Making S’mores

Ever wonder why this delicious treat is called s’more? It is because everyone wants some more. Enjoying s’mores, made over a campfire, is a backyard tradition in North America. The tradition of making s’mores goes back to the early part of the twentieth century, and some think may have started with the Girl Scouts. The original s’more recipe is very simple with just toasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between pieces of graham crackers. Today you can find hundreds of variations of this time-tested tradition to try with ingredients like Reese’s Cups, Nutella, lemon, and even bacon. Someone in our house recently tried peppermint patties and loved it.

So what do you do when you don’t have a fire pit or a place to build a backyard fire? Well, there are tons of indoor s’more makers but that doesn’t really suit for the veranda.  I recently received a s’more maker for the grill – what a quick and easy way to enjoy dessert. Just simply put the graham crackers on the top plate, cover with chocolate or whatever your imagination desires, roast the marshmallows on the rods provided, cook over medium heat until ready, and enjoy!

Grill-top Smore Maker

There is even a National S’mores Day – August 10th.  Try out some of your own recipes and let us know which is your favorite!

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July 4th on the Veranda

Happy Independence Day!

July 4th is the ultimate holiday for life on the veranda. Good food from the grill with delicious sides, patriotic brews, home-made ice cream, time spent with friends and family, and fireworks all help to make this a special day. Twelve members of our family along with close friends spent the evening playing cornhole, jumping on the trampoline, and reliving old memories and making new ones while hanging out on the deck. Our menu included traditional fare – burgers and hotdogs, bacon-hotdogs (hotdogs wrapped with bacon), mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, green beans, bean salad, and topped off with red, white, and blue cherry cheese pie and banana and vanilla ice cream.

The patriotic beer for this holiday celebration was Sam Adams, Yuengling, and Pabst Blue Ribbon; Sam Adams because he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States; Yuengling because it is the oldest brewery in America, and Pabst Blue Ribbon because it is an American classic. For the under-21 crowd we had alcohol-free layered patriotic drinks.

Patriotic Brews

Homemade Ice CreamHome-made ice cream is one of my favorite summer dishes and banana is my favorite flavor to make. Here is the recipe I like for an easy, no-cooking version of vanilla:

4 eggs
2 cans condensed milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla (I always double this to 4 tablespoons)
½ pint whipping cream
Dairy milk
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine eggs, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, and condensed milk in bowl and mix well. Pour in can and add milk to fill line. Churn in freezer per instructions. Makes about 4 quarts.

For the banana, I use the same recipe but add 6 or 7 very ripe bananas. I puree the bananas with milk and a little sugar, then add to the rest of the mixture.

The alcohol-free layered drink recipe consisted of:

– 1 Cup Red CranApple juice
– 1 Cup White Sobe Piña Colada flavored drink
– 1 Cup Blue G2 Gatorade
– Ice

Fill your glass 1/3 of the way full with the CranApple juice.  Fill the rest of the glass to the top with ice.  Slowly pour the Sobe drink directly on top of a piece of ice, followed by the blue Gatorade.

*Note: You MUST pour SLOWLY, DIRECTLY over the ice!  Also, if you cannot find these exact drinks, you can use substitutes, just make sure to put the drink with the highest sugar content in first, followed by the middle and then the lowest.

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A Nicaraguan Cigar Review

A friend of mine used to ask “do you know the difference between a $2 cigar and a $6 cigar?” To a cigar novice like myself, the difference was $4; to someone with more experience, the difference includes factors such as flavor, type of wrapper, and smoke time. So how do I pick a cigar? Well there are as many cigars to choose from as there are brews to taste, so besides wandering around the large humidor looking for the inexpensive ones, I do have some criteria. My preferences usually work out to be a Robusto style with the following elements:

Wrapper – Natural
Flavor Strength – Medium
Length – 5”-6”
Gauge – 50

After visiting the Doña Elba cigar factory a few years ago, I have a tendency to pick Nicaraguan cigars.  I recently tried a Perdomo Lot 23 Gordito Maduro cigar. Now that is quite a description, so let’s break it down. The name Perdomo Lot 23 is actually a great story. Perdomo, a cigar expert who liked to experiment with different seeds, blends, soils, aging processes, etc., planted some seed on Lot 23 on the company farm in Esteli, Nicaragua, which was unused land.  The result of the experiment turned out to be one the best new releases in 2006. Gordito is short length at 4 ½”. Maduro is the wrapper, which is very dark.

Read more about Perdomo at www.perdomocigars.net

Perdomo

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Can I Have A Beer Please?

I am the least fluent Spanish-speaking member of our household. In fact, I should not even use the word “fluent” in that sentence. When we have traveled to Spanish-speaking countries, my family would always try to get me to use the most basic words. There were many times we would be at a restaurant or out and about and I wanted to ask for something and they would make me do it myself. I think they enjoyed watching me struggle or make a fool of myself. So I have learned a few words such as por favor, cerveza, and of course, baño.  When traveling to some of these places and wanting to try something with a local flavor, it didn’t take me long to struggle through “cerveza, por favor”. It was worth the trouble to try something I may never get to have again.

