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31  NEWS AND DISCUSSION ABOUT CRAFTSTER / Latest News / Re: 01/14/13 - Craftster Best of 2012 announced! on: January 14, 2013 12:58:32 PM
Wow, thanks for including my Herb Garden project in the Best of 2012! That was my very first post to this forum back in July. Thanks again!
32  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Bacon wrapped meatloaf stuffed with cheese on: January 02, 2013 05:32:20 PM
Oh my YUM!  Gonna have to give this a go on the traeger!

It is great on the Traeger! I fix mine on my Texas Traeger.
33  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Bacon wrapped meatloaf stuffed with cheese on: January 02, 2013 04:00:23 PM
yoopidou, can you tell the oven settings you use and how long it took to cook??
I totally want to make this for my family, but after my last cooking attempt, i'm not allowed to use the grill anymore.

I think the same temps and times for the grill should work for the oven.
34  COOKING / Dessert / Bacon Pecan Cookies on: December 10, 2012 02:15:58 PM
Made some Bacon Pecan Cookies this weekend

I am not really into sweets (a big disappointment for my wife), so I made some savory cookies made with bacon and pecans.

This was the first time for me to use my wife's mixer.

I have some pecan trees in back, plus I smoked some homemade bacon not to long ago. I also used some herbs from my herb garden.

Then, being a guy, I decided to bake them on my grill with hickory wood.

Turns out my wife loved them, even though they were not sweet. I think they will be great with beer.

The recipe was pretty simple. I looked around the Internet for some savory cookie ideas and came across a bunch of recipes that used a cup of flour, a stick of butter, a half pound of a soft cheese, an egg and a cup of pecans. So that is pretty much what I used plus I added 5 strips of chopped, fried bacon and some fresh herbs.

I have some step-by-step pictures on my blog if you are interested. I usually take way to many photos while I am cooking.

I am more into BBQ than baking which should be pretty obvious, and I was able to use my wife's mixer without braking it, but I think I will stick to baking pizzas instead of cookies on my grill.

35  COOKING / Dessert / Christmas Cookies recipe on: December 05, 2012 12:29:49 PM

We just finished our 2012 Christmas cookie recipe contest at the paper I work at. The contest is a lot of fun and we do get to eat a lot of cookies.

I sometimes wonder if the idea was thought up just to get free cookies delivered to our newsroom. Grin

Readers submits recipes, we had 130 entries this year, a group of local pastry chefs look at the recipes and pick semifinalist to submit actual batches of cookies to the newsroom to be judged. This time we had 28 semifinalist. We taste and rate the cookies and a winner is chosen.

The winning cookie is sold at our local Central Markets with the proceeds going to charity.

I also shot a video of the cookies being made at Central Market with my DSLR camera. Another designer also brought a DLSR so we ended up with a 2 camera shoot. It is surprising how good DSLRs are at shooting video now. The problem is usually the sound, but I picked up a $25 lapel mic that works great in these situations.

Here is a link to the video http://www.star-telegram.com/videos/#vmix_media_id=156527121

And here is this years winning recipe by Andrea Hicks

Chai snickerdoodles

Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup Crisco shortening)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Hersheys cinnamon chips
4 tablespoons Oregon Chai Tea Latte Mix (see note)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter and sugars until creamy; mix in eggs.

2. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and stir into cream mixture. Stir in cinnamon chips. Mix well.

3. Scoop into 1-inch balls and roll in chai mix to coat. Place on cookie sheets (or a baking stone) about two inches apart.

4. Bake 7 to 9 minutes; cool slightly on pan until firm. Cool completely on cooling rack.

A note: Because cinnamon chips are rather new, one judge went to three stores before finding them. Central Market has them in plentiful supply; some Tom Thumb, Kroger and Wal-Mart stores are stocking them, too. If you can't find them, the judges agreed that butterscotch chips would work well in this recipe.

Andrea Hicks, Keller
36  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Thanksgiving turkey cooking tips on: November 20, 2012 10:15:56 AM
Had to fix a Turkey for my wife's work Thanksgiving lunch party. Started last year fixing them some smoked chickens, then a brisket for xmas, and now a Turkey. At least this time they invited me up to lunch. Smiley

Like always, I documented my cooking adventure with photos for my blog. I also decided to write down a few of my turkey cooking tips.

