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Smoked Chicken Wings

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Do you smoke?  If there's any kind of smoking I can get behind, it's smoking meat.  Drew is our resident grill master, and he's been experimenting with smoking chicken in our kettle grill, and has been pretty successful with his outcomes.  Most recently he smoked chicken wings as opposed to a whole chicken, and they are good. 

                    
The the three part chicken wing fold
   
Smoking can either be done cold or hot.  This one falls into the hot category (I think).  The process is a bit detailed and it has several steps.  The recipe, from start to finish, will take around two hours.  The techniques, though, are simple, and I'd say even a pretty inexperienced person could do this if he or she pays attention to the steps. 

                       


What makes the detail and time spent worth it is the huge payload of flavor.  Somehow the meat retains its moisture, and picks up a nice smokiness that complements rather than overpowers the flavor.


  

                        



The technique that Drew employed is called the Snake Method, and it utilizes a combination of unlit coals, wood, and lit coals.  The pictures above demonstrate the setup steps.  The Snake Method allows the unlit coals to begin burning and continue the smoking process without having to disturb the meat as it smokes/cooks to replenish coals.  This method has so far given us consistent temperature and longevity of coals.

The first chicken wings go on- notice the drip pan below!

Alchemy- from this


To this.


He has now also done a whole chicken, turkey, and I think chicken leg quarters, all using this method, and it comes out nice.  The meat is great straight off the grill, on sandwiches, whatever.


Smoked Chicken Wings
feeds 2 people

2 lbs chicken wings
Salt and pepper

Place 4-5 chunks of wood (we used hickory) in a bowl and cover with water.  Keep submerged using a plate covered with water.  Soak approx. 30 minutes.

Prep your chicken by folding the wing tip under, making a triangle with the wings.  Pat dry with paper towels, and season well with salt and pepper.  Set aside until grill is ready.

Prep your grill:  in a kettle grill, lay down two rows of charcoal briquettes, about 1/3 of the way around the circumference.  Stack coals on top of these, about 3 briquettes high.  Put enough coals in a chimney starter to cover the bottom and light the chimney starter using newspaper.  Since there are so few, this only takes about 10-15 minutes.  When the coals are hot, dump the coals on one side of the charcoal snake, and lay the wood on top of the lit and the first part of the unlit coals, with even spacing of about 1-2 inches in between.

Place an aluminum drip pan (or a makeshift one from 3 layers of aluminum foil) in the middle of the grill and place the grate on top.  Oil your grate, and place your chicken directly over the drip pan.

Place the lid on the grill, and maintain grill temperature between 250 and 275.  Cook for about an hour or until the wings have an internal temp. of 165.  Remove from grill and allow to rest before eating, about 5-10 minutes.

Notes

  • The wings take the shortest of anything we've done so far.  The method stays the same, but the temperature and cook times may vary.  
  • These were really good with bbq sauce.

How to Toast Coconut

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A month or so ago, I was able to catch some older episodes of the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America.  In a later episode, Anne Burrell said something that is really good to remember, that "brown food tastes good."

By the way, as I type this, my husband has a turkey in our bath tub, but more on that later.  That's me, always keeping you in suspense.

Back to Anne Burrell and brown food- as I thought about what she said, I realized how right she was.  We sear our meats, roast vegetables, brown butter, toast marshmallows, and pretty much, if it's brown from caramelization, it's tasty.

The same goes for coconut.  Fresh coconut is wonderful, but more often than not, I'm working with the white, thin ribbons of dried and sugared coconut.  While I've come to accept it, I can really get excited about toasted coconut.  When you toast the bagged coconut, it transforms from an overly sweetened, leathery textured, shell of its fresh former glory into a flavor powerhouse in its own right.  The sugars mellow, and the ribbons become crunchy and brittle.  A roasted flavor develops, making the coconut complex and something I eat by the handfuls.  You can substitute toasted coconut for fresh in almost any recipe.

Toasted Coconut

1-2 cups shredded or flaked coconut

Preheat your oven to 325 and place and oven rack in the center.  Spread your flaked/shredded coconut out on a baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake for about 5-10 minutes, until most of the coconut is lightly browned.  You may want to adjust time for your own oven or preferences.

