Monday, June 30, 2008

Fire Up the Grill for the 4th of July - Favorite Barbecue Recipes

HAPPY 4th of JULY!

Independence Day is right up my alley. More people grill on the 4th than any day of the year. And, this year is expected to be a record breaker with gas prices so high. Don't feel bad if you can't go to the beach or off somewhere exotic. Just crank up the grill and have fun at home.

You don't need lots of fancy equipment to have a barbecue at home. I typically use our 22 inch Weber kettle grill, but I also use our small tailgate grills for smaller groups.

Hamburgers are always a good pick. You can cook a lot at once, so if you're having a group over, you're not stuck at the grill all evening.

If your hamburgers don't turn out as great as you'd like, check out my Great Grilled Burgers Guide. It's not hard to do burgers, but there are some tips that will make a big difference in how they turn out.

You might consider a Mexican themed barbecue for the 4th.

Tex Mex creations have grown more popular every year. And, of course, recipies have been adapted for the grill.

You can make shish kabobs as above and then serve with soft taco shells and the fixings for tacos. Actually I find it works out better to get the bigger burito wraps, since grilled foods are kind of chunky.

Kabobs can be a little tricky, so see my Kabob Guide if you need a little extra help on those. I call that guide "Pain in the Kabob," but if you're serving them as soft tacos and don't have to cook so much, it's not a bad pick.

If you go with the taco idea, be sure to try some Grilled Nacho Chips. I was playing around one day and tried this. Super easy. Super fast. The only trick is to get them on and off fast.

Be sure to mix up some Pica de Gallo to go with the chips and tacos. Pica de Gallo can be made ahead and chilled - ready to put out when it's time to eat.

If you're looking for interesting grilled side dishes, consider some grilled hash browns. My boys love them. We put on a big pan and can feed a lot of people too, so it's a nice pick for a party.

Another favorite around her is grilled corn on the cob. We make them in tin foil and also in the husks. Both ways are great. See my Grilled Corn on the Cob Guide for details.

If you want to try something a little different, make some grilled Texas Toast. Again, this is super quick. Just put the bread on after the meat. You'll have hot bread with a smoky flavor in minutes.

Another fun grill recipe is Beer Butt Chicken. That one always makes everyone laugh until they eat it. Then, they see why folks make Drunken Chicken. Very tasty.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Before the 4th of July Church Cook Out

Mom Really Did Not Eat Two Hot Dogs

Father of Two of Our Military Members with Friend - We Miss the Boys

My Special Church Lady Friend and Her Yummy Chocolate Cake

Our annual pre 4th of July Sunday lunch to honor veterans is always a lot of fun. This year was no exception as you can see.

After a really nice service with candles to honor each branch of the service and one for family members, we all headed to the back room for hamburgers and hot dogs. One of my high school friend's and his family grilled this year.

The ladies of the church made desserts. I must say that our church ladies make awesome desserts. It's always hard to decide what to get.

Usually I get whatever my special church lady friend brings. She is cutting her chocolate cake above, and I brought a piece home. I was too full after lunch to really enjoy a dessert, and I am looking forward to savoring every bite this evening.

My church lady buddy also sent a piece of chocolate cake for my son who was a lazy bum and stayed home (-: I told him I ought to eat his piece of cake, but I won't.

This is What I Call Tailgate Grilling

Grilling in the Back of a Truck? Yep!

One of Our Local Teens Worked Hard on the Burgers and Hot Dogs

Grilling for the Masses

We had our annual cook out at the church to honor military members.

The shelter was my son's Eagle Scout project. My coach from Little League (many years ago) helped him learn how to build, and a lot of young men from the community pitched in to build the picnic shelter.

The picnic tables were just completed. The shop class at the high school made those. They are big, sturdy tables and should last forever or close.

A guy I graduated from high school with brought out his grill, and his son did the cooking. My Dad always did the grilling, but he died two years ago in a wreck.