Here are some of the pics followed with my turkey cooking tips.

Turkey Cooking Tips

1. If you have time, brine! This is actually true for all poultry. Brining makes the turkey extra juicy and moist, even if you accidentally over cook it a little. Brining is easy to do (recipe below), but it does take a little extra time. Do not brine if your turkey is a self basted, flavor enhanced or a kosher turkey since they already have salt added.

2. Turkey is done at 165F, not 180F. The USDA changed the recommend safe internal temperature form 180F to 165F back in 2006, but a lot of recipes still have the old 180F. That 15 is the difference between juicy and dry breast meat in most turkeys.

3. Use an oven-proof thermometer to see when the turkey is done. Forget wiggling the legs or trusting that pop-up thermometer that comes with the bird, or you will end up with an over cooked turkey. The best way to tell if your turkey is done is with an oven-proof thermometer stuck about 2 inches in the thickest part of the turkey breast (make sure the thermometer is not touching bone or your temp will be off). I like pulling my bird at 160F, the internal temperature will carry over another 5 after being pulled getting you to the recommended USDA 165F.

4. For crispy skin, let your turkey air-dry before roasting. To do this you need to pat the turkey dry with paper towels and put in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 4 hours to air-dry the skin. Then rub a couple of tablespoons of canola oil over skin before roasting and you will have nice, crispy skin.

5. Use aluminum foil to protect skin from burning. I keep a close eye on my Turkey the last couple of hours roasting to make sure the skin does not burn. Once the wing tips and the ends of the legs look the right shade of brown I will cover them up with foil to keep them from burning. Sometimes I will also need to cover the whole breast or part of the breast with foil. Really, the best rule of thumb is once any area of the skin is the color you want, cover it with foil so it stays that color and does not burn.

And here is my Smoke & Roast Turkey recipe

Smoke & Roast Turkey

Here is a simple turkey recipe where you first smoke your bird for 1 to 2 hours before roasting to give your turkey a little smoky flavor. Dont like smoke? Then just skip the smoking step and go straight to roasting.

    1 natural turkey (thawed if previously frozen)
    2 tablespoons of canola oil
    Zest of one orange
    Aluminum foil
    Oven-proof thermometer


4 to 6 quarts of brine

For every 2 quarts of water mix:

     cup canning/table salt or 1 cup kosher
    1 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon pickling spices (optional)
    1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
    Juice from 1 orange (optional)
    Plastic brining bag or a resealable plastic bag large enough for your turkey.


Place turkey into brining bag, be sure to remove the giblets and neck from body and neck cavity first.

Mix up 2 quarts of brine at a time by mixing brine ingredients with water.

Add brine to brining bag, 2 quarts at a time until the turkey is fully covered, and then seal bag.

Place bag in a roasting pan to catch any liquid (if the bag springs a leak), then place into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Remove turkey from brine and rinse off in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel, and put back into refrigerator on roasting pan for 4 hours to air-dry the skin.


Pre-heat smoker to 225, if you dont have a smoker you can set your grill up for indirect heat and put some wood chips in a foil pouch to add some smoke.

Take turkey out of the refrigerator and rub 2 tablespoons of canola oil on the skin along with the zest of one orange (optional).

Place turkey breast side up in smoker directly on rack (no-pan) and insert thermometer probe into the thickest part of the breast. Smoke for 1 or 2 hours depending on how much smoke flavor you want. I would suggest trying 1 hour the first time smoking a turkey and adjust your smoke time accordingly for the next time you fix a smoked turkey.

After smoking, raise the temperature to the smoker/grill to 325F and roast until the temperature on the thermometer reaches 160F. If your smoker cannot get to 325F, use your oven.

Here is an approximate roasting time chart to use after the bird has been smoked. Times can vary wildly depending on all sorts of factors. So be sure to keep checking the temperature on the thermometer.

