Today is the Friday before Memorial Day. The Friday before Memorial Day has a number of National Days all on its own. But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Today is also May 27, and you know what that means? It’s National Grape Popsicle Day!
Did you know that an 11-year-old boy invented popsicles? Yep, it’s true. He wasn’t even trying. It just happened. One of those fluke things. His name was Frank Epperson. Frank wanted to make himself a soda drink. So he poured some water into a glass and mixed in the white powder that would transform the water into a soda. Frank was sitting on his mother’s porch, just minding his own business and stirring the drink with a stick. Now we don’t know why Frank didn’t drink his soda right then and there. We can only assume he was called inside the house and like kids his age, he left the glass where it was on the porch. Regardless, that night was unusually cold. Freezing cold. The soda-flavored water froze in the glass. Frank was able to pull his invention from the glass using the stick that was still stuck in the hunk of ice. Now you would think this happened somewhere in the mid-west or way up north, where evenings can get freezing-cold. It didn’t. This was an evening in 1905 in San Francisco, California. You may have heard the expression “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Yeah, there are times when the winds come up off the ocean and cut you to the bone. Anyhow, Frank never forgot that frozen treat. Years later, in 1922, Frank introduced his treat at a fireman’s ball where it was a huge success. Then in 1923, he made and sold his frozen treat-on-a-stick at an amusement park in Alameda, California. He named it the Popsicle.
Real Grape Popsicles
2-1/2 cups Red Seedless Grapes
1/4 cup Grape Juice Concentrate
Set up popsicle molds as instructed so that they are ready to fill. Make sure there is ample room in the freezer.
Rinse grapes, place in a blender. Add Grape Juice Concentrate. Pulse together until mixed through while still allowing some small chunks of grapes to remain in the liquid.
Gently pour mixture into molds. Snap the lids on top of the molds and freeze upright overnight. Follow instruction on the mold to remove popsicles and serve.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk briefly about the Friday before Memorial Day. There’s a lot going on – all in preparation for a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer.
So what is the significance of the Friday Before Memorial Day? It’s National Cooler Day, National Don’t Fry Day and National Road Trip Day. The Friday before Memorial Day we are reminded to pull out that cooler. Clean it, inspect it and if need be replace it before the start of the summer season. Check.
On to Don’t Fry Day. We aren’t talking fried foods. It’s you – don’t fry this summer. Check your stock of sunblock. Toss out the old stuff, and bring in the new. More to the point, use it. Got it?
Finally, it’s National Road Trip Day. Summer starts the whole family vacation, hit the road season. It’s not enough to pack your bags and pick out your cruising music, it’s time to check the tires, make sure the car is in tip-top shape. The best way to put a damper on the long weekend or family vacation plans is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere along the side of the road. So check and double check.
Maybe your family is like mine. Memorial Day, and just about any 3-Day Weekend, is an excuse to get together with family. Barbecue, play games and just be together. If you haven’t already put the final touches to your Memorial Day Celebration, why not host a back yard barbecue? Just remember to think of those unable to gather with their families, and the reason we have our freedoms. Take a moment to remember the price paid. Honor them in your thoughts and prayers.
Memorial Day Favorites
Spiced Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Lime Butter
Tri-Tip Barbecue with Gourmet Rub
Grilled All-Beef Hot Dogs
Mema’s Deviled Egg Potato Salad
Cooler Cob Corn
Fresh Berry Trifle
1 head Green Leaf Lettuce
1 head Romaine Lettuce
1/2 Red Onion
1-1/2 cups Grape Tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Croutons
Assorted Salad Dressings of choice
Rinse lettuce leaves, tear into bite-size pieces. Scatter lettuce in a large salad bowl. Set aside.
Cut cucumber 1/4-inch thick slices on the bias. Scatter over lettuce. Cut onion in half from tip to root. Wrap half of the onion, save for another use. Peel remaining half; cut into thin slices. Break into half-moons and scatter over the salad. Add grape tomatoes.. Toss salad to mix everything together.
Cover and chill until ready to serve. When ready to serve, sprinkle with croutons. Add cheese or serve on the side with an assortment of dressings such as Ranch; Italian or Catalina.
Spiced Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Lime Butter
6 large bone-in Chicken Breast
1 tablespoon New Mexican Red Chili Powder
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Unsweetened Baking Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Cut breasts in half to create 12 smaller portioned breasts. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Drizzle in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Brush over chicken.
Let chicken rest while a fire is built in the barbecue for indirect cooking. Once the coals are ready, grill chicken.
Place chicken skin side down on grill rack. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat for 15 minutes. Turn; grill 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees.
While the chicken breasts are grilling, make the Cilantro Lime Butter.
Cilantro Lime Butter
1/4 cup Cilantro
2 tablespoons Red Onion
1 Serrano Pepper
1/3 cup Butter
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
White Pepper to taste
Finely mince fresh cilantro. Finely chop a sliver of red onion, set aside. Stem and finely chop serrano pepper, set aside.
In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Add cilantro, onion, serrano pepper and lime juice. Season with black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Drizzle butter over chicken just before serving.
Tri-Tip Barbecue with a Gourmet Rub
3-lb trimmed Tri-Tip Brisket
1/2 tablespoon fresh Black Pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1/2 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Crushed Dry Rosemary
8 Garlic Cloves
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Style Mustard
1/4 cup Red Wine
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Trim brisket of any excess fat, leaving some to flavor and melt into the meat. Lay tri-tip on a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to wrap brisket. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder and crushed rosemary. Peel garlic, press over the spice blend. Add mustard, red wine and olive oil. Stir to blend and create a thin paste.
