Thursday, December 23, 2010

Perhaps, someday-

My last post in this blog was about the time we started selling our house. It has not yet sold, though we got so close as to have packed everything up and moved it all to storage in our target new location. The sale fell through, so we are essentially camping in our house while we seek a new buyer in the worst home market since 1963.

Needless to say, I haven't been barbecue oriented since I gave my Char-Broil Silver Smoker to my son. I figured moving it a few blocks made more sense than trying to take it hundreds of miles. I can get a replacement, and possibly try something new and different. I am not yet decided what that will be.

Additionally, I am learning to eat differently. I have lost 40 pounds or so, and in the Holiday Season my best hope is to maintain that loss and not loose ground by gaining weight. In learning to eat differently I hope to equip our new home with tools for food experimentation and lots of food related learning.

So, eventually I will be back, posting in this blog with such things as seem blog-worthy. Until then, I am camping in my own home and waiting on whatever comes next...

Saturday, July 24, 2010


In exploring alternative forms of food to go along with my efforts to reduce my weight and control my intake of carbohydrates I have been eating a variety of dried foods. My daughter found a nice mix called "Fruit and Nut Medley" at Costco. She also found a nice blend of rice crackers at that same source.

I have been experimenting with blending various snack blends from the Dollar Tree, as well. I like their Santa Fe mix, containing some cracker bits, roasted corn, peanuts, and a few other things. To that I add their dried pineapple and mango snack, and the chili and lemon flavored dried garbanzo beans.

Unfortunately, neither Costco nor Dollar Tree stock any dried vegetable snack items. I have not yet found a good source of dried cheeses that will fit in with my current program of frequent small meals. These dried snack items I have so far found are mixed into a big plastic jar. I recently added some beef jerky from the Dollar Tree, and found those bits add a lot to the mix. I add only a little, cutting the jerky into small bits.

The spices that flavor the Santa Fe mix and the garbanzo beans tend to stick to the dried fruit pieces. I happen to like the flavor combination. The chili and lemon flavoring on the dried garbanzo beans is not particularly hot, though some who are sensitive to hot spices may find the mix not to their liking.

I am generally eating a small meal every two to three hours. I do not eat unless I am hungry. I then plate up a volume of my snack blend according to the calorie and carbohydrate count rated per serving. Most of the time my beverage is water, though I do have coffee or tea once in a while. I eat slowly, and stop eating when I no longer feel hungry.

Generally I will have dinner with the family. Since we are busy with getting ready to move to another state in a only a matter of days, I have not been doing much cooking. I eat what is prepared, watching my portion sizes.  My daughter has been doing the cooking, and is trying to be conscious of balance, calories and carbohydrates as she prepares meals.

Once we have moved I will further explore local and Internet sources for food items that can be blended in a jar and carried almost anywhere. Camp food, road food, or just portion control and balance food. I hope to find some good and affordable sources of dried vegetables and experiment with various blends.

I also hope to create a kitchen laboratory in which I will learn the art of drying foods. One area I really want to explore is drying grilled vegetables. I also want to experiment with grinding my dried foods to create bases for soups and sauces.

Barbecue is certainly not out. My Char-Broil Silver Smoker will go to my son, Matthew. He is remaining in the area from which we are moving, and I don't really want to haul the heavy smoker with us on the move. I shall find a nice replacement, and continue my barbecue adventures.

Though I am working on weight loss, I am not giving up good food. I am exploring new areas, and learning to eat wisely and well. I hope to continue to record my adventures and share them here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hash Brown Cauliflower-

We have been preparing our house to sell over the past eight weeks. Barbecue was not high on the list of activities during this time. Mostly it was packing and hauling and storing and fixing and painting and cleaning. Food was largely an afterthought. In addition, I have been working on correcting my diet, per the directions of my doctor. I have gone as far as I safely can along the path of negligent eating, and to continue down the path I have been on would unwise.

So, I have been experimenting with my diet over the past few weeks, trying to find a path back to a more reasonable weight and healthier lifestyle. There were days of frustration, low energy and depression. Other days were more successful and even on occasion fulfilling. I discovered that restricting carbohydrates or fats or calories alone was not a good way to go. Indeed, with regard to controlling carbs at the same time as fats I found that I would be working at cross purposes.

A lot of research has been part of my diet. In doing this research, I discovered Hash Brown Cauliflower. I do not like cauliflower that much. Very little, really. Yet this was a low carb offering to replace Hash Brown Potatoes. I was up for a bit of exploration, and so placed a request with our food manager (my daughter Beth) to arrange for the necessary groceries.

I had an electric skillet for the preparation. I chopped onions, a task I apparently have done seldom. I was not anywhere as skillful as the chefs I watch on The Food Network. I suppose I need a bit of practice. Anyway, a prep bowl of chopped onions was soon made ready. I then chopped some bacon. I really like bacon. Then the fun began.

