Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grilled portobello mushrooms...vegetarian 'meat'?

I have heard about grilling mushrooms, in particular, Portobellos.  It's a big mushroom, has an almost 'meaty' texture and taste, and it looks cool, too!  I had bacon on my mind, as well as potatoes and a little green, leafy friend to round it out.

I started by cooking my bacon.  Once fully cooked, I reserved about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat, and turned my attention to the mushrooms.  I minced up some garlic, and spread it over the gills of the upturned mushrooms, then seasoned with salt and pepper.

 

I really had no clue where to go from here, then spotted the balsamic vinegar in the pantry.  A little balsamic and melted butter?  Yep, that sounded good, and drizzled nicely over the 'shrooms.

 

While Cliff grilled the 'shrooms, I went to work with that reserved bacon fat.  Enter my favorite 'green':  Arugula!  I love it wilted, and thought the bacon fat would be a nice partner.  Turns out I was right.

I had some of my garlic and cream cheese mashed potatoes leftover, so they rounded out the meal.



Not bad for flying by the seat of my pants!

As it turns out, we had two leftover 'shrooms, which we made into burgers the following night!  Portobello mushrooms...what a great little fungi!  =)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics

Among other chores, I just watched the finish of the Olympic women's road race in London.  After nearly four hours of riding, those young women pulled strength from their legs they should have never been able to find.  So purely impressive.  I have a particular interest in swimming, as well as track and field, but any event is so enjoyable to watch.  My hat is off to these incredible men and women, who dedicate their entire lives to the pursuit of a singular goal.  What a tribute to the possibilities that lie within the human spirit.  I am going to really enjoy the next two weeks, as these games unfold for the world to see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Caveman steaks - meat and potatoes 101

I have wanted to try the caveman steak method of cooking steaks, and I've wanted to try it for a long time.  However, the thought of throwing an expensive cut of meat into a bed of hot coals, and my thoughts of burned exterior, and raw interior, weren't all that encouraging.

None the less, my curiosity won over, and we finally tried it.  I'm really glad we did.

We brought home some ribeyes that were on sale in our local market, and with lump charcoal in hand, we were ready.

First off, no matter the method of grilling you choose, there is one thing you can do to help with a more tender steak:  let the meat come to room temperature for one hour before putting it on a hot grill.  Ice cold steaks on a hot grill go through a bit more shock, and shock creates a tougher piece of meat.

We generously salted and peppered our steaks, then let them come to room temperature while we started the coals.

 

A note about the coals used in the caveman steak.  This method calls for lump charcoal, not briquettes.  We found lump charcoal in our local market.  It's more expensive than briquettes, but unless you grill steaks on a regular basis, it's not an expense to shy away from, in my opinion.

Lump charcoal can be started in a coal chimney, just like briquettes.  Seems lump charcoal is ready a little sooner than briquettes, and is a heck of a lot hotter, too.

 

Once the coals are ready, pour them out, and spread them into an even layer.


They will be very, very hot.  I suggest using long handled grilling tools, to keep your hands further away from the heat source.

Now for the meat!  Just lay those steaks right on top of the hot coals.  A little daunting, I know, but you will be glad you took my advice.  This is a great method.

 

They will flame up, and smoke a lot.  Not to fear.  Our 1" thick cut, bone in ribeye steaks were cooked to medium after 4 minutes per side.  They were perfect.

 

When they finish, remove them from the coals, remove any chunks that stick to the meat, and tent them under foil for about 10 minutes.  This resting period allows the juices to re-distribute through the meat, and  when cut, won't drain out, leaving you with a dry steak.

We served ours with fresh pico de gallo, and garlic mashed potatoes.  Quite good.

 

I hope you will try this method.  It really does yield a great result:  a steak with a smokey crust, juicy and tender on the inside, beautifully cooked to my favorite level of doneness, which is medium.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Animal Rights and the Humane Society of the United States

I try to post about this issue less often than some because I do not want to lose my voice when I feel it really needs to be heard.

For all intents and purposes, the Humane Society of the United States is an organization with one purpose: the end of all animal use.  Use as a companion (this would be your pet dog, cat, ferret, bird, etc.).  Use as food (yes, I realize the use of animals for food is distasteful to some of you).  Use in the service of the disabled.  Then, of course, the less popular use as experimentation for medical purposes.  There are many other uses, as well.  Some I embrace, others I cringe at, and still others I can tell you I'm more against, than I am in support of.  I can't tell you I love all of them.

HOWEVER, I do not want the government, spurred on by the Humane Society of the United States, to take away my right to make my own choices about animal use in my life.

Let's get one thing straight.  The words "humane society" in the title of the aforementioned group, is extremely misleading.  They are not your local shelter.  They donate less than one half of 1% of your donations to the shelter and care of animals in your community.  If you wish for your money to go directly to these animals, please make a stop at your local shelter (there is one in most every community), and make a donation of food, money, blankets, crates, leashes, dog beds, etc.  This is the only way to ensure that your donations *will* directly benefit animals, and do so in your own community.

The massive budget of the Humane Society of the United States is spent on advertising, lobbying and salaries (including pensions).  In 2010, I believe it was over $130,000,000 in total donations, and other income, and of that, only $650,000 found its way to shelters across this country, where it had any direct benefit to animals that desperately needed it.

Please read the following statements made by the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle.  If there is any doubt as to this organization's goals, these are his words, and he has made similar statements for well over a decade, and likely much longer: 

We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding. - Wayne Pacelle, Animal People News, May, 1993. 

If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would. -- Wayne Pacelle, Associated Press, December, 1991.

