Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe (kind-of!): Home-Made Hard Lotion Bars (Plus Psoriasis Woes)

I know I have alluded to my "Psoriatic Challenges" in previous posts, and I'm debating whether to add another category/sub-heading on my blog for "Psoriasis."

On the one hand, I really don't want this to be a place where I come to b*tch about how crappy I feel (And trust me when I say "I feel REAL crappy - almost all of the time!"), but OTOH, there seems to be a dearth of info out there in internet-land about how psoriasis-sufferers "cope."

Ehh, I guess I can add the sub-heading and see what happens.  But I DON'T want this to be an ongoing "theme." (Hell, I just want it to f**king STOP ruining my day-to-day life!!!)

Anyway...  I am trying a variety of "things" to see what might help.  I am on numerous prescription salves/ointments/creams/blah-blahs (mostly steroidal - which doesn't thrill me);  I've been thru NUMEROUS dermatologists (I'm up to Derma-Doc #5 now); and I've tried several different treatments (we're getting ready to move-up to "Biologics" aka "Immune-Suppressants") ("Yippee F**kin' Skippy!").

Pretty much, treatment of psoriasis seems to be mostly a Crap-Shoot:  "Try this for a few months..."  "Did it work?"  "No."  "Okay, try THAT for a few months..."  "Did it work?" "No."  "Okay, let's move over to THIS for a few months..." Lather (with unscented/hypo-allergenic whatevers). Rinse. Repeat.

I've ALMOST lost track of all the "Try This" medications (No, I do know what I've tried!).  The worst part is the intervening "few months" between each "experiment" - where I have been rendered a virtual invalid.  P*sses me off - more than you can imagine because I am NOT - I repeat: NOT - a "sedentary" person!

Oops.  This is bordering on "Ranting" now, isn't it?!  Okay, I'll stop :-)

So ANNNNYYYYWAAAAAAYYYYYY...  Every once in awhile, I feel like I need to "take a break" from all of the pharmaceuticals ('cuz, honestly?! All that sh*t is POISON, IMHO).  I've made several trips to our local Health Food Store (a little Mom 'n Pop shop - that I really, really like), and I've elicited gasps of (horror?) from the store owners when I remove my gloves and show them my hands... (and let's not *even* talk about my feet, which are "barely-functional" for walking appx half of the time).

I had a helluva time finding any Aloe Vera Gel products that didn't contain alcohol (Alcohol on open sores?! I think NOT!), so I bought my own Aloe Vera plants.  I have tried a few herbal/all-natural preparations and I will say that they don't AGGRAVATE the condition (and I *can't* say that for the pharmaceuticals!), but they don't do much to improve it either.

So somehow, somewhere along the line, I stumbled onto a "recipe" for all-natural, hand-made hard-lotion bars.  And I pinned it for future reference, right?

Well, last night, I decided to make-up a batch of hard-lotion.  I decided to keep it simple for the first batch and pretty-well followed the directions to-the-letter from this site, and this site.

I procured most of my ingredients from Glory Bee Foods.  Again, I get no "spliff" for posting, but I'm happy (so far) with what I got!

I did not do a pictorial step-by-step - this time around (since I didn't know what the hell I was doing and had NO clue if it would work), but I *am* including a photo of the final product, at least!

I measured-out 3 oz. each (by weight) of:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Natural Beeswax

Now my beeswax came in a BIG 1 lb "chunk" and cutting it was a challenge - to say the least!  Not sure if I'd go with "granulated" - or if I feel like investing-in (and storing) a dedicated cheese-grater for making my own granulated beeswax.  I *knew* I wanted super-pure beeswax with no funky fillers, so I went with the 1lb chunk.

Cocoa Butter, likewise, was "challenging" to handle since it was basically a solid mass in a jar.  I ended up removing the lid and plunking the jar into a pot of boiling water on the stove so I could melt and pour it out.

Coconut Oil was easy.  It's like Crisco Shortening and very easy to scoop out of the tub!

Anyway, I combined equal amounts of all three ingredients into a 1 QT Pyrex  Measuring Cup.  I set a large-ish pot of water on the stove and brought it to a boil, then placed the Pyrex Cup into the boiling water (think "Poor-Man's Double-Boiler, right?!).  Key point here:  You DON'T need a lot of boiling water in your water-pot.  I over-estimated and ended up with boiling water splooging-out all over the stove top!

Sadly, I can't give you exact measurements, but you only need an inch (or so) of water in the bigger pot because - DUH! - it will "rise" when you put the Pyrex cup in it! (Damned Physics!).

Alternatively (and this would probably be the better solution - if I decide to make this on a regular basis), I'd like to purchase a solid-glass 2 QT saucepan from the local thrift-store and just dedicate it to things like Lotion- and Soap-making (and if I ever decide to move more into home-made soap, I would also like to buy a dedicated immersion-blender for that purpose).  I went with the Pyrex measuring cup because glass SHOULD clean-up easily and the cup can still be used for cooking.  Had I opted for one of my Teflon saucepans, it probably would have been ruined...

Anyway, I started out with the large-ish pot of water.  Brought the water to a boil on "High," then stuck the Pyrex cup with oils/butters inside of the Pyrex measuring cup.  I lowered the heat to "Low" and stirred 'til everything melted.  The beeswax (which was chopped into LARGE chunks) took the longest to integrate (or dis-integrate - depending on your perspective!).  Once everything was a nice, liquid consistency, I grabbed an oven mitt to remove the Pyrex Mixing Cup and poured everything into a Silicone Mold (I think it was a Wilton Candy Mold).  9 oz. of "stuff" yielded 4 "bars" of hard lotion.

I really like the Silicone Mold because it was SUPER-easy to pop the lotions out, the next day.

Now I didn't add any scents or other "additions" this time around.  I wanted to see how a Bare-Nekkid Batch would come out.

First Impressions?  Very nice!  It's kind of like a "greasy" chap-stick (and, in fact, I really like rubbing it on my lips - to tell you the truth!).  When you rub the bar in your hands, it melts and coats your skin, quite nicely.  It *does* take a little while to soak into your skin, but - honestly - I like it!  It is VERY soothing, after it soaks in. (Until it soaks in - you might want to avoid opening the sliding GLASS door! lol) (But it beats the HELL out of some of the Rx ointments I've been using - where I feel like I'm leaving an Oil-Slick behind, EVERYWHERE I go!!!).

Anyway, I really *do* like it.  I especially like that I can - not only recount - but PRONOUNCE all of the ingredients in this lotion!  "Beeswax, Coconut Oil, and Cocoa Butter!"  (Compare that to "Tocopheryl, blada-blada" "Humunha-Humunha" and F, D &C Red #5!")

So, I'm gonna give myself a 1-week "Pharmacological Break" and just stick with this stuff.  No, I don't expect a "cure" - but I KNOW it won't make things any worse!  Then I'll go back to the NASTY-Rx Stuff and hope for the best...

Next time I make this:  I think I'll go for a 50/50 mix of Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter (Shea Butter, evidently, is more "sticky" in texture so, hopefully, slightly less "greasy?").  I may also look into adding Chamomile Essential Oil (it's supposed to be very soothing), and I might also cut the Coconut Oil with Aloe Vera Oil.  Lastly, I'll try to "squirt" part of the batch into lip-balm tubes because - honestly - this stuff is THE BOMB as far as Lip Balms go!

Sorry for the incessant rambling this last couple-three posts, but, well, that's "where I'm at" these days!!!  Hopefully things will improve at some point and I can go back to more "CONTENT!"



Random Ramblings: Party Central!

