Monday, March 16, 2015


 These Bacon Wrapped Bites are so easy to make and really pack a punch in flavor!

So far we've wrapped and grilled --- tuna chunks, chicken, salmon, steak ---- and I'm already dreaming up ground beef meatballs... and even rolled sausages. The sky is the limit on what to make, not to mention, it is so easy.

Some have asked if we need to precook the bacon to ensure it cooks. My answer is, NO NEED for PRECOOKING anything. Also, the only supplies you need to wrap is bacon (I prefer the thick slab) toothpicks, and the meat/veggie of choice to wrap.

Here, we are wrapping wild salmon that I'll be cutting into strips, and adding a slice of Serrano hot peppers.

Just lie the bacon flat and start rolling the ingredients from the end just like a burrito or eggroll.

If you prefer, you can also add a slice of cheese here or whatever else strikes your fancy.

When rolling, try to make it as snug as possible without stretching the bacon too much, and twist the bacon to wrap over the exposed sides too, creating a complete bacon ball. Slide tooth pick all the way through to secure it.

If you haven't noticed, I didn't season the meat. We've learned that the bacon adds plenty of salted flavor.

Place Poppers over hot grill and cover with vent closed to get things smoking.

Finish cooking with lid off --- Turn over poppers to brown both sides. Since we're cooking fish here, the meat cooked plenty fast, so we mainly continued grilling to crisp the bacon.

These meat poppers may look small, but just a few can fill a person up.

Pull the toothpicks out and serve with your favorite side dishes.

I still marvel at how the bacon bonds to the meat perfectly.
Pictured here are boneless chicken breasts wrapped and BAKED. Flip over after an hour in oven to crisp the other side. These are incredibly delicious and easy to make!

Did I mention these make great leftover snacks when cold? Or for breakfast? :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

GONE WITH THE WIND - Green Curtain Dress in Austin, Texas

 Earlier this month, we managed to make it to the Harry Ransom Center museum in downtown, Austin to see behind the scenes memorabilia from Gone With the Wind.

Have you ever seen the movie, or better yet, read the "phone book sized" book?

I've done both. The first time I saw the movie was when it first aired at the drive-in movies in a small town in Missouri. Then many years later, I tackled the book.

Then the movie came out in VHS (two tapes) and I got that from my family for Christmas (am I dating myself here?)

Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel was truly epic, and what I remember the most is the famous green curtain that she yanked from her window to turn into a dress (pictured above)

And of course, the calm, cool collected Rhett butler and Scarlett's spoiled pout.

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

As a seamstress, I must confess, I now look at curtains differently when calculating the costs of recreating a long gown. Collecting used curtains would be much cheaper than buying new fabric by the yard.

Due to us waiting till the very last day to see the exhibit, the area was packed with long lines. I managed to get a few photos of the actual gowns that were worn during the show as well as some screen shots.

Actual screenplay with notes and corrections.

Glad we went. Finally. We kept putting it off during the holidays, thinking (quoting movie) "after all, tomorrow is another day." ...till we barely made it in time.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

COWYBOY GRILL - Cooking Off Grid and REVIEW

I'm going to briefly go over some various grills that we have been using, and then a review on the new Cowboy grill.

FIRST, just some quick background information.  The photo above is an outdoor pit that I learned to cook from after volunteering for several years at an 1800 living history museum. My kids and I would spend our time at several different homes, either cooking from a wood stove, or an outdoor kitchen. The farm I took this photo at was an actual one room home to a family with several kids who slept in the loft. Their kitchen was outdoors. Rain or shine, they cooked from this fire pit.

I loved cooking this way for the public and feeding my children homemade biscuits, and pots of stew.
One of the BEST MEALS I had ever enjoyed was when several families gathered together on the farm and cooked a huge Easter dinner - meat roasting in dutch ovens, pots of beans, potato salads, cobblers, fresh vegetables from the garden. It's been several years and I STILL think of that meal.

Anyway, I haven't been volunteering much at the farm since the kids are grown, but I wanted to capture that experience at home. So now we do a LOT of outdoor grilling and spending time outdoors.

Pictured is a very affordable small grill that we keep beside the table on the front porch. As you can see, not too large, but room enough for two iron skillets.

What  I like about this grill is that we don't have to use a lot of charcoal! We have a full sized grill in the backyard that is a hog when it comes to using charcoal. But its the grill we use when cooking large briskets.

Bacon wrapped tuna and jalapeno's!

Another grill we enjoy is the round portable grill. Very affordable. Both grills I've shown so far cost around $20. This particular grill we like using when cooking TABLE TOP. The table we're using, I had gotten free on Craigslist. I was going to paint over it, but fell in love with the shabby chic look.

An iron skillet takes up the whole grill. Pictured, I'm frying potatoes for breakfast.

This meal, I had to take turns with the cooking. Potatoes first, then meat last.


