Sunday, July 31, 2011


Peach tree stump & roots.
This photo isn't some space alien.  It's the roots of what's left of our peach tree after we pulled it out last week. It took quite a lot of digging and pulling -- thanks, Lonn & Kim.  It wasn't diseased, but it was the victim of  broken branches and bad pruning jobs over the years. I loved the big juicy peaches, but the branches that were still producing fruit were so high that I couldn't reach them. And since it was growing on a slope, ladder-climbing was always a scary prospect for me. .

Hole where peach tree once stood, filled with water to aid the pulling.
This is actually the second peach tree we've had in our yard.  The first one was growing just fine for over ten years, with wonderful sweet peaches, on a nice flat part of the backyard. As a new fruit-grower, I didn't realize that all peach trees are not the same. Mine produced sweet, flavorful peaches, but they had a cling stone that was hard to remove.

Then my husband, Kim, had the idea to build a shed in that nice flat spot. He knew I wasn't keen on that. While I was in Sacramento for a couple of days covering a National Chicken Cook-Off, he brought in a backhoe to dig out that spot. By the time I came home, the tree was gone and a shed partially installed.  I didn't even get to say good-bye.

So I planted Tree Number 2 in a different spot. But ten years later, I sadly knew that last fall would be its last harvest.

I'm not saying good-bye to peaches, however. I'll be buying a new tree soon.  I'm going to plant it back the flat sunny spot where Tree Number 1 used to be.  It happened that our city zoning didn't like Kim's placement for a shed any more than I did, so the shed is long gone.
And now that I'm much wiser about caring for peach trees, I feel certain it will be around for a long time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Watermelon Gazpacho          Photo by Valerie Phillips

Gazpacho, that raw, ice-cold Spanish soup, became a trendy dish during the 1960s when Americans became enamored with European cuisine. That was when other “international” dishes like Swiss fondue, Chicken Kiev and Beef Bourguignon were also in their heyday.
It’s still a popular soup to slurp during hot summer days, as Americans have added one twist after another to the traditional recipe.  
Lately I’ve seen a variety of recipes for watermelon gazpacho. Some contain both watermelon and tomatoes; others are strictly watermelon-based. They usually have cucumber and onion. Some go the Southwestern route with chiles, cilantro and lime; others are more Italian with basil and balsamic vinegar. Which is the best? 
I made a batch of “generic” gazpacho using watermelon, cucumber and red onion. Then I divided it in half. To one half-batch, I added cilantro, and the zest and juice of one lime. To the other half-batch, I added balsamic vinegar and basil.  
My verdict was in favor of the balsamic/basil combo. The balsamic vinegar seemed to bring out the watermelon’s sweetness, and the basil added an herbal hint without overpowering the refreshing cucumber-watermelon flavor.

The cilantro version tasted a tad bitter; maybe it was partly due to the lime zest. I didn’t add chiles, although some recipes called for it. I figured, why throw in a lot of heat if this is supposed to be a cool summer soup?  
Here's the version I liked best:  
Preparation time: 15 minutes
1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil 
6-8 cups seedless watermelon, diced (about half of a medium-size seedless watermelon)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped 
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
 Peel and dice the cucumber. Chop the basil. Cut up the watermelon into chunks. Chop the onion. Place all the ingredients in a blender. Puree in a blender until chunky-smooth. Refrigerate until just before serving. Makes about 5 cups.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


If you want to work out with one of "The Biggest Loser" trainers, here's your chance.

Brett Hoebel was one of the trainers in last season's "The Biggest Loser,"  pushing overweight contestants to build muscle and shed pounds on the TV reality series.  

He will be in Logan, Utah on Aug. 3, along with former contestants Justin Pope of Logan and at-home winner Deni Hill of Bountiful.

Hoebel will conduct a his signature workout class called "reVamp-Nitro!" It's described as " a non-stop supercharged workout that combines the fun of kickboxing with the flow of capoeira. This unforgettable class starts with boxing, then progresses into kickboxing and capoeira, and ends with ab intensive core-training drills. The house-music will keep you thumping, the high-energy will keep you pumping...come get your sweat on with reVamp®–Nitro!"

There's a meet-and-greet at Texas Roadhouse in Logan, from 1-4 p.m. In case you happen to be tempted by the massive steaks, loaded baked potatoes and so on, you can work it off at 5 p.m. at Brett's reVamp-Nitro! class at the Logan Recreation Center. Cost is $20 per family.

