smoker apple crisp

Outdoor cooking is becoming super popular.  I have joined the excitement and have a new vertical smoker.  Cooking with a smoker has many options, including direct and indirect cooking.  To become more familiar with the process, I purchased a great cookbook titled, “Secrets to Smoking,” by Bill Gillespie.

Everything that I needed to know before using my smoker for the first time was included in this book.  I learned about the different types of woods, chips, types of charcoal to use, and general operation of any smoker.  There is skill to controlling the temperature, adjusting the vents, monitoring the air flow and most of all cooking on several levels of a smoker at once. Smokers can be fueled by electricity, pellets, or charcoal.

I chose a charcoal smoker and used this apple crisp recipe to learn how to keep the temperature moderated, while working the technique of “low and slow” cooking. I adapted the recipe from Bill’s cookbook. changing and adding a few ingredients.

I also learned that if you are “looking”, you are “not cooking.”  This recipe was a huge success and took one and one half hours to cook at 225 degrees on the upper level of my new smoker.  There is a trust that develops with the first recipe cooked.  As I said, I was not peeking, but trusted that my dish would be done by monitoring the temperature of the smoker.

I am now committed to using the smoker this whole summer for a variety of different types of dishes. Here is a great recipe to try if you are a seasoned smoker or if this is your first time.

I peeled, cored and sliced 3 large Granny Smith apples and placed in a pan suitable for cooking on a grill.  Then, I added and mixed these ingredients into a bowl–3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, and 1/3 cup unsalted butter which had been softened.

Place the topping over the apples in the baking pan.  After bringing the smoker up to 225 degrees, place the pan on the top cooking grate and allow to cook on its’ own for 1 and 1 1/2 hours.

I filled the water pan once prior to cooking and allowed the smoker to come up to temperature.  The water was totally used when the dish was complete. I used both sets of vents to keep the temperature even throughout the cooking process.  This was not a challenge at all, and the outcome was delicious. Serve while hot with whipped cream or ice cream. Oh–so yummy and cooked outdoors!

Backyard Pizza Oven

With the growing interest in expanding the indoors outside with added living space, it is no wonder why cooking outdoors has become even more popular.  I recently used a wonderful product called the Pizza Que pizza kit for Kettle grills. Most kettle grills can accommodate this expansion which turns the grill into an amazing pizza oven.  The temperature of my oven reached over 700 degrees in less than 30 minutes and kept that temperature for one hour, without any other assistance.  At that point, we wanted the oven to cool down, so it could have stayed hotter even longer!

Since our pizza cooked in less than eight minutes, we could have made at least 7 more pizzas in rapid succession during that time period.  The result was an excellent tasting pizza which was equal to any wood fired pizza I have sampled at any restaurant.  And, all of this in my own backyard for a fraction of the cost.

This was a really fun time as well, and could be turned into a super fun pizza party for friends and other guests.  I used my favorite frozen pizza crust, with my technique of using corn meal on the pizza paddle for ease in transfer into the oven and out. A mix of flour and corn meal could also be used.  Too much corn meal will start to smoke or burn if left in the hot oven for too long.

 

Midway through the cooking time, I rotated the pizza as recommended with the included stainless steel paddle with ease.  The crust was already almost done at that point, so the pizza easily moved on the ceramic pizza stone.

The kit assembled in less than 30 minutes and also comes with a thermometer which determines when the pizza should begin cooking. The oven must be up to temperature to achieve the best and fastest results. I followed the directions that came with the kit and had outstanding success. Thanks to the Charcoal Companion again for another great product.

The kit is sold on amazon.com, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and online at pizzacraft.com

 

graham cracker sandwiches

I must be the last person to see this recipe for graham cracker sandwiches.  I think it has been around for a while and hundreds of variations are on Pinterest now.

Even though this is not a new one, I just had to share it, because it is just that fabulous.

Select any type of graham cracker that you like. I found so many different types now including chocolate, vanilla, and low-fat cinnamon in the store aisle.

Using one carton of Cool whip whipped topping, spread evenly about 1 inch thick on one 2-part graham cracker.  Add chopped strawberries lightly to the top of the whip and then cover with the second half of the graham cracker.  Wrap in waxed paper and cover with foil on a small cookie sheet. I wrapped the whole tray in one large piece of waxed paper. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.

