Sunday, August 27, 2023

Review of Ed Mitchell's Barbeque Cookbook

This cookbook has been actively used in my kitchen this summer. It is Ed Mitchell's Barbeque--a compilation of recipes written in collaboration with his son, Ryan Mitchell, and Zella Palmer.  I won the cookbook in a giveaway on The Book Club Cookbook website.  Ed Mitchell is one of the most famous pitmasters in the nation, dedicated to authentic Southern, whole hog pit cooking which has led him to rise from a local legend to a national sensation. 

I was attracted to this cookbook after reading the story within the cookbook of how Ed began his pitmaster career. Ed, the grandson of a small farmer, had the privilege of growing up surrounded by delicious and wholesome food. He cherishes fond memories of those flavors and moments from his childhood. However, for many years, his education, military service, and employment with the Ford Motor Company kept him away from Wilson, North Carolina. It wasn't until 1990, when his father fell ill, that Ed returned to lend a hand to his mother.  When his father died he went to the local Piggly Wiggly to buy a thirty-five-pound pig, which is considered a small one, and fired up the coals. As smoke filled the air and the pork skin started to crackle, the few customers at the family restaurant started to inquire about lunch and what smelled so good. By chance, Ed discovered a talent for barbecuing, which quickly became a habit and brought him success.

This story reminded me of one my Italian-born husband always recalled about a tradition in his hometown in Calabria that was held every January called "Maialata," where each family would gather and help each other render a pig they raised. They butchered and cooked the meat from head to tail-- nothing went to waste. They preserved every bit to eat during the winter months ahead.
I also remember my father, who grew up in a coal mine town in eastern Pennsylvania, telling me how his family would make pickled pig feet and "head cheese" from a pig. He sometimes bought vinegar pickled pig feet in a jar that he found in the grocery and I even learned to enjoy them. Sure enough, Ed's cookbook includes a recipe for pickled pig feet and "North Carolina Souse Meat," also known as Hog's Head Cheese. This shows how different cultures have very similar food traditions and recipes that are cherished and handed down from one generation to the next.

The cookbook is full of delightful stories about the family history behind Ed's recipes.  
 "Ed's Mouthwatering Baby Back Ribs" on page 56 recounts how his rib recipe is the one he used to defeat Bobby Flay on the Food Network television show "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." 

I prepared the ribs the night before with a rub of his special blend of herbs and spices, such as paprika, black pepper, dry mustard, coriander, cumin, and salt.

The next day I had intended to grill the ribs as the recipe instructs but as luck would have it we had a very thunderstorm rainy day, so instead they cooked low and slow in my oven for two hours. Toward the end of cooking time, they get brushed with Ed's Eastern North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce which he gives the recipe for on page 74 of his cookbook. 

They were delicious, moist, fall off bone, ribs!  


To accompany the ribs I made "Ed's Shing Slaw" on page 98 of his cookbook.

I was happy to find Duke's Mayonaise locally and also a pre-shredded mixture of cabbage and carrots which made preparing this coleslaw a snap!

So crunchy and good!

The coolness of the coleslaw was the perfect offset to the spicy heat of the ribs! I served it for dinner with a saute of vegetables.

My garden is full of ripening tomatoes so I was excited to prepare the "Hellwig Raleigh Country Club Tomato Pie" recipe on page 160. Ed says tomato pie is a country boy's lasagna and it is on the menu in his restaurant--John Hellwig is his sous chef--and it is a customer favorite. 

My only change in Ed's recipe was not using a prepared pie crust.  I have been eating low carb since May --see why on this post-- and so I baked the tomato pie in a springform pan with parchment paper on the bottom and instead of using bread crumbs I used ground pork rinds. Ed's mixture of cheddar cheese and gouda with the addition of his cayenne pepper hot sauce and brown sugar, along with fresh herbs from my garden made this pie taste fabulous!

The Tomato Pie was so good!

