A Fanged Look At The Snakebite

Growing up I spent a lot of time in the wilderness of Texas and Colorado. I was always told to watch out for snakes so they don’t bite you. I am now well past 21 and I have a snakebite a few times a month.

A Fanged Look At The Snakebite

No Snakes Were Harmed During the Writing of This Post

Okay, so by now you have figured I am probably not talking about a real snake biting me. Then again, I could just be a deranged lunatic who just likes the oh so sweet feel as the venom courses though his vein *clears throat* sorry off topic.

Rum Rebellion

No, I am talking about a drink that I had never heard of prior to finding my new local bar at the beginning of 2015. I cannot tell you where the bar is for fear that ALL of you might magically show up at. You will come and want to buy a round for me, just to hear my old wars stories from when I was in the Rum Rebellion of 1808. I digress. 

History of the Snakebite….NOT!

I wanted to give a little history on the snakebite as part of this review. After exhausting research and finding numerous different stories and variations of the drink, I figured, to hell with that! Who needs history when you have beer and cider to drink?!

Recipe

8oz Stout or Lager beer
8oz Hard cider

Pour your cider first and then layer the beer on top.

I prefer Guinness and Angry Orchard. I suggest it is worth experimenting with different combinations to find out what suits you. The more experimentation, the more fun!

Baileys: A Whipped Review and Recipe

I was introduced to Baileys through Haagen Dazs ice cream. Growing up my mother would buy their rum raisin ice cream and then act like it was alcoholic so I could only have a small taste (she just didn’t want to share).

Getting Hooked

One night on my way home from the gym I decided to go buy a container of the rum raisin. The store was out, so I figured I would try the Baileys Haagen Dazs ice cream and I was hooked. Sadly, Haagen Dazs has since discontinued the flavor.

original

Since turning 21, I have always kept a bottle Baileys Original Irish Cream in my liquor cabinet. I use Baileys mostly for milkshakes and other tasty treats. Baileys, for me, is more of a dessert drink, making it a liquor that allows for a different creativity when you are making drinks.

Baileys 5 different flavors

1. Baileys Original Irish cream

2. Baileys  Espresso Crème

3. Baileys Salted Caramel

4. Baileys Chocolate Cherry

5. Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon

The Recipe

I wanted to write this review as an excuse to publish my recipe that turned my grandmother into a little kid who demands that she gets to lick the bowl.

Baileys Whipped Cream

8oz Heavy Cream
1Tbs confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1oz Baileys (I use the original cream because it best mimics the Haagen Dazs)

Combine in a mixing bowl and whisk until peaks form in the whipped cream OR (and this is how I learned how to make it) combine all ingredients into a single serving blender (nutribullet or comparable with the Extractor Blade) and blend until the blender sounds like it is having a harder time whipping through the mix.

Serve Chilled

I serve this chilled for about 15 minutes in the freezer to thicken it up and garnished with chocolate shavings on top.


Witherspoon Distillery 2015 Review

I recently had the opportunity to visit my friends at Witherspoon Distillery in Lewisville, TX and interview the owner Quentin Witherspoon. (we apologize for the quality of the audio, it was a hot Texas day and the a/c distorts the sound quality)

Some outstanding recipes to follow!

Witherspoon Distillery’s current line up.

1. Witherspoon’s Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey

2. Witherspoon’s Single Malt

3. Witherspoon’s River Rum

4. Witherspoon’s River Rum Reserve

5. Witherspoon’s Bonfire Rum

Witherspoon’s Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey

 

Witherspoon Maple Old Fashioned Recipe

1.5 oz Witherspoon Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Dash or Two Bitters
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
3 oz Apple Juice

Witherspoon’s Single Malt

When we first opened this bottle, the aroma was very strong and almost it almost tasted the same as it smelled. If you have ever been privileged to drink a fine aged whiskey, you will understand the aroma as you could make out the different key flavors that are characteristic of being aged in an oak barrel.

The single malt was not as smooth straight and I ended up cutting it with 2 parts single malt to 1 part water. This is how I drink it now. I do not like my whiskey on the rocks because this is a slow sipping drink and the ice changes the ratio of water to whiskey.

