An Update

Sadly this seems like a theme, it’s been a while, I will get better I promise!  I did spend some time revamping the site this spring with full intention of writing again and well here we are almost a full year after my last post begging for forgiveness once again.

We have been cooking up a storm, lots of from scratch dishes, some  incredible and some mundane, but I don’t have any of them to write about today, instead I wanted to give you all a little life update, its been a busy six months in the Elston home, a lot has happened.

First we bought a house, well not just a house, a house and a barn and a shed and a couple of acres – in the country.  We came across our house last fall and proceeded to move in just in time for deer hunting and then winter.  The deer season was good to us this year and we ended up with a couple of deer in the freezer that we have been eating ever since – the winter was not so good to us though.  It was a tough initiation winter in the country, I had never actually been snowed in before and I can now say I have, multiple times.

You see our real snow started out in early January, we had a few inches here and there before that but my real initiation took place on my way home from a successful hunting trip in Ohio, woke up that morning and hunted it was 40ºF when I hit the stand and 0ºF when I left the house to head home a mere four hours later, the typical seven hour drive home took about twelve and by the time I was on hour two the car thermometer reminded me that it was -40ºF outside.  All through Ohio, Indiana and into Michigan it was snow, blowing snow and cold.  On one stretch of highway I went 60 miles without seeing a car.  But nothing compared to the fun I had once leaving the highway to make the last few miles home.  I captured that with my cell phone (leaned up on the dash not held in hand).

Usually in Michigan we get a snow, it melts and then we get another snow or we get a few snows they melt and then we get a few more.  Not so this year, we got snow, and then snow, and then snow and then snow.  In fact between the snow and then wind we ended up several times with so much snow in our driveway that you could not push it will a full size pickup with a plow and it had to be dug out by hand, which is a not fun task.  You can see the results of our repeated blows here, which at this point they had come through with a loader and opened the road back up to two full lanes of traffic, you can also see our snow piles – which continued to pile up all through March.

And if you get bored there are plenty more winter videos on my YouTube Channel.

And so winter went, not only were we stricken with snow but we were over run by mice, catching seventeen in one week.  We did our best to get the mouse problem under control but not in time to save our seed starts in the basement which the mice decided they would be happy to eat, thanks mice.  So we tried again to much the same result and when winter finally loosened its grip we gave up on the seedlings and planted straight in the ground for a lot of things.

But I am ahead of myself, with plenty of room for gardening we decided to put in our main garden and I say main because we also have an experimental garden behind the barn, but we decided to put our main garden on the properties southern most edge as it was most suitable to be tilled, or so I thought.  After eight hours with a walk behind tiller, literally dozens of rocks and bricks removed we had a tilled garden.

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And now we are stuck with the challenge of watering all that space, which is a challenge because after 250′ of hose to get the water out there we don’t have good pressure, we are now on our third type of sprinkler to try and get decent coverage.  If anyone has any recommendations, send them our way! 

And because of all of this, I, based on lots of feedback am moving away from a food blog and moving into a more comprehensive blog of what is happening in our little corner of Hamilton.  For instance, we bought a house on a hill but for some reason still have a wet basement and a constant puddle behind the barn – so this past weekend we put in drain tile and perhaps the moment most worth noting was the planning and the redneck laser level to make it easy to figure out where we should stay consistent with the trencher and where we should aim to go a little deeper.  So I will leave you with a picture, that is worth a thousand words, sometimes you don’t have the right tool for the job but you can make one that will do the job just as well with what you have (the yellow on is actually a laser level)

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Posted in Gardening Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Smoking with what you got, grill smoked baby back ribs


Wow, its been that long since my last post?!  I have been sorely neglecting my poor blog and almost as much my taste for food!  Well alot has happened since September, for one, last December we packed up all of our stuff and put it in a storage unit (or three) and that includes my beloved smokers – so I have been without my arsenal for nearly 7 full months now and it has been difficult.  We find ourselves living with my in-laws while we are in limbo between our condo and our future home (which we are still looking for) and our stuff is far away.  But, lucky for me my father in law has a nice gas smoker, unlucky for me today’s weather calls for severe storms and strong winds all day.

But let me back up, what in the world do I even need a smoker for today?  Well as it turns out my brother is getting married next weekend (congratulations Dan) and I being ever so thoughtful forgot he may need a stag party before he enters into wedlock and so we find ourselves in need of some grub.  So I find myself up against the wall we are out with friends tonight and then tomorrow its stag party time.  Dan is pretty simple in his tastes but ribs are one thing he likes and one thing I like to make.  So ribs it is, nothing special, usual rub and smoked using the 2-2-1 method (they are baby backs, for regular ribs the 3-2-1 method) but with the stinking gale happening outside my window using the gasser was out of the question, I would spend more time relighting the burner than actually cooking.  So that left me with the charcoal, which would take more care than I could give it today or the gas grill…winner winner chicken pork dinner.

Now I have heard that some of you (you know who you are) will take a rack of ribs and put it into a crock pot and turn it into gray mush and then top with some sauce, the words I have are not kind.  Well no more!  There are no longer excuses, today we will learn how to make ribs on the grill that are just a fuzz less awesome than those off a smoker, after all the one on the smoker get cool points.

Before we can figure out how to cook them on a grill we need to know what makes ribs so special in a smoker, there are a couple of things they are low heat for a long period of time, moisture from the water pan (personal opinion here) and smoke – after all it is a smoker.  These are the things we will need to replicate in the grill.