So - go figure! - I am calling this my "Lost Summer," owing to the stupid bullsh*t psoriasis crap, and THIS is the summer that Hubs figures out that "Hey!  We've got a GREAT yard for parties!  Let's throw some!"

It's all good...  Really, it is!  Except that "throwing parties" involves going to the grocery store, and procuring party-foods, and prepping finger-foods, and making dips, and marinating meats and whatnot.  All of which requires the Ability to Freaking Stand (and, maybe, Walk?!).

And...  Even though "Man Cooks With Fire" (with much flourish!), c'mon Ladies, we all KNOW that the Prep-Work is probably the bulk of a BBQ - Am I right?!!

No, I am NOT b*tching about this - because I LOVE to have people over!  And yes, we DO have the Ultimate Party Yard!  And I'm glad that we are finally SHARING it with friends and neighbors!

So we've had four parties, so far, this year - including TWO this past weekend!  That's TWO days in a row, folks!

So THAT'S why I couldn't do my "Gushy Tenth Anniversary Post" on Friday - I was running my @$$ ragged with grocery-store runs, and dip-making, and cake-destroying and all that good stuff!

I *am* getting increasingly lazy, however...  Now I'm purchasing the pre-cut Veggie Trays (excuse me Crudité Platter!  We are CLASSY, ya know?!).  Seriously, though...  ANYTHING to cut back on the prep-work is worth it to me - these days!

Annnnnd...  Since this last couple of parties were held with closer, more familiar, friends - this time around I willingly took them up on their offer(s) of "Do you need any help?!"

No "Hostess with the Mostess" Delusions for me!  I gladly accepted assistance - especially on Sunday - after I managed to slice-off the tips of my right thumb and index finger whilst slicing tomatoes and onions with my mandoline! Oooops!  (Funny story there: When I bought my mandoline-slicer off of Amazon, there were a bunch of negative customer reviews from ppl complaining that "the blade is REALLY sharp and you could CUT yourself!" Like "DUHHHH!!  Isn't that the whole point behind a mandoline-slicer?!") (No, I won't be posting a negative review on Amazon b/c I WAS AN IDIOT and neglected to use the safety/veggie-squisher/holder thingie!).

Anyway, both parties were very casual and fun...  And I didn't feel awkward about accepting help when it was offered...  And a Grand Time was Had by All!

No pictures from this party - although I think there were a few posted on Facebook (LOL - Pretty-much we were all communicating via Facebook Post throughout Sunday's Party!)...  It was basically "same as before" - kids in the pool (although these kids were young adults!), and people clustered around the Tiki Bar.


This coming weekend, we have our fifth (and Final) party scheduled.  Couple of Hubbie's Deadhead Friends are coming down for a BBQ and Swim.  I hope the weather holds out!  I have to (sadly) admit that there *is* a touch of Autumn in the air (BooooooHooooooooo!!!!!!!!)................

But I am still holding out hope that (soon!) my tomatoes will "rally" and give me BUSHELS of fruit so I can get to work canning AWESOME home-made pasta sauce!

We shall see...

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Decade of Fun, Cake Mishaps, and a Whole Lotta Rambling!

I really wanted to put up a nice gushy post on Friday...  But...  Friggin' Real Life (and work, and errand-running, and celebrating) got in the way...

So just pretend it's last Friday, k?

'Cuz 10 years prior.......

...a couple of not-so-young, but very crazy bikers got married!

Okay, everyone say "Awwwwwww!!!"

Actually, we had a surprisingly classy Garden Wedding.  It was one of those "Package Deals" which was handled by Freedom Hall.  I highly recommend them if you want to have a nice wedding, on a budget, and don't want the hassle of having to coordinate EVERYTHING yourself.

Sure, we could have done a very nice "Destination Wedding" in some Tropical Locale (we actually did consider it), but since hubs and I had been single for sooooo long (I was 39 and he was 45 - and neither of us had ever been married before!); and we had so many friends that would not have believed us! - Well, we opted for a semi-formal ceremony where everyone could attend and witness it (and/or prepare for Armageddon) themselves!

Anyway, it was a very classy ceremony - for a couple of bikers!  We even opted for live chamber music (a trio with harpsichord, violin and cello) - SUPER classy!  And a former boss of mine, who was an amazing opera singer, sang for our wedding as well. I still get a little verklempt thinking about it!

After the ceremony, we did the whole "picture thing" with the photographer.  A friend of hubs spent the night before - scrubbing and polishing his Harley (a Softail Springer) the night before so that we could use it for the photo shoot.  My mom was absolutely APPALLED that I was going anywhere *near* "that filthy bike" in my beautiful Princessy lace-and-beads-with-the-super-long-train wedding gown!

"Damn straight I am!  Oh, and don't forget my black leather jacket, k?  The one with the fringe?!"

God bless mom.  She realized that resistance was futile and - if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em!  She ALSO brought along a large white bed-sheet that we could drape over the bike BEFORE I sat on it!

No, I did not get any grease spots on my dress! (Hell, the bed-sheet was still spotless afterward!)

Anyway, we had a very nice ceremony with all of our nearest and dearest friends (and voyeuristic disbelievers!) in attendance.  Followed by a VERY fun party with a live DJ and the usual stuff.  Our biker friends stayed 'til the very end (and were very proud to announce that they got "86'd from our wedding reception!") (only because Freedom Hall had another ceremony scheduled after ours - lol!)

Now, ELEVEN years prior, Hubs (then boyfriend) and I had gone out for dinner at our local Outback Restaurant.  Big huge wait for a table, so we sat out on the porch, out front, waiting for our name to be called.  Hubs (who was still a "Shy Boy" at the time) was behaving strangely nervous and fidgety.  Now we had been together since...  March?  April?  I think I semi-officially moved-in in April, so let's call it April!

August 17th 2001 is when he "popped the question" and he actually worried that I might say "No!"  How precious is that?!  Now, he was too shy to do the "bended knee" routine - especially with all those people around!  But that's okay.

Ummm...  I did say "Yes!"

Annnnnnnmyyyyhooooooo...  Ten years sure flew by quickly!  It's been a roller-coaster ride, for sure!  We've had some ups and downs (as do all couples, I'm sure!).  For as many things as we have in common, we have just as many where we have to figure out how to "Agree to Disagree!"  He is an A/R Engineer-Type, and I am a "Que Sera-Sera" Psycho-Gemini-Type.  He is über organized and, well, I'm not!  He balances his entire portfolio - to the penny - every day.  I write checks until I think "I should probably stop!" And I do *glance* at my portfolio - from time to time!

Like I say, even with the differences (which keeps things "Interesting!"), I wouldn't change 'em for the world!

Love ya, Babe!

Now...  Part of my running-around on Friday included picking up a replica of the top tier of our wedding cake - from the very same baker that made our original wedding cake (and yes, we *did* eat the original top tier on our first wedding anniversary).

I was very pleased to see that they were still in business and willing to bake us a 10th Wedding Anniversary Cake.  Unfortunately, they had lost their database with all of the details from 10 years ago, but if I sent them a photograph, and flavor selections, they would be very happy to re-create it - for a princely sum!

Ahhh...  But it's our 10-year anniversary, right?  I'll pay it!

True Confession:  I *know* I still have every contract, every note, every snippet of paper related to Wedding Planning in a box in the back of our shed - and yes, I readily acknowledge that there is absolutely NO reason to hold onto that sh*t!  Well, except for times like these, right?!!

Well, except for the fact that with temps in the mid- to upper-90's, the thought of ransacking the (NOT air-conditioned) shed was...  For lack of a better word: "Not Gonna Happen!"