Cocktail:

This is not a cocktail liquor to me, so I will share how I drink mine.

2 Ounces Witherspoon’s Single Malt
1 ounce chilled purified water

Mix the two ingredients in an old fashioned glass and enjoy.

Witherspoon’s River Rum

Witherspoon Distillery Hemingway Cocktail Recipe

1.5 oz Witherspoon River Rum
3 oz Grapefruit Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1/4 oz Lime Juice
1/4 Maraschino Cherry Juice

 

Witherspoon’s River Rum Reserve

I will be honest when it comes to this rum I just enjoy it on the rocks. To me, this is just a nice sipping rum and does not need a mixer.

 

Witherspoon’s Bonfire Rum

 

Witherspoon Distillery Apple Pie Cocktail Recipe

1 oz Maple Syrup
1.5 oz Witherspoon Bonfire Cinnamon Infused Rum
4 oz Apple Juice

Witherspoon Distillery
Witherspoondistillery.com

Bird Dog Blackberry Whiskey Review and Recipe

I have been fall down drunk twice in my life. I have been over the legal limit drunk but I have never lost my ability to make wise decisions (that I am aware of). When it comes to going to the bar on a weekend with friends or coworkers I am normally the designated driver. Not because I don’t enjoy drinking, but because I like falling asleep in a comfortable bed and not in a jail cell.

My dog decided to go for an adventure when I was 15. I was lucky and a policeman picked us up and drove us home with  my dog in my arms. That was my first and only time I have been driven in the back of a cop car. I swore never again.

I share these stories with you because I feel like my readers should know what kind of drinker I am. When you read more than one review on alcohol on my website you will understand that I drink because I enjoy the taste. I am not drinking to just drink.

BirdDogBlackberryWhiskeyReview

While I will be the first to admit I am not a connoisseur of any type of alcohol. I am a simple gentleman who likes to taste his drinks and not get completely wasted. I drink more at my house than I do at a bar because I like to know what I am drinking and I like to know that I am not going to pay $14 for a $1.50 worth of whiskey sour.

The Backstory

I was spending a day with my mother shopping (I don’t have a Sam’s Club membership so I use hers and it gives us a chance to spend some time together). On the way back to the house I wanted to stop at the liquor store to pick up a bottle of whiskey for dinner and she wanted to looks for a moonshine that a friend had turned her and my father on to.

I didn’t normally don’t spend time shopping for different brands of any kind of alcohol because I never really thought about it. I am simple I know that I like this brand and this price so I do the straight line for my bottle and the register and then I am out.

Since my mother was with me, we did a little browsing and came across Bird Dog Blackberry Whiskey. My mother saw blackberry and she was like YES! we need to try this. The whiskey was $15 for 750ml bottle which seems like a fair price for flavored whiskey in Texas.

The Taste

We brought it back to my parents’ house and we opened the bottle and the aroma was wonderful! I stuck the bottle in the freezer for an hour to chill it down and then we tasted the Bird Dog Blackberry Whiskey. This whiskey is smooth. It has all the tastes of whiskey when you first taste it and it finishes with a sweet taste of blackberry.

*Side note: when tasting alcohol I was taught to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. the reason for this is that if you breathe in through your mouth you vaporize the alcohol which makes it evaporate and cause the burning feeling in your mouth.

The Recipe

The Atticus James Whiskey Sour

AtticusJamesBlackberryWhiskeySour

Ingredients
2 ounces Bird Dog Blackberry Whiskey
3-4 ounces Jose Cuervo The Original Classic Lime Margarita Mix
Ice to fill glass
Directions
Combine the Bird Dog BlackBerry Whiskey and Jose Cuervo The Original Classic Lime Margarita Mix in a large old-fashioned glass with ice. Stir, and serve.

This makes a great refreshing summer drink.

Overall Thoughts

After buying Bird Dog Blackberry Whiskey I am excited to try their other flavors. They have made a whiskey that is not only tastes good just on the rocks but also makes for some mean whiskey cocktails.

