Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Days & Grilling: Day 6

I had a very productive day yesterday. I spent most of my day outside working on the grill. We set up a table on the back patio when we had people over on the weekend and I decided to utilize it instead of having to carry things out after preparing them inside. I also copied an idea I read in a book entitled A Householders Guide to the Universe, written by Harriet Fasenfest. She describes an outdoor "oven" that she put together. She placed a few bricks on the grill (I like the flat ones, and as you can see in the picture, D found a flat rock). Basically, you close all vents and wait for your new oven to heat up, and figure out the best way to bake something. Yesterday I made bread. On the grill. I am still a bit surprised myself.

This bread I made is called "Beer Batter Bread." I found the recipe on my Epicurious app and have provided it here. This is my favorite bread for a number of reasons. The main one being that it is easy to make. The ingredients are few and the flavor varies depending on the beer that is used. We used a blueberry flavored one that was superb and a friend used elderberry flavored beer. I followed the directions on the recipe and then just put the bread pan on a rock in the grill. It cooked through better than in my house oven!

I am not sure if I've mentioned it before, but my husband and I found some wild apricot trees a few blocks from our house growing in an old river bed.  It looks as though nobody has ever seen them or cared to harvest them so we are harvesting all we can.  We are up to our ears in apricots, continuously finding new ways to preserve and use them.  I've made jam, dehydrated them, we're making apricot brandy, we're freezing them, I want to can some, pickle some, you name it!  Yesterday I came up with a brilliant (if I do say so myself) and tasty treat to make with these apricots.  I halved them, removed the stones, and put them in an oven safe dish, added a little butter, sprinkled with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  I cooked them until soft and added beer to the bottom of the pan and kept them on the grill until brownish.  We scarfed these down very quickly!

My dad's garden is doing so remarkably well for the desert (we're jealous) and he shares his harvest with us.  He brought a zucchini to us.  We decided to try a new veggie dish on the grill using the oven technique.  I used a deep pie dish and added sliced zucchini, diced onion, carrot, green bell pepper, tomato, and mushroom.  I then sprinkled with shredded cheese, vegetable crumbles (made to look and taste like ground beef), more cheese, and fresh oregano, basil, and parsley from the garden.  We cooked it until the zucchini was tender but not mushy.  I poured a little beer over it and let it simmer a little longer.  We served it over whole wheat fettuccine noodles.  My mom was here for dinner last night and our impromptu masterpieces passed her inspection. (She's not at all sad to be in town for the next few days).

I had a really good day yesterday, full of delicious food and my happy family.  What better way to end it than to enjoy the monsoons that are coming in?  Even the dog likes to sit and smell the rain and enjoy the breeze.  I am a firm believer in enjoying the food we eat.  If we take time with our food, prepare it ourselves and select the best vegetables and fruit, add some love and effort, along with quality family time while we eat it, so much more goes right in life.  I know that we feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we take the time to enjoy things.  I know others who feel the same.  There is no need to look at life through rose colored glasses when you make your life more appealing than any fantasy.  Good food and family time is just one more simple way to do this.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Days and Grilling: Days 4 & 5

The past couple of days have not been that inventive in regards to grilling. We had my parents over on Saturday and the neighbors over yesterday. That meant hamburgers, hotdogs, and more meat for most people. There are a couple of simple things that made the meals memorable that I would like to share.

On Saturday, D made ribs for my dad. We whipped together an extra tasty sauce that he later used on the chicken. I tasted the chicken and it was GOOD (which is a compliment considering I don't enjoy animal flesh all that much). We mixed together barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and some granulated onion and garlic salt. We don't measure on things like this, so just go by your taste preference. I am sure that others have used this mixture before, but this is something worth sharing.

We like potatoes in my house. We were very proud of our first potato harvest and are looking forward to our next. In the meantime, we bought regular old russet potatoes. D likes to put them in the microwave for a few minutes before cooking on the grill because it makes the cooking time faster. This isn't rocket science, but who says food has to be? He sliced the potatoes in half, topped with slices of onion, and when they were done, we put extra sharp cheddar cheese slices on top. It is amazing how different something cooked on the grill tastes! The charred flavor and the cheese flavor mix so well with the onion.

We found a melon at the store that was weird looking. It wasn't labeled of course, so we had to buy it. It tastes kind of like a mix between cantaloupe and honey dew. The skin was wrinkled like it was old. I cut it up for our cookouts, and we all enjoyed it. Whenever I cut up a melon I hate how wasteful it is to throw away the rind. Growing up, the only thing you could do with the rind is to give it to the pigs. We do not have pigs, so I searched online for recipes and found some pickling recipes. I had to make up my own based on the ones I read. I won't share my recipe until I know it is a success, but here are some links to others.

Our weekend was fun, a lot of work, but fun. My husband is more social than I am, so I get more tired, but we finished the day off with a short trip to the river and lake. Our dog loves to swim and chase things in the water. We pulled over to watch the sunset on the way home and finished our day off peacefully. It is the simple things in life that make us as humans become a more joyful bunch. Take time out to appreciate the simple things like a tasty sauce, experiments in the kitchen, and impromptu trips to the river as messages from the universe of how lovely life really is. I know I need to do this more often!