This is the first time I've ever seen anyone grill on gas in a truck. Not beside. I really do mean "in" the truck. I can't speak to the safety on that. I do tailgate and often, but I must say I've never thought to cook right in the truck. Then again, my truck is a SUV, and that wouldn't work out at all.

There were loads of burgers and hot dogs, as you can see. Very yummy.

Honoring the Military at Church Today

Flags for Each Branch of the Military and for POW/MIA

Candles for Each Branch of Service and One for Family Members

We honor military members (active and retired) each year on the Sunday before the 4th of July.

The preacher did a really great job on the service.

He had members from each branch come up front with one military member designated to light the candle for the group. The organist played the song related to each branch.

Representing the families of military members (present and past) was a couple from the church with two sons in service. We all watched the boys grow up, and it's still hard to imagine them overseas fighting. We just pray that they come home safe - and all other young men and women serving the country.

One special part of the service was a song by the preacher. He has kind of a bluegrass sound and sings without music. I've always loved his singing. I think he's getting short of air, but he did the song very proud today. I was glad he did his song.

After the service, we had a cook out. My Dad always did the grilling for the military honor service. But, he died two years ago in a wreck out on I77. He served also in the Navy so was always honored at the service. This year Mom and I stood as family members. That's kind of hard, but it's nice to have the service and the cook out is always fun. Just wish Dad was still there to enjoy it all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grilled Hot Dogs on a Rainy Day

Smokey Joe Grill Fits in Tight Spaces

Ball Park Franks on the Grill

We could see a storm brewing by mid afternoon. That's pretty common here in North Carolina. After a hot muggy day, we often get rain and thunderstorms.

Our Weber Smokey Joe grill is perfect for such days. It's small and fits on the porch without a problem. We also take the Smokey Joe on the road for tailgating and concerts. Very handy little second grill.

I had some hot dogs and buns, so I fired up the charcoal. Hot dogs are already cooked, so they just need to be heated. We could do that in a pan on the stove or in a microwave, but they taste much better with that smoke flavor. And, they look tastier with the grill marks.

I put the whole pack on. Grilled hot dogs are delicous warmed over. The boys like to grab hot dogs out of the refrigerator after a cook out. They just stick them in the buns and heat for about 20 seconds. Instant lunch or snack - and that great grilled flavor for a second day.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rafting at U.S. National Whitewater Park near Charlotte, NC

Oops! We Went Swimming Too (photo by Chris Sherman)

Mushroom and Swiss Burger at Cheeseburger in Paradise

We took a road trip to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC today. It's the biggest manmade whitewater facility in the world.

This was a little different from the whitewater rafting we've been doing up in the moutains. For one thing, we didn't get dirty like usual. It's also a safer way to white water raft. Our guide estimated that the risk was reduced about 80%.

We did manage to take a spill. Some of us did anyway (-: I hung in there as you can see in the photo made by Chris Sherman. If you're wondering if I have legs of steel. Well, no. My foot was stuck. My kid grabbed my hand and pulled me back up after I'd gone completely under and then resurfaced still with the boat.

We thought about grilling after, but everyone was pretty tired and some of us old folks were a tad sore. We swung by Cheeseburger in Paradise (a Jimmy Buffett restaurant) in Huntersville, NC. They cook huge burgers to order. Very yummy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Can Fix Up My Home - Updating the Barbecue Area

My friend Kelly has a great blog for DIYers. His outdoor section at his I Can Fix Up My Home site is great.

Weber came up with a summer study indicating that more folks were taking staycations this year. Grilling was noted as an activity that would be hot this year as well as investing in outdoor entertaining areas. Doing the work yourself saves a lot of money, a good DIY bookmark sure comes in handy.

My son has been wanting to make a rock walkway from the side porch to the fire ring. That seems like a good starter project.

We'll get the rocks up in the mountains along the creek where my Mom owns land. Guess that calls for a road trip.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Sunny Day and Grilled Burgers for Dinner

A Beautiful North Carolina Day - Perfect for a Barbecue

Big Bold Burgers from La Cense - Grass Fed Healthy Beef

You Can Almost Smell These Burgers Cooking - Just Looking

We had a big storm yesterday, but today was perfect. That's North Carolina for ya. Stick around. The weather will suit you sooner or later.