Hoebel will take his conditioning class to the Apple Gym at Idaho Falls at 11 a.m. Aug. 4, and then to the Lincoln County Fair Grounds  in Star Valley Wyoming at 8 p.m.

For more information on Hoebel, check his website at


Metropolitan Restaurant and Copper Moose Farm are hosting a New Moon Farm-to-Table dinner at the farm in Park City July 29. 
Apparently the organic farm is partnering with various restaurants and chefs to do a series of these kinds of dinners.  According to the Copper Moose website, the evenings  start with a tour of the gardens and harvesting some of the meal's ingredients.  
Participants will then head to the kitchen to join Metropolitan's chef Justin Shifflett,  as well as local food purveyors, in preparing and cooking the evening’s dishes. Nutritional information and best cooking practices for fresh vegetables and organic, grass-fed meats and dairy will be discussed. 
            Each dinner is served with a huge, beautiful green salad from the farm, homemade salad dressing with farm herbs, local breads and cheese, homemade local desserts and fruit, and local beer/wine/whiskey.  The feast will then be enjoyed under the stars and among the flowers in an elegant farm setting. 
    Cost is $35 for food; $45 for a High West whiskey tasting.  To reserve a seat, go to


Emeril Lagasse and Valerie Phillips.   Photo by Kim Phillips
Emeril Lagasse's new show in the Hallmark Channel, "Emeril's Table," debuts Monday, September 26 at 9 a.m. Mountain time (11 a.m. Eastern).  The daily program features Lagasse sharing his love of food with five lucky guests seated at his chef's table. The guests vary in background, such as newlyweds, busy moms, firefighters, and vegetarians.

In a press release, Lagasse is quoted as saying, "Some of my most fulfilling memories have been in the kitchen preparing a meal with my family and friends, and 'Emeril's Table' creates that same kind of connection.  Food brings us all a little closer together and I hope that as we’re gathering around my table each day everyone will invite us in to their kitchens and be inspired to cook along." 
Lagasse is the culinary icon who put the Food Network on the map. Two years ago, I was able to meet Lagasse at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.  
He knew my name ... at least for a minute.
I was attending a Taste of New Orleans event at the The Southern Food and Beverage Museum. A half-dozen or so prominent restaurants were stationed throughout the museum, serving a "tasting" portion of a signature dish.
And His Royal Bam-ness was there, offering Pork Cheeks with Dirty Rice from Emeril's Delmonico, one of three new Orleans restaurants he owns.
"Hello Valerie," he said as he shook my hand.
"Oh my gosh! Emeril knows me!" was my first elated thought. Then I realized he had simply read my name tag, as he was doing with everyone else. Still, this small gesture went a long way in charming people, and perhaps indicates how Emeril has gotten where he is today.  
.We had a few minutes to chat, and he said he splits a lot of his time between New York and New Orleans, where his corporate office and three of his restaurants are located. And, he visits his restaurants in Florida and Las Vegas, too. He now has 12 restaurants and 15 cookbooks under his belt.
"So I'm still doing my thing 30 years later," he told me. 
Indeed, the "Emeril Empire" has grown substantially since he graduated from Johnson & Wales University's culinary arts college in 1978. In 1982, he replaced Paul Prudhomme as chef of the highly respected Commander's Palace in New Orleans. His first cookbook, "Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking," came out in 1993, before the airwaves and cyberspace became deluged with TV cooking shows, food blogs and Web sites.
That led to his "Essence of Emeril" and "Emeril Live!" TV shows. At one point, he was the fledgling Food Network's biggest star. But in 2008, he became part of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
How does he manage it all?
"It's called having great people," he said. "I'm very fortunate to have people who have been with me for 20 or 25 years."
  “Emeril’s Table” is produced for Hallmark Channel by Emeril Primetime Productions in association with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Martha Stewart and Fran Brescia-Coniglio are executive producers. The series is directed by Scott Preston


 Harmons and its customers donated 368,000 pounds of food to Utah Food Bank and local food pantries in 2010. This year, the  local, family-owned grocery store chain is celebrating its 79th birthday with another food drive.  During the month of August, Harmons will sell $10 Food for Families grocery bags pre-filled with essential non-perishable food items.