Ribs on a gas grill, smoked

The first and arguably the most important, or at least a close second piece of the equation to replicate is the low heat for long periods of time – I can hear you now, “…in a crockpot…” Gross!  Anyways so to do that we will only be using one burner (your grill may be different), you will notice in the picture above that the two burners closest to the camera are turned off and just the one is on.  Doing this I am able to maintain a nice 225-250°F cooking temperature (stinking wind, it would be easier without the gales) without much effort.  So that was easy figure out where the grill can happily hold our temperature and leave it there, or at least until you are positive you need to adjust and KEEP THE LID CLOSED!

Grill smoked ribs, water pan and chips

Next there is the smoke and well the water, they are pretty similar so I will cover them together.  The first thing you will need are a couple of foil pans that will fit in your grill, unless you want use your good pans then by all means cast iron would be better.  Take the grate out of your grill if it has the little under grate, sometimes called flavor bars, and set the foil pans directly over the burner you will be cooking with – fill one with water and line the bottom of the other with wood chips soaked in water.

Finally add ribs and cook as if it were on a smoker.  Just like a smoker you will have to refill the water and the smoker chips as needed.  Cook and enjoy, use your crockpot for soup and taking things to potlucks, where with any luck someone will steal it.

Posted in Grilled Goodness, Smoked Goodness Tagged with: , , , ,

Pickled Red Onions, Guaranteed to cause condiment envy

Pickled Red OnionsWell, the blog neglect has gotten worse and worse.  One of these days I will put it on the calendar and give it a go.  This summer has been busy, way to busy.  But fall is upon us and its time to store what I have harvested or at least purchased from the farmers market.  A couple weeks ago I bought a giant red onion with the sole intention of pickling it and that I have since done.  If you have never had red onion pickled on a taco or a burger you are missing out, its some kind of tangy with a little onion crunch.

This has got to be the single easiest condiment to make, ever.  And they will most likely get some looks should you eat them in public or with company present.

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That’s it, a few minutes of work and you have a condiment for the masses.  What is your favorite off the wall condiment?

Posted in Preserving the Harvest, Recipes Tagged with: , , ,

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones

Well, its been a while but things have finally started to slow down around here to the point where we can creatively cook again, just in the nick of time too.  Our annual fourth of July camping trip is coming up quickly and just like years past we are in charge of one meal.  In preparation for this year I thought I would get ahead of the game and actually try cooking something at home before we head out.  In addition to the meat and dessert, which you will likely find on here at the end of the week I am making Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones on the fire, nothing like tending an all day fire for the meat in 100°F weather.  So to practice I got a bag of lump charcoal and fired up the grill.  If you were making these at home in the oven you could form the scones by hand and bake them on a cookie sheet, but in trying to keep it as real as possible to our trip I broke out the Lodge Cornbread Wedge Pan, cleaned it up and dried it out.  Because I was cooking over a fire (on the grill) I did grease the pan with some leftover bacon grease, which I think was a must.

To get started I cooked my bacon, chopped it up finely with my Pampered Chef Chopper, its like the Slap Chop but way better, it allows me to easily chop the bacon extremely fine.  Once my bacon was ready, I got a chimney of lump charcoal fired up and completed the recipe as outlined below.  I then formed the scones into the wedges in the pan, brushed the top with cream and finished getting the grill ready.  Then it was onto the grill on the cooler side, the side away from the coals.

Scones on the grill

While the scones were cooking, being the meat eater I am, I plopped a steak on there as well.  It took about 15 minutes for the scones to cook, which I judged by when the tops began to brown, once they were browned, using heavy gloves, I removed the skillet and promptly removed the scones.

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones ready to be eaten

Then came the taste test, now I am not experienced in the likes of scones but what resulted was delicious, they we tasty and well rounded.  No one taste jumped out more than another, the outside was a bit crispy on the bottom but the inside as flaky and delicious.  I have had two since pulling them off and will likely get a third once I am done writing this.

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In keeping with the camping theme the recipe calls for the dough to be turned out onto a floured surface, well I don’t foresee myself using the picnic table so I practiced doing it all in the bowl and it worked out quite well.  I can’t wait to make these later this week at camp, nothing quite like a little campfire gourmet to take a break from hobo pies and burgers.  Happy Independence Day and eat well!

Posted in Grilled Goodness, Recipes, What's for dinner Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Lentil Chicken Sausage Soup

Lentil and Chicken Sausage Soup

Its sad to see it fall from the number one spot on the site, but it must be done; the bacon must be ousted from its perch a top the chronological post listing and make way for the new.  Thankfully I left something legendary there when I went on an unplanned sabbatical, life just got to busy and my diet tanked.  Thankfully for my health and my free time, life has gotten a little less hectic and cooking has once again commenced.  Not that we weren’t cooking before it was just not note worthy.

A couple weeks ago the local grocer had chicken sausage on sale and what was I to do but scoop some up.  Since then it has been sitting in my freezer waiting to be used, well last night was its time.  We are past due for fresh soup in this home and so into some soup it went.

Lentil and Chicken Sausage Soup

Last night I got everything ready and threw it in the slow cooker in the refrigerator except for the lentils which I added this morning when I pulled it out and turned it on.  My goal being the only one here for dinner was to write this while eating a bowl of the soup, in order to provide an honest review.  Well I have eaten two bowls and have not managed to write a bit of a post.  It doesn’t help that I came home from work famished, but it was a pretty tasty batch of soup.

I had mine just garnished with a handful of freshly ground parmesan cheese, had my wife been here she surely would have added sour cream to make it creamy and cilantro to make it more complex.  Call me simple but I am going to stand by just the parmesan for this one.  You will have to let me know which way you prefer when you make it for yourself.

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Posted in Recipes Tagged with: , , , , ,

about me

this is me

I am a husband, an avid outdoorsmen, a cook, a geek, a runner and a P90X junkie. I enjoy cooking especially with fire and do it as often as I can, you will find many of my cooking and other tales here on my blog.

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