Bird Dog Whiskeys are reasonably priced and doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth

Fajita Recipe

I love to cook. I have always loved preparing meals for myself and my family. Growing up in the BSA I was taught how to create menus, purchase the correct amount of food for a group of upwards of 12 people for a weekend and do it on a budget. For half of my teens, I was the troops cooking instructor which meant I taught the rest of the boy scouts in my troop how to do the same.

My specialty was single Dutch oven meals over coals.   I have friends from my adult life who have been begging for me to take them camping just so they can see if I am as good a camp cook as I am in a fully stocked kitchen. (I give my best friend a pan of homemade lasagna for his birthday and Christmas every year because that is what he asks for)

My review

I use two products on all my grilled beef.

Adolph’s (no MSG) Tenderizer (unseasoned)

and

Fiesta brand Fajita Seasoning

 

I have been using these two on all my steaks for as long as I can remember. If you cannot find these in your local grocer you can pick it up on Amazon (I will link the pictures below to the link online. I am an affiliate and do receive a small compensation if you purchase products after clicking.  Thank you.)

These two together are a simple and tasty prep for your steaks.

The Recipe

Note* While I am prepping beef fajitas in these pictures, the only change when making just steak is the cut of meat. I do this to any cut of meat to insure I get the most tender steak I can. I can prep and grill a cheap cut of steak and a more expensive cut and they will both be tender with my method.

We want the grill to reach 400-500°F max. Depending on the type of grill you have, you will want to start your grill with the appropriate amount of time needed to reach that temp, before you start grilling. I use a gas grill so that is a few minutes, if you use charcoal, you will know the time needed.

AtticusJames.com type of meat to buy

For Fajitas I use skirt steak. When prepping your skirt steak you want to remove as much silver skin and fat without cutting into the steak as possible.

AtticusJames.com cutting of the silver

You want to be able to see as much red meat as possible because the tenderizer does not do a good job of penetrating the fat and silver skin.

AtticusJames.com start to tenderize

Once your meat is prepared you are ready to start tenderizing with the Adolph’s Tenderizer.

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There is no need to be stingy with the tenderizer; but don’t go overboard

AtticusJames.com tenderize both sides

After covering both sides with Adolph’s tenderizer, you will want to have the steak on a tray so when the juices start flowing you do not have a big mess.

AtticusJames.com Times fajitas tenderizer 30 min.

Start a timer for 30 minutes and leave the steaks alone (there is no reason to flip the steaks).

AtticusJames.com Fajita Recipe

After 30 minutes you will see the steak is juicy. No water has been added.

Wash the steaks under cold water until the tenderizer is washed off.

AtticusJames.com Fajita recipe with tenderizer

Reapply tenderizer and leave the steaks with the opposite side facing up

AtticusJames.com Fajita steak recipe

Set timer for 15 minutes and leave the steaks alone.

AtticusJames.com another 15 minutes for tenderizing

After the 15 minutes are over you can see the fibers holding the steak together are starting to release.

AtticusJames.com wash off tenderizer

Wash the steaks and tray off until the tenderizer is gone.

AtticusJames.com start the grill for fajitas.

Now it is time to start your grill

(We want the grill to reach 400-500°F  max so start your grill with the appropriate amount of time needed to reach that temp before you start grilling).

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Now it is time to season with the Fiesta Fajita Seasoning.

AtticusJames.com seasoning for fajitas.

Beef and other red meats have more natural flavor than chicken so season to how you like your fajitas.

AtticusJames.com grill temp for fajitas

Time to start grilling.

AtticusJames.com cooking fajitas 2 minutes

I set a timer for 2 minutes and let the steaks cook on each side for 2 minutes before flipping.

AtticusJames.com fajitas melting on the grill

You can see the steak is wanting to just melt

Atticus James fajitas recipe

AtticusJames.com temping your fajitas

Temp your steaks to make sure they reach a minimal internal temp of 145°F degrees

Atticus James Fajitas

When cutting your steaks you want to go against the grain of the meat. This way of cutting makes the steak easier to chew and makes it melt in your mouth.

AtticusJames.com cutting fajitas against the grain

Atticus James Fajita Recipe

Dinner is Ready!

