A Starter Pork Rub Recipe and a Memorial Day Menu Link Round-Up


So, I’m firing up the smoker for the holiday weekend, and here’s the skinny on the menu:

I’m smoking several racks of ribs in The Beast, using an adjusted pork rub recipe (see that recipe at the end) and this BBQ sauce recipe from Burnt Finger BBQ. I really love the addition of the thyme and the oregano in this sauce, as helps develop a more complex flavor that goes beyond the traditional too-sweet or too-vinegary commercial brands. It is one of the most balanced sauces I’ve tried in terms of flavor.

Side Dishes:

  • Baked Beans from Pioneer Woman’s A Year of Holidays cookbook. Unfortunately, I could not find an original link for this online. Her first recipe on her site from 2009, as well as the recipes you find on Food Network, are different from what appears in this book. This version was the one I tried several years ago and Husband will accept no deviations.
  • This coleslaw recipe is as basic as it gets, which is exactly why I love it. I make plenty of specialty or spicy coleslaws depending on the menu, but this one is dependable and plays well as an accompaniment to the bolder flavors of a traditional BBQ menu. Also, one bag of corner-cutting coleslaw mix is perfect for this amount of dressing. This is a minor step-up from KFC but close enough to appeal to all.

  • I’m experimenting with this corn salad recipe, also from Food Network. Bean loves corn like I love my Diet Coke. But, there’s only so many times I can Instant Pot corn on the cob before I want to tear my hair out. Hopefully, this will be a compromise. I’ll post a final review after I feed the horde.

Moving along to the current version of the pork rub I use, which is essentially Melissa Cookston’s recipe with a minor variation. Not only is Melissa a BBQ goddess, but out of the 25 BBQ cookbooks I own, her seasoning profiles are the ones I keep coming back to when I need a starting point or inspiration. I use this for ribs and pork butt.

 

Sweet Memphis Style BBQ Rub

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 TBS onion powder
  • 2 TBS granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper finely ground
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 TBS smoked paprika

Procedure

Lightly grind turbinado sugar on coffee grinder of processor until lightly powdered. Combine sugar with remaining ingredients, stirring well until incorporated.

So there ya have it. What’s on your holiday menu?

A Finished Knits Round-Up

So, I’m finally getting around to posting all the finished projects I completed recently. Without further ado, here are the details:

Pattern: Celestarium Shawl

Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Deep colorway

Needles: US 4

Notes and Mods: The beads on this shawl mimic the night sky as seen from the North Pole. Used silver-lined beads from Michaels and applied them using the crochet hook method. Used the circular cast on with crochet hook. Just placed bead in the loop before picking up the stitch. I also used kfb for the increases instead of M1 because its faster and easier for me. I set up the pattern in Knit Companion and used magic markers to count stitches. As this got bigger, I pre-marked bead placement on each row with removable stitch markers. Taking one minute to do that on a large row saved time counting stitches along the way and made the project portable, as it became just endless knit stitches with a bead here or there. I omitted the  YO/ktog. I like the look of projects that did not better. Finally, I incorporated Stellar Waves edging instead of original border.

Pattern: Elm Blanket

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft & Sleek Solids in the Mustard and Teal Green Colorways

Needles: US 8

Notes and Mods: I have no clue why they call this that colorway teal green because it is far more blue. Otherwise, the pattern is very easy and I like going with less traditional colors for babies.

The remaining projects were from the Cascade 2018 Gradient Lapghan Knitterati knitalong.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 6 from the Knitterati 2018 knitalong.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Forged Iron colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I should have gone down a needle size. My row gauge was off and I had to omit a few rows.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 7 from Knitterati 2018

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Blue Indigo colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Only did five pattern repeats because my row gauge was a but off on this one as I was too lazy to swatch.


Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 8

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Country Blue colorway

Needle: US 6

Notes and Mods: Had to go down a needle size from the pattern because I could tell after 2 rows it was way too big.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 9

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Iguana colorway

Needles: US 5

Notes and Mods: Fabric construction was interesting, so I am skeptical it will hold the dimensions evenly when final blanket is assembled.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 10

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Blackberry Wine colorway

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: None. Easy knit.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 11

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Glacier Grey colorway.

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I should have gone down a needle size as the is pushing the dimension limit. I don’t like the way these cables look. They are too puffy in the middle.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 12

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in December Sky colorway.

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Fastest and easiest of the blocks but probably should have gone up a needle size. I had to block this pretty aggressively to get it to size.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 13

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Grapeade colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I liked the twisted stitch detailing.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 14

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in Flint Grey colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: I hate bobbles. That is all.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 15

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Violet Ice colorway.

Needles: US 6

Notes and Mods: I liked the structural detailing on this one.

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 16

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Merino in the Chive colorway

Needles: US 7

Notes and Mods: Just glad to be done. Now I just need to suck it up and assemble the blanket and border.

So, there ya go. I think I may be ready for some instant gratification knitting.