The public is invited to buy them and drop them in the  bins at the front of all Harmons’ stores.   Shoppers can also  buy a few extra canned goods or other non-perishable items and drop them in the Utah Food Bank bins that remain in the stores year round. Utah Food Bank collects nearly eight percent of its food from these kinds of food drives throughout the state annually.

Harmons is also  participating in Utah Food Bank’s Fresh Grocery Rescue program to provide “un-sellable” but safe, wholesome food that has reached its sell-by-date, but has not yet expired, such as meat, wall and service deli, dairy, produce, general non-food merchandise and other seasonal and discontinued items. The chain projects that it will donate approximately one half-million pounds of fresh foods through the Fresh Rescue program through the end of 2011.

Harmons was founded in1932 when Jake and Irene Harmon opened the Market Spot fruit stand on Main Street and 3300 South in Salt Lake City. Their son, Terry and his wife, Doreen, grew the business to 12 stores over 40 years. Now, with third and fourth generation Harmons continuing in the business, Harmons operates 14 stores from Ogden to St. George. The chain will open a 15th store, Harmons Emigration Market, in early fall and a 16thin the downtown City Creek development in spring of 2012.  Harmons, continues to be one of the few remaining locally-owned and family-operated grocery chains in Utah.

For more information about the food drive and Harmons’ history visit

 For more information about Utah Food Bank, visit Find us on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Last night, my daughter and I saw the premiere of the new movie, "Cowboys and Aliens" with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig at the Megaplex 12  in Salt Lake City. While there was lots of action and some entertaining moments, it just didn't resonate with me (or my daughter, for that matter).

I'll admit, I'm picky about movies.  And I have a hard time with "alien invasion" flicks because they're been done so many times, and often not very well.  They really need a great story and well-developed characters for me to buy into them — such as  "Independence Day" with Will Smith and Bill Pullman. And even that was a stretch for me.

An Old West setting switched things up a bit, but the story was thin, and you really didn't get to know any of the characters very well.  Daniel Craig's stoic loner was too aloof to get know and care much about. Harrison Ford's cattle baron character was a jerk, although his persona softened a bit by the end of the movie. His son was such a spoiled dork that I hoped the aliens would keep him.  Some of the more interesting roles — the mysterious woman, the saloon owner and the preacher — could have had a little more meat to them.

It made me feel old to see Harrison Ford play the role of the crochety old guy instead of the young, handsome action hero. He wears his age a lot better than most of us do!  But even he couldn't save this movie for me. There's plenty of action for those who love lots of fighting, shooting and mayhem, but this is no "Indiana Jones."

I would give it a 6 out of 10 rating.  

Seen any good movies lately? Which ones?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Happy Meals are getting healthier. McDonald’s today announced a plan called “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices.” One major change is that McDonald's will automatically include BOTH low-fat apple slices and a smaller serving of french fries in its Happy Meals. And on request, you can get two apple slice packs instead of the fries. Beverage choices include fat-free chocolate milk and 1 percent low-fat milk. 

Actually, McDonald's has offered apples as a choice in Happy Meals since 2004; but apples are chosen only 11 percent of the time. By making them a routine part of the meal, perhaps people will develop a habit of eating them.  (I have to wonder how many people will just  toss them? You can lead people to the healthy food, but you can't force them to eat it.)

Also, the company pledged to reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through "varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations."  I hope this doesn't mean that they will cut down on fat and calories simply by cutting the portion size. 

The McDonald's press release stated that the company has already reduced sodium by 10 percent in the majority of its national chicken menu offerings – most recently Chicken McNuggets. Sodium reductions will continue across the menu in accordance with the Company’s 2015 commitments.  

 In 2012, McDonald’s will also roll out nutrition messages in 100 percent of its national kids’ communications, including merchandising, advertising, digital and the Happy Meal packaging. McDonald’s will also provide funding for grass roots community nutrition awareness programs.

McDonald’s will expand new in-restaurant, website and mobile communications, and marketing vehicles making access to this information even easier. To begin, McDonald’s is now making available its first mobile app so customers can access nutrition information on-the-go.

I can't fault McDonald's for the country's weight problems.  For quite a few years, the chain has offered salads, apples, yogurt parfaits and so on. The choices are there; but it's up to people to make them.  I was around when the McLean Deluxe was introduced, and it was discontinued due to poor sales.  