I have many bookmarks in Ed Mitchell's Barbeque for other recipes I want to try-- there are many for appetizers, biscuits and cornbread, salads and slaw, beef and pork, poultry, seafood, and even tofu, rice, grits and mac' n' cheese, vegetables, beans desserts, libations and instructions for building an authentic barbeque pit. He tells many interesting stories about his life, along with meeting with chef Anthony Bourdain, becoming a celebrity pitmaster in competitions in the Big Apple--NYC, and what he believes is the future of barbeque.

I hope I have enticed you to look for Ed Mitchell's Barbecue Cookbook to try some of his outstanding recipes.
Thank you, again, to The Book Club Cookbook for this wonderful cookbook!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

100 Days of Low Carb!

Low carb meals

As of today, I have been eating low-carbohydrate and keto-style meals for 100 days! I began in May, as I was asked by the hospital my doctor is affiliated with to volunteer to participate in a clinical trial for a pre-diabetes study.  I had a routine physical blood test at that time and my A1C level was 6%, which was one of the requirements for being accepted into the trial;

A normal A1C level is below 5.7%, a level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes and a level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes. Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher your A1C, the greater your risk is for developing type 2 diabetes.

The number of people worldwide with diabetes is projected to more than double in the next three decades, reaching 1.3 billion by 2050, according to research published in The Lancet.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic disease that develops when a person’s blood sugar (glucose) level is too high. Ideally, the body converts most of the food you eat into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream, and your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone, to help get the glucose into your cells for energy.  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose get into your cells to be used for energy. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

My patio vegetable garden

I love to garden and my husband and I love to eat vegetables of all kinds, but I also loved to bake and cook elaborate meals and found myself gaining weight as my age increased.  I  certainly did not want to develop diabetes, so I eagerly agreed to enter the clinical trial
 and to wear a continuous blood glucose monitor and a Fitbit bracelet to measure my daily steps, both of which were provided to me, and to eat a low-carb diet as part of the program which will end in September.

Low-carb breakfasts--lots of vegetable filled frittatas!

I've learned a lot since beginning this process! First of all, I was astounded by how many products and recipes incorporate large amounts of carbohydrates.  I read labels and made notes and researched many Keto and Low Carb sites on the internet. The medical center also had an RN or dietician call me weekly for the first two months to help answer questions and guide me.  I began to record notes on what foods affected me the most and the effect exercise had on my blood glucose.

Stuffed zucchini blossoms from my garden, made with a ravioli-like filling and covered with tomato sauce, plus a side of low-carb meatballs

I learned that 1g of Net Carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) raises blood glucose by about 4 points.  Blood glucose-friendly food choices include non-starchy vegetables, nuts, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, and some fruits.

Costly foods high in carbohydrates that I totally eliminated were potatoes, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, pancakes waffles, crepes, breads bakery goods chips, and crackers. candies, sugar, sugary drinks, dried and canned fruits, bananas, apples, melon, and corn. 

I learned to reduce, replace, substitute, and eliminate. 

When I made a seafood sauce I served my husband's portion over pasta, but mine was served over spiralized zucchini--called zoodles.  When we ate the stuffed zucchini blossoms and low-carb meatballs my husband had his with gnocchi while I ate mine over shredded spaghetti squash. Did I miss the pasta? At first, yes, but as time went on and my weight started to decrease (I've lost over 20 pounds) I realized I was fine with giving up high carb foods for my health.

Diabetes raises the risk of damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Diabetes is also linked to some types of cancer. Taking steps to prevent or manage diabetes may lower one's risk of developing diabetes health problems.

I learned that I could prepare a meal such as roasted shredded cabbage and kielbasa sausage with pierogies and only eat the sausage and cabbage, and leave the pierogies to other family members. Making good choices for myself and yet not depriving my family of the food they enjoy. 

I also learned that sometimes other family members can also enjoy a low-carb meal, such as zucchini lasagna, homemade cauliflower crust pizza, roasted vegetables and fish, or cheddar and broccoli soup.  My husband and family have been very supportive and have cheered me on this journey.

Exercise is also a big part of controlling blood glucose and realized that the pandemic years were harmful to me as far as reducing my active time outdoors. We have many trails in my neighborhood and I am working on increasing my stamina to do them all.  Happily, my last A1C blood result from a month ago was 5.4 -- totally normal!  