Raised Garden Beds and Year-Round Gardening–How We Transformed a Tiny Yard Into a Suburban Farm

As you’ve seen on the blog, last year, we (and by we, I mean my husband) installed a series of raised garden beds and started adapting multi-season gardening approach. This week, a friend from church contacted me and wanted to know more about how we transformed a postage stamp-sized backyard into a thriving, year-round vegetable garden. While I’ve documented the garden a lot over the past year, here’s a more in-depth look at how we did it.

First, just so you know, the distance from the porch to the  fence is only about 12 feet. We spaced the beds so that the mower could fit between them and the fence on all sides. Our beds are just a basic construction, and you can find plenty of instructions online. Pioneer Woman had a good, beginner tutorial on her blog way back in the day.

Next, we calculated how much soil we would need, and I ordered it from Lowes for delivery. A professional nursery can help you with the calculations if need be.  We tried sourcing the soil locally, but my nursery wanted about two-times the price of what we could get at Lowes. This was an expensive initial investment, but well worth it. We started with good soil suitable for raised beds, but we also sometimes add compost or fertilizer when we switch out crops as needed. I know it’s tempting to go for the cheap topsoil to save money, but that’s a bad plan. By the time you add the stuff you would need to make it workable/grow-worthy, you might as well have invested in decent dirt. If you really want to guarantee success, you can test your soil and see what it needs for your plants. It’s simply a matter of how deep a mental dive you want to take. But long story short, raised beds and container gardens succeed or fail on the soil quality. That’s the shortcut you cannot take.

In garden adventures past, we stuck to summer crops, usually tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melons, with an occasional experiment. Also, I have a kitchen herb garden with basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage. So, when transitioning to the multi-season model, we found that the LSU Ag Center had excellent information online about what would grow in our area and when to plant. So, I’d check out your state resources, especially university agricultural programs. Based on what we found, we planted cabbage, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and strawberries (note, we plant strawberries in the fall here for a spring harvest). We based our selections on space, and obviously what we would use. Overall, all of our winter crops were a success. While I have several gardening books that are “supposed” to be geared to our region, I’ve found that our state agriculture resources are much more realistic about what can grow here and when.

If you look my posts from last summer, you can see that our tiny garden fed the dang neighborhood. So, if you are thinking about starting your own raised bed garden, here are my quick takeaways:

  • Building the beds is fairly easy if you have minimal knowledge of a power drill and a level.
  • Soil is an investment, and is what will make or break your garden. Just like you have to cut your hair, you have to occasionally add stuff to your soil to keep it healthy.
  • Local garden clubs, agricultural centers, or state-based information sources are great avenues finding out what grows in your area and when to plant it. Mass-market books may be overly optimistic/uninformed for your region, which I learned when I saw guidelines for planting things which no farmer here would ever plant.
  • Year-round gardens require planning, but it can be done (obviously depending on your climate). By adapting to a year-round model, we are making the most of both the space and investment.
  • Even with a garden so small, we have excess. We can items religiously, share with neighbors, and freeze anything we didn’t can. You can make friends, fill your freezer/pantry, and take a tiny step toward more mindful eating. Bonus points for sharing with those in need.
  • Even if you can only start with a pot of tomatoes on apartment balcony, just go for it. We all need a little more green in our lives.

So, that’s the intro on the garden. I’m dreaming to tomato pies, tarts, and replenishing my stash of Roasted Tomato-Lime Salsa. I may hate summer in Louisiana, otherwise known as The Hellmouth, but it sure is dang tasty.

Chicken & Spinach Lagagna Roll-Ups

It’s the last week of school, and needless to say, it’s crazy busy around here. However, I took some time today to cook one of the Heathen’s favorite dishes: Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups. This super-easy meal gets a fast flavor cheat by using ranch dressing mix to season the chicken and spinach filling. I prepped it in the morning so all I had to do was pop it in the oven, and serve it up with a side salad and some garlic bread. And wine. Lots of wine. Did I mention it’s kinda crazy around here right now?

Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

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Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 packages powdered ranch dressing mix
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or about 3 cups of cooked chicken)
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 box lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions (about 15 noodles)
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup half and half OR 1-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, combine cream cheese and ranch mix until incorporated. Remove about 1/3 cup of this mixture and set aside.
  2. Add chicken and spinach to the bowl, stirring until the mixture is well blended.
  3. Carefully spread about three to four tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto each noodle. From the narrow end, roll up each noodle and place seam side down into a casserole dish
  4. Combine reserved 1/3 cup cream cheese with tomato sauce, whisking until blended. Add half and half OR cream, stirring to combine.
  5. Pour sauce over roll-ups and cover the casserole with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over roll-ups and re-cover loosely with foil. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Cook’s Notes:

  • I cook for 6 people every day, three of which are hungry guys, so I tend to make a lot of food. You can easily half this.
  • Don’t forget to add salt to your pasta water. Salting the pasta water separates the good pasta cooks from the not-so-good pasta cooks.
  • To make the noodles easy to work with, lay out some foil or parchment paper on the counter and spray with non-stick spray. After you drain the noodles, lay them out in a single layer on the foil to prevent sticking.
  • Cook a few extra lasagna noodles. Inevitably, some will tear during the cooking process, so it’s good to have backups.
  • Grab a rotisserie chicken to cut the prep time if you want. I cooked a big batch of chicken in my Instant Pot and used the rest to make chicken salad.
  • Variation ideas: Add roasted red peppers or sundried tomatoes to the chicken mixture. Top with jarred alfredo sauce instead of the tomato sauce. Substitute chopped cooked shrimp or turkey for the chicken. Garnish with a little chopped basil or parsley.