The Emerald Princess 7–Day Caribbean Cruise 2015 Review

The Emerald Princess 7–Day Caribbean Cruise 2015 Review Atticus James

First I would like to start with an open comment for Princess Cruise. Fire your American staff. I could always find them on the ship by simply listening for the arrogant smug cocky jerks who help legitimize the stereotype that all Americans are pompous jerks. Rant over.

The Trip

I was invited on the Emerald Princesses last Caribbean cruise for this season. We left out of the port of Houston and made out way to Honduras, Belize and Cozumel before returning to the port of Houston for disembarkment. From Houston the ship left for their Mediterranean voyage.

The Food

While this review is not a comparison I do feel I should mention that Royal Caribbean does much better at all the food services with the exception of the formal dining room dinners. I do not know if the bakers just really were that bad at making bread or if that is normal but the bread was always terrible. The room serve food was about as good as a gas station lunch or breakfast. The sampling of fruits in the buffet were watermelon, honeydew and pineapple. None of which was really that good but you cannot blame that on the ship. The buffet foods were fairly boring to me but I did enjoy the Belgian waffles every morning.

As some of you might know I tend to work out about 5-7 nights a week and my workout partner wanted me to do a weigh in before I left and when I came home thinking I would gain weight. sadly because the only meals I looked forward to eating was dinner I only lost weight since I continued to work out on the ship.

Shopping

There are very few things I like shopping for. That list is: Food, guns/gear and electronics.  Outside of that I will buy what I need when I need it. If it is expensive, I will do enough research to know I am getting the best deal and I will be done.

While sitting in the terminal waiting to board the ship we were given a scavenger hunt that had to be turned in by “3pm” that day to be entered to win prizes.  Of course I wanted to do this, thinking I might be able to win an excursion or something. No, it was all a ploy by Princess to get you to go to their jewelry stores and in port “shopping partners”. This annoyed me more than I care to admit. I don’t like being tricked into sitting and listening to some guy droning on about shopping.

We chose not do any excursions on this trip, but to see what was offered in each port.

In Honduras, it appears that Princess and Carnival have created their own port “city” with all of their “partner stores” so you only have one choice if you want to see anything in the country and that is to take the excursions. Last time I was in Honduras for a cruise at least we docked at real port town you could visit that didn’t just have Diamonds International and all the other jewelry stores. There is a nice beach there that was created. A reef has been artificially created that we found and had a fantastic day of snorkeling.

In Belize we anchored 5 miles away and tendered to shore which was a real port town. I got my passport stamped because I had nothing better to do in this town in walking distance.

When we got to Cozumel I was worried about being kidnapped. If you stay in the guarded “port city” it was fine. But the minute you step into Cozumel you can understand why Americans are kidnapped down there.

If you are looking to experience any of these countries I do not recommend using a cruise line to do so.

At Sea

I enjoyed being at sea more than getting off the ship. I enjoyed the view as we sailed thru the drilling platforms. I loved watching the water being churned up off the stern of the ship. I really adored the beautiful sunbathers. I digress.

Emerald Princess 2015 Atticus James

I did not bring someone to spend time with on this cruise. I went with my family and everyone kind of had their own thing doing what they wanted to do. I spent a good part of my time alone (on purpose) just walking around exploring the ship. I highly recommend bring someone to be with.

Formal Dining Room

Our dinner was at 5pm everyday due to the size of our party. This was not very conducive if you wanted to go to the singles meeting. If you tell me I could have just skipped one night to meet people, I will question your sanity as to why you would think I would give up the tasty food to meet people.

Our head waiters name was Hamit from Turkey. He took very good care of our table as half of my family have dietary restrictions (allergic to chocolate, cream cheese, gluten, things like that) My grandmother is gluten free so Hamit came to the table every night so she could order the next nights meal it to her dietary restrictions. This was an incredible service and I was very thankful for it.  I know trying to please everyone on a ship with 3000+ paying passengers can be a little difficult.
Our waiters names were Edgar and Caesar, both from the Philippines. Edgar was a great waiter. He treated us like family and joked and made dinner very enjoyable every night. Caesar didn’t talk much but he was always on top of refilling drinks and getting the food from the kitchen. If your waiter recommends something it is a fairly good bet that is what you should try. If you like to try different foods and not a boring eater Princess will offer you many food adventures.  Edgars recommendations were always fantastic. He always knew that my father and I would always order shrimp cocktail along with whatever else he suggested.