Screw it!  I'll scan a photo of our wedding cake, check-out their webpage for flavor-selections and choose something tasty - "Hubs ain't gonna remember!"

Original Cake - Aug 17, 2002

I chose to have it recreated with white cake and chocolate custard filling (Can't go wrong with that, right?!).  And the gal called me to confirm my order (and obtain my credit card info).  "Yes, I'll get my own purple flowers/grapes/ivy to place on the top of it." "Yes, I still have the cake topper, should I bring it to you?"  "Hell, it'd be easier for me to transport without the cake topper, I'll just put it on myself, that's fine..." "Why yes, it IS heavy.  It's made of pewter!" 

She, evidently, made note of it in her contract because - supposedly - for *heavy* cake toppers, they have to do something different to the top of the cake so it's stiff enough to support the topper, right?

Wellllllll...  EVIDENTLY...  Somebody didn't "get the memo!"  The cake, when I first brought it home (to our HEAVILY air-conditioned house - after a brief ride in my HEAVILY air-conditioned car), looked simply gorgeous.

Well, about an hour before hubs was due home (and, appx 2 hours after I'd picked it up), I figured I'd set it up on a pretty cake-stand, in front of the GORGEOUS bouquet of roses and lilies he'd sent me.  So I got it all set-up, all pretty-like, right?  I gently set the HEAVY PEWTER cake topper on top of the cake and it immediately fell backwards, effectively f**king up the frosting!

"Sh*t!"  Oh well, I guess I'll stick some grapes there.

So then I smushed the cake topper into the top of the cake a little deeper...

Sumb*tch STILL fell backwards!

"Well f*ck!" I guess I'll add a sprig of goldenrod as well...

I smushed the friggin' cake topper down til you could only see the top half of it AND grabbed a bunch of toothpicks in an ill-fated attempt to build-up some kind of scaffolding/support around it.  "Jay-ZUS Criminy!"

I did manage to snap ONE picture in the midst of the destruction:
Re-created cake - "Before the Fall"

Now, I'm not sure if you can notice, but on the front side - kinda to the left and right-ish sides - the middle of the cake is starting to kinda "pooch out?"  They look almost like bubbles on either side of the frosting grapes...  Well, the "pooching" started even BEFORE I started the Cake-Topper-Squishing. :::sigh:::

Honestly, I was pretty upset over the whole thing at this point.  But rather than get all worked-up over it I figured "WTF - It'll still taste good" and I ended up removing the cake topper (leaving a big ol' gaping rectangular hole in the top of the cake) and piling more flotsam on top of that (Cakewrecks-style!).

Like I said, it'll still TASTE good - after we remove the bunch of grapes and wads of flowers that I crammed on top of it.  And, in fact, it DID taste good!

"But wait!  There's More!"

So hubs and I decided to celebrate our 10-year Wedding Anniversary (and 11-year Engagement Anniversary) at The Scene of the Crime: Outback Steakhouse.  We enjoyed a lovely surf 'n turf dinner and opted out of dessert because, well, there's CAKE at home!

So we each had a slice of cake and - as I'm sure I've mentioned - I don't eat much sugar as a rule.  The freaking buttercream was soooooo sweet, it made my teeth buzz! (Srsly!  And no, I do NOT blame the baker for that - I am pretty sure that is 100% normal and I am just NOT sugar-tolerant anymore) (and I have to laugh and shudder at the same time because - when I was a kid - I would look to scrape off THE biggest buttercream rose and gobble it up with glee!).  So we thoroughly enjoyed the cake (even if I had to scrape all the frosting off and throw it away!), and then we left it sitting, overnight, on the dining table (in our HEAVILY air-conditioned kitchen)...

Well, the next morning, half of the cake had, literally, COLLAPSED!  We're talking full-on Avalanche off the side of the cake platter, down onto the table, glooped over hubbies cigarettes and enveloping his cigarette lighter (rendering it inoperable)!!!

I probably should have taken pictures - just for the comedic value - but I didn't!

In retrospect, it was pretty funny.  We did end up cramming what-was-left-of the cake (which was still standing, at that point), back into the cake box and sticking it in the fridge for future enjoyment.  And - even after that - it has CONTINUED to deteriorate!  It's basically just an amorphous blob of cake and chocolate custard, glued to the sides of the cake-box with white buttercream!  Yes, it STILL tastes good (teeth-buzzing nonwithstanding), but I daresay, had we been planning a Formal 10-year Wedding Anniversary Party with friends, I would've been extremely p*ssed-off!

As it stands, it was just the two of us, and we can kind of laugh about it.  But I think I will be sending an "I was extremely disappointed" email to the baker.  Not for a refund or anything like that - but more as an "FYI" so that other couples don't have to experience this.  And yes, you may have noticed a LACK of a link to the Wedding Cake Baker's website.  Honestly, we were EXTREMELY happy with the Wedding Cake itself, but the Anniversary Cake was bad enough that I don't feel I can recommend them...

Anyhoooo...  It was a Very Nice Anniversary, and hubs and I exchanged Very Nice Gifts, and - honestly - it's been a pretty F**king Awesome 10-years!!!

"Who'da Thunk It?!!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Recipe: Finny-Fridge-Pickles!

Requisite Disclaimer:  I am *not* a pickle-person - never have been! But I thought it might be fun to "break the rules" and see if, maybe, I prefer HOME-MADE pickles instead.

Trouble is:  I didn't plant pickle-able cucumbers this year (or, if I did, they were decimated by bugs or some-such nonsense!).

So last week, my local Blogger-Buddy, Finnyknits, came by to steal some of my over-abundance of peaches.  I knew that she had planted cukes, and that hers were producing MADLY, so I asked her to bring some ("only if you've got more than you can handle!!!").  She actually offered to bring some bona-fide pickles, but I declined.  I actually wanted to try pickling myself!

She did end-up bringing me a good-sized bag of fresh-picked cukes which I (thankfully!) tossed into the fridge because it was a full-week before I could actually DO anything with them! (Thanks, Finny! ;-)

If you're a regular reader of this blog (First-off, I LOVE you! Thanks!!!!), you have no-doubt heard me RAVE about my Sweet Corn Apple Relish (many, many, many times!).  I srsly LOVE this sh*t!!!

Well, in the course of my web-surfing, I stumbled onto this (which I immediately pinned!).  The ingredients seem strikingly similar to my corn-relish recipe so - "What the hey," right?!! - let's try to "modify" the recipe and apply it to pickles instead!

I figured I'd stick to the refrigerator version b/c I didn't wanna do a lot of waiting/brining/work/yada-yada.  So this is what I came up with!  No clue if it's gonna be any good or not (I'll sample it tomorrow - or maybe this weekend - and report back!).

Since these were Finny's Cukes, I felt it was only fitting to name them after her (Gawd, I hope they're tasty - otherwise, she might hate me for-EVAR!!!)

Finny Fridge Pickles
Yield: 3 one-pint jars


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 oz. unsweetened "natural" applesauce
  • 1-1/2 TBS fine sea salt (adjust to your liking - this is what *I* ended up with!)
  • 1 cup granulated Splenda
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (again, adjust sweetness to your liking)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • Optional: crushed red pepper (if you want more spice).  Or ground cumin (if you like a more 'mexican-y flavor') (I didn't add either of these)
  • 1-1/2 lbs pickle-sized cucumbers, sliced (I did mine as spears)
  • 1/2 of a large-ish sweet (or red) onion, finely minced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely minced
  • 3 diced red and/or yellow sweet peppers (the little kind) (I used leftovers from last weekend's veggie-dip tray!!!)
  1. In a small saucepan at medium-high heat, combine cider vinegar, water, applesauce, salt, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and grd mustard. Bring to a boil and let it boil hard for one minute.
  2. Meanwhile, slice cucumbers and onion. Dice the peppers (remove the seeds unless you want LOTS of spice!), chop the celery.  Loosely pack the vegetables in 1-pint canning jars or other similarly sized containers. Pour hot liquid over the vegetables in the container. Refrigerate for 24 hours and enjoy! Keep refrigerated.