I usually hand pat my hamburgers, but I had some La Cense steak burgers. I'd been looking forward to trying those out.

I fired up the grill and put the marinated burgers on. Wow! They were really big and looked great. Waiting was the hard part.

We all gave the burgers thumbs up. They were moist and had lots of flavor.

That's the last of the La Cense grass fed beef. Time for another order I guess. It definately is great beef, and I like the idea that it's natural, low fat, and that the cows are treated right on the ranch.

No Cook Out Tonight - It's a Gully Washer

A Hard North Carolina Rain

My Youngest Runs Out to Fix the Downspout - Gotta Love Old Houses

Holy Hail Balls Batman - Those Suckers are Loud

The Kid Catches a Few Hail Balls for Fun

I was thinking about grilling some burgers this evening, but my youngest son (our resident weatherman) told me that a storm was brewing. Sure enough. I checked News 14 Weather on the Ones, and there was a big old weather blob heading our way.

We whipped up some Hamburger Helper. It's quick. The boys love it. I keep a box on hand for nights like this when the power may go out. Last time, the Hamburger Helper got about half cooked, and I let it coast to the finish while we hunted up the candles.

This storm blew in pretty wicked with some big old hail balls, but we didn't lose the power. We did shut stuff down, since I've blown out a modem before.

The kid remembered that the downspout extender had come unattached, so he said he'd head out in the rain and hail and fix that. I think he just wanted to play in the rain. Boys are like that. I didn't want the basement to flood again, so there you go.

The Hamburger Helper was yummy. Don't tell anyone I said so. And maybe we can grill the burgers tonight, since the sun is shining again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recipe Contest - Win a Free Weber Grill

If you enjoy cooking (and especially outdoors), try your hand at a cooking contest.

This contest is by Coleman.

Your recipe needs to include at least a 1/2 tsp of Coleman's mustard. It's a dry or powdered mustard - not the yellow squirt mustard. Has a kick to it.

The contest runs through the end of the month. Last day to enter - June 30, 2008.

Happy cooking and good luck on the contest if you enter.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Grilling Up My La Cense Beef Kabobs

Marinating the La Cense Beef Kabob Meat for Later in the Day

Kabobs are Threaded and Ready to go on the Grill

You Not Believe How Great These Kabobs Smell Cooking

Beef Kabobs are Done as well as a New York Strip Steak

I've been pumped up thinking about trying the La Cense meat that I got yesterday. La Cense is grass fed beef - no last minute bulking up with grain. I've not had natural beef since my Poppaw passed away.

In case you're wondering . . . what's the difference?

When all the cows eat the same thing, they all taste kind of the same. Think of the varieties of apples. All different. When cows eat different grasses, the flavors are all a little different.

Even better, grass fed beef is leaner. The fat is lower. The calories are lower. Gotta love that.

I decided to go with our favorite basic marinade, so I wouldn't add marinade flavors that might hide the meat flavor. First, I sprinkled on lemon pepper seasoning, then Worchestershire sauce (a few splashes, and finally Kraft Free Zesty Italian dressing (the oily type and not the creamy).

For the vegetables, I went very basic - green peppers and onions.

I basted a bit with Italian dressing as these kabobs grilled. With the lower fat in the beef, that helps keep the meat moist - but no added fat with the fat free version of the dressing.

When I was done, I yelled for the boys. They gobbled these kabobs right down. If you have teen boys, you know what I mean.

I was very impressed with the La Cense beef kabob meat. The flavor was great. The meat was very tender. Less fat. Thumbs up!

