Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pumpkins on my mind!!

There's a chill in the air and football on TV. Got me to thinking about pumpkins. I thought of jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin flavored fudge, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake and, even, pumpkin ale!

Well, The Big Guy promised to take me to our local brew pub this week if the pumpkin ale is in o I'll be sure to check their website all week. It's due any day, now.

In return, all I had to promise was some sort of pumpkin goodie tonight. So, I'm making our favorite pumpkin cake. It's in the oven now so I can't post a pic yet. If there's enough left for a photo session, I'll try to show it to y'all tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll share the recipe. Take my word for it, it's absolutely luscious!! (It was originally my cousin's recipe, so we all call it "Carole's Cake".) Hope y'all like it as much as our gang does!

Pumpkin Cake:

Grease and sugar an angel food cake or bundt pan.

Mix with whisk:
2 cups pumpkin
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water

Add and mix by hand:
3 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg

Bake at 325° for 1 ¼ - 1 ½ hours. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan. Dust with powdered sugar.

** Great with cream cheese icing.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cool Day for BBQ - Competition Q, that is!

As promised, I'm trying to get back to posting regularly here beginning today. It's been an odd couple of months in my life (to say the least) but I think we're now back to a semblance of "normal." Part of "normal" in our lives is judging BBQ competitions and we ate some fantastic smoked meats at the Sam's Club National Barbecue Tour's regional competition held at Sam's in Laurel, Maryland today. This contest was a second tier event in this inaugural tournament series. All of today's 30 cook teams had already cooked in local contests and won, qualifying them for this round. In two weeks, today's winners will compete for $100,000 in prizes at the final step of the tournament in Bentonville, Arkansas (Sam's home base.)

Sam's initiated this tournament to raise their customer's awareness, knowledge and understanding of barbecue and to promote their many BBQ related products. Competitive cooks have long purchased many of their supplies and meats from their local Sam's Clubs, so the partnership seemed to be a good one. They turned to the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) for assistance in this project.

The entire tour- nament which began
with 40 local contests beginning back in March, has been coordinated by Troy Black, a former KCBS Board of Directors member and a long-time competitive cook himself. In addition to coordinating each individual contest, Troy is also doing cooking demonstrations for the public while the competition is going on. The folks attending the demo are getting to sample some excellent food. (I'll personally attest to the excellence of the smoked lamb this morning!!)

The competition itself is run strictly by KCBS rules and includes only the 4 meat categories required by KCBS to be a sanctioned event - chicken, ribs, pork and beef brisket, in that order. All judging is done by 100% Certified Barbecue Judges. Sam's has taken great care to be sure all fields have been equal throughout the country for all local competitions and then, for all of the regionals - even down to the basic physical layout of the event. Judging rules have been very tight and additional rules and restrictions have been in place. All to insure that all competitors have a fair shot at walking away with the big prize and bragging rights.

The only thing Sam's can't control is the weather and today created it's own challenge for the pit crews (cooking teams). We've been very wet around these parts lately (Maryland has had almost 4 times the normal rainfall for the month of September.) and high humidity poses challenges to the cooks. They must be careful to avoid over-smoking the meats. Over smoking (when using wood, as required by KCBS) creates a creosote effect and really tastes a lot like starter fluid. (Want to insult a competition cook? Accuse him of having a starter fluid taste. Them's fightin' words, my friend!)

Most of today's cooks came from areas between New York and Georgia so all should have gotten used to cooking with high humidity, however, last night the mercury also chose to suddenly change the playing field. Temps through the night dropped into the high 40s and low 50s. They stayed below 55 throughout the day. Cool temps make it more difficult to maintain steady temperatures in the smokers. Temperature variations cause tenderness variations. Tenderness is a large part of the scoring.

I'm thrilled to say, these cooks, on the whole, successfully overcame the challenges and the competition plates presented to my judging table were top-notch. There wasn't a bad entry among them. Some, of course, were better than others. That's how competitions are won.
I do not yet know who the winner was as we left before the Awards Ceremony. (I will be checking the website in the morning to find out.) We were completely chilled through from sitting out there in the cold breeze for so many hours. This is why the BBQ season is now wrapping up here in the Mid-Atlantic region. This will probably be our last contest for the 2011 season (no guarantee about that, though).

