DIY: Fall off the bone BBQ Ribs in 2 hours

My grandpa made ribs this way and as a kid I would watch and even help.  My mom continued on the tradition and now this is one of my favorite meals to serve for friends and family.  I mentioned at lunch today at a great BBQ place that I don’t order ribs because I always wish I was eating my own!

Here’s what you need:

  • Heavy duty aluminum foil.  As good and strong as you can find.  I buy mine at costco.
  • Soy Sauce
  • Liquid Smoke ( Your favorite flavor)
  • St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs – This cut of ribs is just the right thickness to get meaty, delicious, fall-off-the-bone ribs in 2 hours
  • A large tray for carrying the ribs around and working on them during cooking.
  • BBQ sauce –  Know your audience.  More on this later.
  • Spices ( Optional if you buy pre-rubbed ribs ).

Here’s what you do:

  • Open up the ribs, apply your rub and stick the ribs in the fridge for a couple hours.  Sometimes I buy a couple slabs that have already been rubbed and skip this step.
  • Take everything down by your grill and fire the grill up hot enough to sear.  I usually go to 500 degrees.
  • Sear each side of the slab 6-8 minutes with a quarter turn halfway through so you get real good grill marks and seal the juices in.
  • After searing, quickly place the ribs into the heavy duty aluminum foil.  Put a light line of liquid smoke down the ribs.  Similarly sprinkle the ribs with Soy sauce.  Put on your bbq sauce.  A couple of notes about this step.  The soy sauce seems to soften up the meat a little bit more than normal.  For the BBQ sauce, if everyone likes the same kind of sauce, put a bunch of that on.  If your group all likes different, some sweet, some hot, etc…  then just put a little bit of a traditional sauce and they can pick their own sauce later.
  • Foil them up real good.  With the heavy duty foil and some good tongs, you shouldn’t puncture the foil.  If you’re worried that you might, go ahead and wrap in foil a second time.  We want to keep those juices in there.
  • Place the foiled ribs back on the grill on indirect heat at about 300 degrees for 90-120 minutes depending on the thickness of the ribs.  If your grill isn’t big enough to get truly indirect heat, do the best you can and rotate the ribs every 15 or 20 minutes turning a burner or two back on to get the grill back up to temperature.
  • Final step, cut them with kitchen scissors!  Using a knife can pull the meat off the bone.

Now I know a lot of BBQ smoker experts don’t like their ribs this way, but nearly everyone else I’ve ever met thinks these are the most delicious ribs they’ve ever tasted.

If I’ve forwarded this recipe and you’ve got questions, let me know.

Happy grilling!

-Keith

 

Family Friendly Internet: Free Tips for a Safer Home

These are the basic steps I have taken to getting family friendly internet and device usage in my home.  If you’re concerned that your kids are seeing things they shouldn’t or are tired of stumbling onto things yourself, these steps make it much less likely that anyones eyes will accidentally fall onto some of the terrible content that’s online.

What made me put these steps for Family Friendly Internet together?

I was trying to purchase school pictures this morning and mistyped the url from the form by one character.  You know what happens next; bam…ton’s of sinful garbage I don’t want to see spewed into my face during the morning coffee.  It’s not the first time it’s happened but I was finally motivated to try and make it the last time that garbage comes up by accident.

My Strategy

I do not believe it’s completely possible to block all of the filth.  If an intelligent person knows what they are doing, there are many ways to trick filters and other systems into letting you find content if you would like.  However, in this case, I have made it more difficult to either accidentally or intentionally find the garbage on my home network.

This only supplements the need for a strong policy on how and where devices can be used in the home.  In a world with so many social sites full of user uploaded content, at some point, anyone who wants to find the filth is going to find it.

  • Block Content at the Router
  • Limit Device Usage to Open Rooms

How to Block Content at the Router

Implement a content filtering policy at the router level so that every device connected to your network will have it’s content filtered.  Software filtering is too big of a pain since it requires an installation of every device.

Implement Basic Content Filtering

I use OpenDNS Family Shield to setup my router.  It’s very straightforward and there are really only two steps to getting free basic family filtering on your router.  Once this is setup, any device that connects to the wireless network will by default have a family friendly internet setup that can only connect to web domains that are considered appropriate for a family audience.

Point the router DNS static IP addresses to the OpenDNS family friendly filter IP Addresses:

208.67.222.123
208.67.220.123

Once the router is updated, restart your devices so that they will pick up the new DNS settings from the router.

Test after restarting using the link at the bottom of the OpenDNS Family Shield web page.

Note that this only “suggests” to every device on the network what DNS servers to use and that an adept user can override this from each device.

Limitations With Most Routers

Even after telling the router to use OpenDNS, safe sites like Google will still be able to find all the garbage.  While only the cached content will be there, using the safe search option on each search engine should keep the filth away.  In order to keep the garbage out of search engines, the average router cannot be setup to always force a Safe Search!