Shish Kabob Grilling Guide

Kayaking - My Son Finds Some Kayaking Buddies

Taking a Group Kayak Trip with Lots of Different Kayaks

My Son Took This Picture From the Seat of His Kayak - Glad He Did Not Drop the Camera In

Lazy Part of the River - More Rapids Downstream

Here's My Boy Headed Down the Yadkin River

My son got a kayak. He did all the research online and went with his Dad to pick up his new boat.

Now he's found some kayaking groups online. He got in touch with one kayak group (High Rock Lake Canoe/Kayak Club), and they invited him to join them yesterday on a local river.

The kid had a great time (as you can see in the trip photos). He was really excited about a snake they saw slithering across the water (captured on video). He also enjoyed the class I and II rapids.

After the kayaking trip, the kid-o took a nap. I grilled up some beef kabobs. He put a hurting on the kabobs after he got up.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Our House and Garden - Cindy's Site - Barbecue Section

I was visiting my friend Cindy's site - Our House and Garden. (Yes. She's a Cindy too. We just spell our names different.) I love to stop by and see what she's up to and catch up on new recipes and ideas.

Cindy has a great grilling section up. She has some excellent outdoor cooking guides, sides dishes, and barbecue recipes. I'm going to try out some of those rubs. I know Cindy does amazing stuff with spices. We worked together on a cooking web site where she had such delicous ethnic dishes. I, of course, covered barbecue there.

Back to grilling for me. I have those kabobs ready to thread. I do enjoy taking a break and checking out different barbecue web sites. It's really amazing how much is out there on outdoor cooking.

Friday, June 20, 2008

La Cense Grass Fed Beef Arrives - Humane and Healthy

La Cense Came by 2nd Day UPS and Arrived in Perfect Condition

Packed Fresh and Ready for a Cook Out Tomorrow Night

I'm sure many folks saw the 60 Minutes special about the inhumane treatment of cattle and have read about concerns about preventive and other antibiotics given to cows. Pretty scary.

There are options though.

La Cense is a ranch in Montana - one of the oldest in the state. They have been selling natural grass fed beef since 2002.

The cows rotate on grassy pastures eating only natural vegetation. Some companies say "grass fed beef" but fatten up the animals before slaughter with grain. La Cense is 100% grass fed.

Growing up I always loved fresh beef when my Poppaw would butcher a cow. If you've never had meat from free range cows, then you're missing out. The meat is healthier for many reasons. In fact, grass fed beef ranks close to chicken breasts as far as being low in fat. They aren't bulked up like grocery cows. The flavor is wonderful too.

My box of La Cense meat came in today. The package was pefect, and the meat looks wonderful. My son works late tonight and the meat is frozen good and solid, so I think we'll plan on a cook out tomorrow night. Can't wait!

Biggest Barbecue Day of the Year - 4th of July

Getting Ready to Grill Up Some Food

If you're planning to grill for the 4th of July, you're in good company. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association says that Independence Day is the hottest (most popular) day of the year for outdoor cooking with 69% of all grill owners firing up for the 4th.

This year is expected to be an even bigger grill year with food prices high. More folks are cooking at home and staycations (staying at or near home over the vactation period) is a new trend being noted.

Staying at home doesn't have to be dull, and breaking out the grill or buying one is a good way to have fun.

Grill sales are up this year according to Lowe's. They've seen a double digit increase. My aunt works down at Lowe's, and she says she's definately been busy.

If you're trying to decide on what type of grill to buy, take a look at Gas or Charcoal. There are pros and cons to each.

For recipes, ideas, and tips, check out Yes You Can Grill.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pickle Snap Test - Funny Video

Backyard Barbecue - Gotta Have Some Pickles

Of course, you want great pickles with your backyard barbecue. What's a cookout without pickles?

What got me to thinking about pickles was an email from Ryan. He thought I'd enjoy a YouTube Pickle Test video.

Ryan was right. That was a funny one.

Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We Got to Spring Mom Just in Time for the Luau

Flowers From Ellen and Bob Cheered Mom Up

Mom and Her Sister Check Out the Pink Flamingo

Looks Like My Niece Tried to Pick My Mom's Nose

Mom Enjoys Her First Day Out of the Hospital

Mom went to the doctor on Tuesday last week, and he put her right in the hospital. Bummer! She was not happy about that, but she was feeling too bad to argue about it.