Now, I don't know if it's fair to call these "pickles" - or maybe they're just "marinated cucumbers!"  I also have no clue how they're ultimately gonna taste, but I will *definitely* report-back, after sampling!

I will say I was pleasantly-surprised to discover that the quantity of liquid/heated stuff was absolutely PERFECT for the quantity of veggies I'd sliced and tossed into my pint-jars! (Talk about Pure F**king Luck!!!).

But, OTOH, I have no clue how I will "serve" the resulting pickles since there's so much tiny-loose stuff in the brine.

I guess we'll just have to see how everything plays out, right?!

This is one of those "I have NO clue what the hell I'm doing, but I'm doing it anyway" kinda situations! ("Yay Me!" - for Being Brave, right?!! lol)

I'll definitely report back in, later! ;-)

Monday, August 13, 2012


I know I've posted random pictures of our yard on this blog...  As well as my "original" (hopelessly-outdated) personal webpage  (Yard-specific stuff here).  Honestly, those pages haven't been updated for several years (Blog is much simpler - but, admittedly, tougher to search through!).

Anyway, we are on a quarter-acre lot in Early-70's South-Bay Suburbia.  When you view our house from the street, you would never EVER expect to find a Tropical Oasis out back.

And, when I say it's like a Resort? I'm *really* not kidding!

Now, this is only during the summer months, mind you.  Come wintertime, it is barren and cold and downright depressing after we stash the Summer-Gear in the shed (I don't even want to think about it!)!  But summertime?  This really is the Ultimate Party Yard!

Trouble is, we don't have an over-abundance of "friends" to have parties, as a rule.  We used to do a big "Family Bash" every summer (for my family) (Hubs' family - what's left of it anyway - is East Coast).  But now that mom is gone, and sis and I are "estranged" (which is OK.  Really!), well, we don't have the Annual Family Bash any more!

We do have a small handful of "Couples" friends that we get-together with, from time-to-time...

Generally speaking, I do consider myself to be a fairly Sociable Person, and I *like* the idea of having parties and get-togethers in our backyard!  Hubs?  Not-so-much, unfortunately.

Although, to be fair, throwing a Big Bash really is a LOT of work (especially now that I'm experiencing a lot of these bullsh*t health issues - Grrrr!).

Annnnnyyyyyywaaaaaayyyyy, about a month ago, we had Hubs' new Sailing Buddy and his wife over for a low-key BBQ.  We're talking grilled burgers, dogs, chicken-breasts, pre-packaged 'tater salad (::::gasp!:::), chips 'n veggies 'n dips.  It really was low-key, overall, except I DID serve home-made Fresh Cherry Pie for dessert!  Everybody (but me!) went swimming, and guzzled Adult Beverages (My Fresca-Ritas were, surprisingly, a Huge Hit!)

And this past weekend, we had both sets of neighbors over for a similar low-key BBQ.  I have to say, ours is not what you'd call a super-tight-knit neighborhood (we only know the names of folks' 1 house away: next-door and across the street!).  Beyond that, it's pretty much a nod and - maybe - a "Hey howya doin'" wave.  But the neighbors on either side of us are very nice - and I *know* I could call on them if I ever needed help with anything (and, in fact, I *have!*).  And both of them have young families (kids ranging in age from 18 mo's to appx 6 years).  We keep *saying* we're gonna have 'em over for a pool party, right?  Well, last weekend, we finally DID!

Final Turnout was: 7 Adults, 6 dogs (our 3 dachshunds + 2 pomeranians + 1 border-collie), and 3 kids.  Now I always thought we had a huge yard with ample seating...  And, in fact, we do!  Tiki Bar with 5 bar-stools; 6 poolside lounge-chairs; Dining table with seating for 6; and a Bistro Table (with two chairs) under the gazebo, next to the dining table.

Well, I have to say we pretty-much maxed-out last weekend!  But it was All Good!  Seems that folks "took turns" at the Tiki Bar (moms' mostly sat at the pool's edge to watch the kids!), and - at different times of the day - moms or dads disappeared to run next door and change diapers!

Anyway, it was an awesomely fun party.  Everybody had a blast.

Tiki Toonz Outdoor Speakers
Kept us entertained with my "Resort-Party-Mix" of music!

Friends and Neighbors hangin' at the Tiki Bar!

These kids did NOT get out of the pool the entire afternoon!
They were wrinkled like little prunes by the end of the day
(and I bet they slept like babies that night!)
("You're Welcome" neighbors! ;-)

This li'l one had never been in a pool before!
He loved it!

This was when I suddenly realized that we should
probably limit ourselves to 6 guests or less (Oops!)
Some ate at poolside (and I didn't hear any complaints!)

Sadly, no home-made pie for this party (I just-plain ran out of energy!), but fresh-sliced watermelon was *almost* as good!

Next weekend: Another couples' party on Saturday, followed by sailing on Sunday (if I can manage it).  Then, hopefully, another small get-together a week-or-so after that!

Hard to believe that summer will be winding-down soon ("NNnnnnOOoooooo!!!!"), but I'm hoping we can maximize our enjoyment AND share it with friends!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Music/Videos from "My Time!"

No particular reason (nor order!), but I thought I'd share...  Music and Videos that I loved from the 80's!

Some are kinda "mainstream" but most are more "obscure" / One-Hit-Wonders...

That's just a random sampling of songs/videos from the "relatively early days of MTV" that I loved.  There are actually many, many more (mainstream) videos I enjoyed as well...
Just thought I'd share...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ramblings: Gen-X vs. Boomers (Or Hippy vs. Pop)

Okay, I am filing this under "Rambling" (and guarantee much Rambling!), so proceed with caution...

Disclaimer:  It topped 90* today and - now that I've FINALLY finished my workday! - I am sitting out at the Tiki Bar drinking [non-watered-down] Adult Beverages of my choosing!

You *have* been warned!

So...  Not sure if I ever mentioned it, but there is an 7-year gap in age betwixt hubbie and myself,

Hubs is an Old Hippy from Way-Back.  HUMONGOUS Dead-head (I don't even want to guess how many cassette tapes [remember those?!] he's got, that he acquired by taping live Dead shows).  I think he went to, something-like, 200+ shows in the '80s.  And that - pretty-much - sums-up the ENTIRE decade for Hubs.

I, on the other hand, was "coming of age" in the 80's.  I turned 21 in 1984 - and had been sneaking into bars and night-clubs prior to that (taking FULL advantage of the fact that I looked "old" at the time.  Ohhhhh those were the days!!!).  Anyway, there were many nights (that stretched into the wee hours of the morning) spent at Pop/Dance-Clubs and Video-Bars (bear-in-mind, this was the EARLY-DAYS of MTV) in San Francisco.  And I definitely have an appreciation for "pre-techno" synthesizer-infused, bassy-thump-thump-thump, '80s Dance Music! (But - swear-to-Gawd - I *hated* Disco, okay?!)

