Archive for December, 2011
When one thinks about Christmas there are two icons that come to mind beyond Saint Claus and these are the Christmas tree and the poinsettia. While the story of the Christmas tree originated in Germany, the story of the poinsettia entailed a unique meeting between a country and its American ambassador.
The story begins with Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the ambassador to Mexico. While holding this position, Mr. Poinsett explored his surroundings and discovered a beautiful plant. Once his term was up, he brought back samples of the poinsettia to his South Carolina plantation. While at the plantation, Mr. Poinsett developed techniques for propagating poinsettias. Many of his early plants were given to friends and family.
As the Christmas season approaches, many of us will be watching “A Christmas Story” and reminiscing about past Christmas trees. Some of these may have been picked from a local Christmas tree lot and loaded onto the top of a car. Once they got home, they were placed into a tree stand and brought into the home. With everyone’s help lights, garland, and ornaments were placed perfectly on the tree to create the best tree ever seen until next year.
This tradition creates beautiful memories that are discussed over Christmas dinner and beyond, but there is another tradition that continues to give well after the holidays. This tradition, one may ask, is digging ones own Christmas tree.
Every family has it’s own staples when it comes to food around the holidays. For me, one of the things I look forward to the most is a nice meal centered around a well prepared duck. Most people tend to think of roasting as the best way to cook a duck, however there are several ways to enjoy a duck cooked outside on your grill that can produce the same, if not better, results.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that not all poultry is created equal. Although there are obvious similarities, duck just like chicken or turkey has it’s own methodology of cooking. So, if you try to prepare a duck as you would a chicken or turkey you will not get the desired results.
Many yards this fall were decorated with scarecrows, pumpkins, and bales of straw. But what happens to these bales once the winter holiday season approaches. One approach is to put the unwanted bales in the trash. Another approach is to use them as mulch in the vegetable and flower garden. While this is a great use for straw, there does exist another use and that is as a unique garden container.
This type of container can be used in the garden, on the patio and even on a deck but before we jump into creating this container we must first talk a little grass. Many people confuse straw and hay. While on the surface this may not seem like a big deal, it is when you are talking about straw bale gardening.
If you are using a conventional gas, charcoal, or electric grill and want to infuse your food with a smoky flavor, then you have probably been advised to use woodchips. Woodchips are great in their own right, however there is another, often over looked, method that produces great results called plank grilling.
Originally used by Native Americans to cook game and fish over an open flame, plank grilling is by no means a new method. The most commonly used types of wood are alder, cedar, maple, and oak. Other types of wood such as apple, cherry, hickory and mesquite also can be used for plank grilling. Wooden grill planks can be purchased at a relatively low cost, but if you decide to be a renaissance man and make your own just be sure that you use untreated wood. Wood from a lumber yard or hardware store may have chemicals that could potentially be hazardous to your health.
It is extremely easy to use a wooden plank for grilling. In fact, the most difficult part is probably matching up which foods go with what types of wood. For example, alder and cedar are well known as a great pairing with salmon. Maple has a sweet flavor so it’s known to go well with poultry and pork. Oak is said to go best with lamb or beef. As always, I encourage people to experiment with their cooking so feel free to try different combinations to find one that you enjoy the best.