October 2012

BBQ Cooking Secrets

BBQ Cooking Secrets

Nothing beats firing up the BBQ and cooking outside! There is something primal about cooking over an open flame that cannot be replaced by the convenience of a modern kitchen oven. Besides, the smoky flavor added to your food really adds something special for your taste buds. Close your eyes and picture the glow of the coals. Now imagine the sizzle when you lay that steak down on the grill. I’ll bet your mouth is watering, just thinking about it!

Grilling Basics

For grilling, you’ll need a medium hot fire. You can judge this from experience once you have a few grilling sessions under your belt. At first it will be helpful to hold your hand slightly above the grill where you are going to put the meat and see how long you can tolerate the heat. About two or three seconds is good for grilling steaks and burgers. For cooking sausage on the grill, about three to four seconds is good, but you can also move it away from the direct heat, close the lid, and smoke using indirect heat it to protect the tender sausage casings from splitting. Personally, I prefer smoking and will put the sausage on some foil away from the heat and let the sausage cook slowly with some onions and peppers. Spray on a little olive oil to keep things from drying out or use a drip pan with some liquid for moist heat.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

To get started you’ll need a good grill. I won’t get into the debate whether gas or charcoal is the best. Both have their pros and cons and I’d rather cook than argue! The more surface area for cooking, the more versatile your grill will be for using indirect heat, and obviously you’ll be able to cook more at one time. Don’t worry if you only have room for a smaller grill. Even a small grill will cook awesome BBQ. Once you get to know your grill, it’s characteristics will emerge and you’ll cook like a pro!

Choosing the Right Charcoal

Buy top quality charcoal! The cheap stuff burns too quick and you’ll end up using more and spending more in the long run. You don’t need gourmet charcoal, a quality charcoal like Kingsford works just fine. To get the best smoky flavor, add some wood chunks to the fire when using charcoal, or add water-soaked wood chips in a wood chip box with a gas grill. The wood chip box is essential to prevent the gas grill burners from getting clogged with ashes. There are many different kinds of wood used for smoking: pecan, mesquite, oak, hickory and so on… Experiment with different kinds of wood until you settle on your favorite.

The Secret to Great BBQ

So what’s the secret to great BBQ? The secret is… heat control! The right heat depends whether you are grilling or smoking and what kind of meat you are cooking. For smoking meat, the ideal temperature is about 200 to 225 degrees cooked for a few hours. The cooking time will vary according to the size and shape of the cut of meat, but you will achieve BBQ greatness when you cook slow and easy. Real BBQ cooked meat has a dark reddish-brown exterior, a reddish-pink layer just under the surface, and a moist, but well done interior, all the way to the bone. When properly cooked, the meat will be tender and moist with a smoky flavor.

Summary

So there you go! The secret to BBQ is heat control. Cook slowly when smoking meat on the BBQ and use quality charcoal and your favorite wood smoke for extra flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment and be sure to try your favorite vegetables cooked outside to go along with the main dish. Pretty soon, you’ll be an expert BBQ cook!

 

Strengthening Family Bonds

Strengthening Family Bonds

There’s plenty of advice for families on the internet. You can for example find many suggestions for the things you should do to strengthen family relationships. There are so many suggestions in aggregate that it would not be practical to work on more than a fraction of them at one time. Therefore it is best to focus your mental energies and prioritise.

We believe that the one thing you need to do most of all to strengthen family bonds, and which will make the majority of the difference, is simply to be present with your family. That means in particular being mentally present and engaged when you are spending time with family members. Even better if you can be physically present also. After that every additional thing you can do to strengthen positive family experiences and exchanges is a bonus.

Since there are such a multiplicity of personality types and personal circumstances it may be that any further advice about ways of strengthening family bonds may or may not be suitable for you and your family at any given point in time. Below we run through a few ideas to provide food for thought. We have tried bear in mind time pressures and life’s practicalities to contextualize the use of these approaches where appropriate.

Listening and understanding, and we underline really listening and really understanding, and not judging or criticizing, will generally help you to get closer to others and may get people to open up.

Scheduling time to be with your family would be ideal although getting several people with a range of interests together may prove to be a challenge. Consequently, making use of chance and occasional meetings may be necessary. Perhaps mealtimes can become your best regular family time since everyone has to eat at some stage. You could also use meeting times to plan to do things together. It’s generally good to share things with other members of your family, although we are not suggesting sharing everything.

Household duties could be made the responsibility of the whole family. You could create a list of jobs that need doing and by when and assign a role or roles to everyone depending on age.

Some people suggest creating a family mission statement. This will only be effective we think if you develop it together and read it and talk about it on a fairly regular basis. Others seem to be very skeptical about this kind of measure, and certainly it will take a considerable amount of discipline and thought to do such a thing. There’s little point just writing down a mission statement without discussion, or simply posting it on a wall and leaving it.

Empathise where you can. This can include celebrating events and successes, and commiserating where something does not go as desired. Celebrations can get expensive of course so you may have to get creative about doing things that don’t cost anything or at least not too much. Maybe you can agree with people where to draw the line in terms of things like presents for birthdays where persons are not in your immediate family circle.

If there’s any way for family members to get some exercise we suggest trying to seize that opportunity. Your body and mind will probably feel better and you are likely to be more energized. That may lead to better interactions with your family as well as others. People sometimes say that they are too busy to exercise, but we take the contrary view that you are probably too busy not to exercise. Be careful about stepping up your exercise regimen however: if you do too much at once, especially if you weren’t exercising before, you may find yourself not feeling so good initially. Perhaps you can build in some exercise as a part of completing family jobs or by walking to the shops.

We think that it’s generally best to focus on your family members’ positives and ignore their negatives as you perceive them. We recognize that there are limits to what you can ignore. Focusing on their positives may even encourage them to talk about things you are concerned about as they will not feel that they are going to be judged.

Finally, you could also join in doing something with other families. Being with other families will probably strengthen your own.