Beer can chicken with potatoes

Today, I grilled for the first time of the season. I made beer-can chicken with potatoes. My beer can chicken recipe comes from Taming the Flame: Secrets for Hot-and-Quick Grilling and Low-and-Slow BBQ, but I have my own trick for cooking potatoes on the grill at the same time.

Quarter a mix of golden and red potatoes and toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whole, peeled garlic cloves in a narrow aluminum pan.
Cover the potatoes with foil, poke holes in the foil with a fork, and set aside.

Spread light olive oil all over the chicken and rub with a dry barbecue spice rub, inside and out. Pour a little bit of beer out of your can of beer, add a few pinches of the rub to the can. Put the can of beer up the chicken's uh, cavity. You can use a beer can chicken stand to help prevent the chicken from falling over on the grill. Use a 12 ounce can, otherwise your chicken might not fit inside your grill with the cover on.

I used this rub, which I bought from Balducci's.

Put the foil pan with potatoes in between the two piles of coals on the lower grill. Put the chicken directly above the potatoes so the drippings drip down onto them. Cover and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. I use a digital meat thermometer so I can see the temperature without opening the lid and letting the heat out. It takes 60-90 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken. I also put the giblets on a cast iron pan for Max.

The finished chicken was falling-apart tender.

The cooked potatoes:

Here's all the chicken drippings that dripped onto the potatoes:

Max in anticipation of his giblets:

I think he enjoyed them!

More reasons to not eat processed foods, as if you needed them.

I pointed out earlier how the seemingly lax regulations given by Food Defect Action Levels Handbook mostly refer to canned, frozen, or otherwise processed foods. Today's NY Times reports that manufacturers of processed foods openly admit that they cannot guarantee safety.

Food Companies Try, but Can’t Guarantee Safety -
Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients. In this case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella. Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show.

Yet the supply chain for ingredients in processed foods — from flavorings to flour to fruits and vegetables — is becoming more complex and global as the drive to keep food costs down intensifies. As a result, almost every element, not just red meat and poultry, is now a potential carrier of pathogens, government and industry officials concede.

In addition to ConAgra, other food giants like NestlĂ© and the Blackstone Group, a New York firm that acquired the Swanson and Hungry-Man brands two years ago, concede that they cannot ensure the safety of items — from frozen vegetables to pizzas — and that they are shifting the burden to the consumer. General Mills, which recalled about five million frozen pizzas in 2007 after an E. coli outbreak, now advises consumers to avoid microwaves and cook only with conventional ovens. ConAgra has also added food safety instructions to its other frozen meals, including the Healthy Choice brand.

Convenience foods seem a lot less convenient if they might give you salmonella poisoning, don't they?

Photo from Don Solo.

The messy reality of my garden in its current state.

So basically all of my seedlings died. I transferred a few of them, but they didn't make it. The ones I had inside got too leggy. The tomatoes in particular just turned purple in the stems, then the leaves turned yellow. I'm pretty sure it's mainly because I used the wrong kind of lights. I was really discouraged for a while, but life goes on. The garden must go on! I can't let this stop me after I've put so much effort (and um, money) into this project.

So I got some pepper and eggplant plants at a garden store, and everything else I'm starting from seed in the ground. This weekend I built another 4'x4' garden bed (veggie 2 in my garden plan) and I transplanted seven kinds of peppers and two eggplant plants. Some of the peppers already have flowers Plus I started melons, cucumbers, corn, and wax beans. I also just re-started the herbs that didn't make it from seeds. A week ago I built the 6'x6' garden bed (veggie 1 in the plan). Fortunately for me, I have long arms and can reach the middle just fine. I started two Roma tomato plants, one cherry tomato plant, and one crookneck squash plant from seed. Then I inter-planted more carrots, beets, leeks, and radishes. I took a tip from Joe Lamp'l and re-used some plastic containers as mini greenhouses in the hopes that it would help my tomatoes germinate -- we had some cool evenings last week. Whether it's due to the covers or not, the tomatoes have sprung up and look good so far.

Meanwhile, the spring vegetables seem to be doing mostly okay, despite some of the really hot weather we've had. The cauliflower and broccoli are starting to show teeny tiny heads. Only 2-3 cauliflower plants look like they might not make it or at least are way behind the others. On the plus side, if they die, we can plant more summer veggies in their place that much sooner. We really have plenty of cauliflower and broccoli.

