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Cooking In: Indoor Picnics for Rainy Days

So you want to cook out, but the weather won’t cooperate? Why let that spoil your fun? With a little know-how and innovation, you can enjoy the flavors of summer right in the comfort (and dryness) of your own home. Just fire up the oven, throw a tablecloth on the floor, and picnic inside.

It’s true that food cooked in a kitchen never tastes quite the same as food cooked on a grill or over an open fire. There are a few ingredients, though, that let you get as close as possible to that smoky outdoor-grilled flavor when you just can’t grill outside. Liquid smoke, smoked sea salt, and smoked paprika will all add the taste of the great outdoors to meat, vegetables, and sauces made inside. Smoked sea salt and paprika both take their flavor from a real wood fire, while liquid smoke is literally the bottled essence of wood smoke, captured and condensed.

Here are a few smoky, delicious recipes guaranteed to make you forget you’re cooking inside:

Smoky Barbecue Sauce
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup bourbon or rum
Two drops of hickory or mesquite flavored liquid smoke

Add all ingredients to a blender and purée. Pour the mixture into a saucepan, and simmer over low heat until thick.

Indoor Barbecued Baby Back Ribs
1 slab of baby back ribs (about 12 ribs)
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup of barbecue sauce (recipe above)

Mix together the paprika, sugar, brown sugar, and onion powder. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with oil and coat with the dry mixture. Wrap the meat with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Pour hot water into a broiler pan until it is about 1″ deep (if your broiler pan is too shallow, 1/2” is fine). Place the ribs on a rack above the pan, meat side down. Broil for about five minutes, just until the underside starts to bubble and brown. Turn the ribs over, so the meaty side is up. Bake for about three hours at 225° F. Check the water level in the broiler pan every 30 minutes. As the water evaporates, add more. When a toothpick slides into the meat without resistance, it is done. Remove the ribs from the oven and slather the bony side with barbecue sauce. Broil for about five minutes, removing before the sauce starts to burn. Repeat on the meaty side. Enjoy!

Smoky Baked Beans
2 16-oz. cans baked beans (with or without pork)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Hickory flavored liquid smoke
1 small onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1/4 cup maple syrup

Mix all ingredients together in a large baking dish. Bake about 45 minutes at 350° F.

Indoor Grilled Corn
8 ears corn, with husks
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
Pinch of salt

Blend butter, paprika, garlic, sugar, and salt in a food processor until smooth. Preheat oven to 350° F, and line the oven rack with foil. Peel back the corn husks, leaving them attached, remove all silk, and rinse. Evenly coat each ear of corn with paprika butter, then replace the husks. Place ears on the foil-lined rack and bake about 6-7 minutes, turning halfway through, until the husks are dark brown. Remove the husks before eating.

Indoor S’mores
1 graham cracker
1/2 Hershey’s Chocolate bar
1 marshmallow

Break the graham cracker in half so that it makes two even squares, and sandwich the chocolate between them. Turn one burner on your stovetop up to high heat. If you have an electric stove, allow the coil to heat up fully. Place the marshmallow on a skewer or long fork. Hold the marshmallow a few inches above the burner and toast it just as you would over an open fire, until it is molten and golden brown. Place the skewered marshmallow between the two graham crackers, on top of the chocolate and, squeezing the crackers together, pull out the skewer. Allow the marshmallow to sit for a minute, to fully melt the chocolate before enjoying.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

Reading Farmers' Almanac on Tablet with Doggie

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