Bayou-Mama Tries Yoga and Gets Her Butt Handed to Her

So, as part of my whole spring reboot, I decided to finally check off one of those things I wanted to try but never got around to: a yoga basics class at my local studio. My experience with yoga extends only to that time I played WiiFit, despite the doctor telling me for years I needed to take it up to help my back be less of a a**hole sometimes. I bit the bullet and paid for a drop-in class, convinced that I would hit up Planet Fitness or the rowing machine afterward for a “real workout.”

So, I walked in to the class, which was full of senior citizens, sure that I was going to breeze through this basics gig and sign up for the more advanced classes on my way out.

I….WAS…WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.

By the time the hour was up, my muscles were shaking, I was sweating to an embarrassing degree, and my Fitbit told me I burned over 300 calories during what I assumed would be a glorified stretching hour. Meanwhile the experienced (and way more limber) senior citizens probably took bets on whether I would fall on my face before the class was over.

I survived…barely. Thoughts of my “real workout” went out the window as I mentally ate my humble pie and hobbled right out of there on wobbly legs. Glorified stretching, my butt. To add insult to injury, I had not had a pedicure in months, so my hobbit-like feet were on full display to further my humiliation.

However, as much as I was dyyyiiiinnnggg after the class, I keep going back. Hopefully, it will be another tool in the toolbox for rebuilding my fitness and health.

Something must be working though, because I convinced my husband to give it a try. He will be joining me tomorrow.

This should be interesting.

 

Totally About to Go All Marie Kondo Up in Here

Do you ever feel like you are a master imitation of a broken record? I finally realized that’s exactly how I sounded when, for the 1000th time, I remarked to a friend this that it’s been a tough year. Scratch that, a tough four-plus years. After losing Dad last year, we went on to lose both our neighbor and good friend, followed shortly thereafter by my uncle. Considering that I already win the award for “Most Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Grief,” I’m not at all surprised that I’ve been operating on semi-toxic fumes for far too long.

But this last week, we took a long-planned family vacation, which was amazing, exhausting, and magical. When we came back to Louisiana, spring was in the air, with the wisteria in full bloom and the grass already filling in the winter-brown lawn. I know the hellfire summer is just around the corner, but something about coming home to a landscape transformed on the tails of a truly epic vacation gave me the kick in the ass I sorely needed. I spent the past couple of days thinking about what needs to change, and as the title suggests, I’m about to go Marie Kondo both literally and figuratively on myself, and my environment. It’s time for some physical, emotional, and spiritual spring cleaning, and part of that is returning to this space and getting back to the things that spark joy, as cheesy as that sounds.

So before I get back to it, let’s take the 50-cent recap of the past months, shall we?

First, I invested in an amazing smoker and subsequently smoked allllll the things, including all my neighbors’ Thanksgiving turkeys, lots of pork butts, bratwurst, and so on. One day, I want to volunteer with Operation BBQ, and help those suffering from disaster or displacement.

Bean joined the Cub Scouts!

She’s having a blast.

I knit a blanket for a special baby and won second place at the State Fair:

We did a winter garden of cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and carrots. (We also planted strawberries in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest):

And finally, I finished all of the Knitterati 2018 blocks (though I have yet to assemble the blanket and add the border):

Oh, and one more project. Dad’s wife asked me to make pillows from some of his dress shirts:

So, even if I was not at my best this past year, I can say that I kept making. However, I think it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and realize that maybe there’s a bit more nuance between seemingly normal and truly healthy. If anything, at least my house will be cleaner…maybe. Probably.

Definitely maybe.

Finished Knits

Pattern: Gradient Lapghan Block 5 which is part of the ongoing Cascade Yarns Knitterati 2018 KAL. It’s available for purchase on Ravelry.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Merino in Pale Lilac colorway.

Needle: US 7

Notes and Mods: No real notes on this one. It was easy and straightforward.

Pattern: Protest is Patriotic Shawl by Nycraft Craftivist, available for free on Ravelry

Yarn: Loops & Threads Woolike in Red, White, and Navy

Needles: US 4

Notes and Mods: I knit this as written, but carried the red and white yarns up the side rather than weave in 1000 ends. If I were to make it again, I would follow what others did and use white beads for the stars rather than the white yarn. The stitches are too small to really pop against the blue. Otherwise, I love it. Also, I was pleased with the yarn in general, and it’s a good option for projects on a budget.