One complaint I've heard is that the "healthy" food usually costs a lot more than the burgers, fries and chicken McNuggets.  That's true if you're comparing a salad to the dollar menu. But when you start getting into the big specialty  burgers, such as the Big Macs, Angus Burgers, or the Double Quarter Pounder, you could easily spend more on a combo meal than if you'd bought a salad. 

I know, maybe you don't really WANT a salad. But I'm just sayin'.


Log Haven restaurant in Millcreek Canyon is reinventing the usual "dinner and a movie" date night.
On Aug 16 the restaurant is hosting a French buffet country buffet, and then showing the movie "Chocolat" at the hillside amphitheater.

The buffet is from 6:30 to 8:30, with the movie starting at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $50, which includes tax, gratuity and a 15 percent donation to Slow Food Utah.  Alcoholic beverages are sold separately.

Log Haven's steak and lobster special continues.  It's a two-course dinner of a Southwest Caesar salad and pan-seared center-cut prime sirloin, with a Maine lobster tail.  If ordered before 6:30 p.m., it's just $25. steak-and-lobster entree, for $35.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smucker’s Uncrustables Unstoppable Family Photo Contest

 Think your Unstoppable family has what it takes to win an action-packed trip to Yosemite National Park worth $10,000?  
  The makers of Uncrustables – the ultimate thaw-and-serve crustless sandwich – want to see your unstoppable family in action in the Smucker’s Uncrustables Unstoppable Family Photo Contest. 

From now through October 5, 2011, families can log on to and submit photos along with a caption of 140 characters or less explaining why their family is unstoppable.  Starting in January 2012, ten finalist entries will be posted on the site for a nationwide online vote. The winning photo and caption entry will receive a family trip for winner and up to three guests to Yosemite National Park valued at $10,000.



The California grape farmers sent me a press release with a recipe for California Grape Sorbet.  I haven't seen black California grapes in my Utah grocery store, but I don't know why you couldn't substitute other seedless grapes. 

The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of vodka, but it's optional. The alcohol helps to make the sorbet smooth. But, again, it's optional. 

California Grape Sorbet      

 4 cups black California seedless grapes, rinsed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Vodka (optional, but helps make sorbet smooth)
Puree grapes, sugar, zest and juice in blender until mixture is smooth, with some small pieces of skin still visible.  Place mixture in a saucepan and bring to boil over high heat.  Let boil 30 seconds, and then remove from heat.  Strain puree through fine strainer and discard solids.  Stir vodka into puree.  Let mixture chill in refrigerator until cool.  Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer instructions or freeze in a shallow pan, stirring every 10-15 minutes until frozen. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 163; Protein 1 g; Fat 1 g; Calories from Fat 5 %;  Carbohydrates 41 g; Cholesterol 0 mg;  Fiber 1.6 g; Sodium 3 mg.


Deni Hill and Valerie Phillips at the finish line of 5K. 
This morning I completed the Deseret News/KSL Read Today 5K Walk, with Deni Hill, the at-home winner of "The Biggest Loser" last season.

I'm not in current shape to run a mile, much less a 5K. But,  since Deni ran in a 5K on Saturday and walked 6 miles yesterday, she said she would be happy to take it easy and keep up a brisk walk with me.

 When I've done the 5K or 10K in the past, I felt awkward running or walking down the parade route, on display for all the bystanders to see.  But  this time it was kind of fun when people recognized Deni's
"Biggest Loser" pink T-shirt and  cheered and waved. When I saw our photo together, I thought we kind of looked like a "before and after" shot, with me being the "before." What can I say, except that I'm working on it.

So many people asked Deni for her secret, and she told them, "Calories in, calories out."

 It is inspiring to be around someone who is proof that yes, you really can lose weight.  Maybe it will rub off!