As I said before, dinner was the only food I looked forward to in the formal dining room and I truly believe Hamit, Edgar and Caesar had a big part in that.

I am leaving last names out since I did not ask if they would like to have their full names published but I am sending another review to Princess directly that will have their names.

I celebrated my birthday with my family on the ship and when you have a birthday on the ship they have a chocolate dessert cake to die for.

Princess Birthday Cake 2015

If you have never been on a cruise ship before I will share something that not everyone might know. you can order as many plates of anything on the menu as you want. If you want to sample a few different items you can do that. As much as you want. (if it is not on the menu however they may not offer that item after that day). Yes, that goes for dessert too.

Unlimited Soda & More Package

I apparently do not drink enough during the day to make this worth the cost. At $8.05 per day for the package you can get soda, mocktails (non alcoholic cocktails), shakes, juices, floats and hot chocolate.    While it seems like you can order drinks mostly anywhere it takes so long to get them that it is almost not even worth the time to wait. I did have a shake everyday and that was nice.

Snorkeling

While in Honduras one of my family members asked the tour desk on the ship if there was any good snorkeling locations that was not on a tour and he flat out lied. When we got off the ship we walked to the beach. As you look at the ocean to your left you’ll see the ship and the swimming area but if you swim to the right of the dock you will find a very nice shallow reef. I don’t do snorkels so I brought a pair of my old competition goggles from my gym bag and just swam around looking at all the fish and coral. It was awesome.

The Entertainment

I do not enjoy musicals or plays. I do love comedians and GOOD illusionists.

On the ship we had comedian Miguel Washington. This was the first show I went to on the ship because everything up to that point had been musicals and I don’t care how beautiful the dancers are it just is not my cup of tea to sit there and watch people sing and dance. My parents said they were good, but not as good as they have seen on past cruises.

I went to see his show with my parents and I have never truly seen my mother laugh so hard in my entire life. His jokes were good  and clean, but Texan so… not politically correct. If you get the chance to see him live anywhere I highly recommend him. He was a good comic.

Also on the ship we had Michael Barron “illusionist.” My momma told me if you ain’t got nothin’ nice to say don’t say NOTHIN’ at all. If you see him don’t sit too close to the stage, try to sit in the middle seats further back in order to keep the “illusion” alive.

Overall Thoughts

This trip would have been more fun with someone to share it with but overall I liked the ship.
The food for the most part was boring but when it came to dinner you could bet I was going to walk out of there full.

Ports were about shopping which I don’t like but hey everyone wants to make money. Just please stop forcing it down my throat.

Best part of the ports was the snorkeling in Honduras. Next time I go on a cruise I will do the excursions.

Princess Cruise Line seems to be more of an older demographic. This isn’t bad if you are looking to have a quiet relaxing time but if you are in your youth and looking for fun this might not be for you. They cater to a more quiet group.

Smoke Hollow PS 4400" Propane Gas Smoker Review

I personally smoke some kind of meat at least a couple times a month. Since we are here in Texas, that is year round! I started smoking meat about 33 years ago. I got my first charcoal smoker as a wedding present from my father in law. I have personally gone through at least 12 different smokers. I have smoked meat on charcoal smokers, propane smokers, electric smokers, as well as a custom built trailered, wood smoker.

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Back in 2003, my father in law “upgraded” me from a charcoal smoker to a propane smoker because one of his buddies said it did a really good job and made life much easier. I was very skeptical because I was violating the unwritten code of smoker purists. I have to tell you, I was hooked immediately. Once you get the temperature adjusted it is very easy to go back to the control knob and repeat the settings. The real advantage was, I could go back to sleep after putting the turkey on for Thanksgiving. I used this type of smoker for 10 years, smoking everything : brisket, turkey, sirloin, roast, chicken and some awesome standing rib roasts (prime rib), with great, consistent results.