Overnight Oats With Coconut and Mango

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Overnight oats have somewhat recently come into their own as a food magazine's or food blogger's topic of choice.  This one is a no-cook way of reconstituting dried oats with almond milk, fruit and other add-ins that allow it to be ready and waiting for you when you wake up in the morning.  They are tasty and somewhat refreshing, and of course, nutritious!  They're also about 3 minutes of prep time, not counting time spent in the fridge.  What could be better for a quick weekday breakfast?


This particular recipe was inspired by a post I saw on Pinterest, that immediately jumped out at me for its use of coconut and mango, which mentally transported me to the tropics.  What better way to start your morning than with a mini-escape?

Overnight Oats With Coconut and Mango
adapted from Oh My Veggies blog

to make 1 serving

2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup almond milk (you may use whatever milky liquid you have on hand)
1/2 mango, diced
1/4 cup shredded toasted coconut (or regular, if you don't want to toast the coconut), reserving about 1 tsp. for the topping
2 Tb. sliced almonds

In a jar or mug that holds at least 16 oz, add all ingredients except for 1 tsp. coconut and the almonds, stirring to mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, top with the remaining coconut and the almonds and enjoy!

Notes
  • I will do a post on how to toast coconut, but if you want to know now, just heat your oven to 325.  Put a single layer of coconut on a baking sheet and toast 5-10 minutes.  Store leftovers in a resealable container.
  • The oats are sweet enough for me as I wrote it, but if you prefer sweeter than that, add honey, molasses, agave- whatever suits you!  


Tip Thursday: How to Quickly Grate Parmesan Cheese

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You might be thinking I'm a real dork for posting this idea, and that, like brushing your hair, this isn't something I need to post about.  I, however, am just discovering this little trick, and in the case that you're not the ultimate life hacker source for ideas and inspiration, I give you this little tip- grate your block Parmesan cheese in the food processor.  This also works with Parmesan's refined older sibling, Parmigiano Reggiano, or other hard cheeses, such as asiago and romano.  

Prior to this method, I had tried a knock off of the Bullet and hand grating with a Microplane to grate Parmesan cheese.  I still love the Microplane's thin ribbons for Parmesan cheese, but for bulk grating (such as for pesto, lasagna, etc), I plan to use this method.  Here is what I did:


Take your wedge of Parmesan cheese and cut off the rind, or if you're not going to use the whole wedge, cut off a good sized chunk- maybe 2-3 oz.  Other tip- save the rind, wrapped in plastic, and stick it in the freezer.  Take it out to use in soups or broths.  So, cut off the rind, and cut the cheese into cubes, around 1/2"- 1" thick.  Place the cheese into the bowl of the food processor fitted with the blade, and pulse about 15 times or hit start and let it go for about 5-10 seconds.  Remove the lid to the processor and check it for uniformity.  You're looking for little granules, like you'd find in the green topped shakers.  If there are still several big chunks, continue processing or pulsing until it's the desired size.  Store in a resealable container in the fridge.


Frozen Chocolate Covered Banana Slices

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These kind of make me think of Arrested Development.  If you are unfamiliar with the show, the family has a frozen banana stand.  So, this is a snack that makes me snicker, but it is absolutely delightful.  These chocolate covered slices take a bit of work, but it's easy and completely worth it.  This may be my new favorite warm weather treat.  They're a good combination of healthy and decadent, and I wish I had some to munch on right now, because it's hot outside and, well, do you need a reason to want these?

Frozen Chocolate Covered Banana Slices
1 banana, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or 6 oz chocolate, broken/cut up
1 Tb coconut oil

In the microwave or in a double boiler, melt your chocolate and coconut oil (see notes).  Dip the banana slices into the melted chocolate and use 2 forks (my favorite method) to flip and coat the slices in chocolate while draining off the excess.  Place the chocolate coated banana slices on a wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet and place the whole thing in the freezer.  Freeze slices approx. 2 hours or until frozen through.  At this point they may be stored in a zip top bag or other resealable container, if they last that long.

