Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day

Opening day wasn't to kind to the Tigers this year they lost to the Royals 5-4 in eleven innings. I am not going to blame the bullpen for this one because this game was lost in the first three innings.

The Tiger hitters had chances in the beginning of the game to score runs and they couldn't take advantage of the situations. The Tigers left 10 base runners stranded. Guillen started off the 2nd with a double and got stranded there without ever moving up. Guillen had a big day though with the double, single and his first home run of the season. Cabrera also had his first home run of the season while making his Tiger debut.

I watched the first two innings when Verlander was cruising through the batters and then I had to go back to work. I was listening on the radio when Verlander got into the sixth inning and gave up 4 runs. Grilli came in the sixth and gave up a base hit and got credit for his first blown save opportunity.

After that the bull pen did its job until the top of the 11th when they finally gave up a run. An encouraging sign for Todd Jones was the ninth inning he pitched. He was perfect with a strikout.

All in all a very encouraging day for the bull pen but not the supposedly feared Tigers batting lineup. Next game will be Wednesday afternoon. Let's hope for a better outcome.

When I got home tonight I turned on the Cubs game as they were playing the Brewers. The Brewers were ahead in the bottom of the ninth and the Cubs got the first two guys on base. Fukudome (a Japanese born player that signed with the Cubs over the winter) came up to bat and worked the count to 3-0. The next pitch was a strike which made the count 3-1. Gagne, the Brewers pitcher, was struggling to throw strikes and Fukudome must of been sitting on a fastball because he got one and quickly deposited it in the center field seats. Game tied, crowd sounds like it is the 7th game of the world series.

But in true Cubs fashion they blew it in the 10th inning. Oh well, 0-2 for my two favorite teams on opening day.

On a brighter note the Washington Nationals, my third favorite team, won their home opener last night 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth against the Atlanta Braves. Today the Nats played at Philadelphia and won 11-6 scoring 5 runs in the top of the ninth. Get those tickets early the Nats band wagon is starting to fill up. They will be lucky to finish .500 this year but they already look better than last year. Nick Johnson is back this year and he is going to really help the Nats lineup.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Play Ball!!!!!

Folks it is that time of year again, time for the boys of summer to run out on the field and take over the sports headlines. Fastballs, curveballs, split fingers, homeruns, hit and runs, bunts, diving catches, routine plays and Sport Center Top Ten plays. It is baseball time. Today is opening day in baseball (I don't count the games in Japan because baseball is America's game and the major leagues should open in America) tomorrow is opening day for the Detroit Tigers and in a rare scheduling quirk the Tigers get to open at home this year. Normally they would start someplace just a little bit warmer.

This is the best time of the year for all baseball fans because there is hope for every team. Every team starts in first place even the Tampa Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Neither of these two teams should be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until May or early June.

This year I am armed with 70 sports stations to watch just about any team I want. Just like my sisters with their reality show updates you can expect plenty of updates on baseball especially the Tigers. And the best news of all, unlike Survivor or Idol, baseball is 7 nights a week until October. It just don't get no better than that.

I thought I would start off this year with an introduction of the Detroit Tigers so everybody will be familiar with them for the whole year as I write about them.

Jim Leyland - Manager - He is an old school manager, chain smoker, a little ornery, and brutely to the point with his players. He knows how to push the right buttons on his players to get them to play exactly the way he wants. Remember back in 2006 when the Tigers were floundering away in the beginning of the season he lit them up in the media, the Tigers haven't looked back since. I think this is still the single biggest reason for all the success that has followed the Tigers since.

Ivan 'Pudge' Rodriguez - Catcher - Evan though Pudge is getting up there in age, especially for a catcher, I think he has one more good year left in him. I expect a big year out of Pudge not only for the great spring training he had, .429 BA and 6 homeruns, but because he is in the last year of his contract. Normally when players are in their last year of a contract they produce some big numbers.

Carlos Guillen - First Base - He played shortstop last year but his knees are starting to prevent him from being a major league shortstop he needs to be for the Tigers to make a serious run at the World Series. I have to give a lot of credit to Guillen for making this move because he did it for the good of the Team. Most players would refuse to make a move like this regardless of the Team's needs. He will be a big upgrade from last year in terms of power numbers and production. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a run at a Gold Glove.

Placido Polanco - Second Base - If I were starting a team and needed a second baseman this is one of the guys I would want. He quietly goes out and does the job he is suppose to do to the tune of no errors in 2007 and a .341 batting average. He is the best number two hitter in all of baseball. He can hit and run, bunt and rarely strikes out. You can attribute a lot of the Tigers quick starts last year to Polanco.

Edgar Renteria - Shortstop - He is one of the new Tigers this year. The Tigers got him from Atlanta last winter to shore up the shortstop position. He brings his .332 batting average and .975 fielding percentage with him from last year. He is a 5 time all star and 2 time gold glove winner. The only problem with him is the last year he was in the American League with the Boston Red Sox he hit only .276. Let's hope that trend doesn't continue.

Miguel Cabrera - Third Base - He is a huge upgrade offensively at third base and a downgrade defensively. I am hoping the offensive numbers out weigh the defensive drop. He has a career .313 batting average and averages over 30 home runs per year and he is only 25 years old. He has already played in 4 all star games in his short career. Let's hope he was worth everything the Tigers gave up for him, I think he will be.

Jacque Jones, Marcus Thames - Left Field - This will be a platoon position depending on who is pitching for the day on the opposing team. This should be an upgrade from a year ago because of the struggles of Craig Monroe for most of the year. All the Tigers need from this position is consistency, the rest of the lineup will do the rest.

Curtis Granderson - Center Field - Is there a better person in all of baseball? I think not. He is what professional athletes should be courteous, educated, and talented. He strives to improve each and every year in baseball, he is a superstar in the making. He is the lead off hitter for the Tigers with a career .280 batting average. He is the second player ever in the major leagues to post at least 20 double, 20 triples, 20 homeruns and 20 stolen bases in a season. The other player, Willie Mays, not bad company. Now if he would only cut down on the strikeouts.

Magglio Ordonez - Right Field - He was in the running for the MVP of the league last year and if he can duplicate last year I think the Tigers have a chance of scoring 1000 runs this year. Mags has a career batting average of .312 and averages almost 30 home runs a year. My only worry is Magglio's age and if he can keep up the pace of the last couple of years.

Gary Sheffield - Designated Hitter - If Sheffield can stay healthy he should have a good year. I am afraid the way he swings a bat he won't be able to though. He has to be the hardest swinger in the major leagues. What I like about Sheff is the patience he has at the plate. You will rarely see him swing at a bad pitch. I just wish this would rub off on some of the other hitters.

Brandon Inge, Vance Wilson, Ramon Santiago, Ryan Rayburn, Clete Thomas - I think Brandon Inge is the key here with his versatility to play any position. With Granderson starting the year on the disabled list Inge will be the starting center fielder on opening day. When injuries crop up this year, and they will, Inge will be instrumental in plugging the holes. Next will be Ryan Rayburn. He is a young promising player destined for a future starting spot either in the outfield or at second base. It would not surprise me if the Tigers traded him for some much needed relief help before the trade deadline approaches.

Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis - Starting Pitchers - This could have the makings of a great starting fivesome. Verlander and Bonderman are young and yet to have their best years. Willis is young too and if the Tigers can get him back to his form of 3-4 years ago he will be the stopper very few teams have on the back end of their rotation. Robertson should be steady and dependable as long as the Tiger's hitters give him some run support. Kenny Rogers is the big key in my eyes. If he goes out and pitches like he did in 2006 the Tigers will win the division and if he doesn't I think the Tigers will struggle. He won't blow batters away with his fastball but he will out think them. I think this is the most important item Rogers brings with him to this team. I thought it was very important that the Tigers sign him because of his influence on the young pitchers on this staff. There are some things that can't be measured by stats and Kenny Rogers influence is one of them.

Todd Jones, Denny Bautista, Zach Miner, Jason Grilli, Bobby Seay, Yorman Bazardo, and Aquilino Lopez - Relief Pitchers - Oh boy where do you start. Let me say I am not worried about Todd Jones what I am worried about is getting to Todd Jones. This is a huge hole in the Tigers team and I believe this is the area on the team that cost them the division last year. We can all forget about Rodney coming back I don't think he will ever be back with all his arm troubles. I think the only hope is getting Joel Zumaya back to his old form of 2006. If the Tigers don't shore up the bullpen I think there may be a lot of heart breaking losses late in games this summer.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Little Baseball, A Little Food

Baseball Time
I finally did it I broke down and purchased Fox Sports Detroit from Direct TV. I just couldn't stand the thought of not being able to watch the Tigers this year. The real bonus of purchasing FSD is I also got about 70 other regional sports stations. Now how can you beat that? The wife is pleased.