Bambara's executive chef Nathan Powers is celebrating local summer food at Bambara, a Kimpton restaurant in Salt Lake City, with a tasty "Watermelon Extravaganza" three-course menu, available from July 25 - 31.  The Vault's mixologist, Austen Craig, has dreamed up his own concoction, “The Pink Sky. ” The summer celebration menu and specialty drink will be available throughout the week for $35 and $12 respectively.
Chef Powers said his menu is a twist on carefree, summer cuisine.  It includes:
     - Summer Water Melon Salad with Baby Spinach, Drake Family Farms Feta Cheese,
Pickled Shallots and Pistachio ‘Dust’
    - Grilled Utah Steelhead with Watermelon & Sweet Onion Salsa, Couscous and Basil Oil
    - Watermelon and White Chocolate ‘Popsicle’
Throughout the week, five percent of the proceeds from “Chef’s Summer Celebration” will benefit the Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged women reenter the workforce.
Here's Nathan Power's recipe:

Summer Melon Salad
1each red and gold watermelon diced in 1.5” chunks
1 pound  organic baby spinach
4 ounces  fresh feta cheese (preferably sheep’s milk)
 shallots,  julienne cut
Juice of 2-3 lemons
1/4 pound pistachios toasted and ground fine
2 ounces  white balsamic vinegar
3-4 ounces  extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
In a small sauté pan, slowly sweat the shallot julienne in a little oil over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes and then squeeze the juice of the lemons over them, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. This will turn them bright pink. Adjust the acidity and salt if necessary. Prepare a simple vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil into the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. The vinaigrette should be relatively acidic and sweet.

Arrange the large chunks of watermelon equally on four large chilled plates. In a large mixing bowl toss the spinach and pickled shallots with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and season with salt and pepper. Place a small handful of the spinach in the middle of the plate on top of the melon. Sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and the fine ground pistachio. Drizzle a little of the remaining dressing around the edge of the salad. Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My granddaughter Jayden spent a day with me last week.

We stayed pretty busy — going to the park and Cherry Hill,  making mac 'n' cheese, and playing puzzles and dolls — "Why do you keep calling her Barbie, Gran?"

We picked raspberries from the backyard, and she refused to taste them. Then some of the juice dripped out on her finger, and she licked it.  "It tastes like watermelon!" she exclaimed, and soon picked — and ate — all the ripe raspberries from the bushes.

An hour later, she said, "Let's check and see if more raspberries have turned red so I can eat them." Unfortunately, they didn't cooperate.

The grand finale was a birthday party for a 3-year-old across the street, where they served orange popsicles. (Show us your orange tongue just ONE MORE TIME!)

She found one of my son's old cowboy hats and decided to try it on. It's never been worn quite like this before.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


 I visited Salt Lake City's Downtown Farmers Market this morning, hoping to find some watermelon to go in a fruit bowl that I'm bring to an LDS mission farewell lunch tomorrow. 

 I found a ton of other interesting foods and fun, but no melon.  I had hoped that some of the Southern Utah farmers would have a ripe crop by now, even though most crops are a couple of weeks behind their usual growing season. If they have ripe melons,  they might be selling it closer to home for now. 

But I did go home with  some nice apricots and cherries, listened to some great music, and ran into several friends and acquaintances.

It was fun to see farmers I wrote about when I was the Deseret News food editor.  Cornaby's from Utah County was there selling home-grown raspberry jams and spreads.

Peggy Nelson of the Purple Apple Farm in Cache Valley had a booth with her lavender products.  She even had my story on display in her booth. Jamie Gillmor seemed to be doing a brisk business selling his Morgan Valley lamb.

I bought a bar of goat milk soap from Creamery Creek Farms in Lindon. I've used goat milk soap before, and was impressed with how gentle it felt on my skin. According to the Creamery Creek handout, it contains caprylic acid, which gives it a low pH balance.

It seems that there are more goat farmers in Utah lately. By the way, did you know that goat is the number-one most eaten meat in the world? Although it's not big in the U.S., it's standard fare in many countries.


If you're going to a farmers market, here are some things I've learned over the years:

1. Bring cash. Many farmers can't take credit cards and may not take checks.  Bigger markets may have ATM machines, but don't count on it.

2. Stroll around the stalls and check out prices and quality before buying. I stopped at the first booth I saw and bought a bag of cherries for $6.  Just a few steps away, the same size bag was selling for $5.
And then I met Sherman Bennett of Alpine, who was selling two bags of cherries for $5.  The bags looked pretty similar in size. Next time, I'll find Sherman first!

3. If you're planning to buy a lot of produce, bring a rolling cooler or a baby stroller to carry it.  The Downtown market offers "Veggie Valets" who will carry the produce to your waiting car, but the smaller markets don't have that kind of service. And it's nice to keep things cool if you've got a lot of stops on the way home.
4. Take your time and enjoy it.  Yes, it can be hot and crowded, and you may not find everything you want (such as watermelon that's not quite in season locally!)  But it's not just a matter of buying something; it's the whole experience.

