Category Archives: Grilling and Barbecues

A Square Meal

I HATE forming hamburger patties. My family loves hamburgers (or as my daughter at 3 called them – ‘hand’ burgers – after all, you ate them with your hand).  So, anyway I was feeling generous this week when grocery shopping and picked up some ground beef to make hamburgers.

Another reason I am not a fond of hamburgers is a hunk of unseasoned meat between two pieces of  bread just does not have much appeal.  I like to have some flavor hidden inside those patties.  Not being one to much follow a recipe I came up with a close approximation of what I threw together.

Asian Inspired Hamburgers

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 c Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Mix all the ingredients together and HERE IS MY MAGIC TRICK!

I don’t like the feeling of grease on my hands from forming the burgers.  They are hardly ever the same size causing them to cook unevenly and if they aren’t formed tight enough they fall apart then you try to flip them.  Well fear no more, I have solved all of those problems. (And darn it all I didn’t have my camera!)

After mixing up my hamburger stuffs I pulled out one of my large rectangle baking dishes.  Putting a freezer bag on my hand (or if you don’t mind getting your hand greasy you don’t need the bag) press your burger evenly into the pan.  Make sure you pack in in tightly so your burgers stay together.  Finally, using a sharp knife cut through your meat mixture to make spatties (Yet again, my daughter – square patties).  If your burger is soft you may find it easier to get a good clean cut if you put your pan in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting. Based on what I saw here are my recommendations for pan sizes:

  • 1 lb burger 8″ x 8″ pan cut in quarters
  • 2 lb burger 7″ x 11″ or 9″x12″ cut in eights
  • 3 lb burger 10″x15″ cut in twelfths

Finally, cook your ‘spatties’ to your desired done-ness and enjoy!

Hope you all find this helpful!






Leave a comment

Filed under Grilling and Barbecues

Getting Ready for Company

I received a call late last week that a friend that I haven’t seen in a very long time will be visiting.  She will be staying in our camper guest house and we are getting ready to create a warm Northern Michigan welcome for her.


Although it does not get dark until after 10pm when the sun finally goes down it gets DARK!  To ensure save travels between the house and the ‘guest house’ we created a lighted path.  These light posts with the guides are perfect for filtering traffic along a specified path, ensuring that traffic late at night would avoid any washouts from recent rains or land-mines left courtesy of the dog.


Of course there is more to welcoming a visitor than just a well lit path.  Creating a welcoming place to visit, dine and enjoy great conversation.  A beautiful patio space with a relaxing fountain and a place to sit back is a must.  A fire pit is the perfect place to roast marshmallows, share some drinks and reminisce.

My friend is coming to town to participate in Horse Shows By the Bay a HUGE equestrian festival in Northern Michigan.  As a result, an equestrian themed patio is a nice touch.

Dining is a must.  What visit is not made better with tasty food?  I’ll break out the trusty smoker and try a recipe courtesy of

Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Butterflying your chicken will help infuse the smoky flavor deep into the meat and shorten the cooking time.


  • 1 medium chicken
  • 2 red chillis seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 50g or 2 oz butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare your smoker according to the owner’s manual.  I suggest an apple wood for this chicken because of the mild flavor.  Mesquite would mix nicely with the chilli/cumin combination as well.

Take the garlic and chilis and mix with the softened butter.

Butterfly your chicken by cutting close along both sides of the spine.  (Don’t throw that spine away – use it to create a rich broth you can use to flavor soups and stews!)

Gently put your hand in the neck end of the chicken and pry the skin away from the flesh taking care not to puncture the skin – patience is a virtue at this point!

Take the chili garlic butter mix and smear it on the flesh under the skin, sprinkle the skin lightly with cumin, salt and pepper and then you’re ready for the barbecue smoker.


Smoke the chicken based on the guidelines included in your smoker’s manual.  Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180° F in the thigh.  Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes prior to carving.

Perfect with a cold beer or a crisp glass of white wine.  Definitely a meal to remember.


Speaking of memories, once you snap your pictures, enjoy your laugh it is time to share the story!

Beyond The Page MDF Barn Album-10"X10"Inkadinkado Clear Stamps 4"X8" Sheet-Horses

Using albums, accents, stamps, inks and more from Home and Garden Welcome I can create an album to remember the sights and stories of this visit with a special friend.


This is how I do it – create precious memories then keep them to share forever!


