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!

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Unfortunately my diet and exercise regimen has been taking away from my cooking time and variations and because of this I have not blogged nearly frequently enough.  However, today after an intense 60 minutes of plyometrics, well actually about half way through, I started thinking about what kind of chicken we would be having tonight.  We have been eating chicken nearly everyday since the 1st of the year and creativity is the name of the game.  Most nights we just rub something on the chicken breasts, beat em out a bit with the mallet and throw them in the broiler.  Tonight though I got to thinking that we had a little spinach left in the fridge and a little swiss cheese.

Upon further inspection of the fridge and surrounding cupboards I found the rest of my ingredients to make a rather tasty, yet still fairly healthy dinner.

2 chicken breasts
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp pesto
20 spinach leaves stems removed
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp grated parmesan
12 postage stamp size slices of swiss cheese
olive oil
black pepper
dried basil leaves

I started by combining spinach, garlic (minced), parmesan, 1/4 tsp black pepper and pesto in a mortar and pestle I recently got from Amazon.  I crushed all of these ingredients to a pulp and set aside.  I then poured about a tablespoon of olive oil in a glass baking dish and spread it around.  I proceeded to wash each of the chicken breast, butterfly them open and stuff them with half of pesto mixture and 6 of the pieces of cheese, I then rubbed them with olive oil, closed them up with toothpick sprinkled with salt, pepper and dried basil and placed them in the oven at 400ºF for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reached 180ºF.  It was a little shy of 45 minutes.

For such an easy and relatively healthy dish it was quite tasty and we will be making it again.

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Today I took my first stab at smoked cheese, being that it was on sale this week at Family Fare (local supermarket) and I had just gotten a hold on the temperature control of my Brinkmann Electric Smoker.  I decided it was time to take the plunge, I dialed in 100°F on the controller, filled my smoker pan with a mix of Alder and Hickory chips, you know the really fine ones more like big saw dust, figured the might ignite a little better and let the smoker heat up while I prepared the cheese.  I took a single 8oz block of cheddar, and placed it in a foil pan which was placed inside another foil pan filled with ice which was in turn placed in another foil pan filled with ice.  Now I was the ice pan method to allow for a little bit greater heat in the smoker, while still maintaining a solid block of cheese as opposed to a giant pile of goo.

Well when I went out to place the cheese in the smoker there was a faint wisp of smoke trickling out of the smoker and so I placed the cheese in the smoker and walked away.  I came back about a half an hour later only to find that the temperature was percisely where I had left it however, the smoke was no longer happening.  It appears that the temperature controller maintains such tight control on the smoker temperature that the element is not left on for a long enough period at 100ºF for smoke to continually be made.  Noticing this I bumped the temperature up to 110ºF and again had some smoke and left it to do its magic.  Once again I returned to find no smoke, however, at this point I lowered the temperature back to 100ºF walked away and came back 1 hour later to retrieve my cheese.

And to my surprise the cheese did have a light smokey flavor, not like I had hoped for but none the less a smokey flavor.  So my attempt was not a complete failure, I have reaffirmed that the temperature controller works really well, however, I have a little smoker problem to deal with.

All in all this was a success and while I contemplate ways to make a smokey 100ºF smoker run, I will munch on my lightly smoked cheese.

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Every time I head out to Pantera Bread or Russ’ ( a local dutch shop ) I always end up getting the Cheese Broccoli soup so finally I decided to make my own, I gathered together a list of recipes online and concocted one uber recipe and here it is.

Emtpy bowl with spoon

You thought there would be something left?

1 tbsp butter or margarine (for sauteing onion)
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 c melted butter or margarine
1/4 c flour
1 qt half and half
1 qt chicken stock or broth
1 pound fresh broccoli (2 stalks in my case)
1 c carrot shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb grated sharp cheddar
nutmeg to taste (optional)

Saute onion in butter.  Set aside.  Whisk together melted butter and flour over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Add in half and half then chicken stock stirring constantly.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add in broccoli, carrots and onions.  Cook over low heat tell veggies are tender and soup has thickened, about 25 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  Optionally pour soup into blender in batches  to puree before adding cheese.

Add cheese and nutmeg stir until well blended.

Cheese Broccoli Soup

A word of caution my roux became volcanic when I turned my back on it for even a brief second, be careful not to turn the heat up to high.

Another note next time I will most likely be using 1/2 lb mild and a 1/2 lb sharp cheddar as the soup was a little sharp for my taste, but good none the less.

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