If the big crowds aren't your thing, head for some of the smaller markets that have sprung up locally.
For a list of them, check Slow Food Utah's website at

Friday, July 22, 2011


I've mentioned before in this blog that I'm a fan of Kettle Baked Chips.  I think they are the best low-fat potato chip out there (isn't that kind of an oxymoron; a potato chip that's low-fat?)  I like them because they are real potato slices with none of the pre-fab texture of other baked brands.  They have 65 percent less fat that regular potato chips — three grams of fat, two grams of fiber and 120 calories per serving. The only problem is that old "betcha can't eat just one" saying. Hard to stop until the whole bag is gone. I'd be addicted, except they sell for around $3.49 per 4-ounce bag. I can't afford them except as an occasional treat.

Now Kettle has come out with a new line of reduced-fat chips, a happy medium between their thick, crunchy regular chips, and the Baked style. I tried a sample of the new chips, which boast 40 percent less fat than regular. 

To me, these reduced-fat chips taste nearly identical to the regular version — very fatty and indulgent.  They're 130 calories per serving, with 6 grams of fat. The Sea Salt flavor is already on grocery shelves; Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper and Sea Salt & Vinegar Krinkle Cut will be out in August. The suggested retail is $3.49 per 8-ounce bag, which makes them half the price of the baked line. 

I still like the baked line of chips better. I eat regular chips so rarely that I've become accustomed to the taste and texture of a less greasy chip. But if you already eat regular chips often, and want to painlessly cut back on the fat, this would be the way to do it. 


Dutch Oven BBQ Chicken, simmering over coals as sauce thickens.    
Last Saturday, I had some of my extended family over for a summer Dutch oven cook-out. I've been wanting to do it for a long time, but it was hard to arrange with everyone's conflicting schedules.   I finally realized if I waited for a date that everyone could come, summer would be over and the party would never happen.

As it was, we ended up with around 20 people.  Next time, I'll try to catch some of the other folks,  including my brother's family in Maryland.

Since our backyard slopes into the neighboring park, it's a perfect site for a do-it-yourself waterslide. The kids could cool off and have a lot of fun together.  Meanwhile the rest of us could sit on the deck and sample all the good food everyone has brought, and catch up with each other's lives. Kim took everyone on rides in his dune buggy too.
Heather, Aggie, Kim and Vern talk about Porter Rockwell.
Ellie and Jayden.

Amy and Stephanie.

My sister, Hallie, recently took a photography/hiking trip in Italy's Dolomite Mountains, and I asked her to bring her laptop so we could see some of the picturesque photos she took. (I wish I could somehow absorb all of the tips she got from the experts on the trip with her!)

She also brought  a "taste of Italy," with prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe, and tomato slices topped with chopped olives and basil. My sister Christi and her daughter Chelsea did a session at the Bountiful Temple, so stopped at Costco for some wonderful salads and the biggest hot dogs I've ever seen! My cousin Heather made a beautiful salad (and brought me some lettuce fresh from her garden as well!) Heather's son Justin made some yummy no-bake cookies.  I know I'm forgetting some of  the other good stuff, as I was busy visiting, cooking, watching the kids on the waterslide, etc.  This is why I forgot to take more photos as well!

I originally planned to serve hot dogs and burgers. But, I didn't want to be focused over the grill much of the time, unable to talk and visit much.  Hot dogs come already cooked, so it's not as crucial to just get them warmed through with some grill marks.  But, burgers need some attention to make sure they aren't overcooked and dry, or undercooked and a food poisoning hazard.

So I did Dutch Oven BBQ Chicken, because it's a super-easy dish that you can prepare before guests arrive. The dying coals will keep it warm for late-comers, too.  We still had the hot dogs for kids who might balk at trying something new, which my daughter Amy cooked.

And it's probably more economical than burgers. I bought the boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.69 per pound, and the boneless, skinless thighs for $1.59 per pound.  (In comparison, the last time I bought ground beef, it was around $3 per pound.)