Leave a comment

Filed under Artistic Expression, Grilling and Barbecues

Getting Ready to Celebrate

July 3rd, the day to get all the prep for your Independence Day celebration.  Growing up in Fife Lake, Michigan I love a small town holiday!  The parade, the craft fairs, the fireworks….There is an energy in town that you don’t experience any other day of the year.

Living right on the parade route and having prime seating to view the fireworks of course there was ALWAYS a barbecue at our house and people coming and going from sun up until sun down.  Lately the only difference is I no longer live on the parade route, my parents do.  As a result I am responsible for providing side dishes for our annual food-fest.

This year I broke out my smoker to get ready for a new potato salad recipe I am going to try.  I made smoked chili-lime pork chops for dinner over the weekend and smoked some potatoes along side.

Chili Lime Smoked Porkchops

  • The juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic
  • 1TBSP Kosher Salt
  • 1TBSP Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive Oil
  • Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour over pork chops and let soak 2-3 hours.

Remember this guy?  Prepare according to manufacture’s instructions.  I used apple wood to provide the smoke.  I didn’t want anything as heavy as a mesquite flavor.  The potatoes I tossed in a mix of olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley flakes than placed directly on the grate.  Smoke for 1 – 2 hours depending on the thickness of your chops.  (Shorter smoking times mean you will have to finish your spuds off in the oven/microwave or stove top.)

Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

My potatoes didn’t quite finish in the hour I smoked my pork chops so I finished them on the stove top.  This did reduce the smokey flavor a little but some in my family prefer a little less smokiness.

Smoked Chili Lime Pork Chops with Smoked Red Potatoes

Baked Potato Salad

  • I boiled the potatoes (about 3 lbs of red potatoes) for about 5 minutes until they were nice and tender.  After draining them I set them aside in the fridge to chill.
  • Meanwhile, fry up 1/2 pound of thick cut bacon until crispy.  Drain, cool and crumble. 
  • Cut 1 bunch of green onions into small pieces.  Mix your potatoes, bacon, green onions and
  • 2 cups shredded cheese with
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise and
  • 1/2 cup sour cream. 
  • Serve well chilled and with a BIG spoon!



The other side dish I am making is a family favorite refreshing summer salad passed down through my family for years.

Cucumber Onion Salad

  • 4 large cucumbers sliced thin
  • 1 large WHITE onion sliced thin
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced thin (my addition)
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (the original recipe calls for white vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Add water to bring liquid up enough to cover all the veggies.  Cool in the fridge for a few hours, overnight if possible.

This cool, crisp salad is a refreshing treat on a hot afternoon.


Finally, what is a 4th of July celebration without decorations?  Adding flags and buntings to your tables brings an easy festive air to your table scape.  Or get your kids involved in making center pieces!

However you decide to celebrate, have a safe and happy holiday!

-Nikki, Home and Garden Welcome




Leave a comment

Filed under Grilling and Barbecues

First Harvest

Late June and I have just harvested my garden for the first time.  I am a little later than usual, but thanks to some roving neighborhood deer I had to start my garden a second time.  Darned Deer……

Today I went out and picked the first of my peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II).  This year, rather than setting up the netting I usually use for my peas I tried using tall garden stakes as ‘pea spikes’.  As you can see, it seems to be working quite well.

Use these stakes as ‘pea sticks’ to provide support to your growing plants.

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but I have VERY sandy soil.  To help improve soil structure I add large amounts of compost in the spring and readily through the summer as well.

Backyard composting, make your own ‘black gold’.

Now that I have completed my first harvest I have to decide what to do with my ‘haul’.  Those of you who are gardeners know that that first harvest is generally not the best, I am looking forward to WAY more fresh from the garden peas as the weeks go on but in the mean time this is what I have to work with.

    One of my good friends made a quinoa dish with bacon and snap peas when we visited one afternoon.  It was DELICIOUS, even my kids and my ‘the only protein is meat’ hubby said it was ‘okay’ (although he did take seconds).