I got to watch the Washington Nationals today playing in their new ballpark in DC. They were playing Baltimore and ended up winning 3-0. The Nats already look better this year than they did last year at this time. Jason Bergman started for the Nats and looked good. This was the last preseason game before the home opener tomorrow night. Tomorrow night is the first official game in the new ballpark in DC and will be broadcast on ESPN.

If anybody ever went to a game in the old ballpark the Nats were playing in, RFK, this will be a huge improvement. A high school field would be a huge improvement. At old RFK stadium you felt like you needed binoculars just to see the players. Plus the out field fences were so far out it made the outfielders look like they were playing real shallow. And we won't even talk about the food.

If I was still living in Arlington I am sure I would have been at that game today but I will settle for the next best thing for now, my 70 channels of sports channels so I can watch just about any team I want now.

Dinner Time
For the last few weeks I have been trying to decide which new barbecue grill I wanted to buy. I finally settled on a new 22" Weber Gold Series. For general barbecuing you can't beat the versatility of a Weber. If you notice it is a charcoal grill, not gas. I have nothing against gas but........................if you are going to use gas why not just cook inside on the stove?

For the last 4-5 years I have been grilling on my smoker because it has a grilling side. The only problem with my smoker is it is really set up more for smoking than grilling. The grilling side is small and makes it hard to control the temperature for proper cooking, especially for chicken. This is not the case with a Weber. While the Weber is not smoker (although you can use if for one it just doesn't work as good as a regular smoker) it is still one of the best grilling machines out there. I chose the larger size because now I can cook for a crowd. The other two sizes, the table top model and the mid sized model, I just didn't think were large enough. This particular model has an ash catcher. After using it I don't think I would buy it without an ash catcher. It is the difference of having ashes blowing around all over the place or neatly catching them in a small bucket underneath the grill for disposal later. You can also purchase this same model with a gas igniter to light the charcoal. This was the only choice I had to make regarding which Weber I wanted. In the end I decided on the old fashion way of doing things, the good old chimney starter. I just couldn't pay the money for the little extra convenience of one touch charcoal lighting. Beside I could already tell what was going to happen as soon as the gas ran out for the charcoal lighter, I would be right back to the chimney lighter.

Armed with a new grill the menu choice tonight was barbecue chicken with roasted potatoes. The new Weber cooked the chicken to near perfection without much fuss. I couldn't be more pleased. This was so much easier than cooking chicken on the old grill.

This is not the location the chicken was cooked on in the grill. The chicken was actually cooked in the center over the pan of water you can see in the bottom of the grille. Once the chicken is cooked I move the chicken over the coals after I apply the barbecue sauce just to finish it real quick.

What is in the aluminum foil package you ask? Why that is the roasted potatoes. Easy to make, slice the potatoes, a little salt, some pepper, real butter, garlic and onions (ok I will admit it I forgot onions today) and wrap it all up in the foil. Slap that baby on the grill for about a hour and presto, easy potatoes. And why not cook potatoes, the grill is hot and now with my new 22" Weber I have room.

I used my homemade barbecue sauce today on the chicken with some slight modifications. I think I made a huge step today with the barbecue sauce. I tweaked an ingredient or two today and I came real close to the flavor I wanted. It is still a secret but I think the first time someone else tries it they may be able to figure out what is in it.

Tomorrow I will try it on some ribs. I will also be using the old smoker for the ribs after all I don't want it to feel like the middle child in the family.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Picking Up More Scraps

Tonight as the sweet sixteen basketball games are playing in the background I went through every bodies post on the greatest rock bands and listened to and watched everyone of the songs. There were some long forgotten songs and bands, bands I have heard of but never had heard any music from and some real "interesting" ones. I even heard a couple of bands I think I will check out in the near future. I really enjoyed going through all the different types of music posted. I forgot how much I really enjoy music.

Now, as my little sister says, "I will pick up the scraps everyone else missed."

These bands wouldn't necessarily make my top 20 or even my top 100 they are just bands I enjoy. Some of the bands may only be one hit wonders but I still may like a particular song they sang.

Charlie Daniels Band - I was in Sault Ste. Marie one night in the casino an guess who was playing? There was a door open to the concert and myself and the guy I was with just walked right in. I found myself about 30 feet in front of Charlie Daniels himself hammering away on his fiddle. It was great until the security guard tapped me on the shoulder and said he thought it was best if we leave.

Marshall Tucker Band - If I could only pick one song to slow dance to it would be "Can't You See." For slow songs it don't get no better than this.

Allman Brothers Band - The architects of southern rock. While Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special built the house of southern rock the Allman Brothers Band laid the foundation for everybody to build on top of.

The Outlaws - A little known southern rock and may have even been considered country music in their later years. I always liked their early work.

Is my love of southern rock showing yet?

Georgia Satellites - A band that should be up with the all time greats but I am not sure what happened to them. They produced some great music and then faded into the sunset.

The James Gang - Do you know who the main character was in this band? That's right Joe Walsh. No wonder they are so good. Reminds me of Rush with the quality of music that comes out of a three member band.

Montrose - Another band that didn't last to long but left their mark on rock and roll. My favorite song is Space Station #5 but there wasn't a video of it. I thought everyone might enjoy seeing a young Sammy Hagar in action.

Kim Mitchell - Time for one of those one hit wonders, Kim Mitchell. I heard this song today on the radio and have always enjoyed it. It is one of those "fun" songs.

With that it is time to go for a soda.

Now for an update on Guns 'n Roses. Dr. Pepper says it will give out a free pop to everybody except Slash and Buckethead if they release their album "Chinese Democracy" by the end of the year. This album has been 15 years in the making and it better be good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Greatest of Rock Bands

This will be the last chance I have to do a long winded post for the next couple of weeks because another job has been given to me. This one is from a contractor in Mt. Pleasant that gives 5 to 6 jobs a year to do. When they don't know what to do they call me. This new building is in Ithaca an will be manufacturing airplane or jet parts. Enough of the boring stuff let's get on with the real post for tonight.

With all the post and everybody that has linked to their blogs it got me to thinking about my favorite bands. I have been doing a lot of searching on playlist and YouTube to find some of the old favorites. I know I probably missed one or two bands that should be in this list and I also know if you ask me next week this list would change. These are my favorite bands this week so let's get started.

1. Grand Funk Railroad - We're An an American Band, The Railroad (this will be next weeks classic rock song), Closer to Home, Foot Stompin' Music, these are just a few of the great rock songs they performed. GFR is a Michigan born band with most of their hits coming in the '70s. They play pure rock music, none of that sythesized music that came along in the 80s and 90's. Their roots are pure blues, in fact most bands on this list are heavily influenced by the blues. Grand Funk Railroad is still around and touring at different times. I have never seen them live but some day I hope to.

2. Guns 'n Roses - Truly one of the greatest rock bands ever and if they would have been able to get along I think they would have been the greatest ever. Not only could they write goods songs but they had the talent to play it too. Even the remakes they recorded are better than the originals. It to bad they were such idiots. By the way anybody out there seen my cd lately? pj?

3.Lynyrd Skynyrd - They were great before tragedy stuck them and they are great even after tragedy struck them. This band has stood the test of time and keeps coming out with good music. They are still touring and still sound the same after all these years. Great songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird, Gimmie Three Steps, Saturday Night Special, Tuesdays Gone and the list goes on and on. Maybe the best of all songs is Simple Man. Just so happens it is this weeks Classic Rock Song.

4. 38 Special - Yes I do like my southern rock bands and 38 Special is no exception. Technically they may be the best band you will ever hear live just check out my post from a few days ago and listen to Hold on Loosely. It is hard to tell the live version from the studio.

5. Kenny Wayne Shepherd - They play pure simple music and I like it. If you happened to listen to my Classic Rock song from last week Blue on Black you will know what I mean. The lead singer has a great voice for the type of music they play and Kenny Wayne Shepherd is one of the better guitar player around today. This band is just about as close to the blues today as you can get.