I'm already looking forward to our first event of 2012 in mid-April.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tom Wilson, champion of the "EVERY MAN,"
died yesterday at the age of 80. With just a few words and a basic caricature of a short dumpy bald guy with a big nose and large feet, Tom evoked our giggles, tears and empathy for a "hard luck comics page hero." For over 40 years, his creation, Ziggy, has served as "a reflection of enduring wit and optimism in the face of adversity." Ziggy's life experiences have trudged on through Tom Wilson, Jr. since 1989.

Ziggy progressed from a comic strip (still seen daily in thousands of newspapers) to include a vast array of Ziggy cards, posters, magnets, mugs and more. We had a number of Ziggy items around our home in the 70s. (Had I held on to those, I could probably fill a whole section in my vintage shop today.)

***The Ziggy items shown here today are all currently available at an online treasure trove of memorabilia (mostly figural pieces) from the 40s through the 80s. Check them out for a memory tickler - I'm sure you'll find your favorite characters there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'll be back !!

I expect to be Splashin around this kitchen again beginning October 1. Thanks for all the notes and messages over the last few weeks. We're doing OK.

In the meantime, get out there and have some great food experiences!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Just me, checking in - Finally !!!

Hello, it's me. Perhaps you don't recognize me. It's been awhile. I've missed y'all.

I have NOT fallen off the face of the earth, though, at times over the last 6 weeks, I felt like I'd slipped into The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits or some such place or time warp.

They say life is what happens while you're making other plans. I'm here to say that is so, so true. I was PLANNING to post. I took pictures, made notes, drafted posts but they never quite got posted. THINGS (life) kept getting in the way.

The first few weeks we were just super busy doing fun things. I took lots of pics to share with y'all but before I could post them, July came along.

The Big Guy officially retired (completely) on July 1st. (No more of that "semi-retired" gig from last year.) We rolled right into a very busy and hectic 4-day holiday weekend, celebrating his new freedom and the the 4th of July with family and friends.

By mid-week, we were unexpectedly driving to Nebraska as The Big Guy's mom is not doing well. (She's in hospice care.) We spent two weeks there before heading home for a short respite. Four days after arriving home, we began packing again as the situation had worsened. A last minute call before hitting the highway convinced us to sit tight for the moment. (Meds were changed and things leveled off a bit.) It's so difficult being 1200 miles away at times like this.

So, here we are, in a holding pattern, living out of a suitcase in our own bedroom just so we can be ready on very short notice. We don't make plans more than 2 days in advance and worry each time the phone rings.

I hope to get back to daily posting but without warning, we may be back on the road with no internet access. (I've GOT to get me a laptop one of these days. Maybe Santa's looking for an early shopping idea.)

Please bear with me. I'll post when I can.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mmmm!!! Chocolate Pudding !!!

It's Chocolate Pudding Day today !!!

Whether you make it from scratch, whip up a box of instant or simply pull the foil off a pudding cup, I LOVE a good chocolate pudding.

The Big Guy is not a pudding fan at all, so, more often than not, I simply keep pudding cups on hand for my own indulgences. My favorites at the moment are the Jello Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate and the Jello Temptations' Dk. Chocolate Mousse. ______

Only 60 calories and, I find, it's very satisfying and soothing.

You know, some folks have been known to enjoy Pudding Wrestling !!! So, what's your favorite way to enjoy Chocolate Pudding?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't you just love smelling bread baking?

My husband claims one of his fondest childhood memories is the smell of his dad baking good old-fashioned yeast rolls on Thanksgiving Day. He only made them on holidays. The Big Guy says he remembers the cozy, loving smell more than the bread itself (although he'll never turn down a tasty chunk of fresh bread!)

Unfortunately, he married a yeast-challenged gal! I can cook fairly well otherwise but yeast and I just don't share a kitchen well! It's kind of the old "doesn't play with others" theme. The best thing I can do for those around my table wanting a nice fresh roll is go the brown'n'serve route! I am NOT a breadmaker!

BUT, if YOU are . . .

Wichita, Kansas is holding the National Festival of Breads and Baking this weekend. It's America's only amateur bread baking contest to celebrate the art of baking, to encourage the use of Kansas products and to recognize the wheat and milling industries that are so much a part of Kansas' economy and lifestyle. The main thrust of the festival is the Bread and Baking Contest where average folks (amateurs) are encouraged to develop and share recipes for breads and related products. New categories added in recent years include bread machine recipes, rolls and holiday breads.

So, if you are in to bread baking (or even just homemade bread EATING), you might want to head to Wichita this weekend. It's bound to smell great, there!

P.S. - Did'ja know ...
Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed EVERYONE in the world, over 6 billion people, for about 2 weeks. One acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day!!