Rub spice blend into tri-tip brisket. Wrap brisket tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 3 hours minimum. The longer the flavors are allowed to penetrant the tri-tip the better. Remove tri-tip from refrigerator, let stand on counter for 45 minutes prior to grilling.
While the tri-tip comes to room temperature, build nice bed of hot coals. Open the bottom and top vents half way, place grate over coals and close lid to heat, about 5 minutes. Clean grate and oil paper towels dipped in vegetable oil.
Raise coals to high position (or lower grate, depending upon grill). Grill meat, fat side up, for4 minutes or until nicely seared. Turn using meat tongs (NEVER stick a fork into it – the juices will run out, and that just makes for a dry hunk of meat) and sear other side. Lower coals (or raise the grate, depending upon grill), cover and continue to cook meat 10 minutes longer. Check for doneness using an instant read thermometer. You’ll want the thickest part at the center to be about 130 degrees. Turn for a final time and grilled 5 minutes longer or until temperature has reached 140-degrees.
Note: If using a gas grill, simple sear over a high flame, then lower to medium-low setting to grill.
The key to a juicy piece of meat is to let the meat rest 10-15 minutes after grilling to allow the juices to soak back into the meat rather than run all over the cutting board.
When carving, go ahead and slice on the serving platter. That way, any juices that escape can be spooned over the sliced meat when serving for extra flavor.
Grilled Hot Dogs
1/4 Onion, chopped
Sweet Pickle Relish
1 package All Beef Hot Dogs
1 package Hot Dog Buns
Cut onion in half from root to tip, then cut half in half again. Reserve 3/4 of the onion for another use. Peel remaining quarter, dice and place in a small ramekin cup. Place remaining condiments and relish in their own individual small ramekin cups for serving. (If desired tie red and blue ribbons around ramekins for a festive “splash” of color). Set aside.
Heat grill to medium-high. Grill hot dogs, turning frequently, until heated through and skins are nicely blistered.
Split buns open. Place grilled dogs inside the buns. Arrange on a serving platter surrounded by the ramekin cups for garnish.
Mema’s Deviled Egg Potato Salad
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
6 hard-boiled Eggs, divided
1 Red Onion
2 Celery Ribs
1 tablespoon Bacon Drippings, warm (Optional)
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoons Mustard
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar plus a sprinkling for potatoes
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Peel and slice potatoes into large chunks. Place potatoes in a stockpot and cover with 1-inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are just tender but not soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle LIGHTLY with red wine vinegar and set aside in refrigerator to cool.
Place eggs in a saucepan, add cold water to cover eggs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12-14 minutes, then plunge eggs into an ice-water bath to stop cooking process. Crack shells to allow water to seep in, place bowl of eggs in refrigerator to cool.
Peel and finely mince onion. Clean, trim and finely dice celery. In a bowl, combine onions, celery, bacon drippings, mayonnaise, mustard and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. Taste dressing and season with Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Peel and chop 3 eggs. Add to dressing. Cut remaining 3 eggs in half lengthwise. Set aside 5 egg halves aside for garnish. Dice remaining half, add to the dressing.
Place potatoes in a large bowl. Pour egg dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Smooth out top. In the center, using the back of a spoon, create 5 small indentations. Set salad aside.
Deviled Egg Garnish
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
4 Green Onions
Remove yolks from remaining egg halves, place yolks in a bowl. Place a white into each indentation in the salad. Mash yolks with mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper. Spoon or pipe into egg garnish.
Cut green onions at the point where the white portions becomes green. Trim root, slice tops of the white bulbs to create little onion pom-poms. Dice remaining green portion, sprinkle over the salad. Arrange pom-poms as desired around the deviled eggs.
Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
12 Ears of Corn
Boiling Water, enough to cover corn
1 stick Butter
Salt as desired
Husk, clean and trim ears of corn. Place corn in a clean camping cooler.
Bring several kettles or pots of water to a boil, enough to cover corn. Pour boiling water over corn, close lid and let steep for 40 minutes. Serve cooked corn with butter an salt as desired.
Note: Corn can be held in the cooler to keep warm throughout the meal.
Fresh Berry Trifle
2 packages (3.4-ounce) instant French Vanilla Pudding
3-3/4 cup Whole Milk, very cold
3 cups fresh Strawberries, washed and hulled, plus extra for garnish
2 cups Blueberries, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Store-Bought Pound Cake
To make the pudding layer, empty the contents of the pudding packages into a mixing bowl. Add cold milk, whisk by hand to blend. Using an electric whisk, continue to whisk for about 2 minutes longer or until “soft” set. Place in the refrigerator to chill well and allow to thicken, about 30 minutes to an hour.
Rinse the blueberries and place in a non-reactive bowl. Hull and slice the strawberries, add to the blueberries. Toss all of the berries with the lemon juice and the 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the berries to release their juices.
In a medium mixing bowl, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar until firm peaks form. Set aside.
To make the layers, slice pound cake into chunks or strips about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange sliced cake on the bottom of a large footed serving bowl (trifle bowl). Top with about a third of the berries along with their juices. Spread fruit over the cake to cover evenly. Spoon half of the pudding over the fruit. Add another layer of pound cake, another third of the berries and juice, and the rest of the pudding. Add a final layer of cake slices and berries. Top with the whipped cream. Garnish as desired with berries.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.