It didn't look like Mom would make the graduation barbecue, but the doctor cut her loose on Friday morning. He said he didn't want her to miss out on all the fun. Nice guy! He also looked like a young Tom Cruise. That was another plus.

When they said Mom could head home, I jammed everything in the suitcase and ran and got the truck. Had her on the road and home in nothing flat.

Mom said maybe we shouldn't let the doctors see her party pictures. He might think she had too much fun. She did rest though. And ate half a grilled hot dog after a week of broth and Jell-O.

Great Food and Fun at Our Barbecue Luau

We Had Three Grills Going at the Luau

Mom Grills the Burgers and Hot Dogs

Dad Checks the Grilled Hash Browns

Time to Eat - YUM!

Our group size was medium for the barbecue luau. A pig would have been too much. I decided to keep it simple and go with my great grilled burgers and Ball Park hot dogs. Good thing. Mom got sick and landed in the hospital up until the day before the party, and the doctor really wanted to keep her a couple of more days.

We fired up the big grill for the hamburgers and hot dogs and also had two travel grills for the grilled hash browns and the grilled fresh pineapple (although the pineapple ended up on the big grill).

For side dishes, we had a pasta salad (made by an aunt), chips, cheese, beef roll ups, gold fish crackers, and cookies.

Slip 'n Sliding at the Luau Barbecue

Ready, Set, Slip and Slide!

Cousin Takes a Big Slide

The Graduate Takes His Turn

Hey Guys! There Are Only Two Lanes (-:

My Kid Soaped Down to Get a Faster Slide and Also A Bubble Face

One of the kids thought it would be fun to get a Slip 'n Slide for the graduation barbecue. Sounded good to me. I hadn't even seen one in years.

They didn't have the old Slip and Slides at Wal-Mart, so we ended up with a deluxe double lane Slip 'n Slide with a NASCAR theme. That seems somehow quite fitting, since we live in NASCAR country.

All the boys loved the Slip 'n Slide. Not sure the girls tried it out.

It got pretty messy. My kid decided he could slide faster if soaped up. He got the dish washing liquid from the kitchen. First, the boys poured that on the Slip and Slide lanes. Then they began to pour it on their clothes too before taking a run and sliding at top speed.

I thought about taking a slide, but I decided it wouldn't be much fun grilling in wet and sudsy clothes. Hum. Maybe another day. It definately looked like fun.

Making Bubbles at the Barbecue Luau

The Girls Had a Grand Time Making Loads of Bubbles with the Flyswatters

The Guys Also Got in on the Bubble Fun

We Spent Most of the Day Enjoying a Shower of Bubbles

The boys picked up bubble stuff at Wal-Mart. I was planning to make homemade bubbles, but I knew I would be cutting it too close getting back from the hospital.

Wal-Mart now has some long tubes filled with bubble solution and a long slim wand to make super bubbles. I hadn't seen those. I used to have a big round bubble maker with a flat tray. That got tipped over pretty easily. The tubes are a good design and worked out great. The little ones especially liked the flyswatters as you can see in the photo above. They make tons of mini bubbles. One note on that - you've got to swing the flyswatters really fast to get good bubbles. The girls caught right on and had no trouble making mega mini bubbles.

If you want to make your own bubbles which is fun too, here's a great recipe for bubbles. I like this one, because I always have the items on hand to mix up bubble stuff.

Bubble Stuff Recipe

1 cup water
2 TBS light Karo syrup (or 2 TBS Glycerin - available at most pharmacies)
4 TBS dish washing liquid

For more information on making bubbles as well as a large batch recipe, see my bubble making article at Yes You Can Grill.

The bubbles, wading pool, Slip and Slide, and water guns kept the kids busy and having fun while I grilled. None of the party props cost very much, and they definately made it a better outdoor party.