6. Ted Nugent - I know most of you probably think I just went nuts. But how can you not like Uncle Ted, the wackmaster, he plays rock and roll the way it was meant to be played, from the guitar to the amp to the speaker. He makes it loud to play it loud. He may be controversial but let's remember he has never done drugs, doesn't drink and believes in the American way and the spirit of the wild.

I think I just blew my speakers up.

7. Eagles - This band was good before Joe Walsh joined them and even got better after he joined them. The Eagles can play anything and everything they play sounds great. They even get a little country sometimes. I just saw a concert on PBS with them and they sound as good today as they did 20 years ago. I think everyone in the band could sing.

8. REO Speedwagon - I saw this band once over at the casino in Mt. Pleasant and I believe this is the best way to watch them. They have enough talent they don't need fancy light shows or large props to help them. I was throughly impressed by their sound. And the lead singer Kevin Cronin sounds as good in person as he does on his albums.

9. Journey - If you would have asked me in the late 70s or early 80s I would have told you this was my favorite band of all time but times change. The first time I heard the Infinity album I was sitting in my dorm room listening to it with Kozmo. We couldn't believe a rock band could make music like this. This is one of the few times I had shivers in my spine and we just knew this was going to be a great album.

10. Moody Blues - The Moody Blues? That's right the Moody Blues. You are probably trying to figure out what songs they sing. I once thought the same thing and then I saw them on a PBS special preforming in concert at Red Rocks in Colorado. Needless to say I watched them for two hours, well beyond my normal bedtime, and have loved them ever since. Here is a list of some of the songs; Nights in White Satin, You're Wildest Dreams, Ride My See Saw, Tuesday Afternoon, I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock 'n Roll Band) and many others.

Honorable mentions go to Deep Purple, Credence Clear Water Revival, Styx, Rush, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and the Archie's (just kidding).

There you have it, my favorite bands of all time. I think I have listened to 10-12 hours of music to get this list. It took me about 3 hours tonight to decide which songs I wanted to play. I think the Moody Blues were the hardest to do because they have so many great songs.

I would like to see everybody else put together a post with their all time favorite bands. I think it would be interesting.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ribs, Ribs and More Ribs Cont.

The next day is finally here and anticipation is in the air. I am always excited to get started cooking ribs. I think ribs should be one of the basic food groups right along side of seafood, beef and beer.

Take the ribs out of the refrigerator about an hour before you are going to start cooking them. This will help them to cook better if you start them at room temperature. If I used a marinade I dump it down the sink. Some people will use it as a braising liquid but I always start over. If a rub was used then there is nothing to do but get the ribs out.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Now it is time to prepare the ribs for cooking. There are several ways to cook ribs. One way is to par boil them but if I ever hear anyone doing this I will personally come over and kick you in the ass. Years ago I used to do this and someone should have kick me in the ass because I think all this does is boil the flavor out of the ribs. Another way is to cook them on the smoker, my favorite, but for now we are talking about an easy way to cook ribs and that ain't necessarily it. The easiest and most fool proof way to cook ribs is braising. A low and slow braising.

I have tried different ways to braise ribs, in my cast iron dutch oven and in casserole dishes but the best way I have come across so far is tin foil. Yep tin foil. I buy the large rolls of tin foil (the good stuff not the cheap stuff) and wrap the ribs up in it. I start by laying out a large piece of foil (large enough to make at least one complete wrap around the ribs. Start by folding in one end and then fold over both sides and try to make it as leak proof as possible. Keep one of the ends open. Now I flip the ribs over and do this again trying to get the foil as leak proof as possible. Remember to keep one end open for now.

The next step is choosing the braising liquid you will be using. If I have used a marinade I will normally use a similar braising liquid. For instance if I used root beer and balsamic vinegar I would use the same combination for the braising liquid. If I used a rub then I would use whatever I feel like using. I have used wine, beer, bourbon, root beer, apple juice, apple cider and orange juice. There are many others out there to numerous to mention. You can also use just water.

Here is one from my buddy Alton Brown.
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp of white wine vinegar
2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of honey
2 cloves garlic chopped
Microwave on high for one minute

Take whatever braising liquid you have chosen and dump it into the end you left open on the tin foil. Once the liquid is in the package seal up the end and lay flat in a casserole dish.

Slip the ribs into the preheated oven and set the timer for 2 hours 30 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes. I am assuming you are cooking 1 slab of ribs, if you are doing more than one slab it will take a little more time. I am not sure how much more time since all I have cooked in the last year is one slab at a time. Now just sit back and wait.

Once the timer goes off take the ribs out of the oven and let them cool off for a few minutes. Open up one end of the tin foil and discard the braising liquid. Now my buddy Alton dumps the braising liquid into a pan and cooks it down on the stove and uses this as his glaze for the ribs. I tried this and wasn't to impressed. I thought it tasted to much like pork fat. After all the fat melts off the ribs during cooking and ends up in the braising liquid.

Be careful with the ribs because they will probably be falling apart. If you have cooked them perfectly they will just hold together when you pick them up. It will depend on the oven what the perfect time is. After you have cooked ribs once you will have a lot better idea for the next time.

Place the ribs meat side down on a broiling rack. Brush on your favorite glaze or bbq sauce. If you want recommendations on bbq sauce my preference is Billy Bones Original (this can be a little spicy so you may want the Billy Bones Mild) or Sweet Baby Rays. If you made the root beer glaze brush it on at this time. Turn the broiler on and slide the ribs under the broiler. Be careful because the sugar in the bbq sauce will burn fast. Normally this only takes a minute on each side. When the first side is done flip over apply more bbq sauce or glaze and back under the broiler for another minute.

Pull the ribs out and let sit on a cutting board for 3 to 5 minutes. Let the meat rest after all it has been a long journey. Once the ribs have rested slice into one or two bone servings. You can apply a little more bbq sauce if you want before you serve them or let your guest apply it themselves at the table or don't do it at all. If you used the root beer glaze I would skip this step. The ribs are plenty sweet already.

Get out the napkins and serve with cole slaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad and enjoy.

That's it, simple and yet tasty. Once you learn this you will have a hard time finding a restaurant that can make ribs as good as you can. Just remember it might take a time or two to get the oven temperature right and the cooking time right.

Also remember use ingredients you like and you can't go wrong.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ribs, Ribs and More Ribs

Grab your pen and pencils, get a piece of paper and be prepared to take notes. This is what you have been waiting for: A lesson on how I cook ribs, the easy way.

First you need to know what you are looking for and looking at in the store. To the right is a picture that explains where the different cuts of ribs come from on a pig. There is three different cuts of ribs on a pig; spare rib, St. Louis style rib and baby back ribs.

The spare rib is the largest of the three and pound for pound probably the cheapest too. I think spare ribs are harder to cook than the St. Louis style or the baby back ribs. They are also harder to cut apart after they are cooked and I don't think they are a flavorful as baby back ribs. I don't buy these ribs.

Next is the St. Louis style rib; meaty, good size, lots of pork flavor and the choice of a lot of bbq rib cookers. The only problem is they can be hard to find. I think they are more of a regional type of rib only found it certain parts of the country. I have seen them in the store but not very often. Let's rule these out too.

My favorite is the baby back rib. Baby back ribs are the perfect size for cooking in the oven or on the smoker. Easy to cook, easy to cut apart after cooking and lots of flavor. Just look at the picture above, the baby back ribs come from the same area as pork chops. They do cost a little more than a spare rib but if you watch for them on sale you can buy them at a pretty reasonable price. I use baby back ribs almost exclusively.

Once you have chosen your rib type it is time to think about how to prepare them. But before you prepare them there is something you need to do. Some people don't do this but the real barbequer's will. Flip the ribs over so the meat side is down and you are looking at the bone side. If you look close you will see a thin white membrane across the whole back of the rib. What I try to do is work a small knife under the membrane just enough to stick a finger between the membrane and the meat. I then work my finger to the other side of the rib and then gently pull the membrane in one direction until it comes off the end. I then pull in the other direction and finish taking the rest of the membrane off. Don't worry if it doesn't come off in one piece. Sometimes it will and sometimes you will have to cuss at it and try several times to get it all off.

Now for the hardest part of cooking ribs, what to put on them. You can marinade them, put a rub on them or just salt and pepper. If you salt and pepper them you can wait until you are ready to cook them. If you are going to use a marinade or rub it is best to apply it the day before. Lately I have been using salt and pepper because I have been working on my bbq sauce and I don't want the rub or marinade to get in the way of the flavor of the bbq sauce.