Bacon-Quinoa-Snap Pea Salad with Honey Lime Dressing (courtesy of Nobel Pig)

Serves 4-5
4 strips of thick-cut smoked bacon, diced
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1-1/2 cups quinoa, dry
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of 1 lime
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
2 cloves of garlic, crushed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Blanch peas for one minute in water.  Remove and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water.  This will stop the cooking process and allow the peas to keep their beautiful green color.  Remove from ice water after two minutes, and place peas on paper towels to dry. Cut the peas into 1″ pieces.
  • In another pot, bring 2 cups chicken stock or broth to a boil.  Add quinoa and stir.  Cover and cook over low heat until all the stock has evaporated and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff the quinoa, then transfer to another bowl so it can cool to room temperature.

I regretfully had to use the photo from the recipe site because the salad was gone too quickly to get a nice picture.  When I made this recipe I did not have the pepitas or the black sesame seeds (and my friend didn’t either).  I don’t think the recipe missed anything without those two ingredients.

Those of you who have not tried quinoa before (click here for more information about this wonder food) , I really enjoy it but my family is on the fence.  Each time I make it (or my friend serves it) they eat a little bit more.  I hope you enjoy this refreshing summer salad as much as my family does.


Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Helpers, Grilling and Barbecues

Bread baked in a charcoal smoker????

It is summer time, and for those of you like me – air conditioning is not a luxury available.  So, when it is 90° F and 90% humidity turning on the oven is NOT an option.  Unfortunately that means for a family that goes through 2-4 loaves of bread in a week we must rely on the neighborhood market.  Doing so gives us 2 choices – cheap sandwich bread with no flavor or expensive, whole wheat locally baked bread that costs an arm and a leg.  Being that I am truly attached to both my arms and legs and I don’t like the cheap bread I was left looking for a solution, and I found it in the back of the shed.

Brinkmann Charcoal Smoker&Grill

After contemplating a trip to the store for ANOTHER loaf of bread I decided to haul out the smoker and give it a try.   From past experience with the smoker I knew it would take a while for it to be ready to ‘bake’.  Before I began my bread dough I lit my charcoal.  This gave it a chance to get burnt down nicely creating the steady, even heating we all look for in our ovens.

Once my charcoal was lit I mixed up one of my favorite bread recipes.  I cheated this time by using my bread machine to make the dough.  Normally I’d make several loaves at one time and I’d use my stand mixer to do so.  Being that this was an experiment I decided to just make one loaf.

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

1 egg +enough water to equal 1 1/4 C
3 Tbsp Oil
1/4 Honey
2 tsp Salt
2 C Whole Wheat Flour
2 C Bread Flour
2 tsp Rapid Rise or Bread Machine Yeast
Add in that order to your bread machine or mixing bowl and continue as you would with any other bread.

While my bread was rising I move on to preparing my ‘oven’.  As fate would have it, my pizza stone fit perfectly on the grill rack.  I decided to use that to help stabilize the heat in the smoker while the bread baked.  I did add the water pan in my smoker because in a traditional oven a little humidity can help create a wonderful crust.  With that line of thinking I added the water pan and filled it with HOT water (adding cold water will absorb a lot of heat that you want captured in your ‘oven’) then placed my pizza stone on the grill rack.  Don’t have a pizza stone?  Add a few bricks or patio blocks.  They will do the same thing by trapping the heat as it is produced and releasing it slowly.

Prepare your smoker before you start your bread dough.

Place a pizza stone on your grill rack to stabilize the temperature in your smoker.

After an hour on the smoker I checked how the bread was coming.

After the rising, shaping and proofing your bread dough place it on the pizza stone in your smoker, cover it up and LEAVE IT ALONE!!!  Remember, every time you lift the lid on your smoker you lose valuable heat.  Because my recipe called for baking at 350°F for 30-35 minutes I decided to start at 1 hour of baking time.  In case you didn’t know it, the ‘ideal’ temp for smoking meat is about 250°F.

After an hour I checked the progress of my bread.  I was looking nice but the top had just split and was a little under cooked in the center.  I put the lid on and left it again for another 30 minutes.

When the time was up I removed the loaf from the smoker and pulled it out of the bread pan.  Due to time constraints I broke the cardinal bread cutting rule – I cut it within minutes of pulling it out of the oven!!!  I know, grandmothers all around the world are shaking their fingers at me.

The final loaf, out of the pan.

Slices beautifully (even though it is so hot it burns my hands!).

The bread did have just a hint of smokey flavor.  It adds a nice element to a PB&J sandwich, and nicely complements ham and cheese or salami.  I am waiting for a trip to the market to make a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.


Filed under Grilling and Barbecues