I am currently shopping for routers that can provide this level filtering.  I will update this post once I’ve found and tested a better router.  A koala router that was on kickstarter recently appears to be the best right now.

Restrict Device Usage

Finally, discourage or eliminate usage of devices behind closed doors.  No matter how good the routers get, there will be ways for smart kids to get past them.  Be especially careful with devices that have access to the mobile network since none of these steps will help with that problem.

In our home, we don’t allow devices into the bedrooms or bathrooms and when the kids are old enough for their own phones, they will stay downstairs as well.

 

 

DGF510SBP-D Dyna Glo 5 Burner Review

My old grill had the last two of its burners finally fail yesterday so I went out today and picked up the Dyna Glow DGF510SBP-D 5 Burner as a replacement.

I got the whole thing assembled in a little over an hour and didn’t have anyone to help me out.  I was also watching all my kids at the time so you can probably get it put together in less time.

Why I chose the DGF510SBP-D from Dyna Glo?

I was looking for an economical grill but I am also picky in the features and like the grill to last.  I got my last grill which I used all the time for $160 and it made it ten years.  I bought the DGF510SBP-D grill at Home Depot today for $199.  I think this one will make it 5 or more years too.

Here are a few of the main reasons I decided to go with this grill.

  • There is an igniter for each of the five burners.  The igniter tends to be one of the first things to stop working and having a handful of igniters instead of one makes it easy to know this common failure is unlikely why I will need to replace this grill.
  • The number of burners and the BTUs that they put out was a step above anything else I was looking at in the price range I was interested in under $300.  It delivered.  A few minutes after kicking all five burners on to high, my new Dyna Glo is glowing hot at over 700 degrees!
  • The size of the grilling surface is great.  While it wasn’t the absolute largest in terms of size that I found, it was very competitive.  I cooked my first meal on it tonight and used 3 burners for a hot side with plenty of room over the 2 burners I left off for indirect cooking.
  • The drip pan.  The entire pan is easy to remove.  My last grill was impossible to remove the area where all the drippings go.  Not the little cup that collects drippings so you can add some to your sauce….the whole thing.  My old grill ended up failing because the drippings built up and caught fire eventually wearing out the burner.  It was just too difficult to clean it so I ended up only cleaning it two times in ten years on my old grill.  The drip pan on this guy just slides right out.  I’ve got no excuse not to clean it every season.

Issues

Pre-purchase one of my hesitancies was that I had never heard of the company.  But then on a call with Home Depot they told me Brinkman had gone out of business so I decided this meant less to me than making sure the features were right.

The only issue I encountered was similar to a video I had seen while researching the grill. My side burner wouldn’t ignite right out of the box. I ended up just bending the ignition piece a little bit closer to where the gas comes out and it started working.

So Far So Good

After bringing home the grill, unwrapping the box, assembling, and getting great results on the first meal, I would definitely recommend this grill to anyone looking to squeeze the most out of their dollar.  There are definitely better grills out there, but I think you’ll have trouble finding one better in this price range.

Untangled Christmas Lights: How to avoid detangling

If you use mini-lights and mini-light icicles, use zip ties to make sure you have untangled Christmas lights when they come out of the box next year.

I love the “Little knot here” scene from Christmas Vacation where he just hands Russ a huge ball of tangled lights.

Storage Methods I’ve Tried

I am talking about strands of 200+ outdoor mini-lights.  If you have the huge kind that line the roofline, I would use the method on the following post for storing  with cardboard for large C7 or C9 bulb strings.  For shorter strands like most indoor ones, I like this method to pack short indoor mini lights.

I’ve tried using the cardboard from inside paper towel rolls, wrapping into a ball, coat hangers and for awhile I liked using the plastic bags from the grocery store was my favorite method until I discovered zip ties.

Use Zip Ties for Untangled Christmas Lights

Here’s all you need to do.  Wrap the lights around your elbow by making a hook around your thumb similar to how most people wrap up an extension cord.  Once you’ve got the strand wrapped up, snap a zip tie around it.  A second zip tie on the other side makes it nearly impossible to get a tangle.  I normally just do a single zip tie and place things into the storage bin neatly.

So that’s the easiest way to have untangled christmas lights when you go to put them up next year.

Here’s what a strand that’s ready to go in the storage bin looks like:

Untangled Christmas Lights using a zip tie

 

Advice for Next Year

To keep from getting tangles, I take the zip tied strands out and set them next to where I plan to use them.  Then I only snip the zip tie when I am going to use that strand of lights.

