Perfect grilled BBQ chicken

bbq chicken
Delicious and moist, grilled chicken thighs and legs with BBQ sauce

I was on a mission to make barbeque chicken that was moist, juicy, and not burnt. I find those three attributes do not occur in unison when we use our grill to cook chicken. The time needed to cook bone-in chicken on the grill quickly dries it out, and the barbeque sauce always ends up burnt because of its high sugar content. Enter Tyler Florence.

Using this Food Network recipe, I brined my chicken thighs and legs for two hours. I’m a dark meat girl, and bone-in chicken is my favorite over white, boring, skinless, boneless breasts. For this chicken, I left the skin on and soaked it in a brine made from water, brown sugar, salt and garlic for about two hours. That was the key to its deliciousness.

Another important factor is drying the chicken. Soggy, wet chicken will not give you a crispy skin. So about an hour before cooking, I took it out of the brine, dried it thoroughly with paper towel, then put it back in the fridge to dry some more.

Next step is grilling. And only for 10 minutes. The total cooking time is one hour. I was skeptical about leaving the chicken on the grill for just 10 minutes, but that evaporated when my chicken skin caught fire and burned. I should have watched it more closely. After 10 minutes, however, it was off, and I had my grilled, smoky flavor. The rest of the cooking takes place in the oven.

Off the grill and ready for the oven.
Off the grill and ready for the oven.

While the chicken is cooking, I created Tyler’s homemade BBQ sauce, and it was a winner. Leave out the thyme and feel free to replace the molasses with honey. I eyeballed all the ingredients, and it came out delicious. Just watch how much vinegar you add. How much tang you want is a personal preference. I like it sweet and hot so I kicked it up a notch with some cayenne pepper.

bbq sauce

Serve with creamy potato salad and fruit salad.
Serve with creamy potato salad and fruit salad.

The chicken came out fabulous. Juicy, crispy, fall off the bone good, sweet, tangy, everything you could want from grilled barbeque chicken. I urge you to try this. We ate it with homemade potato salad, and we’re having the leftovers tonight.

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Quilted laptop sleeve tutorial

IMG_2396Is it a clutch? No, it’s a quilted sleeve for my cute little mac air laptop. I love carrying it to meetings, and slipping out my laptop. Here’s how I made it.

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First, get yourself a jelly roll. I used Moda Dreamcatcher batiks, which I purchased from my local quilt store. Any jelly roll will do.

Using a tape measure, measure the length of the front of your laptop, around, and up to the back, then halfway down the front again. Add two inches. This will be the full length of your project. Next, measure the width and depth of your laptop. Again, add two inches to be safe and allow for your seam allowances.

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I wanted to be fancy, so I cut some of my jelly roll strips in half. I also alternated their lengths. You can see what I mean here. I thought it would make the piece a little more interesting. You can choose to cut all your jelly roll strips the length of your project, or make them different widths and lengths as I did. The choice is yours.

Sew them together, and quilt as desired onto batting. I did a simple straight line along the vertical and horizontal lines of my jelly rolls. Test it around your laptop. Does it fit? Trim the top to make the curve, as I’ve done with the flap that will fold over the laptop.

IMG_2401Choose the fabric you will line the piece with and cut to fit your finished piece with curved top. With right sides facing each other, sew together, leaving about two inches open along the bottom or a side. Pull the fabric through so that right sides now face out.

Pin the opening closed using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. You will sew this together when you add the top stitching.

With your laptop inside to make sure it fits, bring the bottom up so that it just about covers your laptop. Remove the laptop, pin to hold in place, then top stitch around the entire sides, top and bottom to give it a nice finished look.

I purchased velcro fasteners and used fabric glue to hold them in place. What do you think?

IMG_2398Please share photos in the comments below if you decide to make one yourself!

 

 

Patio curtains – DIY from drop cloths

My back porch is one of my favorite rooms in my house. It’s fully screened, has comfortable furniture, and it’s where I want to be to read a book, have a cocktail before dinner with my husband Peter, or just take a Saturday afternoon snooze. Trouble is, that’s exactly when the sun is at full blast. We’ve been struggling to come up with a way to block the sun for those few short hours. Curtains are an obvious choice, but the amount of fabric I would need makes them ridiculously expensive. We tried bamboo shades from Home Depot for a while, but it just ruined the whole look and feel.

When porch weather rolled around again this year, I took up the charge once again. And this time, I found a great option. Drop cloth curtains. Who knew they could work so well?

drop cloth curtains

I followed the instructions I found here for buying, spraypainting, and installing the hardway. We purchased our drop cloths at Home Depot over Memorial Day weekend. What a steal! Packages of 2 drop cloths were $10 each! And, get this, it was buy one get one free! We walked away with 8 9-feet curtains for $20!!! The most expensive item was the hooks to hang them. We need a lot of them. But I am okay with that expense because it will work with whatever curtains we use now and in the future.

I’m still experimenting with tie backs, and haven’t yet hung them all. But I was so excited that I had to share. Now, there is a chance that these curtains will get moldy. But at $2.50/curtain, can I really complain? I’ll just get new ones next year!