An added benefit of the table top grill is that it keeps the flies and mosquitoes at bay since the smoking food is right near the table.
The grill is easy to move when needing to make room at the table.
A very affordable grill (and something we've stocked up on) is this cheap $3 grill that you can find in many stores as well as Walmarts. This grill comes with 4 legs that you slide in, and it comes with charcoal. This is supposed to be a disposable camping grill. We've used the same grill over and over again table top. What I do is line the bottom with foil before using. This was our first table top grill before we found the round one.
We've also experimented with this grill INDOORS. Using hot coals from the wood burning fireplace. I was able to fry bacon and eggs this way with a flat cast iron skillet. This is something that I will do again if we were faced with a power outage in cold weather and I don't want to cook outdoors.
All of the grills I've shown were used with charcoal. But I've been wanting to cook more with firewood. Since we live within city limits, I wasn't sure on zoning laws and I figured building a fire pit like I had shown at the farm would be out of the question.

When I saw this Cowboy Grill Open Pit Grill at Sams ----> HERE, I realized this is what I have been looking for in place of the 1800 fire pit.

Not only could we gather around a nice fire pit, but we could cook an entire meal at once.
Thankfully, the store had a grill on display and I was able to inspect it to see if it was durable. I went home and researched and came very close to buying the RiverGrille Cowboy Charcoal Grill at Home Depot ---->HERE
Both grills cost the exact same $200. The grills were similar in appearance except the SAMS one was a bit wider in dimensions (from what I remember) and the Home Depot one came with a rotisserie!
BUT, the RiverGrille was sold out and needed to be ordered online and shipped. So I went with the one that was available at Sams. (If your local Sams says it's sold out at your area store, check with the manager first. Mine said online it was sold out, but in person, I found 4 grills available at my store.)
I think Home Depot offers a free service to put your grill together. The Sam's Cowboy Grill wasn't too bad to assemble (I read the reviews first), but once you get the 3 legs situated properly (was a bit confusing at first) the rest is easy. I'm pretty sure one person could do this alone, but I had a helper.

We also primed the grill first (as the instructions required) by adding oil to the basin and top grate.

Pictured, we grilled steaks using a combination of charcoal and firewood. After we cooked, we removed the top grate and enjoyed the fire pit.

What we liked about the grill is that it sits at a nice level off the ground - VERY STURDY - and is plenty large to have several friends gathered around in chairs.

There is a drain pipe in the center that you can open and allow the grill to drain if filled with water or ash. The grill does not come with a cover, so this is something that we will have to figure out how to keep dry or to move away from the rain.

But the big test was the following morning. I wanted to cook an entire meal with just firewood. A slight smoke rose from the heap of ash, and I added some twigs and pieces of paper and fanned it to life. I didn't have to strike a single match.

As the fire grew, I added more twigs and wood. This is how I would normally start the fire at the farm with the outdoor pit.

Ready to start cooking.

Coffee first.

What I noticed about the grill is that the grate is slightly warped in the middle, rising in a sort of mound. Not really noticeable, unless you're moving a skillet around and you see the difference when the oil inside the skillet rolls to the side. This is something I DID read about from the reviews.

What we LOVED about the grill is the swivel work table. We used it continuously to set the spices on, the cooking utensils, or to set our drinks.

The coffee pot hangs from the adjustable pot hanger hook. This comes with a chain too so that you
can adjust a pot higher or lower as needed. Each item (side table/hook) can be moved to various locations around the grill, and can either be moved to hover over the heat, or to move to the side.

With all of these functions, and the size of the grill, we were able to see so many ways we could cook an entire meal at the same time.

MY TWO CENTS on the grill:

During an off grid situation, I think this grill is perfect. It is a nice and sturdy self contained grill that can enable a person to cook safely and with either firewood or charcoal, or both at the same time.

With using just 2 logs of wood, and several twigs, I was able to cook an entire meal, and still had room for additional pans. Naturally, using firewood exclusively, you would have to attend the fire more often than with charcoal, as wood tends to burn fast, or shift directions, causing you to stoke the fire, and to feed it.

The warping of the top grate wasn't too big of an issue. But I will be doing updates on the grill.

As for the price. We have spent $200 before eating out with a large family. The price of this grill, is a good investment for UNLIMITED family gatherings. Something we really can't put a price on when the family is eating together and spending time together outdoors.

If you purchase this grill, or decide to buy the one at Home Depot, I would love to hear back from you on your opinions! We are looking at adding a rotisserie to our grill in the near future.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

HOMEMADE POTPOURRI - Using Dehydrated Citrus Peels

IF you're searching for a way to FRESHEN UP your house with something natural, healthy, and economical... Have you thought of homemade potpourri?
With all of my dehydrating, and not wanting to be wasteful, I've been collecting/drying all of the peelings. My post here on---> Dehydrating Lemons

I also save the peelings when eating an orange. They can be added to the bottom of your dehydrator when drying other foods...

As you dry and collect peelings, add the mixture to a jar.

To add more scent, I use these cinnamon sticks. This particular brand I had picked up at a local Indian store.

An old pot I had picked up from the thrift store is now my potpourri warmer.
All I do is add a handful of dried citrus peels, a cinnamon stick or two, turn the stove on low and WOW!
Your whole house will be scented with these natural ingredients.
Also, if you're concerned about leaving the stove on with the potpourri simmering, you can also try this with an electric candle warmer.