  Turkey Weight              Cooking Time
  8 to 12 pounds      1 to 2 hours
  12 to 14 pounds      2 to 2 hours
  14 to 18 pounds      2 to 3 hours
  18 to 24 pounds      3 to 3 hours

While turkey is roasting, use aluminum foil to protect skin once brown from burning (tip 5).

Pull Turkey from oven/grill when the thermometer reaches 160F, then let rest, uncovered for 20 minutes before carving.

If Turkey finishes early you can leave the temperature probe in breast and cover or place in (cool) oven to try to hold the temp of the bird. If the thermometer temp goes bellow 140F, wrap bird in foil and reheat in oven at its lowest temperature settings till the temp reads 145F - 150F, then turn oven off. The Turkey should be good for another hour.

Did I mention gravy?

I find the drippings from a brined turkey a little to salty to make gravy, so I just use the stuff in the jar. Besides, a brined turkey is pretty juicy and does not need that much gravy.

Oh, if you have not picked out your turkey yet, be sure to get a fresh one. It is way to late to start thawing out a frozen bird!
37  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Re: Making homemade bacon on: November 06, 2012 08:00:33 PM
do you have to use curing salt? or is there a substitute? I really want to do this, I'm just not sure if I can find curing salt up here - or if i'd know where to go

Most bacon is cured like ham, but there are some recipes out there for uncured bacon. My local Kroger's carries Tender Quick, you can also get it online here.

38  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Making homemade bacon on: November 06, 2012 08:52:53 AM
There have been a lot of stories about an upcoming bacon shortage popping up lately. Turns out it is just going to be a slight price increase.

But I thought I would go ahead and bone up on my bacon making skills. Just in case...

Bacon is cured pork belly and is actually easy to make. I guess the hardest part is finding a pork belly to cure.
I was able to find some at my local Asian market for $2.50 a pound. That is actually a lot cheaper than buying bacon.

The key to making bacon is curing it, which is pretty easy. I use 1 tablespoon Morton Tender Quick curing salt (my local Kroger carries it), 1 tablespoon sugar (white, brown or maple), 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon pepper per pound of pork belly and rub that all over the belly.

Then seal the pork belly into vacuum-sealed bag or a large resealable plastic bag with all the air forced out. Place bag with pork belly into a pan (in case the bag leaks) and place in refrigerator and let cure for 7 days, flipping the bag once a day.

After 7 days you have bacon. Just rinse the cure off and let it air dry in the refrigerator.
Here s a link to a more detailed step-by-step recipe along with pictures of each step.

If you have a smoker you can finish it with a little smoke. But smoking is optional, after it is cured it is bacon.

39  HOME SWEET HOME / Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects / Re: Herb Garden project on: October 13, 2012 09:27:59 AM
OK, I am start thinking about getting some plastic to staple over the screens to make this into a winter greenhouse.
40  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / No-Boil Mac and Cheese on: October 12, 2012 07:57:16 AM
Been working up a recipe for Mac and Cheese that uses raw macaroni. I am also using all the main ingredients in their pre-packaged size amounts, the idea is to be able to make this with just a pan and a spoon on the grill with no need to measure things out or boil the pasta.

It turned out really good! I would have never guessed that the pasta was not boiled first.

Here is a list of ingredients. I picked up everything at Walmart.

    1 12oz. bag of Skinner Large Elbows macaroni
    1 8oz. bag of Velveeta shreds
    1 8oz. bag of Kraft Triple Cheddar with a touch of Philadelphia
    1 8oz. bag of Cheddar cheese
    1 8oz. container of sour cream
    1 quart milk (4 cups)
     stick of melted butter
    1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon of mustard
    2 teaspoons of salt
    2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper
    1 to 2 tablespoons of paprika

Basically, everything gets mixed in a pan except for one bag of cheddar cheese and the paprika.

I baked the whole thing on the grill at 350F for 50 minutes covered, and then added the leftover cheese and paprika on top and bake another 10 minutes uncovered.

There are more detailed instructions and pictures here on my blog.

I was really happy with the results, creamy, gooey, cheesy. Pasta had the right texture.

Best thing, I had only one pan to clean up!
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