For marinades you can use store bought ones or make one yourself. I always make my own and I have used apple juice, orange juice, wine, beer, root beer, and bourbon. My favorite is orange juice, balsamic vinegar (equal amounts), and brown sugar. The wifes favorite is bourbon and apple juice. The real secret to marinades is to use what you like. (The root beer one is a interesting one too.)

The rules for rubs are the same as the rules for marinades; either buy one from the store or make one yourself and only use ingredients you like. For instance most rubs you either buy or find a recipe for will have chili in them. Since I am not a big fan of the chili flavor I don't use it. Most of my rubs have very little chili in them or none at all. Here is the rub I have been using lately but feel free to change it however you want.

1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of paprika
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of onion powder
1 tsp of dry mustard
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp of chipotle red pepper (or cheyenne pepper) (be careful here because this ingredient can ruin your day if you use to much)

I prefer the chipotle pepper to cheyenne pepper because it has a smoky taste to it. I have recently substituted the regular paprika for sweet hungarian paprika, this really sweetened up the rub and I think improved it. Dad really liked it too.

Whether you decide to use a marinade or rub or nothing at all store the ribs in the refrigerator until the next day.

That is part one in this two part series on the easy way to cook ribs. I decided to do this in a two part series because quite frankly I am tired of typing tonight. Come back tomorrow and I will finish the series because if you got this far like I said earlier the hard part is done.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Disaster Avoided

Another weekend has almost passed without much incident. This was however a little different than most because we had most of the kids here. Lee had joined us a little over a week ago when we took a midnight ride to the U.P. to pick him up. Friday afternoon little j, mom and dad showed up for Easter. The only two missing were Amy(we actually thought at one time last week she was going to be here) and big J (not sure where she is since I haven't heard from her in a coon's age.

They arrived here without much trouble. They ran into a late Wisconsin snow storm for the last 60 miles of their trip. Thank goodness most of the snow stayed to the south of us because Milwaukee got 13" of the damned white stuff. We ended up with about 2" of snow which turned out to set a new record for snowfall in this area.

They brought their usual stuff with them, mom her Corona beer and lime wedges. Dad had to stop in the U.P. and get his smoked fish. Normally dad would stop in Moran at the fish market because he thinks that is the best smoked fish he has ever had but I had told him about another place, The Cut River Store, I thought was even better. That is where he picked up the smoked fish this time. Little j brought, well I am not sure what he brought.

Once they were settle in and checked out the house I suggested we go eat because after all it is Friday night in Wisconsin and these Wisconsin people love their Friday night fish fries. We headed for a place call Three Guys and a Grill located out in the back woods of Wisconsin. You always have to be careful when you take dad out for fish because he is the biggest critic I know when it comes to cooking and eating fish. He still makes the best deep fried fish I have ever had and he really does know the difference between good fish and bad fish. Since Wisconsin is known for their Friday night fish fries myself and the wife have been to quite a few in the area over the last few months so we could find one that would be good enough to take him to. Our favorite has been Three Guys and a Grill. They lightly bread their fish and more importantly they do not over cook their fish. On Friday nights they serve perch, bluegill and walleye. I have never had the walleye but the perch and the bluegill are real good with bluegill being my favorite.

Mom, dad and little j got the combination plate of perch and bluegill while I ordered bluegill only. The wife got bbq ribs (she didn't think she could eat fish after the last time she ordered it a couple of weeks ago) and Lee ordered the shrimp and steak combo. It was a good meal and everybody was satisfied with their food. (If anybody wants a ranking it would be 4.5 forks out of 5 because it is hard to find a place that has good fish. Most places, at least to me, are a big disappointment when it comes to cooking fish Three Guys and a Grill does it right.)

Since Saturday was going to be our Easter meal the wife and I wanted to do something a little different. We had just bought a ham a couple of weeks ago and really didn't want to have ham again even though it is a traditional Easter feast. Turkey was out since most of us had our fill of it during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. What I would like to do is a rib roast but since little sis did one for Christmas for mom and dad I didn't think that was right. (I will tell you this though, the next time we have company over here I am going to do one out on the smoker, assuming the weather is right. I need company because a rib roast is to much meat for just me and the wife.) We had finally decided on pork tenderloin but when I got to the meat market all they had were small tenderloins. Sitting next to the pork tenderloins however was center cut pork roast. The center cut pork roast is the center portion of the pork chop only it is a long chunk of meat. (It would be the equivalent of the rib roast from the beef family and about 1/2 the price, woot as little sister would say.) After I brought this 5.25 pound chunk of meat home on Friday I unwrapped it and immediately applied a rub. The rub consisted of sweet Hungarian paprika, brown sugar, dried mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. I then wrapped up the pork roast and threw it in the refrigerator for Saturday.

On Saturday morning little j helped me haul our garbage to the dump (that's right folks no garbage pick up here.) Later in the morning I took little j and dad for a ride where they got to see where toilets are made. The excitement never stops. Mom and the wife went down to the cheese factory where mom proceeded to purchase $50 worth of cheese. Anybody reading this and within driving distance of mom should get over to their house because she has real string cheese, cheese curds and mozzarella cheese. You probably won't get the mozzarella cheese from her but she will probably give you some string cheese and cheese curds. Believe me they alone are worth the drive over there.

When it came time to cook the pork roast there was only one way to cook it, the smoker. When I cook meat, if the weather is cooperating, I prefer to cook it either on the grille or in the smoker. If you have read my post before you know I prefer using charcoal to cook with, not that wimping gas or the real lazy way with a smoker, electric. Nope, charcoal and wood, the only way to cook and smoke. We fired up the smoker, got it up to the required 225 to 250 degrees cooking/smoking temperature and slapped the chunk of pork in there for the three to four hours it would take to produce a tasty piece of meat you can only get from charcoal and wood. My biggest mistake of the day was letting the internal temperature of the pork roast get to 149 degrees before I took it off the smoker. The perfect temperature, with my digital thermometer anyway, is 147 degrees. I know what everybody is thinking, what is two degrees? Two degrees is everything with a pork roast that doesn't have hardly any fat on it for self basting. It is the difference between succulently moist pork to pork that is just a bit dry. It isn't bad but if allowed to go much further than the two degrees over my ending temperature it starts to dry out real fast. It was still good and combined with garlic mashed potatoes and cauliflower we all had a great meal for Easter.

Last night we watched the Michigan State basketball team defeat Pittsburgh. I know big whoops and for once I agree but mom likes her MSU basketball. I think she knows all the player names and possibly even the cheerleaders names.

This morning I got up early to make everybody breakfast before they left. Little j wanted me to make banana stuffed french toast but since he didn't tell us this before someone went to the store he had to settle for pancakes, eggs, and apple smoked bacon. If anybody ever comes here and reminds us before we go to the store they would like banana stuffed french toast I will make it. It is a real treat for breakfast. When Amy comes over here she will call ahead of time and tell us she is expecting us to make it for her. Anyway I don't think mom and dad will have to eat for the rest of the day, now the boys might be a different story (Lee went back to Michigan with them.) Lee did say before he left he gained 5 pounds while he was here.

Dad wanted to make one stop on their way home and that was at the Cut River Store to pick up some more smoked fish. After he ate some of their smoked fish he now has a new favorite place to buy it from. Mom has her cheese and little j probably has some future post material to share. By the way mom also has some of my homemade bbq sauce with her. I need people to try it and let me know what it is missing. It needs something I am not sure what. All reviews will be appreciated whether good or bad.

All in all a pretty darn good weekend. Sometimes you never know how some of these things are going to turn out. We had good food, good conversations, and relived some old memories. We can't wait for the next time we have company for a weekend.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Official

The votes are in, they have been counted and recounted and it is official, my classic rock song of the week will remain.

A week ago I wasn't sure anybody was listening to it or watching it so I was thinking about pulling it. So when in doubt put up a poll and let the people decide. In a classic Florida way of counting the classic rock song lives another day.

In honor of the classic rock song I will give you an extra this week.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd again with the Allman Brothers classic "Midnight Rider." I love that song and this version is just about as good as the original. In fact I just got yelled at from the other room for playing it to loud. This song was made load to play load.

This type of music has probably been my favorite type for a long time. It is a southern rock sound with a heavy blues influence. Bands like Marshall Tucker, 38 Special, Lynard Skynard have always been some of my favorites. I know I am starting to border towards the country music but I think it is country music that has moved towards the southern rock sound, not the other way around.

