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

 

Actually Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday was National Grilled Cheese Day.  I don’t really remember that day from past years, but thought I would celebrate this year with actually preparing grilled cheese sandwiches–Not just made indoors on a grill, but made outdoors on a charcoal grill.

The feat was totally easy since I have a new grilled cheese basket by The Charcoal Companion.  This non-stick basket is perfect for any type of grilled sandwich on an open grill.  The rosewood handle is especially nice and the basket clip keeps the tool together for easy turning.  I was able to fit three smaller sandwiches with plenty of cheddar cheese for each sandwich into the basket. The sandwiches are held together nicely without any worries of losing a sandwich into the charcoal.

It took only minutes before the cheese was melty, gooey and so delicious!  The actual outdoor charcoal flavor adds that extra special taste that cannot be achieved indoors. The basket is the perfect size and really could be used to grill flat vegetables as well.

I plan to be using my grills so much more this year as I have come to appreciate all types of outdoor grilling and various foods that can be easily made on the grill today with the proper tools. Grilled cheese is also perfect for tailgating season.  There is just something about cooking food outdoors that makes it taste extra special!

Baskets can be found at Wal-Mart, World Market, many specialty cooking stores and even online at The Home Depot or bbqguys.com.

Apricot glazed chicken

Grilled chicken has become a staple go-to in my house. I can serve grilled chicken a variety of ways with an assortment of side vegetables or toppings.  Over the years, I have become very creative with grilled chicken.

For an alternative, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart and omitted the red pepper flakes, and baked instead of broiling.  The apricot glaze is very tasty and instead of grilled chicken, these chicken breasts bake in the oven and stay very moist and tasty.  Much easier to make for a large crowd if needed to prepare in advance and then simply bake while visiting with your guests.

Here is how I prepared the chicken.  Prepare these ingredients ahead of time:  apricot jam in a bowl, skinless chicken breasts–thin sliced, salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a sheet pan covered with tin foil.  Place the chicken breasts on the pan and season to taste.  Bake in the oven for 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the glaze of apricot jam.  Bake another 8 minutes until the chicken is done.  I used thin cut chicken breasts and this cooking time worked perfectly for this dish.

Enjoy and serve with any side dish or salad.

 

 

Grilled Romaine

Grilled vegetables are so popular right now in all the restaurants.  I especially love grilled romaine.  The tender leaves are transformed into a tasty dish that is very easy to prepare with the new porcelain-coated grill plate from the Companion Group. This Charcoal Companion product was featured at the International Home and Housewares show recently in Chicago.

The plate is just the perfect size to use and it allows for tender lettuce leaves to sear perfectly without any direct grill contact.  The plate could even be used to serve any type of grilled vegetable or even smoky flavored nachos.  The coating is absolutely stick-resistant and so easy to use and clean after using.

I absolutely love this new product and had to share some photos with you as I recently used with my charcoal grill.  Even though it was a bit chilly outside, I was able to prepare this salad easily and efficiently.

After grilling, I added a few sliced cherry tomatoes, ground pepper and shaved Parmesan cheese to the top of the salad.  It was super delicious.

Grilled chives from the garden

Summertime herbs are being harvested in my garden, and I recently decided to grill some chives with my other vegetable assortment for dinner.

The chives were delicious on the grill and gave another texture to the Asian dish, which I paired with some grilled shrimp.  There is something just so wonderful about taking cuttings from a home garden and adding them into the dinner menu.

I usually clip my chives a couple of times a season and enjoy them in everything from herb dips to garnishes for salads or pasta dishes.

If you did not plant chives this year, be sure to put them on your list for next year, as they are super easy to grow and will even tolerate some shade in the garden.

Another easy way to enjoy farm to table in your own home.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

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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Raspberry Brie grilled cheese

How do you make a summer grilled cheese sandwich?  How about changing up the flavors to include a summer fruit?  I found a recipe on Stonewall Kitchen’s website for a summer raspberry brie grilled cheese sandwich.  Even though I did not have their product, I tried my other brand raspberry jam for an equally tasty meal.

This is a great recipe for summer picnics.  No need to worry about any of these ingredients spoiling in the picnic basket. Very easy to prepare and actually tastes good either hot or cold. It seems very French to me –so very European.

Use  sturdy bread, like a ciabatta, and spread with jam.  Butter each side before cooking.  Slice the brie cheese and place over the jam.  I usually butter each side as I layer into the panini maker.  This sandwich can be baked in the oven, grilled in a panini press, or heated in a skillet until the cheese is just melted. Slice the sandwich and pack for a great meal outdoors.