And since my son, Jess, pronounced it the "best chicken I've ever tasted," I'd call it a success.  The leftover chicken can be shredded and served on buns the next day, or used to make BBQ chicken pizza.
Here's my recipe:

1 12-inch Dutch oven
Charcoal briquets
5 to 6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast and/or boneless, skinless thighs (if you don't want to have to do any slicing, use chicken tenders)
2 large onions, chopped
1 red or green bell peppers, chopped
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons Weber Canadian Chicken seasoning (similar to Montreal Steak seasoning)
2 18-ounce bottles of your favorite barbecue sauce (I used Kraft Original and KC Masterpiece Original)
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

Light the briquets about 90 minutes before you will be serving the chicken. (I use a chimney and a piece of newspaper).  While the briquets are burning, slice the chicken breasts horizontally so they are about 1-2 inches thick and 3-4 inches long (about the size of chicken tenders).  If using thighs, cut each in half.  The cutting is easier to do if the chicken is partially frozen.

Chop the onion and peppers.

By this time, the briquets should be ready for cooking. Place the Dutch oven on top of about 16 to 18  hot coals. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven, and add the chicken, onions, peppers and seasoning. Stir the chicken to keep it from sticking. Cover it with the lid, and place about 12 briquets on top of the lid.  Allow the chicken to cook about 20 minutes, then take off the lid and stir so all the chicken pieces cook evenly.  When chicken is no longer pink, add the barbecue sauce and tomato sauce. Stir well.

Place the lid back on the chicken. Allow chicken to cook another 15 minutes.  Then take off the lid and let the mixture bubble and simmer for 15-20 minutes so the sauce can thicken.  Makes about 15-18 servings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Tim Zagat of the Zagat restaurant guides appeared live on this morning's "The Today Show" to discuss how dining etiquette has changed over the years.  

For instance, it used to be that men were expected to do the inviting, held doors, chairs and coats for women, tasted the wine, paid the bills and gave the tips. Women were supposed to be pleasant companions. Clearly things have changed since then. 

Zagat's new guidelines are based on the company's national surveys conducted on, where you can find reviews of hundreds of restaurants around the country.

Women and men should be treated as equals.Still, a plurality of diners says that men are treated better than women. The explanation given is that men are more likely to pay the bill and tip. How dated can you be? She probably earns more than you.
Whoever initiates a dinner date pays. Long ago, women were handed menus with no prices on them. Nowadays, whoever did the inviting should be expected to pay for the meal, unless you’ve worked out another arrangement in advance.
Forget gender – people should order when ready. Sorry, Emily Post, but gone are the days when women were expected to go first. Since menus can be long and complex, regardless of your sex it’s a courtesy to order first and buy your tablemates a bit more time to decide.
Do not talk, text, tweet, e-mail or surf the web at table. It’s rude, say 63% of diners. A whopping 73% advise turning off ringers. If you have urgent business to deal with, step away from the table briefly to handle matters. 
It’s fine to bring children to dinner in most restaurants. But don’t do it at places where they’d elevate the decibel level or that are meant to be romantic. Zagat surveyors split over the age at which children should be allowed: 38% say from birth while the same percent argues five years or older. Tellingly, 61% believe restaurants should be able to ban children.
Dress casually. This is known as the “Los Angelization of dining.” Hardly any restaurants require ties and jackets anymore. Even the tiny minority that do won’t object if you put your jacket over the back of the chair. About the only rule left is “don’t be a slob.” Alternatively, you may want to “dress up” to impress your companion.
Honor your restaurant reservations or cancel them on time. People should treat dining reservations as the important commitments they are. Holding an empty table for a no-show does real damage to a restaurant. If you make reservations and fail to cancel in advance, you’ll deservedly become persona non grata at the restaurant.
Don’t overstay your welcome at a busy restaurant. To clarify: Take your time and enjoy your food, wine, conversation and after-dinner treats. Nobody should ever feel rushed. But interestingly, 60% of Zagat surveyors nationally support restaurants setting time limits on tables during peak hours. Remember, next time you may be the one waiting in line.
Men go through doors first, and then hold them open for women. We know, we know. This is the one rule of chivalry that will never die, even if it’s been updated (men used to allow women to go first). Bottom line: two people can’t go through a door at the same time. So to the women out there who find this notion antiquated, please, humor these poor men. Let them get the door – they’ll let you get the bill or walk on the outside once out on the street.
And the customer is always right. Too often customers feel they are being judged by the wait staff. That’s exactly wrong. Short of berating the waiter, you should expect to receive hospitable, efficient service and good food at any restaurant. If that doesn’t happen, take your money elsewhere and tell the next 10 people that you meet.