What can I say I like my classic rock songs.

This is a live version of this song. You would have to think hard to find a band that sounds this good live. Maybe the Eagles, maybe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This is Going to Hurt

It was a nice sunny day with just a hint of a breeze that day in the summer of 1973. It was the summer of my fifteenth birthday. I was cool, as cool as a 15 year old can be. I was wearing my typical wardrobe, blue jeans, white tee shirt and of course tennis shoes.

I always got a new pair of tennis shoes every summer and come school time in the fall that pair of tennis shoes would always be worn out. My tennis shoes never spent much time on the rug by the back door, my tennis shoes were always on my feet taking me somewhere. On this particular day they had taken me down to the neighbors to the south.

I rode my trusty bike down to the neighbors house. This isn't just any old bike, this is a Schwinn bike. A 20" Schwinn bike with knobby tires, banana seat and high rise handle bars. It was a beautiful gold Schwinn bike. A bike I had modified to go little faster than most 20" banana seat bikes. At that time I didn't know much about gears and physics but I did know if you put a larger sprocket on the front where the peddles are and a smaller sprocket on the back the bike would go faster. This Schwinn bike was a tough old bike. Oh I broke a couple of front axles on it, wore out a sprocket and chain, and blew out a couple of tires but we always got it back on the road again. That bike only stopped at night when it got dark out. And then at times my brother would ride it up and down the driveway after dark until someone told him to come inside. Needless to say that bike had a lot of miles on it.

Myself and my brother had gotten the bike for Christmas about the time I was six or seven years old. Our sisters had gotten one too with the only difference being theirs was a girls bike and had a pretty white basket on the front. We would ride the bikes in the house until the day came when one of the girls ran into a wall. That was the end of that as dad kicked both bikes out the door never to see the inside of the house again.

The time was about 4:00 in the afternoon and and that meant it would soon be supper time. Every family in the neighborhood had a regular supper time. Ours happened to be 4:30 to 5:00. The neighbors to the south about 5:30 and the neighbors across the road 6:00. You didn't miss supper either. Everybody was expected to be there and not only that you had to eat at least one of every item mom made for supper that night. That could be an ordeal at times.

I started for home with the ride being just about a 1/4 of a mile. Like most 15 year old boys you can't consider yourself cool unless you can ride without your hands on the handle bars and I was no exception. I could ride for miles without grabbing the handle bars. It really wasn't all the hard to do, you can even turn corners without using the handle bars. I usually kept my hands down on the front part of the banana seat or on my knees. It was also cool to pop wheelies and if that wasn't enough you needed to ride that wheelie too. I couldn't ride wheelies as far as some 15 year boys could do at the time but I could go for a little ways.

I was about half the way home when I got this brilliant idea. What if I could not only ride without any hands on the handle bars but what if I could do it and ride a wheelie at the same time? Sounds like something you would only see in a circus and at the time it sounded fairly easy, especially to a cool 15 year old boy on his gold colored Schwinn bike with the banana seat and high rise handle bars.

I waited for my right foot to come around to be at the top of the peddle stroke and grabbed the front of the banana seat. When my foot was in the proper position I pushed down a little harder with my right foot and pulled up slightly on the banana seat with my hands. Wow, that front tire came off the ground real easy. It was at least 12" off the ground. This is where the problem starts, this is also where I start to learn about physics. As the front tire is comfortably 12" off the ground and I was admiring my own abilities to ride no handed and pop a wheelie at the same time the front handle bars suddenly turned 90 degrees. Normally not a problem, just grab the handle bars and straighten them out right? The only problem is I missed the handle bars. And when I missed the handle bars this is where the physics part kicked in. A little known phenomenon called gravity decided to kick in. I can still remember thinking to myself "This is going to hurt." Down comes the front end of the bike with the tire still 90 degrees from the proper direction for good rotation and digs into the gravel road for an immediate stop. Up to this point in my life I had never had the pleasure of going over the handle bars of a bike. Like I said up to this point as I went over the handle bars and landed on my right arm. I am greatful for a right arm it actually saved most of my body from getting torn up. Oh that right arm made up for it. Blood covered my entire right arm. The only other marks on me was a small scrap on my chin. The second worse thing about wiping out on a gravel road wasn't hitting the ground or the blood or the pain, it was all the gravel stuck in my arm. I just knew it was going to have to come out and that was going to hurt worse than the actual wipe out.

Oh, the worse thing about wiping out? Dad saw me do it. He watched me ride no handed, saw me pop the wheelie and watched the crash. What did he say?

"That was pretty stupid now put the bike away you're grounded for a week."

He didn't care I was bleeding all up and down my arm or the pain I was in. He didn't bother to ask if I broke anything or if I might need stitches. Nope, just told me how stupid I was. He was probably right but I really didn't need to be told that right at that time. Punishment? I thought I had enough punishment for what I had done but apparently he didn't. To be honest I didn't care at the time I just wanted to get into the house and get cleaned up.

Mom wanted to clean me up but I refused to let her. I was going to do it myself. I knew if she did it the pain would be unbearable because she would scrub away. If I did it I could be as gentle as I needed to be.

I got myself cleaned up and went out and sat at the supper table to eat. I was still bleeding but at least it wasn't near as much as earlier. I ate supper that night in pain and left handed, and had I to listen to dad laugh at me all through supper. The punishment never stops.

To make matters worse I was suppose to go to my girlfriends house that night to go swimming. It was great, a girlfriend with a in ground swimming pool. The only reason I had this girlfriend was to go swimming in their pool. I was told there was no way I was allowed to go into a swimming pool with the way my arm was looking. I would be staying home that night. The punishment never stops.

I survived that nice sunny day the summer I turned fifteen. I still carry the scars from that accident as a reminder it may not be the coolest thing to ride no handed and pop wheelies at the same time. The bike? Like I said before it was a 20" gold Schwinn banana seat bike with high rise handle bars. It was tough, didn't hurt it a bit.

At this point in my life this was the worst accident I had ever been into caused by myself. The worst would come 4 years later. But that is another story for another day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Wanna Be a Rock Star

300 miles, that is what I drove today. Just so happens that is the distance from home, to our job site in Wausau Wisconsin and back home again. A long boring drive through the center of Wisconsin.

I am the project manager for a building we are presently doing in Wausau called, appropriately, Wausau Windows. It is 250,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 70,000 square feet of office space. So by being the esteemed project manager for this illustrious job I get to drive to Wausau and back every now and then. Fun.

What is a project manager? The project manager is the poor sap that gets stuck between the owners of a company and the people in the field that actually builds the buildings. To sum it up, it sucks. It is kind of like being a foreman in a manufacturing complex. I am planning a post for a later date that will deal with this issue and what I plan on doing about it.

The one item I did accomplish today was to find a classic rock station that plays the kind of classic rock I like. And the good part is I can listen to it for about 3/4 of the way to and back from Wausau. The highlight of my day.

Anyway this song comes on "I Wanna Be A Rock Star" which I hadn't heard in a long time. I have to agree with the song I would rather be a rock star than a project manager right now. I thought this song would be a good post tonight since I don't have much time. It is a good song with great lyrics and another great surprise tonight when I looked it up on You Tube, a great video.

Enjoy the video and song and see if you can figure out who the people are that appear in the video.

By the way the name of the band is Nickelback.

Okay I am back to add to this post. I thought you might like this video too. It is a spoof on the rock star one above but it is called "I Wanna be a Pop Star." It too is preformed by Nickelback. This one is pretty funny and sadly true.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Introducing John Cephas and Phil Wiggins

Last summer while we were living in Arlington Virginia we went over the the Smithsonian Folk Festival that is held there every year. It features three different parts of the world, Ireland, Virginia and some far east country that I can't remember. Obviously we spent most of our time in the Virginia area. There are all sorts of displays featuring the history of Virginia. One of the items they feature is music, all kinds of music that came from Virginia. As we were walking through the festival we could here the music coming from one of the tents. It was a guitar and a harmonica playing with one guy singing. It was John Cephas and Phil Wiggins. We walked into the tent to listen and unfortunately for us it was the last song they would play in that session. We went to see when the next time they were playing and all we would have to wait is 2 hours. If you have ever been to the National Mall when the folk festival is there it is not hard to kill two hours.