Anyway: Somewhat-relevant Sidebar: Hubs and I both "claim" to have been in our respective Primes during the 80's.  But, had we actually MET back then?!  I am CONVINCED that we wouldn't have given each other the time of day!!!  He would've viewed me as a Yuppie/Punk Rock Weirdo (with my short, super-gelled, spiky-hair) and I would've been all "Get a haircut! Get a job! You Hippy Freak!"  LOL

And secondary, semi-relevant Sidebar:  I am pleased to report that I *have* converted hubs over from Dead-Head to Parrot-Head (and there's a separate [amusing!] story for that.  Not sure if I ever blogged about it - but if I didn't, and you want to hear it, post a comment and I'll post it!).

Anyhoooo...  The age-gap at "this stage of our lives" really isn't a big deal (Mom and Dad had an 8-year gap and I never noticed anything, growing-up, other than the fact that they both claimed to be too goddamned *old* to do anything "fun" - like camping!).

But the Age-Difference definitely *is* becoming more apparent as we complete our annual "Concert Selections!"  The Mountain Winery, in nearby (Rich-Yuppie-ville) Saratoga, has a pretty impressive concert line-up, every summer ("Impressive" - if you're old like us! LOL).  Since the concerts are so expensive, we limit ourselves to two shows, per-person, per year.

Mountain Winery is actually a pretty f**cking awesome venue.  Quite "intimate," actually, accommodating something like 1500 "guests." Truly, not a bad seat in the house.  Annnnd - with the depressed economy - we've managed to do a simply stupendous job of scoring AWESOME seats for EVERY show!  Never more than 5 rows back from the stage! (Yes, Freaking AWESOME!).

But it *is* spendy!  Nevermind the $150+ (per seat) ticket price.  Then, you have to add-in the ~$20.00/per ticket "Convenience Fee" (???), and $20 parking-fee, and $12.00 apiece for watered-down cocktails (srsly?!!  I spent $48+ on cocktails and never even got a buzz!!!). The cheapest wine they have is $11.00 (for a tiny glass!).  Figure appx $20.00/pp for dinner for burgers or fish 'n chips (unless you opt for the "Chateau Deck" dining option - which is $59.00/pp - plus tip!).  Now, don't get me wrong, the food is pretty-damned good (as "Concert Food" goes), but I think you can "realistically" expect to drop WELL in-excess of $250.00/per-person, per show (and that's a conservative estimate!).

Now, I'm not b*tching when I type all this out.  "It is what it is!"  They ask these prices and people - including us - seem willing to PAY IT, so...  Whatever!!!

Some people are into skiing and paying ridiculous prices for lift-tickets, and condo-rentals, and Hot Toddies, and whatevers...  While others are into Five-Star All-Inclusive Resorts in Exotic Locales...  And, still others, are TOTALLY into having kids and doing the Soccer-Mom, Boy/Girl-Scouts, Ivy-League College, yada-yada Thing...  WE are into summer concerts - so I'm lumping it into a similar category!

Annnnnnyyyyywaaaaaaayyyyyy...  The point of this post was NOT to b*tch about Mountain Winery Prices (Honestly, Shoreline Amphitheatre - our local "BIG VENUE" - really isn't much cheaper!  And it is infinitely less "classy!").

The point of tonight's post is to Compare And Contrast Hubbie's Hippy-Shows to my 80's-Pop Shows!

So, every spring, we get an email detailing the coming summer's concert line-up, right?  And we each select TWO shows that we Absolutely Must See! (And, like I said, the line-up is usually pretty-awesome and it's tough to decide on *just* two shows!).

This year, my choices were:  B-52's and Duran Duran.

Hubs' choices were: "Rock And Blues Fest" (with Edgar and Johnny Winter) [Who?!] and "Guthrie Family Reunion."

We ended up missing B-52's (much to my dismay - due to the fact that my @#$%-ing psoriasis was acting up).  We *had* seen them perform in previous years, and their show is pretty-much a Super-High-Energy, Super-Fun-Concert!  I was totally bummed-out that we missed it this year.  SUPER-bummed! :-(

So, last week, we went to the Rock And Blues Fest.  Edgar Winter was pretty "engaging" with the audience.  And Rick Derringer was pretty good, too.  Watching Johnny Winter get "escorted:" to the stage was...  Well.,..  Kinda depressing (the years have not been kind to him!).  But...  I have to say that, overall, it was a pretty good show.  I *did* recognize a FEW of the songs that they performed but - honestly - most of it was "before my time."

(Srsly - I didn't really start actively *listening* to/paying attention to music 'til the mid- to late-70's) (We're talking "Hotel California" era!)

So then, a couple of days later, we had the "Guthrie Family Reunion" show.  Honestly, I was kinda dreading that!  "Folk" was never EVER my chosen genre and all I could think about was a nasally rendition of "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land," and I kinda figured I'd rather skewer my eyeballs-out with hot-pokers than be subjected to THAT!!!  (Sad? Yes, I know!!!).

But - ya know what?! - the Guthrie Family Reunion was NOT "nasally" at all!  And Arlo was a *very* good "showman" and engaged the audience, and - hell - overall, it was actually a pretty fun show!! (Yes, I'd even go again!!!)

So, last night's show was one of MY SHOWS:  Duran Duran.  Big, Huge 80's Pop-Band, right?!  Now, I can't honestly say that I was their #1 Fan - but I DO like much of what they've done, right?!  Hubs met this "Concert Selection" with the same degree of dubiousness as my (previous) B-52's Selection.

"Who's Duran Duran?!" (Same question asked about B-52's, but he did end-up recognizing some of their bigger hits).

"Oh, they were HUGE in the 80's.  You'll definitely recognize their stuff!"

Srsly:  You had to be IN A COMA thru the 80's to MISS Duran-Duran, right?!!

We're talking' View to a Kill:

Gotta love the "Super-High-Tech" Cassette Version
of the Sony Walkman/Transmitter Thingie in this vid!

To say nothing of the friggin' GINORMOUS cell-phone!

(And yes, I *did* like Roger Moore as Bond!  Not as much as
Sean Connery, but...  I still liked him, k?!)

' And The Reflex:

And Wild Boys...

And (HELLO!!!!) Hungry Like the Wolf...


Well, Hubs sat through the entire concert, attempting to at least tap-his-toes in time to the music.  I, on the other hand, was up on my feet through *most* of the show (you kind of HAD to stand up if you wanted to see the band since EVERYONE was up and dancing!).  I even managed to lean on my cane and dance-in-place, on my "good foot!" through most of the show!

AWESOME show, though.  Bright lights; loud, thumping bass; and the band TOTALLY engaged the audience and encouraged dancing and clapping and singing and whatnot.  And, even though I didn't know the words to ALL of the songs, I knew most of 'em and howled along! (Didn't matter: It was a mostly-female, shrieky crowd!).  Whenever they played one of their bigger hits, I'd sit down quickly and shout to Hubs "You DO recognize this? Don't you?"  And he shook his head "Nope.  Never heard it!"  I'd give him a strange look then hop back up to dance and sing-along!

When they got to "The Reflex" (Dala-La-La! Dala-La-La!), I sat down, once again, "Now you absolutely HAVE to recognize this one!"


"Okay, well, if you don't recognize THIS one, then forget-about-it!"

And I spent the rest of the show leaning on my cane, dancing, clapping, and howling-along with the music.  I had an absolute BLAST!  Added Bonus: Hubs got bored and wanted to head-up for a cigarette break, so I handed him $20 to bring me another watered-down drink ;-)

So additional "observation" about THIS show vs. the Old Hippy Shows:  Duran-Duran?  They still have all their hair!  Okay, not AS MUCH hair, and certainly not as "spiky" and "androgynous" as they used to be (I'm pretty sure they weren't wearing eye-shadow and shoulder-pads - lol!), but they still looked pretty-damned good!