Notes
  • If you melt your chocolate chips/coconut oil in the microwave, place the chocolate and oil into a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 second intervals, taking out to stir at the end of each interval.  Total melt time is around 2- 2.5 minutes.  
  • If you melt your chocolate chips on the stove top, you will want to use a double boiler.  To do this, place your chocolate and coconut oil in a small to medium glass or metal bowl.  Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a small-medium saucepan and place the bowl inside.  The bowl should not be so small that it touches the water or the bottom of the pot.  Heat on medium-high until the water starts to boil, and then cut the heat back so that the water is at a simmer.  Stir chocolate and oil as it melts and keep the water heated to maintain consistency. 

Fun Breakfast Idea: Breakfast Banana Split

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Yes, there is a banana under all that granola.  ISN'T THIS THE FUNNEST BREAKFAST IDEA EVER?!?  It's so fun, I went all rogue grammar on you.  If your child reads this post, I apologize and no, funnest is not really a word.  Some things, though, go beyond proper vocabulary.  

I can't take credit for the idea; I got it from one of the people at The Green Room in Hendersonville, NC.  It was on their menu I first saw this idea, and I actually told them I was going to steal it.  I've been eager to make it and share it with you since I first saw it a couple months ago.  

The concept is incredibly simple, but healthy and satisfying: a banana is split in half and then topped with Greek yogurt, granola, and fruit.  If your sweet tooth is really amped up, add a drizzle of honey.  I left mine plain.  This is so good, and quick and easy to make.  I hope it makes your mornings a little more fun!

Breakfast Banana Split
serves 1 breakfast

1 banana, split lengthwise
1/3 cup Greek yogurt 
1/4 cup granola
1/4 cup fruit, chopped or left whole if small

On a small plate or inside a dish that can accommodate the length of the banana, place the banana.  Top it with the yogurt, granola, and fruit.  If you wish, add a drizzle of honey.  Enjoy!

Notes
  • This recipe leaves a lot of room for customizing.  Choose whatever flavor of yogurt you want.  I prefer plain.  You can also choose whatever granola and fruit.  In my case, I only had blueberries, but I bet this would be great with just about any berry, stone fruit, dried fruit, etc.
  • I used this recipe of granola sans fruit, but feel free to purchase if you don't want to make it!

Cooks Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough

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How was your weekend?  Mine flew by.  I understand now why when I was younger, older people (you know, old like 40) used to talk about how quickly time passed.  Now I am that old person, and I know exactly what they're talking about.  I digress.  

Want to know something kind of funny?  This is my first homemade pie crust.  I've been cooking and baking since my childhood, and regularly doing it since I graduated college.  I'm pretty daring and don't mind failing, but I never tried pie crust.  The main reason?  Once, when I called my mom for a tried-and-true recipe, she consulted her coworker and resident baking queen, who told me, "honey, just buy one!  They're so much trouble to make."  And that was that.  I bought the refrigerated, roll it out dough and would unabashedly admit that the crust was not homemade.  It's just so much quicker and easier to buy a pre-made dough.  There is no shame in that.  


But the homemade pie crust concept sat there in the back of my mind, reminding me it was still there, and it wanted its time in my kitchen.  So, one day I decided to make it, and I decided to make it right after I got my first issue of Cooks Illustrated, which was its best recipes special edition.  Titled Foolproof Pie Dough, this recipe is truly a good pie crust, easy to make, with decent room for error.  If you, like me, might want to try a pie crust from scratch, this is a good one to try.

The instructions are clear, and even though I think I took the dough a little too far in the food processor, the crust still turned out well. The dough was easy to roll out, and baked nicely.  I used part of the recipe to make a quiche, and it worked well in this application.



Foolproof Pie Dough
makes enough for a double-crusted, 9" diameter pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Notes

  • Not being a vodka drinker, I bought two mini bottles of Absolut vodka.  One bottle didn't quite have enough liquid.  It worked well here.  I do not know how the quality of vodka affects the crust, but I chose to go with slightly higher quality stuff.