When the time came we found some empty seats and waited for the music (did I forget to mention this is all free). John Cephas and Phil Wiggins did not disappoint us. They were great. It is hard to believe so much music can come out of a guitar and harmonica. I believe it is Phil Wiggins on the harmonica and he is fantastic. It is amazing what he can do with that thing. If you watch the last video you will see what I mean.

If you listened to the above video you know by now they play the blues. I love the blues, especially this type of blues. This is where rock and roll's roots are. Without the blues rock and roll would never had started. There are many rock bands that are heavily influenced by the blues, Bon Jovi, Ted Nugent, Guns 'n Roses, Led Zeppelin, most southern rock bands, etc. If you watch and listen to my latest classic rock song, Blue on Black by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, it is a classic blues song.

If I ever get back to DC during the folk festival you can bet I will go watch Cephas and Wiggins again. If you ever get a chance to watch them, even if you have to go out of your way to do so, go you will enjoy it. It will be worth it.

By the way these videos were taken at the 2007 Folk Festival we were at. I am not sure if it was the same performance we saw but they are wearing the same clothes in performance we saw.

Isn't that guy great? I could listen to him for hours.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's Gumbo Time!

As I mentioned last week I was going to make gumbo this weekend. I don't know who out there has ever made gumbo but there is 1000 different ways to make it. I have made gumbo several times before and I don't think I have ever made it the same way twice.

The real secret to gumbo making (so Emeril says on Food Network) is in the roux. For anyone who doesn't know what roux is it is equal amounts of oil and flour cooked until you get whatever color or type of roux you are looking for. With gumbo it is cooked until is is a peanut butter color. Normally roux is cooked on the stove by heating it over medium low to medium heat and stirring for 20-25 minutes with a wooden spoon. You have to be very careful not to burn it, that is why the constant stirring. And yes I have burnt it and had to start over. Since I have started making gumbo I have learned a much simpler way to make the roux. I am sure the Cajun people wouldn't approve of it but like I said it is much easier.

I learned of this method by watching Alton Brown's Good Eats. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take equal amounts of oil and flour (I start with 3/4 of a cup of each) and whisk them together in a dutch oven (use cast iron if you have it.) Now just slip into the oven and stir every 1/2 hour. Cook for a total of 1-1/2 hours. Simple. Foolproof. And I have never had to start over or listen to a kid complain because his arm is getting tired. Oh did I forget to mention that I had someone else stir the roux? Probably explains why it was burnt, eh?

Once the roux is done put it back on the stove top under medium heat and throw in the trinity (that is onions, celery and green peppers (although I prefer red peppers) for all you cooking illiterates.) Cook for a few minutes, toss in some garlic, bay leaves, and either cayenne red pepper or chipote pepper. Careful with the red pepper folks, it can ruin a good gumbo fast. A little bit goes a long way. Cook for a few more minutes.

Add the stock now. You can use any type of stock you want. I have used turkey, chicken and shrimp. Tonight I chose shrimp because, well, I had the shrimp shells and I felt like making shrimp stock for my gumbo. To make shrimp stock save your shrimp shells in the freezer and when you are ready to make shrimp stock start with two quarts of water and throw in the shrimp shells. Cook for about a hour and there you have it, simple shrimp stock.

After the stock gets incorporated with the roux and trinity it is time to throw in whatever you want for your gumbo. As they say "The sky is the limit." You can use sausage, ham, turkey, smoked turkey legs, chicken, shrimp, okra, scallops, etc. I think you get the idea. Oh, you can use a combination of items too. I normally will use a combination of items, sometimes two items, sometimes three. Tonight's choice was andouille sausage, smoke flavored apple ham, and shrimp. The shrimp only goes in for the last five minutes of cooking time. Let all this cook on the stove top for a hour (except for the shrimp.}

About a 1/2 hour into cooking time start the rice, don't use that minute rice and you don't need a rice cooker either (sorry for anybody who uses a rice cooker.) I have found out over the years the real secret to cooking good rice is to follow the directions, exactly. I prefer the Jasmine rice but the Balsamic rice is good too. I don't use the brown rice or buckwheat rice(gag, gag, puke puke), I can't stand that stuff.

Once everything is cooked it is time to plate. Fill the bowl with gumbo, sprinkle a little gumbo file' on (this is optional), put a large scoop of rice in the middle of the bowl of gumbo, and sprinkle with the greens of green onions.

Tonights gumbo turned out to one of my better efforts. I have made some duds in my life but not tonight. I think it may be my best effort to date with gumbo. I ate two large bowls and didn't leave room for ice cream. Oh well, ice cream keeps good in the freezer, even (dare I say) Cold Stone Creamery ice cream. Apple Pie a la Mode kind. My favorite.

Tomorrow it is rib time yet again. All the cooking time will be on the smoker this time though. This should be the final stages for that rib cooking contest I hope to enter someday. I have not forgot about sharing how to cook ribs in the oven and as soon as I get the job done I have been working on I will pass it along.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We Will Be Right Back After These Commercial Messages

My posts have been short this week due to my night time work load. Maybe everybody likes it that way but to bad as soon as I get this job done I am working on I will be back with my usual long winded posts.

I do have various post stored away for future post but even these need a bit more work and I just don't have time right now. I am hoping by next week I will get some time.

The job I am working on right now is a condo office building located in Middleburg Virginia. I have never been to Middleburg but it is a town where celebrities live, so I am told. It is suppose to be a very nice town.

If you don't know what a condo office building is it is the same thing as multiple condos in a building. You can purchase your office space but you don't really own the building.

This is a project I had worked on when I lived in Virginia. The owners ended up firing the original architects but they kept all the original subcontractors. So naturally when they hired new architects they changed the building to the way they thought it should be. To make a long story short I basically had to start over.

Oh well, it all pays the same.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One of Those Nights

Ever had one of those nights? The darn computer just won't do anything you want? I did last night. It was sloooooooow, and I mean slow. It was worse than having a dial up connection. When I could get online it ran slow and most of the time it would not even hook up. After about an hour of futile effort I gave up. No matter how many times I reset the modem or reset the computer it just wouldn't cooperate. It was so frustrating.

I finally came to the conclusion it had to be Verizon's dsl line coming to the house or somewhere outside the house anyway. My clue was the little red light where it says dsl. I guess when the little red light is on it means I have no connection. Maybe next time I will look for the little red light before I spend so much time resetting everything.

This Should Stop the Complaining

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

One More for the Bucket List

A couple of weeks ago young sis (the one that is on the verge of being a 1/2 century old) wrote a post called the Bucket List. It was a good post with everybody making up their own list of places they would like to go or things they would like to do. I made up my list with everybody else but I forgot one item. One very important item, at least to me. Someday I would like to enter a barbecue rib cook-off.

I have already entered one cooking contest but that was for chili. It was for non-traditional chili but never the less I still won. All this did was give me some confidence that I could enter a cooking contest and have a decent chance. It is because of this I thought someday if I ever get a barbecue rib recipe I thought would have a chance with I might give a contest a shot. I have yet to come up with the "winning" recipe but I think I may be getting closer.

I have been cooking ribs (by the way my preferred rib is baby back) for the last three years or more. I have tried cooking them a lot of different ways starting with rubs, marinades, and nothing at all. I have done them in the oven, on the grill and in the smoker. I have made so many types of barbecue sauces I should have a taste testing lab set up in the house. The guinea pigs in these experiments have been the wife and the kids but mainly the wife for the last year. I use local restaurants for comparing my ribs to and anymore the restaurant ribs are a disappointment so I think I may finally be making some headway in these comparisons.

My preferred method of cooking ribs is still out on my smoker. I don't use a cold smoke where you inject a lot of smoke into the ribs because I do not like a lot of smoke flavor in my ribs. I prefer to use charcoal and just a little bit of apple wood for flavor. I cook them at 225 degrees for two hours and forty five minutes or until they just start to pull away from the bone. After this they go on the charcoal side with sauce and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side.

The bbq sauce I am making right now is a ketchup based sauce which I guess would be called a "Kansas City" type bbq sauce. If I gave out the recipe on this post I would have to kill everybody who reads this post because after all if I am going to enter a bbq contest I can't be giving out my secrets. I would be willing to give out samples if anybody is interested so I could get some feedback on what other people think.

I did cook ribs today although I did them in the oven and finished them off on the grille. It is to cold outside to keep the smoker up to temperature for 3 hours right now anyway. (If anybody wants a no fail way to cook ribs in the oven let me know and I will share with you how. They will come out perfectly cooked every time.)