Through my participation in the clinical trial program, I have learned the importance of "Glucose Everyday Matters." This is not simply a diet and exercise program, but rather a lifestyle that I will be adopting moving forward.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

The Vehicle Vault

Towards the end of June, my husband and I, along with friends, had the opportunity to visit a fascinating establishment named the Vehicle Vault. This contemporary and chic museum showcases a collection of rare and one-of-a-kind automobiles from various countries. The Vehicle Vault is situated at 18301 Lincoln Meadows Parkway in Parker, Colorado.

After paying our admission fee, we entered and were impressed by the large amount of rare, iconic, and exotic cars on display in the Vehicle Vault's automotive museum.

As stated on their website:
"The Gallery Collection features permanent and rotating exhibits of cars from every decade since the turn of the 20th Century. These automobiles aren’t simply old and rare, but offer historical significance, are often numbered and unique in their low mileage condition, feature original equipment or have been restored using only the best practices. Great care is taken to find only the most worthy cars for our permanent collection."

We had a tour guide who told us cool stories about the car owners and fun facts about each car as he accompanied our group around the large warehouse facility.

Visiting the Vehicle vault was a walk back in automotive history!

Click on all the following photos to enlarge each grouping and read the informational placards that were in front of each car...

The collection spans from 1906 to the modern era

The Vehicle Vault can also be rented as an event center venue for corporate or private social events.

I asked my husband to pick out a car he'd most enjoy driving and this Italian Fiat 500 -- nicknamed the "Topolino" (Little Mouse) was his pick!  Of all the cars I showed what would be the car that you'd like to take for a drive?

My husband and I are really not car enthusiasts.  If it runs well, is mid-price, has dependable safety features, and drives well in the Colorado snow then that's the car for us, but we really enjoyed seeing the collection of cars at the Vehicle Vault and learning about their history.  

Parker, Colorado is a bustling area in Douglas County, situated just 20 miles from Denver. Despite its high population, many parts of Parker still maintain a serene and spacious prairie atmosphere, as showcased in this beautiful photo I captured on the way back home.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Bear Aware!

Happy August!

It has been a very active bear season in our community this summer.  
 My neighbors have been sharing these photos of multiple bears that have been roaming around on our community Facebook group.

We live on the Colorado Front Range at the beginning of the foothills and near some wilderness, so it should not be a surprise that we get wildlife visitors from time to time. 

Bears have a super sense of smell and a veracious appetite.

Sadly, even though people are asked to take down birdfeeders in spring and summer and not store garbage cans outside or place them out at night, many forget or don't heed the warnings.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has reported sightings of at least six different bears in our area this summer.  They tell us to haze them away by making loud sounds, such as shaking rocks in a soda can or banging on a pot, and of course, keep our garages and cars closed and locked and remove all food sources. 

No one wants to see the bears euthanized, especially the Momma bear that visits who has three cubs!

Click on this photo to enlarge it

We do have warning and informational signs on our trails about the wildlife that frequents our area.

It may have to soon add moose to that sign, as there have also been moose sightings in our community this summer! They are often sighted in the mountains, especially on the western side of the Continental Divide, but more have been heading to the more populated eastern side of Colorado in the past few years.  They look friendly but they have a lethal kick and are naturally afraid of dogs which they perceive instinctively as wolves.  If you ever see a moose with its ears pinned back be extra careful as it is distressed and may attack. Happily, this moose found its way back to the wildness again.

Most days I just see deer when I look outside my windows...

...but sometimes we may get a glance at many other wild animals.


It has been a summer of wild, unpredictable weather. In the afternoon hours, big cumulus clouds tend to gather.

This summer we have had frequent afternoon thunderstorms with lightning. Some parts of eastern Colorado even had tornadoes and...

...enormous hail!

Happily, my area has not seen hail like that, for which I am grateful.

In addition to the frequent rain that brings rainbows, we have also received other blessings. We have also had many days of beautiful weather, without the high heat and humidity that have been plaguing much of the US this summer. Our hills remain green and drought-free. We live in a beautiful place and even with all our wildlife excitement it has been a wonderful summer so far. I hope your summer is also a happy one!