Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bringing Home a Swarm

A couple of weeks ago, the most EXCITING thing happened!

My sister-in-law called us at about 8PM one weeknight.  Weeknights in winter or early spring are boring for us.  I make dinner, we do dishes, we eat, and we kick back.  Until the weather warms up and there is mowing to do, we generally don't do much that is entertaining during the week.

My hubby was all laid out on his bed watching TV and I was in a similar position in my recliner.  My phone rang and my sister-in-law rarely calls me so when I saw her name on my phone, I answered right away. 

She asked me if we still had honeybees?  I told her that all of our three hives had died the previous year so we didn't have any.  She told me that a friend of hers was mowing and found a bunch of bees hanging on a branch in her yard.  Normally, if bees are in a tree they are nearly impossible to capture.  You have to get the queen and if she would be inside the trunk of the tree, your success would be a long shot.  But my sister-in-law told me that her friend's bees were on a branch hanging right on the ground and that they were ours if we want to come get them!

Woo hoo baby!  I was so excited.  I wasn't so sure that my husband would be excited given his current state of relaxation but when I told him, he jumped up and said, "let's find our stuff and get over there."  We hadn't had bees in over a year so we didn't have a hive body ready and had to find our suits, the smoker, all of that stuff.  And of all things, my husband had sold his pickup so we had to hook up to a box trailer to haul them in.  (My husband drives an SUV and we didn't want them flying around in the car with us LOL.)

Here is what we found when we got there:

 
 
 
They look like they are on a pylon/cone but they aren't.  They are just hanging there keeping the queen cozy. 
 
I held the branch holding the bees (which was like a giant chandelier of beads) while he snipped the branch.  I was able to drop them into the hive body and scoop up some of the bees there in the grass.  We wrapped the entire thing in a beach towel (because my husband wouldn't listen to me and drop them into a cooler which would seal tightly instead of the hive body which has holes and crevices for them to escape) and we brought them home.
 
Once home, we got them set up in their very own hive body.  We fed them sugar water for a few days because we had a week of rain here in mid Missouri and we wanted to make sure they were happy in their new place.  Here's their new home:
 
 
 
 
A few days later, I peaked in.  They were already furnishing the place with honeycomb.  Looks like they might be sticking around.  Hurray!
 
 





Honeybees are a precious part of our planet.  We are thrilled to find a wild swarm of bees and happy that they MIGHT be sharing some honey with us come August in exchange for their fancy new house LOL.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

BBQ Dry Rub


One of our favorite "cooked by dad" treats is smoked pork loin.  My husband can cook rather well (even though I do most of the cooking at our house).  The one thing he is most known for at our house is his ability to make delicious smoked meats!  He has a "real" smoker and uses only wood, typically hickory since we have lots of that available to us.

Years ago I found a recipe for homemade dry rub in a Southern Living magazine, back before the Food Network and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives LOL.  Last night as I was digging through every unorganized piece of paper containing a recipe in my kitchen searching for that recipe, it occurred to me that if I had that recipe on this blog, I wouldn't have to search to the ends of the earth to find it!  So, here it is!

We use this dry rub for pork (loins, butts, or chops), and even chicken/turkey.  We love it!  We have shared this recipe with a few select friends and one of our friends commented the other day that he would never smoke meat without this rub!  He makes it exactly like the recipe and never deviates.  He has one on me because I have been known to cheat and just dump various amounts of the ingredients into a bowl and give it a stir.  I have been making this recipe for many, many years though so I don't think I do so bad LOL!

I didn't manage to get a finished picture of the meat my husband smoked last night for a carry-in dinner at his office today (lucky dogs).  He took the meat off the smoker at about midnight last night and I was way past dreamland at that point.  But, trust me, this meat is delicious and looks incredible!  Your neighbors will be beating down your door wanting a taste!

Here's how we make the BBQ Dry Rub AT HOME MY WAY:

BBQ Dry Rub

  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard (the spice)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients.  Stir well with a whisk.  Store in an airtight container.

Rub liberally on uncooked pork, chicken, leaving the meat refrigerated overnight (covered for overnight) , or at least about 30 minutes (uncovered if you don't have that much time) before placing the meat on the grill.




Instructions for smoking the meat:

Start the smoker, building a good fire in the fire box - getting the temperature up to at least 250.  Place the rubbed meat, unwrapped, directly on the hot grill.  Close the smoker lid.  Let the meat smoke for about an hour.  Then, wrap the meat tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil.  Place the meat back on the hot smoker, continuing to smoke, making SURE to keep your smoker temperature consistently on at least 250 degreesYou have to keep adding wood pieces to your fire in order to do this.  Cook/smoke several hours (this depends on the size/cut of the meat you are using) until .. for pork the internal temperature is 160 degrees (for our pork loin, this took about 5-6 hours); for poultry the internal temperature should be 165 degrees before it is considered done.  You should use an internal/meat thermometer for this purpose and place the probe into the thickest part of the meat for an accurate reading.  (Don't be alarmed if your meat looks dark brown or black.  This happens when smoking meat.  The inside won't look like that.)  (When cooking turkeys on the smoker, my husband DOES NOT wrap the turkey, but smokes the meat unwrapped.  It does look very black when it is all done.)

Remove the meat from the grill, still wrapped in foil, and let rest on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes or so.  Then, unwrap, slice.  (Meat needs a rest period to cool down, relax and reabsorb the juices before slicing).