Overall I would give the ribs I cooked today a 4 out of 5. One of the two best sets of ribs I have cooked in the oven. I need to work on the bbq sauce a little more because it is not quite where I want it to be yet. It will also help when I can cook the ribs on my smoker this summer. And maybe if I remember the salt and pepper next time it will help.

I was afraid I was going backwards for a while with my rib cooking but after my last couple of tries I think I may be getting closer to that contest and crossing one more item off the bucket list.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I Couldn't Wait Any Longer

It didn't matter to me there was still 2 feet of snow on the ground. I also didn't care if the temperature was only 20 degrees. And as for the ice in the driveway, I ignored it. I just couldn't wait any longer, it was time, time to get the barbecue grill out.

Just in case nobody knows I like to cook, it has been one of my hobbies for the last 4 years or more. I really enjoy the barbecue grill and especially the smoker side of the grill. I don't consider myself a master yet buy I can do alright for myself. Every grille has its own personality and you have to learn all the nuances of that particular grill. Mine is no different but I think I have most of them figured out now. To understand how much we like to grill out all you have to do is count the number of empty charcoal bags we accumulate during a summer. Two summers ago I estimated we went through about 140 to 150 pounds of charcoal. Last fall alone once I was reunited with my grill we went through about 30 pounds of charcoal.

Today as we were doing our normal Saturday shopping we were trying to decide what we were going to eat tonight. Normally I have the week all figured out but today was different because for most of the morning I was working for my old employers in Virgina. While we were in the store I thought of gumbo. I hadn't made gumbo for awhile and thought maybe it was time. The great thing about gumbo is there is a thousand different ways to make it and most are good. The hardest part with gumbo is getting the roux right. Once you can make roux the rest is easy. (Someday I will share with you an easy way to make roux if you are interested in roux and gumbo.)But something happened between getting everything I needed for gumbo and the cash register. My brain locked onto steak, not just steak but grilled steak. And like I have explained before once I start craving something I might as well get it over with and do it because I won't get it out of my head until I eat it.

I asked the wife "What time does Meisfields close?"

Her answer: "3:00, why?"

Me: "Because I am hungry, hungry for steak on the grille. Let's make sure we get there before they close."

We got what we needed from the grocery store and headed on over to Meisfields. (By the way I did get everything I needed for gumbo. I am going to make it next weekend.)

I should explain Meisfields. It is a local meat market where we go to buy most of our meat and poultry products. The local grocery stores around here have about the same quality meat and selection as the Coleman Supermarket. Meisfields is a Wisconsin landmark known for their homemade sausage and meat case. They have a large selection and it always looks good. If you don't see what you want ask, there is a good chance they will get it for you from the back of the store. When compared to the local grocery stores for selection, well there is no comparisons.

Our normal choice for steak is a ribeye with the bone in it. By the time we got to Meisfields most of the meat had already been picked over but like I said before if you don't see what you want just ask. We grabbed a number and waited for our number to be called. When they called our number we asked for the ribeye steaks but asked if they could cut them a little thicker then what was on display. He asked "How thick?" And I explained I would like them about 1-1/2" thick. He said "No problem just wait here." He brought them out and handed them to us and then we picked up a few more items, checked out and were on our merrily way home.

I know what everybody is probably thinking. "1-1/2" thick, holy cow!" My theory is since we don't get to eat steak very often when we do we make it worth while. Besides it is easier to cook a thicker steak than a thinner one. It is much harder to overcook.

Around 4:30 the wife says to me "I'm hungry, when we goin' eat?" Now I know I am not real good at hints but I have learned when she says this I should get my ass up and get dinner on the table. Out I went to fire up the grill. Now when I say "fire up the grill" I don't mean go outside and hit some igniter, wait for the gas to flow and the grill to get hot so I can cook. Nope. I have to load up the newspaper into the chimney starter, a little vegetable oil, light it and wait 1/2 and hour for good hot coals. So far I have refuse to use a gas grill because I believe the flavor is just that much better from a charcoal grill. The only way to get better than charcoal is to actually cook over wood. If you have never tried this I would recommend it. It can be frustrating but once you have it mastered there is nothing better.

While I waited for the charcoal to get hot I went inside to prepare the steaks for cooking. Here is where the true secret to cooking good steak lies. I don't care if you cook on a gas grille, charcoal, on the stove or in the oven, here is the secret, listen close, one hour before you are ready to cook you steak (or any other meat for that matter) get it out of the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature before you attempt to cook it. Why? Because if you start with an internal temperature of 70 degrees instead of 35 degrees you can get the internal temperature of the meat to the temperature you want to eat it at quicker and there is a lot less chance of burning the outside to a crisp to do it. Pretty simple eh? It took me a while to learn this. Sorry got sidetracked. All I do to prepare steak to cook is rub some oil on the outside (I normally use conola oil but you can use anything or nothing at all)and salt and pepper. Don't skimp on the salt and pepper either. If you are like me you don't use very much salt in your everyday cooking but believe me this is one place you don't want to skimp on the salt. Don't use table salt either, use either kosher or sea salt.

Once the coals are hot and the steaks are ready the fun starts. Slap those steaks on the hot grill and just watch. That is all just watch (unless the fire gets out of control and in that case you need to get the fire back under control.) Let a minute go by, now pick up the steaks and rotate them 90 degrees (this is how you get those cool cross hatching marks on a steak) and place them back down. Watch again. After another minute or so turn them over and repeat. This is where the second most important part of cooking a steak comes in, use a meat thermometer. I have cooked a lot of steaks and I still can not tell when a steak is rare, medium or well done. A meat thermometer is your best friend. You will get a steak, or any other type of meat you are cooking, done perfectly for your taste or more importantly your companies taste. Personally I like my steak at 133 degrees, the wife likes hers at 145 degrees. Mine comes out medium rare hers more like medium.

When the steaks are done to your satisfaction take them off the grill and cover them with tin foil. DO NOT cut into them to see how done they are after all that is why you have a meat thermometer. Let them set for a minimum of 5 minutes. This will let the juices redistribute in the steak.

I normally will just eat a tossed salad with my steak while the wife likes a baked potato with hers.

The steak we ate tonight was just what the doctor ordered. Nice and juicy, tender and flavorful. They had that wonderful charcoal taste you can only get by cooking on charcoal, just what I was craving.

Now I can't wait for tomorrow, baby back ribs finished off on the grill. I will let you know how they turn out.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Food Review: Potbelly Sandwich Works

We all got to eat and my plan tonight was to stay in tonight and finish up eating the odds and ends I have laying around my room. But after reading my sister's comments regarding last night review for some reason I thought about Potbelly Sandwich Works. If you are like me once you get a thought in your head regarding food you have to satisfy it.

Once again when we were living in Arlington every now and then we would wonder into downtown Washington DC either to walk around or find a place to eat. I always noticed the Potbelly Sandwich Works building because I liked the way the building looks and the signage they use to advertise their stores. It was another one of those places I had always meant to go to but never quite made it there. Last night on my way to Five Guys I passed a Potbelly Sandwich Works here in Madison just a 5 minute walk from my room. So like mentioned above once I get that thought in my mind I might as well pick up the phone and order me something.

My choice tonight was a Italian sandwich with various Italian meats and provolone cheese. I also ordered it with tomatoes, mayonnaise, onions and hot peppers. I also picked up a side of macaroni salad. I phoned in the order and told them I would be there in about 5 minutes. When I got there the sandwich was ready, they bagged it up and I went back to my room for my feast.

I started with the macaroni salad. Nothing to write home about here. Next the sandwich. It is a toasted sandwich which I like better than cold sandwiches. It is a good sandwich, not great but good. Nice crunch on the toasted bun, inside was warm, good taste with the hot peppers. My biggest complaint would be the sandwich could have been a little bigger.

All in all I would give it a 3.5 forks out of 5. I would go there again but I don't think I would go out of my way to go again. Price wise it was very reasonable. I paid around $5.50 for both the sandwich and macaroni salad. You will want to remember this particular store is located among a college campus and prices may be slightly higher away from a college campus.

If you are out and about and you happen to go by a Potbelly Sandwich Works when you are hungry don't be afraid to go inside and try one of their sandwiches.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Food Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Normally when I get back to my dorm room, oops I mean hotel room, after a day of training I will sit down, read through the various blogs, do a little work for my former employer in Virgina, and then settle in and watch TV until I fall a sleep. Yeah I know I lead a pretty exciting life.