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Last week I purchased “Smoke Hollow PS 4400” Propane Gas Smoker from Sams Club. I don’t normally give endorsements (unpaid endorsement) to a store but in this case I will, because one of the benefits of buying from Warehouse Clubs is they tend to include a number of extras for no additional cost. The extra on this unit was a cover, Amazon priced it at $44.00.

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Size Matters:

This is a big smoker. It stands almost 4 feet tall. I could smoke four- 15lb turkeys or 21 racks of ribs. Because of the size of this smoker I would suggest that if you are a beginner smoker or your plans are for smoking a couple of turkey legs and a whole chicken once in a while this may be too big for your needs. However, as big as it is, it is still a nice size for your average patio.

Breakdown of the Smokers Components

Doors:

This model comes with two doors, one for the food and the other for the water pan and wood chip pans. This model from Sams comes with a glass upper door. If you can afford a model with a glass door, it is well worth it. I like being able to see what is going on without opening the door and losing the heat. If you need to add water all you need to do is open the lower door and you don’t lose the heat in the upper cabinet.

This model does not come with door gaskets and every review I read talked about this. I was concerned about heat loss as well as smoke coming out around the door. Before I fired up the smoker the first time I applied a thin bead of high temp gasket maker material, left the door open for 24 hours to cure and didn’t have any problems with heat or smoke loss. The doors come with 3 adjustable door latches, two for the top door and one for the bottom. It gives a very secure fit.

Burners:

The 4400 comes with two burners. I am not sure why because with one burner at medium I can reach 300 degrees. I smoke at 235 degrees. One possible use is this smoker comes with two fire chip pans and I suppose one could fill both pans with wood and when it is time to start the second round of smoke one would only need to turn off the first burner and start the second. Maybe an unintended benefit would be that there is a second burner if the first burner wears out.

Water and Fire pans:

Overall I am happy with the pans. The water pan holds approximately 1.25 gallons which gives about 4 hours cook time before refilling. The one suggestion I would give to you is when it is time to drain the pan, have a 5 gallon bucket close by to pour into. That way you don’t need to carry the greasy water where it can splash on you. Another suggestion is I triple layer my pans with foil to make it easier to clean up as well as it protect the pans from developing holes. After 33 years and 12 smokers, all pans will develop holes if you don’t protect them.

The fire pans are of a good size to hold a large amount of wood. The downside is that only the center 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood is used up. The outer perimeter creates charred wood. I don’t think it has a big overall effect but I like to use up material.

Measurements:

The overall measurements are 44″ x24″ x16″. It is tall enough to comfortably add or remove food items. The handles are a good height to make it easy for two people carry. It is not very heavy so it would be easy to move short distances.

Legs:

The legs create a wide enough footprint to give it stability, but as with the rest of the construction the legs are made with light weight steel and it will not take a lot of rough handling i.e. in the back of a pickup; off road.

Racks:

This smoker comes with 5 racks: two regular, two jerky racks and one rib rack that will hold 7 racks of ribs or it can be turned over and used as a regular rack. If you are going to use the jerky racks for something other than jerky I would suggest a sheet a foil to prevent sticking to the racks, because it is a pain to clean the racks.

Temperature Gauge:

I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate the temperature gauge was. In a side by side comparison with a digital probe it was only off by 5 degrees. I did find that it was 15 degrees cooler at the bottom of the cabinet.

Drip Pan:

The smoker comes with a drip pan although it didn’t catch any drips. There is a large vent hole on the bottom that pan does not cover and this is where the grease dripped out. I solved the problem by putting an old tray under the smoker.

Assembly:

When I purchased the smoker I was asked if I want a new in box or a floor model. I didn’t want to put it together, so I gladly took the floor model. That said, I don’t know the ease of installation but from everything I read it takes about 1.5 hours without too much difficulty.

Final Thoughts:

I like this smoker. There are some flaws in design but nothing that can’t be fixed inexpensively. I would definitely make or buy a gasket to help retain the heat and smoke. I would keep a tray under it, especially if you keep this on the patio. And finally wrap the water and fire pans to ease the cleaning as well as prolonging their life. I am looking forward to many years of good smoked meals with this smoker.