If you like my tip for having tangle free Christmas lights, check out these links to advice for making it easy to put them up next year:

Putting Up Christmas Lights: 3 Tips to Save Time

Hang Christmas Lights In Outdoor Trees

Hang Christmas Lights In Outdoor Trees

Our neighborhood has professionals come in and install lights in the trees on the way in and out of the subdivision and they look fantastic. My wife wanted the same thing at our house but I didn’t know how to hang Christmas lights that high in the trees.  I also didn’t want to pay the steep price for the pros.  I’ve given other advice on how to make the whole job easier at Make Putting Christmas Lights Up Easy.  Since I’ve had others that live near me ask me quite a few times how I hang Christmas lights up in the trees, I thought it’s worth sharing.

Here’s what one of our big trees looks like this year:

Hang Christmas Lights in a Big Tree

Hang Christmas Lights in Your Trees

Here’s how I did it. We got a ton of lights from Target in and after Christmas sale. These trees use up the lights really quickly. For the tree in that picture, I used 4 strands of 200 to make 800 lights. Only 200 are down on the base.

I made a basic tool from a $15 pole extension at Lowe’s, the top of a wire closet hanger, and some duck tape.  This thing doesn’t require any instructions.  I have an 8 foot step ladder, am 6 foot tall, and with this extension tool I can get the lights up about 30 feet into the tree.

ChristmasLightsPole

The Story Behind the Tool

I grew up with my dad climbing the step ladder and using the neighbor’s limb cutting extension to get the lights up.  Repurposing the tree trimming tool was cumbersome and he even cut a strand of lights at one point.  The tool also didn’t extend far enough to get a professional look.

Since I couldn’t recall what to do from childhood, I just went up to the local hardware store and started looking around for things that might work.  The window washer’s extension pole was a good price and looked like it would work so I grabbed it.

Hang Christmas Lights in Trees


Brine in a Milk Jug – Kitchen Hack

Many are still debating whether or not to brine.  I’m convinced that it helps keep chicken or poultry juicier no matter how it’s being prepared.  It’s especially evident when the meat is going on the grill.

This is the easiest way I’ve found to make brining a part of my dinner prep because it doesn’t make any extra dishes, it’s simple to do and you still just recycle the jug when you’re done.

All you need is a milk jug, a funnel, and some kitchen scissors.

 

chicken in brine in jug

Brine the meat in the jug

Thaw and flatten meat.  I like to try and get the meat to be of similar thickness so that cooking times are similar.

Put the water, salt, and whatever else you like in your brine into the jug, put the cap on and shake it up.  The basic brine in the picture is 1/4 cup of salt, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4th of the gallon jug with water.  The ingredients that people use vary considerably, but I’ve found this is effective for my primary goal of getting a juicier piece of meat on my dinner plate.

Cut off a piece of the jug and put the chicken in.

20151208_131953Shake up the brinechicken in the brine

 

Use the jug to drain with ease

drain the brineAfter the time is up, drain the fluid out the remaining side and dry off the meat with a couple of paper towels.

 

Voila!  Cook the meat with your favorite method and you’ll get all the greatness of the brine without much work.

Putting Up Christmas Lights: 3 Tips to Save Time

It’s been over 4 years now since I’ve moved into my current home and really started to try and do a great job on the Christmas lights out in our yard. We went from a condo where it didn’t take long at all to having a bunch of huge trees and roofline that I’ve only got a ladder tall enough to get up to the top of the garage roofline. In other words, putting up Christmas lights and taking them back down took forever the first year we were here. Now I can get them up and down well enough to think I should share some advice.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am constantly thinking of strategies to make everything easier. These tips make it easier to get your lights up and down without the headaches and frustration.

So here are the tips.

1. Start from the power

As you put the lights up, or even prior to, plan out how the power is going to make it to all of the various parts of the yard that you’re going to have lights in.  The easiest way to make this job take forever is if you have to redo things or run to the store for more extension cords.  As much as I love Christmas vacation, I do everything I can to avoid a moment like Clark’s problem with the power!

Tips:

    • Save a few strands of old broken lights to make running the power easier short distances between things like bushes or trees.
    • Put the lights up with the power on so there are no surprise outages.
    • Get the timers that turn on automatically at dusk.
    • Measure beforehand to make sure the extension cords and sets of lights you have will get the job done.

2. Get the right tools

Here’s all the things I use to make getting the lights up easier.