During the training day food is kept in front of us all day (and I must say it hasn't been to bad either) so when I get back to my room I don't go out for anything to eat. Not so tonight. While I was reading through tonight's blog posts (which by the way is my days highlight)I got a craving for some warm food, I mean good old burger and fries type warm food.

When me and the wife lived in Arlington up to road from us was a place call Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I never really knew what it was all about but I was sure they served burgers and fries. And naturally I assumed it was fast food type food. I try to limit myself on the fast food because it is one item I can really do without. If I eat it once a year that is a lot. The wife and I talked about going to the Five Guys joint but we never got around to it and I always wondered what kind of burgers they had. When I took a walk the other night up to the local college hangout area I saw the Five Guys place and thought maybe I will try it while I am here. So tonight when I got that craving you know what popped into my head, yep Five Guys Burger and Fries.

I threw on my coat and it was about a 5 minute walk and I was there. I went inside and it was just what you would expect from a college hangout. Loaded with college kids getting their nightly nutrition. This place was packed and the ordering line was long but I thought "I am here, I don't have anywhere I need to be and I am going to get my burger and fries." The menu? Burgers and fries. That's all, maybe there was more but that is all I saw. What type of burger do you want? They have it. Toppings? What do you want, they probably have it too. My choice? Double bacon cheese burger with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, hot sauce with Cajun seasoned fries (hey if you are going to the hospital you might as well make it worth the trip.)

I know this all sounds like a fast food restaurant but it is not. You place your order like fast food and you pick up your order like fast food but in between it takes about 10 minutes to get your order. From what I could tell everything was cooked after you ordered. While you wait there is a large box of peanuts that you are free to help yourself to eat.

When they called my number for my meal I grabbed it and went back to my room since it was only 5 minutes away. Once I got back to my room my stomach was growling from the smell coming from the bag of food. I opened up the bag and the first thing I tried was the Cajun fries. Not bad, made from fresh potatoes, (I know this because they pile up bags of fresh Idaho Potatoes in the store they use for the fries)I would rate them up there with Micky D's. (I compare all fries with Micky D's because they are still the best out there.) I should mention when they pack the food in the brown lunch bag they put the burger on the bottom and the they put a Styrofoam cup full of fries on top of it. Once both of these items are in the bag they then dump in another small pan full of fries on top of everything. You don't get cheated on fries.

Now for the reason I really went there, the burger. I unwrapped the the burger from the foil and set it on the table and admired it. Two beef patties, check, grilled mushrooms, check, grilled onions, check, melted cheese, check. If this thing taste as good as it looks I will be in heaven. I picked it up and bit into it, mmmmmm, good flavor, a little sloppy (all good burgers are a little sloppy from the natural fat in them), love those grilled onions and mushrooms, the cheese is melted throughout the burger, all in all this is a pretty darn good burger. I would have to say maybe the best burger I have had in a long time. Most places I go and have a burgers anymore serve near fat free burgers and I am sorry to say they just don't have the taste of a good ole greasy burger. My only disappointment was the bacon. Not really anything to write home about. The next time I think I would order it without the bacon.

Overall I would have to give it 4 out of 5 forks. While it is not the best burger I have ever had (this honor still goes to the Yukon Inn in Paradise Michigan) it would rank right up there. I would put it on par with Clyde's Drive Inn in St. Ignace and the Boulevard in Midland. If you ever get the chance to go to a Five Guys Burger and Fries go, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dearly Beloved We are Gathered Here Today..........

My plan tonight was to write another post about my training class I am currently attending but every now and then something happens or you get an idea that just has to be done while it is current. Such was the case today.

Rumors started today about 10:00am and were confirmed at noon, Brett Favre has retired. Wisconsin is mourning, everybody is wearing black and the flags are at half mast. I did the right thing and offered everybody my condolences and then offered them Jon Kitna from the Detroit Lions. They weren't amused to say the least.

To fully understand the Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packer phenomenon in Wisconsin you need to live here once. This team is everything to these people. People live and die with the Packers. The waiting list for season tickets is 70 years. When the Packers were on Monday Night Football or on TV during the playoffs I would never see a car go by our house. It is a great time to go shopping because the stores are all empty. In the fall people here either wear hunters orange or green, around here Green Bay Packers green. You can't go anywhere without seeing a Packer coat or jersey, normally No. 4 jersey, Brett Favre.

Brett Favre is a character. He loved playing the game of football. I don't think I have ever seen anybody who enjoyed the game of football more than Brett. Brett once said "They pay me to watch film and practice during the week, I play for free on Sunday."

The memory I will always have with Brett Favre is the Monday Night game he played after his fathers death. Every pass he threw up in the air that night a receiver would come down with it. Even if you didn't like Favre you couldn't help but root for him on that evening. You need to look no further than this night for everything that symbolizes Brett Favre.

Brett is a hero here in Wisconsin, more popular than mayors, governors, senators and congressmen. I am sure they will erect a statue of him. For sure they will name a street after him just like Vince Lombardi and Mike Holgram.

For the last two years Favre has held the people of Wisconsin hostage. He would take months to decide if he was going to play or retire the next year. I, for one, am glad he finally decided to put the people of Wisconsin out of their misery and announce his retirement early this year. I didn't have a problem with Brett playing the last two years, shoot I wouldn't have a problem with him playing again this year. Brett deserves to decide when he wants to retire, he has earned that right.

I wish Brett Favre the best in retirement. The people of Wisconsin will miss him terribly, heck the whole NFL community and all fans of football will miss him. He truly is an icon not only in Wisconsin but across the entire football crazed country.

I will leave you with this video.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Back to School

I sit tonight here in my dorm room at the University of Wisconsin writing my latest post. Yeah you heard me right, in my dorm room. At least that is what it feels like. I feel like it is 1977 and I am back at Michigan Tech. The only difference is the halls don't smell like urine or like some freshman just lost his cookies. Also I have my own private bathroom.

The building I am staying obviously isn't a dorm room but rather a hotel room. But my understanding is the building used to be a dorm. It sets among all the student housing, apartments, frat houses, and other assorted residences here on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Yep, I am a Wisconsin Badger for the week.

I can look out my window (I am on the 7th floor) and see the dome of the capital of Wisconsin about 6 blocks away. It is a very nice view. I didn't take this picture because my batteries died when I tried to take a picture from my window. But at least you get the idea.

I am here for training. (A guy once told me you educate people and you train animals. I told him I didn't think I could be educated so I would just stick to the training.) I am taking a course for designing and engineering process piping systems. Most of the stuff we have done so far I have done before but there is always something new to learn so that is why I am here, plus my boss told me I should go. I am waiting for Thursday and Friday because they are going to do the CIP (clean in place) plumbing systems. CIP systems are used a lot in food plants where they have to wash everything down a least once a day. It looks like a do it yourself car wash wand they use to spray everything down. Blah, blah, blah, who cares right?

Anyway about a block up the street is a street named State Street. This must be the local college hang out because it was full of restaurants and bars. It reminds me of Georgetown in Washington DC only Georgetown is just a little more upscale. State Street here looks like, well, like a college town hangout place. Old buildings, a multitude of colors and just about anything a college student would need to survive the university jungle. College students everywhere with their book bags strapped to their shoulders going here and going there. I felt just like one of them with my own bag strapped to my shoulder.

The biggest difference between U of W and MTU is of course size. When I went to Tech there were about 5500 students. U of W is a Big Ten school and I am sure there are tens of thousands of students here. The campus buildings are all jammed together here. It doesn't help the capital of Wisconsin is just up the road either.

The roads are narrow too. They allow cars to park on the road, at least only on one side of the road, and with the snow piled up everywhere there is only room for one lane on some of the roads. What a mess.

I am told the campus is really pretty and it probably is. In the summer. It sets on the shoreline of a large lake overlooking the other side of Madison. I would like to come back in the summer I think my impression of the campus would be much better.

Well I better get back to studying or whatever college students do these days. Actually I am watching the food network. They are showing me how cheese is made.

By the way on my way to Madison yesterday I passed by Columbus Wisconsin and there was an exit that pointed the way to the Christopher Columbus Museum. I guess I was unaware Christopher Columbus landed in Wisconsin with the rest of the pilgrims when he discovered America. Did I miss history class the day they went over this?