Hubs' Shows?  Well, the performers - freaking THUMBS-UP that they're still up there and performing - but they don't look QUITE as good, anymore! (Those that still have hair...?  Well, they're pretty-much white-haired at this stage!  And - I'm sorry - but if you've gone totally gray with a hairline that recedes past your ears? - well, you probably shouldn't be sporting the long-haired Hippy-Look that you wore 30+ years ago!  Just sayin'!) (And I might even draw some flak for that comment!)

(And, to be fair, Jimmy Buffett: My #1 FAVORITE PERFORMER EVAR, at age 65, pretty-much has NO hair, and he still kicks @$$ on-stage!).

Another observation on Hub's Shows vs. My Shows (and this is a very sad observation, on my part).  We need to get to Hubs' Shows much earlier because the Handicap Parking fills-up pretty quickly!  Mine? Not so much (:::sigh:::).  There was, easily, a 10-15 year age-gap in "average-age" of Concert-Goers between our shows...

Anyhooooo...  Bottom Line:  I had an absolute BLAST at the Duran-Duran Show.  And I am completely convinced that Hubs *had* to have been in a coma for the ENTIRE decade in the 80's!!! ;-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Recipe: Low-Sugar Spicy Peach Pie

So I've been p*ssing-and-moaning - like I do EVERY year - about "What the #$%^ am I gonna do with all these peaches?!"

I actually feel kinda bad about the quantity of peaches that have ended up rotting on the ground this year - but "What're ya gonna do, right?!"

When I made my two batches of peach-jam, I had a few leftover nekkid peaches (which were left sitting in a bowl with a couple-three generous 'squirts' of bottled lemon juice).  I was surprised at how *quickly* they took-on the color/consistency of "Canned Peaches" (ICK!).  There is definitely something to be said for Freezer Jams (they really DO do a good job of retaining that "fresh-picked flavor!") - but I can't fill-up the freezer this year (Gonna buy a 4-H Pig next month!!!  Story coming!!!).

Annnnnyyyyywaaaaaaayyyyyy...  Not gonna ramble!

I did end-up pawning-off a couple of bags of fresh peaches to Grateful Neighbors (Yay!).  And the rest were destined for Fresh Peach Pie!

Again, I mostly-followed a previous recipe for Blueberry-Peach Pie - only, this time, I made just ONE pie.  And it was ALL peach:

QT's Low-Sugar Spicy Peach Pie
Yields: 1 x 9" deep-dish pie (double the recipe if you want more!)


  • 6-7 good-sized peaches (I think it netted-out around 4-5 cups - after blanching, skinning, de-pitting and chopping)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 1 TBS granulated Splenda
  • 1 TBS bottled lemon juice
  • 3 TBS Quick-cook Tapioca
  • 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • couple of shakes of "Pumpkin Pie Spice" (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice)
  • couple shakes of salt
  • 2 TBS softened butter
  • Crust for 9" deep-dish pie
  • 1 egg-white, beaten with a little water
  • Sprinkling of coarse granulated sugar
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425*
  2. Remove crusts from refrigerator/freezer (if you're cheating, like me!)
  3. Blanch, peel and de-pit your peaches.  See this post for detailed instructions.  Chop the peaches into large-ish (3/4-1") chunks.  Put the peach-chunks in a large-ish bowl.
  4. Mix up the dry ingredients in a dry bowl: Tapioca, sugar, Splenda, spices.
  5. Add the sweeteners/spices to the fruit and mix well.
  6. Combine one egg-white with a tsp of water.  Mix well with a fork.  Brush the bottom of your frozen pie-crust with the egg-white mixture.
  7. Dump your fruit/spice/sweetener mixture into the bottom crust.  Heap-it up to no more than 3/4" above the top-edge of the bottom crust.
  8. Blorp some butter on top of the fruit-gloop.
  9. Dampen the outer-edges of the bottom crust with a finger dipped-in warm water.
  10. Add the top crust.  Cut off any excess and seal the bottom+top crusts together with your fingers.
  11. Cut a vent hole in the center of the top crust, along with appx 8 vent "slits" in a radiating pattern, out from the center vent-hole.
  12. Brush top with egg-white/water mixture and dust with large-grain granulated sugar ("Clear Sprinkles" from the baking section of the grocery store)
  13. Place the completed pie on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook at 425* for appx 40 minutes until golden brown (depends on your oven temp....  Mine was in a Microwave/Convection oven and took 50 minutes).
  14. Allow to cool, thoroughly, before serving...
Serve with fresh whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.  ENJOY!!!

Recipe: Spicy-Peach Low-Sugar Jam

I mostly-followed my recipe for Spicy Peachy-Blueberry Jam - except this one is ALL peach, and I did "bump-up" the cinnamon a notch.  I also made it in two batches...

QT's Spicy-Peach Low-Sugar Jam
Yields 7 x 1/2 pints of jam (a couple of those jars, above, are 12 oz. capacity)
(Oh dear, I'm running out of empty jars - LOL!)


  • Appx 12-13 good-sized peaches (I didn't weigh them - sorry!).  Peeled and pitted (ending yield was appx 8 cups chopped peaches)
  • 2 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups granulated Splenda (I'd go 1-1/2 next time) (and I did cut-it-down for the second batch)
  • couple of dashes of salt
  • 5 TBS Low/No-Sugar Pectin

Set a large pot of water (deep enough to immerse the peaches) on the stove-top.  Heat it on Med-High 'til it starts to boil, lightly.

Set-up a separate bowl of ice water (again, deep enough for the peaches).

Blanch the Peaches: Rinse and cut a little "X" in the bottom of your peaches.  If there are any brown/mushy spots, remove them.  Toss the peaches, 3-4 at a time, into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, until the skins start to peel.  Remove them from the hot water and immediately plunge them into the ice-water bath.  Toss your next batch o' peaches into the boiling water while you peel the first batch.  Set the skinless peaches aside in an empty bowl.  Drizzle some lemon juice on them to prevent browning.

Once all of the peaches are suitably nekkid, grab a knife; de-pit them; and slice them into small-ish chunks (1/2-3/4").  Toss 'em in a bowl (or your large pot - if it's "free" and cool).  They'll start de-juicifying at this point and you DO want to keep the juice!

Okay, here's where I split it into two batches:
  1. Put 4 cups of peaches + half of the juice into a large pot on the stove.
  2. Add a couple more TBS of lemon juice to the pot
  3. Add 1 heaping tsp of cinnamon to the pot
  4. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 2.5 TBS of pectin in a dry bowl.  Mix well.
  5. Turn the stove onto Med-High (closer to High).  Dump the sugar-pectin mixture into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the Splenda, once it starts boiling.  Keep stirring.
  7. Boil hard for one minute - then remove the pot from the stove.
  8. Check for "set" (scoop a spoonful of jam out, put it on a plate and stick it in the freezer for 1-2 minutes.  If, after that, you can hold the spoon vertically with nothing glooping off, then it's "set!").  If not set, return it to the stove and boil for a minute longer...
  9. Transfer the jam to sterilized, hot jam-jars.  
  10. Let the jars sit for 5 minutes (while you repeat these steps for the second batch of jam!).
  11. Give 'em a good stir (so the fruit doesn't all float to the top!).
  12. Clean the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, add the lids and rings (tighten to "finger-tight)
  13. Process in a water bath for appx 7 minutes
Remove the jars from the canner and let them sit, undisturbed, overnight.  Make sure they sealed properly (lids should NOT pop when you press down on them).

You're good to go!