When asked if he envisioned a future without pets: “If I had my personal view, perhaps that might take hold. In fact, I don’t want to see another dog or cat born.”-- Wayne Pacelle, Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt, by Ted Kerasote, 1993.

“I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals…To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal. I like them and I pet them and I’m kind to them, but there’s no special bond between me and other animals.”-- Wayne Pacelle, Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt, Ted Kerasote, 1993.

A word about sport hunting.  As controlled by Fish and Game, it's a necessary part of population control, and the blending of the animal world, and the human world.  It's not easy to get a tag, and there are a lot of challenges and requirements in finding and taking down that animal.  Think it's cruel?  If I were an Elk, I'd rather be shot dead, on the spot, by a hunter, than eaten, while still alive, by a Cougar or Wolf.

I do not like the aggressive lobbying the Humane Society of the United States engages in.  I do not like the million dollar salaries its executives make, and claim is "all in the interest of animals."  Really?  If that's the case, why don't you roll up your sleeves, and muck out kennels once a week at any local shelter in this country?  Help nurse a wounded dog back to health.  How about taking in a few foster animals, welcome them into your heart and home?  No, I'll bet, because that job doesn't come with a cushy office, salary, nor fat pension.

I dislike the use of the words 'humane society' in the title of this organization, because I think, in the hearts of Americans everywhere, those words mean the local shelter, where local animals are taken in, when lost or relinquished.  In our hearts, we want to help our local shelter, or 'humane society'.  The Humane Society of the United States knows this, and they have capitalized on it for many, many years.

And now that we are on the topic of shelters, let's talk about the residents of these facilities.

There is such a push for the shelter dog.  I have no issue with the shelter dog.  I grew up with one.  My family had several, including a rescue.  They were all great dogs.  In most cases, they were the product of accidental breedings from un-tested parents.

In my adult life I have chosen purebred puppies from fully tested parents.  This is my choice.  It's not a 'less than honorable' choice, it's just the choice I prefer.

I use the word 'choice' a lot here, and anywhere I discuss this topic.  For me, this isn't a hatred of the Humane Society of the United States, it's a strong dislike of anyone telling me how to live my life, what animal to take in, how to eat, including the discouragement of meat eating, etc.  I do not like the Humane Society of the United States for this reason, and when you donate to them, you are donating to this type of control, and governmental influence.

Let's talk about the Humane Society of the United States recent call to 'turn in thy neighbor' for illegal animal abuse, offering up to $5,000 leading to the conviction of said neighbor, shall we?  As written, I don't have a problem with this 'call'.  What I have a problem with is what it means in local communities.  It's the frivolous reports that will undoubtedly be filed, and the numerous folks who will have to fight back to prove they are providing proper care for their animals.  The fallout from these frivolous reports, leading to unfavorable and incorrect perceptions.  Neighbor feuds, unrest in communities.  If someone is truly running a facility where animals are suffering, report them, I have no problem with that, but let's take ginger steps here with this 'call' to report thy neighbor.  You can report abuse all the live long day, but that doesn't mean it's really happening.

Before you report your fellow man for abuse, make sure it's really happening.  Try to be a good neighbor.  How about a chat?  How about getting to understand what might really be going on over that shared fence?

I believe there is animal abuse in this world, and I want those who create it to be held accountable, but just because your dog sleeps on your bed, and your neighbor's dog spends more time outdoors, does not mean he is being abused.  It is a different life-style, it's not a matter of a 'right' life-style, or a 'wrong' life-style.  It's just one way vs. another.

I have seen the following items listed as abusive:

A dog crate.
A slip collar.
A leash.
A kennel run.

Well, I do not have a kennel run, but I have, and use the other three items in my efforts to train dogs that will not be a nuisance to my neighbors, who will not tear up my home, nor destroy my yard.  A collar and leash allow me to keep control, and keep my dogs from making unwanted contact with passersby.  These items are called 'abusive' by the animals rights groups.  Think about it.

Anything, not used safely, and without compassion, can be abusive, but that doesn't mean it should be classified as such, and in a broad statement of fact.  It simply is incorrect, in a broad sense.

To me, cruelty or abuse is any action, or device, that causes pain and suffering in its application, not imagined or manufactured, but real.  In that case, a crate can be either positive or negative.  It's not the crate that's the problem, it's the application, and the person who uses it, either properly or improperly.

I will not stand here and tell you which organizations you should support.  That's really up to you, but I will say this, if you choose to support the Humane Society of the United States, please make sure you are fully aware of what you are supporting.  Do you want to help a dog or a cat, while still maintaining your future right to have and hold these beautiful creatures?  If so, perhaps your donations would be better placed in an organization that isn't working to end just animal cruelty, but who is also working hard to end ALL animal use.

Think about it...


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Stuffed brie

Boy, if ever there was a dish I'd like to take credit for, this one is it!  Why?  Because it's simple, easy and looks beautiful.  My top three requirements for anything I make, all rolled into one, tasty treat.  Perfect as an appetizer (all alone), or with crackers.

 

Pretty straightforward.  Start with a brie wheel, and cut it in half, like a layer cake.  Top the bottom half with any combination you like.  I used sun-dried tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, garlic and salt/pepper.

 

Add the top half, and set it atop a thawed puff pastry (I do not make puff pastry, I just buy it from the freezer case in my local market).

 

Wrap it up (it doesn't have to be pretty, just pinch edges together), place it on a baking sheet, and into a 400 degree oven until golden brown, and puffed up.


 

Remove from oven, let it set for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve as you wish.

I can see this one stuffed with many different ingredients.  Make it savory, or sweet.  Something tells me grilled peaches and ginger might be good, too.  Have fun with this one!