ribs tightly with plastic wrap or place them in ziptop bags and allow to marinate in the fridge for an hour or two and up to 24 hours.  If you have any of the rub mixture left over, it will keep in a tightly covered container for a few weeks in your fridge. (just make sure you haven't touched the rub mixture with your hands once they've touched the raw meat - if they have, throw the rest of the rub away)

Preparing The Grill

When smoking meats, we use a kettle-style charcoal grill because 1) The Hubbs is a bit of a purist when it comes to grilling/smoking /barbecue and 2) Most experts recommend it as the best way to get the best smoke on that meat.  If you don't have one you can definitely get good results using a gas grill by putting your soaked wood chips in heavy duty aluminum foil on the grill rack while the meat cooks.

Kettle Style Grill Set-Up:

Prepare your wood chips by soaking them in a bowl of water for about an hour or two. We use Hickory Wood.

Start your charcoal briquettes as you normally would. We use a charcoal chimney and never use lighter fluids or "quick light" charcoal products. Once the coals are ready (medium heat) separate them in half with tongs and push them to the sides of the kettle. Take an old metal baking pan and set it in the center of the grill floor, between the coals. Add about 2-3  inches of water to the pan to prevent the juices that drip from the cooking meat from causing flare-ups.  Squeeze most of the water out of your soaked wood chips and lay a couple of handfuls over the hot coals on both sides of the drip pan. Place your top rack back on the grill and you're ready to start smoking those ribs!

OK... You can either place your ribs directly on the grill over the drip pan and turn them occasionally as they cook OR you can use a "rib rack".  This allows for the ribs to "stand" more vertically as they smoke and eliminates the need to turn or adjust them. You can also fit more ribs on the grill than when laying them flat.  What could ever be bad about more ribs?

Now, there is some tending that needs to be done when smoking meats because you want to maintain an even heat and even amount of smoke throughout the cooking process. You achieve this by adding more charcoal briquettes and more wood chips as needed.  It can take anywhere from one to two hours to cook ribs thoroughly, depending on the thickness of the meat, the consistency of your heat and the number of rib racks that you're smoking.  We had four half-pound racks and it took about an hour and a half/hour and forty minutes to get them to that tender, pulling away from the bone goodness.

We also like our ribs "naked" with our barbecue sauce on the side for dipping, but you can baste yours with your favorite sauce during the last 15 minutes or so of cooking if you prefer them that way. You can do it while they are still in the rib rack or you can remove them and lay them flat on the grill to slather them. (be careful - there will be flare-ups) 

No matter which way you prefer to finish them up, with a little coleslaw and maybe some baked beans, you have yourself a killer meal of juicy tender finger licking good ribs. Just remember - Don't skimp on the napkins!



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Friday, October 7, 2011

Where Have I Been?? And Why?

Howdy Friends!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I first have to admit that it feels a bit strange to be back.  Don't get me wrong... I've seriously missed the blogosphere and all of the amazing people that I've come to think of as my cyber family. So... Why have I been gone for so long??  Well, it comes down to the fact that life has been quite a roller-coaster ride these last few months. I'll do my best to fill you in without writing a novel.

OK.... Without going into the long list of diagnosis' that have been thrown at me over the years, I've been living with a myriad of health issues for over a decade now. Let's just say from a medical standpoint that I'm a hot mess and this past year has been, by far, one of the most challenging I've had so far. Sadly, it's been equally as hard on my family and friends.  I can't even begin to express how unbelieveably grateful I am for the people in my life and the sacrifices that they lovingly and selflessly make, day in and day out, in the process of adapting to and putting up with my ever changing and not always pleasant state of being.

When pain mercilessly inserts itself into your daily existence, it eventually changes who you are at your very core. (and not necessarily in a good way) Chronic pain is generally accompanied by periods of anger, frustration, depression and anxiety.  It doesn't matter how long you've been living with it. Imagine the worst headache you've ever had... Now, imagine that no matter how much rest or medication or positive thinking or prayer that you throw at it, it refuses to go away. Sure, there are tools that can help to manage chronic pain, but 90% of the time any break that you get is minimal and temporary. More often than not, these tools (especially medications) come with their own equally nasty side effects, including the stigma attached to narcotic pain medication. Believe me, I have a whole lot to say about that little issue, but I'll spare you all that rant til another day.

In a nutshell, my health suffered some major blows over the last year, and that caused me to have to stop and take several steps back so that I could make some serious changes. With God's Grace and a lot of love and patience from the amazing people in my life, I feel that I might finally be on a path back to some sense of "normal" and it's going to take baby steps.  If there's one major lesson that I've learned during the last several months, it's how important it is to try to make the best of the good days and to push through the bad days in the best way that I can. None of us can predict when life might rise up and knock us into next week, but I plan to continue to fight back with all that I've got when it does.

All that being said, I hope you'll stick with me as I find my way back and that you'll forgive the lack of original recipes that I usually post.  Unfortunately, one of the things that this pain robs me of is the ability to prepare a meal more than say, once every week or two. (The Hubbs and I have been eating a lot of sandwiches, salads and take-out lately! LOL )  Luckily there's a plethora of great recipes and videos to accompany them out in cyberspace, so I'll compensate by posting some of my favorites here and there. (I do have a recipe and photos of some incredible Baby Back Ribs that Hubby and I collaberated on a couple of weeks ago, but I have to upload the pics from my camera)

I have a few other things that have happened, like the blogoversary that passed while I was gone. (I'm working on some surprises in that regard, so stay tuned!) I also celebrated my 50th birthday in September, and I have new garden/floral photos from the Summer as well as pics and video from our yearly trip to Maine.  As I mentioned above.... baby steps. ;~)

Thank you all for hanging in there with me. I hope to be spending more time with you as the days and weeks pass.  If I haven't stopped by to visit you yet, I promise that I'll do my best to pop in and say hello soon.

Anyway, I'll start today with a video from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and her recipe for Grilled Tuscan Lemon Chicken.  It's easy and can be done just as beautifully and deliciously in the oven if the weather isn't conducive to using an outdoor grill. Enjoy!

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