Now, this recipe (as opposed to the blueberry-peach jam from last week), I actually *did* want to taste the cinnamon, so I bumped it up a notch.  Also, while blueberries *do* have some natural pectin, I don't think that peaches share that trait, so I did retain the original (potentially too-much) Pectin Ratio...

And, again, this is another recipe where I'd recommend going "light" on the sweetener and giving it a taste before you add ALL of it.  As I've mentioned (lol - repeatedly!), I'm not a huge fan of über-sweetened stuff and my first batch was a little too sweet (I ended up adding *several* dashes of salt to tone it down!).  The second batch: I cut the Splenda back by about 1/4 cup (and was much happier with the result!)

I haven't cracked-open a fully-processed jar of jam yet - but I *did* have half-a-jar leftover (not enough to warrant canning), and when I gave it a taste, I was very happy with the outcome!

So bottom-line: This recipe is a "keeper!"


Just Peachy!

So the Yellow Peach Tree sure seemed to be taking it's sweet time, where ripening was concerned.   It's like, every afternoon, I'd wander out there and the fruits would be *taunting* me with their greenish-hue and ever-expanding lusciousness!!  I would tug gently on the fruits, but they were unyielding - so I decided to leave them alone for "just one more day." :::sigh:::

But, in looking back at prior years' posts, it seems like Yellow-Tree was actually rather EARLY this year.  Hmmmm...

I guess that explains the overlap between the (early-bearing) white peaches and the (later-bearing) yellows:

July 31st' Harvest
The little ones are white - and the big (greenish) ones are yellow.

We usually had a 1-2 week "lag" between harvests (which was great because I never felt overwhelmed).  It didn't work out that way this year!

Once Yellow-Tree got going, it was Fast 'n Furious!  And the fruits were huuuuuuge!  And "Quick Grab a Towel" Juicy!
I didn't have a napkin, so I leaned over the side 
of my chair (outside!) to eat it.
I ended up with sticky dogs!

So anyway, it's been producing (what feels like) TONNAGE, every day, for less than a week.  Actually, it was probably more like 10-12 lbs per day.  But - any way you slice it - that's a LOT of peaches for two people (Especially when one is out of town 40% of the time!!!).

Saturday's haul
Mostly big, fat yellows and still a couple of small whites

So "What the hell am I gonna do with all these #$%^ peaches?!!"

Well - first-off - post some pictures on Facebook ;-)

Then wait for my BFF (who has been wanting to "pick fresh fruit off a tree" for the past several weeks) to message me. She came over on Sunday and picked a basket-full of fruit.  Naturally, I ASSUMED that meant that she wanted to take it with her - but "Nooooo!!!"  Turns out, she ONLY wanted to "pick-it!"

(I sent her home with a bagful, anyway.  She protested rather vociferously, but Jeeez!).

I also sent off an email to Finnyknits because she posts about her love of peaches (and - surprising - lack of a tree).  Last year, the timing wasn't right, but this year it worked out!  She came over this afternoon and gave me a bag of pickle-able cucumbers *and* relieved me of a basket-ful of fresh-picked peaches (Yayyy Finny!).  Added Bonus:  Finny got to see her Finny-Farm "Tomatoes in the Wild."  Grant you, they aren't doing a whole heckuva lot yet - but they are still ALIVE (:::whew!:::  How embarrassing would THAT be?!!)  

And then I spent the better part of the afternoon sorting through the last several days' harvest.  I do tend to pick them while they're still green-ish (because if I wait for full ripeness, the friggin' birds get 'em first!).

General Rule of Thumb on home-grown peaches is:  You need to use them pretty-quick.  Yeah, if they're greenish, they may need to sit for ONE DAY on the counter (No more!).  But even if they are slightly greenish, you can still use 'em.  If they're more yellow when you pick 'em, you need to use them SAME-DAY.  Seriously, these are NOT the fruits you buy at the grocery-store, and their shelf-life is EXTREMELY limited!

So, a lot of 'em ended up in the trash, unfortunately (they had been picked over the last three days)...

I did make up one batch of Spicy Peach Jam (recipe coming!) - but there was a lot of judicious cutting-off of mushy-parts (Ooops!) - in the preparation stage.  Nevertheless....

Yummy-Licious Spicy Peach Jam
(and you can actually taste the cinnamon in this batch)
(and it is GOOD!)

I had blanched/peeled a few too many peaches for the double-batch o' jam, so I also cobbled-together a (wish I could say "cobbler!") Fresh Peach-Spice-Pie:

My kitchen smells like heaven!

And yes, I'll post the recipe for that as well!

More to come....................

Friday, August 3, 2012

Recipe: Smoked pork shoulder - "pulled pork" - No "sliced pork!"

Okay, I am re-classifying this post as "Rambling" because, well, I rambled a lot (while I was bored watching the smoker smoke!), and also because the final product - while tasty! - was not exactly what I was hoping for...

Onward to my original ramblings..............

So I never put the smoker away, after last weekend's Smoked Turkey Breast - which made simply delightful sammiches!  And was equally delicious as a breadless sandwich under melted, smoked gouda cheese and a generous dollop of sweet apple-corn relish!

I do make a Killer-Diller BBQ pulled pork in the crock-pot.  Tastes delicious, but it lacks that charred-smoky texture.  You really do need to "smoke it" to get that!

I must say, I am getting much more *brazen* with my smoker (Heh!).  My first few attempts, I had limited myself to small hunks of meat - mostly ribs (yum!), and I think maybe a smallish chicken...

Today it's a fairly large pork shoulder roast (well, large for the two of us!).  It's roughly 4-5 lbs, bone-in "shoulder roast" (possibly a "picnic roast" - I don't feel like dragging the package out of the trash to confirm!).  I Googled pretty-heavily and, evidently, a "Boston Butt" is easier to work with (which still comes from the shoulder IIRC).  It's more "squarish" in shape.  Mine is definitely more "shoulder-looking" (almost conical in shape).

Feel free to Google to your heart's content!  There is no shortage of recipes and "How-To" guides for smoking meat.  I skimmed through numerous pages - and everybody's got their own "Secret Recipe" for rubs and mops and sauces and whatnot.  And all kinds of different super-secret techniques, yada-yada.

Most do seem to advise doing some sort of prep-work the night before: Removing the fat, coating with mustard (Ewwww!!!!  Yeah, I know it's supposed to cook-off - but I freaking HATE mustard!) then some kinda seasoning-rub, wrapping in saran-wrap and refrigerating overnight, blah-blah-blah...

I skipped all the "night-before" prep-work, this time (and I'll let'cha know if that was a mistake!).  I'll basically just post "what I did" and maybe snap a few pictures after it's done, and let ya'all know if it was tasty or gross!  How's that?!!

First, I took the roast out of the fridge and let it set on the countertop for a couple of hours to get it "closer to room temperature."  Honestly?  Hubs cranked down the fridge the other night and the roast was borderline-frozen on one side - so I wanted it to thaw!

While the roast was resting/thawing, I grabbed an 8" square aluminum cake pan and filled it with apple juice and water (appx 50/50).  Plopped a few (5-6 fist-sized) chunks of hickory wood into the juice/water and let 'em soak for the same couple-of-hours...  Hickory is fine.  Apple or Cherry-wood  might be better (Mesquite - too strong/too "hot").

Okay, once I was sure the roast *wasn't* partially frozen, I grabbed a big ol' sharp knife and attempted to score the fat-cap in a diamond-shaped pattern.  Let me tell you: Pig-skin is THICK and even my sharpest knife had a "challenge" cutting through!  I did manage to score it.  Not clear-down to "meat" - but just enough to break the surface of the skin/fat so that the fatty juices (and seasonings!) should be able to penetrate the meat...  The skin will be removed prior to shredding/serving - BTW.