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Since there are a variety  of Cool whip flavors, that selection will also personalize your graham cracker sandwiches.  These are many fewer calories than an ice cream sandwich and are really quite tasty.  Leave the fruit out, add different fruit, sprinkle in nuts, or whatever is desired.  This is a create your own frozen delight recipe.

Very inexpensive and so far, everyone who has tried one at my house loves them. Great for treats after a barbecue or grilling out.  Great for kids too.

Barbecue sauce for appetizer drumsticks

March madness will be here shortly, so it is time to bring out those terrific appetizer recipes for game nights.  This barbecue sauce is very easy to make on the spot.  No need to boil and cook this one for hours on the stove top.  This one is ready in minutes and can be applied to a variety of chicken pieces.  I used chicken drummies for appetizer size portions, but this recipe adapts to larger pieces of chicken as well.  Try the sauce with wings or drumsticks.

To begin:  Place the drummies on a foil lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Mix this sauce while the oven is pre-heating to 450 degrees.

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Combine 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.  Brush over chicken and bake for 10 minutes. Turn and brush again and bake for another 5-10 minutes until chicken is done. If desired, these can be broiled for 1-3 minutes to make them extra crispy at the end of the cook time.

Serve as an appetizer with cut celery sticks and ranch dip on a bed of shredded lettuce.

 

 

barbecue tools for the kitchen

 


These are the months for summer barbecue.  I love to cook outdoors, and although I don’t have an outdoor kitchen, I enjoy my small grills.  I use both a charcoal grill and an electric grill for cooking outdoors, and recently was mailed a set of silicone basting brushes to try out and review on my blog.  This set is from Yumms! accessories for today’s kitchen.

The set of two brushes are made from high quality silicone with plastic handles.  The silicone is food grade and approved by the FDA and happens to also be BPA free.  They are heat safe up to 446 degrees F and can even be cleaned in the dishwasher.

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I tested one of the brushes recently when grilling marinated chicken thighs and the application was outstanding.  No more wooden basting brushes for me!  These brushes are non-stick and very flexible which makes it easy to apply barbecue sauces and marinades easily.

The circular brush will be great for applying egg washes for pie crusts or greasing muffin tins.  Another great product from the Yumms! brand.

For more information, please follow this link:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=bl_dp_s_web_2972638011?ie=UTF8&field-brandtextbin=Yumms%21&node=2972638011

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BBQ grill mats are the answer to easy outdoor meals

Grilling season is back.  Some of my best meals seem to be those made with fresh ingredients that come off of the grill during the warmer months of the year.  We use both a charcoal grill and an electric patio grill for cooking, and have found many recipes work perfectly on both types of grilling surfaces.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Over the past five years, I have published many grilling recipes on this blog.  I plan to add to those this year, as I spend more time in my garden and cook with my freshly grown ingredients.  Recently, I was asked to review a set of two BBQ grilling mats made by Yumms!  These mats arrived in a flat package which allows for immediate use right out of the box.  No waiting for the grill mats to flatten on the grates.

I noticed immediately that the non-stick surface had a nice texture and will prevent food from sticking.  I also like that the mats are very sturdy and will hold food easily without dropping it through the grill’s grating. The mats can be cut to size for any recipe, and can be cleaned easily in the dishwasher.  They are also hand wash friendly.

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The mats can be used up to 450 degrees and are FDA approved.  By using grill mats, a variety of recipes that could not typically be made on a grill, without having specialty pans, are easily prepared.  Everything from eggs and toast to grilled sliced vegetables or grilled pineapple rings and melted chocolate for dipping.

I am looking forward to experimenting in the coming weeks.  For more information on the Yumms! BBQ grill mats, please follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00THPZ1MG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

labor day antipasti salad

antipasti salad is perfect for a labor day barbecue.  i had all the ingredients between my pantry and refrigerator, so it came together in a matter of minutes. there are many variations, including those with slices of salami, banana peppers, and even various types of red onion or shallots.  this one was made with pasta shells, sliced black olives, chopped red pepper, chopped green onions from my garden, cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a light oil and vinegar dressing.

 

i used 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar to 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, whipped to incorporate–and then drizzled on the salad. chilled and served, it made a perfect side dish to our grilled meats.

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