IT IS SUMMER! Just in case you had no idea. Tourists visiting San Diego the last few days might have been thinking, “What in the world? Why is it cloudy?” but us year-rounders know all about the “June Gloom”. I’m just not used to this weird new addition of “June Humidity”. It feels like nature is confused and thinks we’re on the East Coast or something.
But I digress… it is summer! And that means it’s time to cook everything OUTSIDE just because we can! Granted, we can do this most of the year, but summer is the time we don’t have to do it wearing a sweater!
Recently I had a few friends over for a little BBQ get-together thing. Mostly this BBQ was to A) hang out with friends B) cook food to stuff into our gullets and C) try this crazy Oak by Absolut Vodka (see below) that was recently sent to me to try. My friends are like the perfect guinea pigs. I just tease them over with the promise of food and then force them to drink strange alcohols. Luckily none of them seem to mind this strategy.
I assure you, this is vodka. More on this in a minute.
[salt & pepper chicken wings from qt pot]
I asked friends to bring extra things over so I didn’t have to cook every little thing this time around. Faye came and brought salt & pepper chicken wings from QT Pot! I’ve been wanting to try these for awhile and they were quite good. I don’t think they had quite enough “stuff” (like garlic and peppers and stuff) but I liked the overall crunch and flavor of these.
[bbq, what what]
Laura brought some cut up watermelon and Stacey made a PIE.
This is weird because Stacey hardly ever bakes and we were having a Twilight Zone moment in which she baked things and I didn’t. While Stacey and I were quite weirded out by this, no one else was. Probably because they didn’t care because they still got to eat all of it, no matter who made it!
I made smoked chicken, St. Louis style ribs, corn on the cob and potato salad. My potato salad always has fresh corn in it for the little bit of sweetness and crunch. Have you ever tried that? I highly recommend it.
[photo courtesy of Faye]
Stacey and Frank also brought us BEERS OF MEXICO, the Fiesta Pack!
Food was enjoyed by all.
And then a few of us tried the crazy Oak-y Dark looking vodka. This is Absolut’s newest creation. As you can see, it is not clear like your typical vodka but is instead darker due to resting on oak barrels.
[photo courtesy of Faye, taken by S]
This is me trying the Oak by Absolut “straight up”. Faye made me do this even though I like, never drink anything straight up. I immediately started coughing up a storm because uhhhh… yeah. I don’t drink straight anything! Too harsh!
I wised up and added some Pepsi as a mixer to the Oak by Absolut so I could actually drink it WITHOUT choking (choking sux). The flavor of the vodka is like a cross between vodka and whiskey. Like Frank said after trying it, “It wasn’t quite vodka… but it wasn’t quite whiskey, either.” It had the background smokiness that whiskey is known for but it wasn’t as strongly stated. We decided to all call it “Vodkey” instead – a new hybrid alcohol!
I can say that it wasn’t too bad as a mixer, actually. It’s unique, I’ll give it that for sure. It’s kind of like “whiskey lite” since it has a more mild smokey flavor going on. I still have some of the Oak by Absolut left if anyone wants to come over for a cocktail (heh heh).
Our apple tree is crazy full of apples right now and I had two bags of apples ready to use for making cider or to giveaway. I told everyone they were welcome to have apples and Faye enlisted S’s help to grab a few for her. Here he is being a monkey boy and climbing the tree.
And then he was using the step ladder and Faye was ensuring that he didn’t fall over getting her some apples.
They employed the “use longer objects to grab stuff” technique that I apply in my every day life (like using tongs to grab the things on the high shelf in my kitchen cabinet).
[photo courtesy of Faye]
This was her haul. Not too bad, eh? She lined them up later for some kind of apple beauty contest so the apples could feel self-conscious about themselves.
Seriously though, apples have been falling off the tree EVERY DAY. I’ll be making another apple pie this week, in case anyone wants to come over for a drink of vodkey and a slice of apple pie.
[stacey’s apple pie]
Speaking of pie, here’s a closeup of Stacey’s delicious apple crumb pie. Her dad also has a crazy over producing apple tree so she’s been figuring out ways to use up tons of apples as well. Got apple ideas for me? TELL ME BELOW. I’ve already made cider and a pie. I think blueberry apple pie might be on the docket this week just to mix it up a little.
Maya was Miss Social Butterfly at the BBQ for about an hour or so and then she went inside to hide. I found her snuggling up to a pillow on the couch.
In addition to having a BBQ, I’ve just been cooking all of my meals outdoors. Any of these could be great ideas for the Fourth of July this weekend!
[grilled shrimp and fresh bruschetta]
One evening I made myself some shrimp brushed with melted butter and key lime along with some fresh bruschetta with red onion, avocado, freshly picked cherry tomatoes from the garden, fresh basil, a touch of garlic and olive oil. YUM!
[surf n turf n noodles]
Another evening Laura came over and watched Downton Abbey with me (we’re so behind) and we made steak, grilled shrimp, some garlic basil noodles from Trader Joe’s with browned butter and a simple salad of cherry tomatoes, leftover corn on the cob, avocado, basil with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
[burger and veggies]
Another dinner “for one” here. Grilled veggies are so delicious and really don’t need much to make them taste FABULOUS. Olive oil, salt, and pepper is really about all you need. I grilled yellow squash, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms one evening to go along with a cheeseburger.
I even toasted the bun right on the grill so I didn’t have to cook anything indoors. The flavor you get from a charcoal grill is unlike anything else and it’s worth that extra step. Look at my perfectly enrobed hamburger patty! Doesn’t it look like a work of art?
Maya has been kind of bored of my whole “cook and eat” outside thing. She often times stays inside and just watches me cook from the comfort of our couch.
I even made dessert on the grill because I didn’t want to “waste” charcoal by grilling only a few things. These are some nice fresh peaches that are in season right now. I picked the softer peaches and they turn out a little better on the grill. I grill these with the flesh side down for about 10-12 minutes until they get a nice char on them. I sprinkled crumbled Pecan Sandies shortbread cookies all over the top and dotted my plate with whipped cream (though ice cream would also be an excellent idea). If I were hardcore I’d peel the peaches or take the skin off since the skin doesn’t taste that awesome, but I don’t do this. I just leave the skin on the plate instead. But maybe you like the skin. Any stone fruit would be great for this – nectarines, plums, pears, etc.
Hope you’ve been enjoying the summer so far!
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary bottle of Oak by Absolut. I was not paid or further compensated. All opinions reflected here are my own.