Here are some other languages to practice asking for a beer:

Chinese – Ching gay woh ee bay pee joh
French – Oon bee-air, seel voo pleh
German – Ine beer, bitt-uh
Italian – Oo-na beer-ra, pair fa-vo-re
Japanese – Bee-ru ip-pon ku-da-sai
Russian – Ahd-na pee-vah pah-zha-loosta

Now my favorite Spanish word is one I just recently learned – sobremesa – the time spent around the table after lunch or dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with; time to digest and savor both food and friendship. This is what makes life on the veranda so great – spending time with family and friends makes any meal from the grill that much better.

Belikin

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International Bittering Units (IBUs)

I always say that I am not a fan of bitter beer or beer with high IBUs.

But what does IBU even mean? – International Bittering Units provides a measure of the bitterness of beer which is provided by the hops used during brewing. The higher the number, the greater the bitterness of the brew. This especially includes most India Pale Ales, better known as IPAs.  IPAs are one the most popular styles of beer today with many, including the top three, on Beer Advocate’s Top 250 list.

It seems to me that consumers and brewers are addicted to hops.  Consumers are increasingly demanding more and more hoppiness and brewers are trying to make the beer as bitter as possible. Now to give you a perspective on bitterness scale, American Adjunct Lagers, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller all have an IBU range of around 10. Then you have the IPAs with IBUs that can reach as high as 100.

But there is more to the story than IBUs. Some of my favorite brews are heavier styles such as porters or stouts. These have a high quantity of malt so a higher IBU is necessary to balance the flavor and these often end up with an IBU range of 30 -40.  It all boils down to the type of hops being used, which we will talk about later.

Here is an IBU range for popular beer styles:

American Lager 8 – 12 IBU
India Pale Ale (IPA) 60 – 80 IBU
Double/Imperial IPA 80 – 100 IBU
Barleywine 70 – 100 IBU
Porter 20 – 40 IBU
Scottish Ale 10 – 20 IBU
Stout 30 – 50 IBU

Here is an American IPA that I recently sampled from Roanoke Railhouse Brewery in Roanoke, VA. My favorite element of this IPA was the appearance. This poured a deep orange to a very clear amber color. To me it tasted more like a pale ale than an IPA – the hops were not overly strong. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

RonokeRailIPA

Categories: Brews | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grilling Fruit

A couple of years ago I made the bold statement that I was going to grill 92 different recipes for the 92 days of summer. Well, I never made it, not even close. Oh, I grilled and grilled, and continue to grill, but my shortage of different recipes is caused by grilling the same delicious items over and over.  One way I have increased my list is by grilling fruit. Yes, fruit. The fruit list I have tried includes pineapple spears with brown sugar glaze, banana boats, watermelon, and the latest, peaches. There will be more to come, including cinnamon apples, pears, cantaloupe, and maybe a fruit kebab with chocolate sauce.

Grilling fruit is actually a pretty simple process. It is easy to prepare: just slice, spray lightly with cooking oil or butter, and grill over medium heat. It usually takes about five minutes or less and makes a nice appetizer or dessert to start or top of a great meal from the grill.

Here is the recipe for the peaches:
Slice in half and remove the seeds. Brush with butter then cover the sliced sides with cinnamon. Turn once ending with the sliced side down.  Whenever you grill fruit or dessert, use a clean grill as you will not want the drippings from your hamburgers to affect the taste or appearance.

Peaches Pineapple WaterMelon

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Flights with Friends

One of the things I enjoy is trying craft beers.  One great way to taste many different varieties without too much effort or expense is try a “flight” – small samples or assortments of beer.  Flights of beer usually come in three to eight samples per flight.  Normally, samples go from a light to dark spectrum.  Sometimes you can pick your own assortment list from a larger list.  Although flights of beer have increasingly become more popular in recent years, it can still be hard to find in some pubs and restaurants.

If you want to try something new, make your own flight with some friends.  I recently made my own flight one evening with the following four brews (will review the brews later):

  • Midas Touch Ancient Ale from Dogfish Head Brewery
  • Blue Moon’s Belgian Style Pale Ale
  • 8 Ball Stout from Lost Coast Brewery
  • Milk Stout from Lancaster Brewing

This was a great way to enjoy an evening on the deck with friends, enjoying food from the grill and sampling four new brews.

Brews Flights

Here is a link to more information on how flights of beer got started:  http://craftbeertasters.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/todays-word-beer-flight/

Categories: Brews | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome!

This is the story of one man’s quest to enjoy the ultimate backyard experience.  From brew tastings to cigar reviews to great food and fellowship and more, this blog will take you on an epic journey on Randy’s Veranda.

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