I have a favorite Honey-Mustard BBQ sauce recipe that I will post soon!

Also, we freeze smoked meats for later so its great to load up the grill and cook a bunch at once.  These meats are terrific for leftovers!  Sometimes I warm and slice the leftover smoked pork, cook some brown gravy and mashed potatoes, dressing, and have a feast!

The link for Food Safety.org (for proper cooking temperatures) is  here:  http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html

Enjoy!
 
Gina

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Healthier Fried Chicken - Baked "Fried" Chicken



I am a lover of fried chicken!  I love it from a grocery store deli, fast food, or buffet restaurant.  But seriously, who can tell you they don't love one of those southern comfort-type Sunday dinners that involve fried chicken, real mashed potatoes, summer squash, green beans and lots of homemade desserts?  You know, the kind we all ate at our granny's house when everybody was getting together?

Sadly, I don't have a granny to make those type meals for me anymore... Although I only remember MY granny typically frying chicken LEGS for some reason LOL???  My mom doesn't really care for chicken so its a rare occasion that we eat chicken at her house (although I do beg her sometimes for a favorite meal that I grew up eating called "Chicken & Yellow Rice").  But, I digress.

Last night I had some gardening to do to beat the next downpour that is sure to arrive here in Missouri late tonight.  So, I had the extra time required to make this oven baked "fried" chicken.

We all LOVE fried chicken, but really don't care for dealing with the grease and oil so I made my version of baked "fried" chicken.  It takes a bit to bake in the oven and since I used bone-in pieces of chicken, it took even longer but I had plenty to do while waiting on it to bake.  

I served this baked "fried" chicken, some real mashed potatoes, seasoned green beans, and it was a feast!  Of course, I finished off with the previous night's Strawberry Shortcake!  YUM!  It wasn't QUITE as good as a granny-made dinner, but it was really good and as I always remind my husband, "Good job security" at my house LOL!

Here's how I make Baked "Fried" Chicken AT HOME MY WAY:


Baked "Fried" Chicken


  • However many pieces of chicken you want to make for your family.  Boneless/skinless, or skinless bone-in is what I use
  • All purpose flour (for dredging), like about 2 cups
  • Seasonings.  I sprinkled mine with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt & black pepper
  • 3-5 Tablespoons oil or melted butter/margarine
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees & spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Remove any skin from the chicken.  If using large chicken breasts, I cut mine vertically in the middle to make each big piece into two smaller pieces (which accomplishes two things, makes more to go around and shortens the time required for baking).

Put the flour and seasonings in a pie plate or shallow bowl.  Stir well to combine.

Rinse each piece of chicken to moisten.  Dredge well, sprinkling both sides with flour well, and place each piece of chicken NOT TOUCHING EACH OTHER on the sprayed cookie sheet  (don't forget to spray your pan).

Drizzle each piece of chicken with oil/melted butter/margarine, using only about 3/4 Tablespoon per large piece of chicken.  Just drizzle around, not covering every surface.  

Bake at 400 degrees (uncovered) for however long it takes to bake your chicken to golden brown.  You do not need to flip the chicken or anything.  Bone-in chicken takes longer (maybe an hour or a longer?).  Boneless chicken will cook quicker.  (This isn't necessarily a faster way to make fried chicken, but is healthier, lighter, and sits better on our tummies.)

Enjoy!

Gina

Monday, June 3, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake



We have had some seriously cold and rainy weather here in central Missouri.  It seems the sun only shines and there is enough warmth to feed the soul on days that I am locked away at work.  Ugh!

Being a Florida native, this weather has really gotten me down!  I find myself dreaming about "home" (Florida), trying to find ways to move there, fighting the urge to start boxing my stuff to leave, and basically making everyone miserable around me who accepts that this has to be a way of life LOL.

But... my dear friend Cindy called me Sunday and told me that in spite of the terrible weather, her strawberry patch was LOADED!  She invited me out to come pick some berries.

My friend's strawberry patch is relatively small (I would guess about 6' x 12') but LOADED it is!  She has picked and picked, and I went out and picked only about two rows which completely filled a plastic Walmart bag.  I had just gotten home and dumped my berries into this:




when my mom stopped by my house.  She wanted some of those beautiful berries so we went BACK to Cindy's for some more picking (we didn't even make a dent)!

Talk about a mother load of berries!

I wash, stemmed and froze my berries whole on cookie sheets for bagging up frozen.  I did, however, save enough to make one of my favorite desserts of all times, Strawberry Short Cake.

I like Strawberry Short Cake however I can get it, with store bought sponge cake cups, pound cake, plain yellow cake, or angel food cake.  They are all wonderful!

I chose to make Strawberry Short Cake yesterday with my new favorite homemade Angel Food Loaf and Homemade Whipped Cream.

Here's how I made Strawberry Short Cake AT HOME MY WAY:


Strawberry Short Cake


(We always make up each serving of Strawberry Short Cake when ready to serve - on each dessert plate or in a single serving sized bowl.)

You will need:
  • Strawberries, washed, stemmed, and sliced, sprinkled with a few Tablespoons of sugar, and left to macerate at room temperature (which means that the sugar will soften the strawberries and help release their juices).
  • Homemade Whipped Cream
  • Homemade Angel Food Loaf

On each dessert plate:

Place a thick slice of Angel Food Cake, top with berries/juice, and a good spoonful of Homemade Whipped Cream.

Mmmm... that's what I'm talking about!






Enjoy!

Gina

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