  • Get an extension pole with a hook on the end. I make my own out of an old coat hanger and a 16ft extension pole from the hardware store. I also made one for my dad and he reminds me every year that it’s one of the best gifts he’s ever been given. I have more info about this pole over in my post on hanging Christmas lights in trees.
  • Use shingle/gutter plastic hooks to hang on roofline or gutters. When I was a kid, we used to use nails and a staple gun to get the lights on the roofline. Not anymore, using the right hooks on the roofline makes the lights go up and come down a whole lot easier. Ditto for getting them on the gutters. Here’s the ones I use:

  • Have plenty of replacement bulbs on hand. While I am putting up Christmas lights or taking them down, I replace broken bulbs. Being diligent about this has kept me from having a strand out the last three years. Last year, I even had my kids take all the good bulbs remaining off a strand of lights that had been heavily damaged by the wind.
  • Get the Swiss-Army knife for Christmas Lights Tool. This tool is a lifesaver. Whenever a strand of lights looks like it’s going bad, I can use this tool and replace a few bulbs to bring it back to life. I’ve even been able to bring an old nativity set back to life where most of the pieces in the set didn’t have a single working light on the first time I plugged them in.

3. Keep the lights tidy

Finally, keeping things organized and untangled is key to making this job easy. To streamline this piece of the job, I find the following to be very useful:

  • Get the right storage bin(s). Think it through for your house. Having the right storage can save a ton of time. I bought one really large storage bin on wheels for all the strands of lights. I keep it in the garage under my workbench and wheel it out when it’s time for them to go up or down.  I also throw a couple pieces of cardboard in just to make sure too much moisture doesn’t get in the lights.

  • Use zip ties to keep the lights from getting tangled. I read all kinds of tricks for how to keep the lights from getting tangled. I even used plastic grocery bags one year. Those weren’t bad; but for my money and time, zip ties are worth the few cents for how much easier they are to secure to the lights and snip off when it’s time to put them back up.  I’ve got more on using zip ties to avoid tangles.

Summary: Putting Up Christmas Lights Gets Easier

There you go. If you follow these tips, getting lights up and down each year will just keep getting easier.
Please do me a favor and if you have any tips for me that make putting up Christmas lights or taking them down even easier, be sure to comment below.


Low Speed Error L51 for Sole F63 Treadmill

I moved my treadmill and afterwards trying to turn on the treadmill just resulted in it giving an L51 Sole Low Speed Error.  I’ve finally gotten my treadmill working again and figured I’d post my experience to hopefully help somebody else out since I couldn’t find much online.

Owners Guide on L51 Sole Low Speed Error

Before contacting Sole, I tried out the easy stuff in the Sole F63 owner’s guide regarding the L51 Low Speed Error:
– try to calibrate
– adjust the speed sensor

Neither had any impact.

Consulting the Web

I searched and browsed and found quite a few tips in different places. Most of the advice I found beyond calibration or adjusting the speed sensor were also in the owner’s manual under general maintenance. For example, livestrong.com recommends cleaning, tightening|lubricating the belt & checking the power supply.

None of these helped me either.

Contacting with Sole

Then we contacted Sole and they sent us a box of stuff without having us do any real troubleshooting.

The box had a new controller board, a new speed sensor, and some new wires to connect the main control unit.

Advice here is that as you try out the new pieces, don’t undo any of the nice twisty ties that have the existing wires in place or take the wire out of the front right leg. Just run the wires to the side quickly to eliminate whether or not they change the symptoms. Also take pictures of the wiring to the mother board so that you have a nice easy reference. Here’s one of my pics that made it easy to put it back in place.
Motherboard during L51 Sole Low Speed Error Troubleshooting

Likewise, monitor the behavior of the controller board. My symptom was that the mother board would get power, a red light would come on, and then it would make a single click. Never a second click.

I was able to prove the motor worked fine by hooking up the power to the battery from my cordless drill. This one really impressed my wife.

I called Sole and they sent me another motherboard to swap out which didn’t change any symptoms.

A Resolution

The piece that finally fixed it was a whole new console. The explanation here is that the click from the mother board was sending a signal to the console saying it was ready for commands but the console was never responding telling it to turn the motor on and get running.

Another Resolution

The man in the video below had a similar issue and completely relocating the speed sensor was what finally fixed it for him. If you’ve replaced everything else, then you may want to check out the video below and the comments section to learn more about how relocating the sensor fixed the issue for him.

In Summary

If you’re getting the Sole Low Speed Error when trying to turn on your Sole F63 treadmill, then the Sole support team may be very helpful as they were in my case. However, you may be left to do quite a bit of troubleshooting on your own. The nice thing is that at least in my case, sole was willing to keep sending out parts as long as I would do the work.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back before Christmas, i made some chocolate chip cookies off that used pudding as an ingreadient. They were unbelievable! Don’t be scared by the pudding. The texture of these cookies was fantastic and they kept their moist deliciousness for two weeks.

You’re probably wondering…if they’re so good, why did it take two weeks to eat them? Well, my wife gave up sweets to prepare for christmas, so i saved her a few cookies. Nothing special to keep them, two weeks in a cookie jar and dropped them in a gift bag.

Enough already…here’s the recipe – Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

I went for chocolate pudding and a little extra vanilla. Eat up!