Then I sprayed the roast with olive oil cooking spray (but I *suppose* - if you wanna be a purist - you could smear it with yellow mustard - ICK!!!).  Then I dumped a generous quantity of "rub" on it.  I used McCormick Grill Mates®  Applewood Rub and Pork Rub.  Yes, I am a total cheater! And no, I don't get nuthin' for posting those links.  I actually do like (and use - and BUY) these seasoning blends - period!

Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly how much I used - but it was several tablespoons of each! (If I had to guess, I'd say maybe 1/3 cup of each???)  I sprinkled it - quite heavily - and made sure it stayed-stuck by spraying more olive oil on it.  Coated the roast, fairly thickly (maybe close to 1/4" thick?), on all sides.  Then I let it "set" for another 15-20 minutes while I went out and pre-heated the smoker...

Okay, again, the smoker I use is the (notoriously under-powered P-O-S) Brinkmann Electric Gourmet Water Smoker - and this time I'm posting a link to Home Depot - since that's where I bought the last one (again, I get NOTHING for the link!) (Jeez, maybe I should?!!).

So preheat takes appx 15 minutes.  Just before I plugged it in, I wrapped my soaked wood chunks in heavy-duty aluminum foil, poked holes in the foil-wood pouches, then placed 'em in the bottom of the smoker in a smoker box, and in-between the electric cooking element....

Put the center section on the smoker, install the water pan.  Fill the water pan appx 1/2 full with a mix of water and apple-juice (I just used the water/juice I'd soaked the wood in - then added a bit more).  Optional: Toss in a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Add the cooking grates.  Helps to spray them with olive oil (so nothing sticks/easier clean-up!).  Add the lid, plug it in and let it heat-up.  I didn't bother checking it this time, but it takes appx 15 mins - after complete assembly - for the temp at the top grate to reach appx 250-260*.  The wood probably won't be smoking at this stage of the game...

Time to put the roast in!!!  I put mine in, meat-side-down and fat/skin-side up.  Pop the lid on that bad-boy and let 'er cook for a couple of hours!

After ~2 hours, I decided to check on things.  I inserted our "instant-read/remote/blah-blah fancy thermometer" into a thick part of the meat and NOT touching a bone (or "open space").  I plan to leave the sensor in the meat for the duration of cooking...  You'll want to cook it to an internal temperature of at least 180* (or even 190* - the idea being to overcook it to the point where the meat is shreddable).  Now I noticed that the outside of the meat was looking kinda dry ("Ohhhh nnnnnoooooo!!!!"), so I quickly consulted Google and determined that this is where I needed to apply a "mop!"

QT's Cheater Quickie-Mop "On the Fly!"(closest thing to a "recipe" that you'll find today!)
  • 1/4 cup of some kinda sweetish/generic/smoky/whatever pre-packageded BBQ sauce (I think I used some K.C. Masterpiece something-or-other)
  • 1/4 cup of Sweet Baby Rays "Sweet 'n Spicy" BBQ sauce (this stuff is my absolute FAVE!)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup (+/-) Apple Juice or Cider
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1-2 TBS of Applewood Smoke Rub seasoning
Now the KC Masterpiece was a nearly-empty bottle.  I smushed as much as I could into a 16 oz. red plastic party cup (b/c I hate clean-up!).  Then I poured some apple juice into the BBQ sauce bottle so I could shake-it-up and pour out the last of the sauce.  I basically filled the Party-Cup appx 3/4 full with a mixture of the above ingredients.  Then I brought the cup outside and, using a silicone BBQ brush, I slathered the "mop" onto the top of the roast.  Popped the lid back on and let it cook for another 30 minutes...

Then I came back half-an-hour later, flipped the roast over (so now the fat is resting on the cooking grate and the meat-side is "up"), and brushed/mopped the hell out of it again...

Hint:  Stand UP-wind of the smoker before you open it to gloop on the meat!  That is, unless you enjoy harking-up a lung!!!

I plan to continue the "slather goop" ritual - every 30 minutes - until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 180*.  Not sure if I'll turn it again (maybe once more?), we'll see how it looks!

And it if seems to be drying TOO much, I may take it out and wrap it in foil..........  Hopefully the "mop" will keep it moist enough!

I shall update this post later - including pictures! - once it's all done.  I think I put the roast into the smoker around 2:30 (maybe 3:00?) this afternoon.  It's 5:45pm now and it's only up to ~150*.  We'll see how this goes!!!

Anyhooooo...  The yard smells like an AWESOME BBQ joint right now.  I hope this comes out tasty!!!

About 5 hours into cooking with a fresh slathering
of "mop" sauce and a new rosemary sprig 
(it's up to ~170* now)
Smells AMAZING!!!

Aack!  It's 8:30pm, getting dark (AND chilly!) out here, and the roast still isn't done (~173*)!  So, umm, bear that in mind!  I'm going to leave it in the smoker 'til it hits 180* - but I might have to "finish" it in the crock-pot tomorrow (it's definitely not shreddable yet).


Okay: Note to self: "Start this sh*t earlier!!!"  It's, like, 10:00pm (and downright COLD outside!), and the meat is only up to 182*.  Yeah, I think I'll be finishing this in the crock-pot tomorrow.....

:::BIG SIGH:::

Post-Script:  I ended up putting the roast into my crock-pot at appx 9:00am, along with maybe 1/2 cup of apple-juice (to keep it moist)...  

3 hours later, the skin/fat-cap did peel off fairly easily (with a little help from a sharp knife). 

But the meat still wasn't "shreddable" and it was still pretty-well attached to the bone.  Hmmm...  Added a little more apple-juice and glopped some BBQ sauce on the roast.

Another hour passed and hubs was getting hungry.  I pulled the roast out of the crock-pot and "shreddable status" had not yet been achieved.  I decided, at that point, that he could have a *sliced* pork sandwich!.  I also sliced-off a hunk for myself and decided that it was on-the-verge of becoming "dry" (and that would just be WRONG!!!)

Hubs had a sandwich and potato salad.  I had a good-sized hunk of pork roast with Sweet Corn Apple Relish (have you figured out that I freaking LOVE this relish?!!  Gonna need to make another batch or two!).

Flavor: Fantastic!  Love-Love-Love the smoky-spiciness! I would definitely stick with the same "mop" and seasoning mixes.

Texture:  Not quite "dry" - but not quite the "fall-off-the-bone" "shred-easily-with-a-fork" texture that I was hoping for.  As far as sliced, smoked pork goes - it was great!  But I really was hoping for "Pulled-Pork" so more experimentation is needed before I call this recipe a Success!

What I'll do differently, next time:  

  • Hmmmm...  I *might* consider removing the fat-cap and skin the night before (although I'd be worried about losing some juiciness if too much fat was removed).  I definitely like the "crusty outside" of the meat - and I lost a lot of that when I removed the fat+skin after cooking.
  • I would definitely do the night-before prep-work (and I *might* even do the mustard-coating...  Mmmmmaybe!!!).  Definitely spice it up, wrap-it in Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Heck, I might even add a step before that and soak the roast in apple juice for 24-hours, THEN do the spice-coating, saran-wrapping bit, overnight... 
  • I'd still take it out the next day and let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours (like I did this time).  
  • Annnnd...  I think, next time, I'll start applying the "mop" earlier on in the smoking process.  Maybe start at the 1-hour mark and re-apply every 30 minutes.
Anyway, it was a good experiment.  Definitely tasty - no doubt about it - but it requires more experimentation before I'll post this as a bona-fide, successful recipe!


View my page on Meet the Phlockers