It was necessary to shred cauliflower. I quartered the heads, and used a grater we had that was a plastic box with a grater for the lid. It was quite a bit of work. It was messy. Cauliflower does not maintain it's structural integrity under this kind of stress. I suspect that a food processor would be a very good tool for this job. I don't have one available right now, but it may soon be on my wish list.

Onions and bacon in the pan. Cook until browned. Add the cauliflower. Cook until browned on one side. Flip, cook the other side. At least, that is how it would have gone with a little more real estate devoted to cooking. The skillet was just too small for the amount of stuff I was cooking. I did my best, and once I deemed it done I put it in a bowl and placed it in the oven to stay warm.

Next, scrambled eggs. This I have done often enough it was not too hard. Once the eggs were ready it was time to dish it up. I pulled out the Hash Brown Cauliflower and scooped up a serving into my bowl, adding an equal measure of scrambled eggs. I mixed them up in the bowl and gave it a try.

It was definitely different. I really liked it! Quite surprising for a fellow who really really does not like vegetables. I tried a bite with a bit of ketchup, and found that quite tasty. However, ketchup is a bit high on the carbohydrate scale, so I tried adding some Sriracha sauce. I usually go easy with this sauce, since it is quite hot. I found it needed a bit more than my usual drop or two.

This adjustment was very good, indeed. A single serving of Hash Brown Cauliflower was quite satisfying, an important point when adjusting a diet. Smaller portions, no seconds, etc.

Chopped peppers could be added to this dish. Also, mushrooms. Yes, definitely mushrooms. I also look forward to testing herbs, and maybe a bit of roasted garlic.

I would also like a good sized griddle to allow preparation to be done so as to brown the hash a bit better. That, or doing smaller batches in this same skillet.

Anyway, that was my most recent food adventure. The selling of the house and moving and buying a new place will keep me a bit busy for the next several months, but I really do want to grill up some vegetables in the near future. Vegies are a big "YES" on a low carb weight loss diet. Time to master those vegetables!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Burn of the Season and Sourdough Bread-

My first burn of the season was this last weekend. We had a 2.5 pound Tri-Tip Roast seemingly sufficiently thawed, and I had cleaned the Winter out of our Char-Broil Silver Smoker. Central Coast California Winters are not particularly cruel, but we get enough cold evenings and precipitation to prevent a lot of Winter outdoor cooking. This particular roast was already prepped in the package, so once thawed it was ready to go.

I got the fire going. This being the the first burn of the season I got a full chimney of charcoal going and ran the Smoker with the vents wide open to really cook out any nasties I hadn't gotten during cleaning. The thermometer read about 425 degrees at peak. I scrubbed down the hot grill and turned down the vents. I then tossed in about a dozen fresh charcoal briquettes. I was using Kingsford Charcoal, the kind with Mesquite bits in the briquettes.

Once the cooking chamber had cooled to the 200 degree range I introduced the meat. I placed a thermometer probe in the thickest part of the meat, which was in the center of the cooking chamber. I got an initial temperature reading of Lo, indicating that we were still below 40 degrees internal temperature. I planned on a cooking time of about two to three hours.

Every thirty minutes I checked the fire. Generally it needed a half-dozen briquettes to keep the heat up. I generally just place them on top of the hot coals, rather than do a fresh start in the starting chimney each time. I haven't found the Kingsford introducing off flavors when doing this, and so this has been a general practice.

At three hours the internal temperature was around 128 degrees, and had been there for about thirty minutes. It was past the anticipated dinner time for the family, so I decided to speed things up a bit. I had been running with nearly closed vents. I added a dozen briquettes to the fire and opened the vents all the way. About thirty five minutes later we reached 160 degrees internal temperature, and I declared the cooking finished.

Just before adding the extra heat at the end of the cooking I laid four strips of bacon onto the roast, to prevent excessive drying of the exposed surfaces. It seemed to work, and the bacon was done just right at the end. After resting the meat for fifteen minutes under a foil tent, I cut into it and found it to be just right. A good smoke-ring, and finished cuts from medium rare to medium depending on the thickness of the meat at the cut.

As to other cooking adventures, my daughter Beth purchased an Oster 2 Lb. Breadmaker. We have done four loaves so far. None in the express bake mode, however. One loaf of Raisin Bread, one loaf of  white bread, and the third and fourth were sourdough. It took a few days to create the sourdough starter. This last loaf came out quite nicely, since I used actual bread flour as the recipe directed. Prior loaves were a bit dense, since I used the flour from our kitchen canister. Beth did the first loaf, a raisin bread that came out quite nicely. Bread flour is apparently very important.

We have a fresh bag of whole wheat flour for the next bread bake. This thing is really easy to use. I just measure out everything in advance, and then pour the ingredients into the bread pan. Measurements and order of ingredients is important, and I follow them precisely. Then the pan goes into the baker, I hit the settings (which are almost light-switch easy) and wait. Three hours, plus a cooling time of fifteen minutes.

There are a number of recipes yet to try just with the ones in the manual. There are plenty more recipes on-line. Not bad at all.