 

Grilled salmon and summer corn salad

grilled salmon and cornWhile I would love to say that I buy everything organic from the farmer’s market down the street, I can’t lie. We are Costco regulars. It’s hard to beat the prices and the convenience. Buying in bulk, however, is not ideal. That was the problem with the corn. My husband came home with 8 ears of it. We ate 4 ears one night and it was delicious – I sprayed it with olive oil, grilled it, then sprinkled on the salt. No butter needed. However, I knew those other ears would go bad quick.

Enter salmon. We used to buy huge fresh slab of salmon when we went to Costco. Then my nephew told me to try the frozen fish. What a find! You can buy individually wrapped salmon fillets in the freezer section (there are several different types of fish to try). Now we have fresh fish at least once a week.

Here’s comes the fun part. I found this simple recipe at Kitchen Culinaire. We have organic greens (from Costco again), so it worked perfectly.

I made a few tweaks – had 4 ears of corn instead of 3 and added only 1 avocado. Don’t stress about the mustard. I had a chile-infused mustard my brother gave me. It worked wonders.

corn tomato and avocado salad

Since everything is better with bacon, I microwaved 4 or 5 slices and crumbled them over the top at the end.

corn, tomato and avocado saladMy husband actually ate this scrumptious concoction on a roll. Not a bad idea.

After dinner, I flaked the leftover salmon and added it to the corn when I put away the leftovers. The next day, I sprinkled some feta over the top for my lunch. I just couldn’t resist.

Will you try it? This is a light, healthy, delicious way to celebrate the bounties of summer. Even if those bounties do come from Costco.

Cantaloupe gazpacho

When summer comes, I eat gazpacho for lunch almost every week. It’s the most versatile soup. You can create it the traditional way, with tomatoes, a cucumber and a red pepper – I’ll post that recipe soon. However, since I eat it so much, I am always on the lookout for new ways to puree raw foods so I can combine them with flavors that make them outstanding.

This week I was inspired to make cantaloupe gazpacho. I first got the idea from this Food 52 post. However, it just looked like too much work. Soaking bread, crunching up almonds…it sounds great but I just didn’t feel like going to that much effort. So I kept looking. I came up with this post from Bon Appetit which looked great, but didn’t have great reviews. Still, I figured I’d give it a try and put my own spin on it.

cantaloupe gazpachoHere’s my twist: replace the water with rice wine vinegar (as one of the revieweres recommended).  Then add some honey to give it a little more sweetness. And, you can’t have sweet without spicy, in my opinion. So I had to add a swirl of siracha. I can’t eat anything without siracha.

It came out fantastic. Watch how much salt you add if you are sensitive. Add less until you get the right balance. This one’s a keeper.

 

 

 

 

DIY Infinity Scarf

I am obsessed with following quilting and sewing bloggers, and I’m equally obsessed with fabric. My favorite online store is Hawthorne Threads, which has a terrific selection of fabrics in all sorts of weights.

Last week, when I was leaving for work in my new coral sweater (I thought I looked so snazzy – I had paired it with a white tank and light gray slacks), my teenage daughter quipped, “Mom, you need some patttern with that outfit.” I’ve seen a lot of infinity scarfs on the blogs and on Hawthorne as they show off their new fabrics. I knew exactly what I needed.

As soon as I got to my computer, I clicked on Hawthorne and checked out their “sale” rack. I found this gorgeous cotton lawn called Metamorphis in Bittersweet by Valori Wells for $9.95 per yard.

infinity scarfSo how much did I need? One yard didn’t seem long enough; they wouldn’t let me buy half a yard, so I splurged and bought 2 yards. I laid the material out, folded it in half lengthwise, cut it in two, then followed this DIY video on how to make an infinity scarf in 15 minutes. She used jersey. I love the feel of the cotton lawn, but I could see myself making one from jersey too.

Here’s the final product with my gorgeous coral sweater! It goes great with so many things. And, I have enough left over to make one for my sister as a gift. Or, I could pair it with a coordinating fabric and create a whole new look.

The infinity scarf possibilities are endless!

diy infinity scarf cotton lawn

DIY Patriotic wreath

I admire anyone who’s crafty, and that includes my husband, who has turned his artistic abilities into a career. I want to be crafty too, and love the feeling of accomplishment and pride I get when I create something with my own two hands. All it takes is practice, I always remind myself. So, if it doesn’t come out great the first time, I will not give up. The more I create, the better I will be.

When I saw this beautiful patriotic wreath on Positively Spendid’s blog, I was inspired to give it a try. She made it look so simple. My version is not nearly as nice as hers, but it ain’t half bad.

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I couldn’t find the exact same ribbons she used, so went with what A.C. Moore had in the store. I didn’t realize my red was transparent, but I think it worked well when I wrapped the whole wreath.

And, I skipped gluing on the wooden stars in favor of a preprinted blue ribbon. I just wish it was thicker. I think mine was about 1.25 inches, as opposed to the 2 inches that was recommended. I just could not find the 2-inch ribbon in the store.

What do you think? Will you take a stab at creating your own patriotic wreath? If you do, please share a photo! I’d love to see it.