Somebody has been eating the bok choi. I found a bunch of slugs on it, and caterpillars on the cauliflower and broccoli. I used the thumb and forefinger method on these little guys, which gave me great satisfaction. The caterpillars in particular bled a deep green as if they were filled with pure chlorophyll. I also scattered some coffee grounds. I haven't seen any uninvited guests since.

Besides that, this is the somewhat messy state of my garden.
Weeds are starting to appear, particularly poke-weed berries, which have enormous tap roots and are really hard to get rid of. I wish I had a picture of what this yard looked like when I moved in -- as messy as it looks now, it's still a great improvement. I'm not sure what to do with the areas between my garden beds. Some have grass (mixed with clover) some don't. I don't think it makes sense to put down straw between some and not others. (I also don't want to buy straw.) I'm thinking of just pulling up the most offensive weeds (dandelion and plantain type weeds) and letting the clover fill in. I actually don't mind the clover in the back yard as it doesn't need to be mowed as often as grass.

I still have to build the last of the garden beds which is for the flowers. Of all the seedlings that died, I am most disappointed about my delphiniums. I'm hoping that with plastic covers to protect them, I can get some seeds started in the ground. They probably won't produce flowers this year though. Bummer.

Lemon Ginger Miso Soup

This is absolutely my favorite comfort food right now. Eating it has a wonderful calming effect on me. It's also super easy to make and the ingredients are all things that are easy to keep in stock.

The recipe is adapted from Super Cleanse: Detox Your Body for Long-Lasting Health and Beauty by Adina Niemerow.

3 cups water (preferably filtered)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons red miso
a few drops of sesame oil
vegetables of your choice (I use sliced mushrooms and small cubes of tofu)

Bring the water to a boil and add garlic, ginger, and vegetables. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add lemon juice, miso, and sesame oil. Stir to dissolve the miso and serve.

Dream Garden

At the moment, my gardening is limited by the fact that I'm actually renting, so I'm not going to invest in many perennial plants or expensive installations of beds and trellises. My time is limited to what I can manage on (dry) weekends by myself. Lately my time has been extra limited because of a few very busy weeks with work related things -- you may have noticed I haven't been blogging for a while. Sorry about that.

Here's what I'd have in my dream garden if I weren't limited by time or resources:

  1. Chickens. As a single dog and cat mother, I can't really take on the responsibility of any more animals right now. But I love reading about bloggers like Deetles, fast grow the weeds, and Bumblebee blog with chickens. I'm definitely getting chick envy. I'd love having fresh eggs from my own backyard everyday!

  2. A pond. With frogs and goldfish and maybe a little fountain. I'd have to find some treatment to prevent mosquitoes though.

  3. Ducks. Swimming in the pond. I hear they eat slugs and caterpillars but are quite a lot of work.

  4. A small goat. Maybe those fainting goats because they're so darn cute. I'd have to research which goats give the best milk -- home made goat cheese would be amazing. Must give a shout out to Idaho Small Goat Garden, which is the main source of my small goat envy.

  5. A bat house. Bats eat mosquitoes, and everyone hates mosquitoes. In case you haven't heard, right now bats in the Northeastern U.S. are suffering from a mysterious fungus that causes what's called white nose syndrome. Somehow the fungus disturbs the bats' hibernation causing them to starve over winter. Very sad.

  6. A green house. I'd love to have spring vegetables year round. I may even try making a mini cold frame in at least one of my garden beds this winter. But eventually, I'd love to have one I can walk into.

  7. Citrus trees. I'm a big fan of fresh squeezed citrus juice. I'd love as many of these as I could fit including grapefruits, tangerines, blood oranges, limes and lemons. I'm considering getting Meyer lemon tree in a container.

  8. Berry bushes. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Who doesn't love berries? I actually had a few small blueberry bushes when I owned my place in Ithaca, but they only lasted one summer. This year I'm trying to grow some strawberries in a container.

I may have to wait till I'm retired to manage what's basically a mini-farm, but I can dream for now.

What's in your dream garden?

Photos from jamesmorton, Sifu Renka, Tambako the Jaguar, vtenger4047, bcostin, Andwar, shawnogram, and Martin LaBar.