Here we go. Latest edition of FIRED UP WITH GARF – the official podcast of FireDisc Cookers. This month we are touring (and sampling) freshly-made beer from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company in Houston. Come along for the ride and also check out the recipe for a smoked Philly-style cheesesteak using beer on a FireDisc.
If you are ready to cook outdoors anywhere, use GARFIELD as a promo code and save $50 and free shipping.
Man it has been a looong time since I was behind the wheel of a Toyota for an auto review. I haven’t forgotten about Texas-based Toyota USA but maybe they forgot about me. Either way I was not about to turn down a week-long ride in the company’s newest Highlander, one of the top-selling CUVs in the country. And with gas prices creeping higher this summer, why not play with the Hybrid Platinum version?
The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in four trims levels—LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. All are upgraded with a new 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that pushed 186 horses. The battery portion sports either two (FWD) or three (AWD) electric motor generators with power routed through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). But enough with acronyms; how does it look and feel?
The outside is tweaked a bit this year and the first thing I noticed was the front grille. Toyota added a shiny, horizontal bar near the top of the grille that gives off a Cheshire cat-like grin complete with a big, blue (hybrid) Toyota badge as its front tooth. The roof slope line is sleek and the whole shape of the vehicle looks downright aerodynamic for a crossover. But my first step inside the Highlander is what took me by surprise. Toyota finally upgraded its infotainment system!
A 12.3″ touch display caught my eye and almost brought a tear to my eye. Standard in its top trims now, Toyota seemed to take the hint from other manufacturers and utilize more of the dashboard real estate with a useful and interactive command and connectivity center. It is easy to operate, quick to program your favorite radio stations, and connect to a phone. The last time I played around in a Toyota I don’t think they had Apple CarPlay. Not only is that included but Android Auto is in here along with Amazon Alexa compatibility and a wireless phone charger. Welcome to the 21st century! For even more technology-rich features, in-cabin WiFi and remote access can be added through the Connected Services app.
The fit up front is comfortable especially with the leather-trimmed, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The second row captain’s chairs were easy to fold down and crawl back to the three-seat third row. Adults or long-legged passengers will have a tight squeeze when sitting in that third row, though. The Highlander can also be configured with a second row 60/40 split bench that allows for 8-passenger seating though that may be a little close for comfort even in this large CUV. The interior capacity is decent with 16 cubic feet of space behind the third row but expands to a large 84.3 cubes when the second and third row seats are laid flat.
The basic LE can start just under $39,000 and escalate to over $50,000 on the Platinum with all the bells, whistles, speakers, and cameras. Toyota estimates 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Looking at comparative vehicles such as the Ford Explorer, Subaru Ascent, Kia Telluride, and the Honda Pilot, the Highlander Hybrid is a bit pricier but many buyers will probably lean on Toyota’s solid brand name, reliability and safety features.
Hear my thoughts from my recent radio show heard across the country on iHeartRadio:
It’s been a while since I’ve been in a Lexus and it’s good to be back. It was also a pleasure to drive the 2021 ES 350 F-Sport for a week as I put it through a few tests, not just on the road but inside the cabin. It is luxury sedan with a lot of comfy features although it would be nice if Lexus does one upgrade.
Listen to my review heard on iHeartRadio stations across the country and take a look at the drive here (thanks also for subscribing to my YouTube channel):
I am an enchie fan. A big one. Probably my fave comfort food of all time. You can judge a TexMex restaurant by its enchiladas – cheese and onion, please. I remember my grandparents taking me to Luby’s and thought those were some of the best ever made. Pappasito’s makes some damn good ones, though a bit pricey. I’m always on the lookout for tasty ones so don’t be shy with your suggestions.
As much as I love me some enchiladas I had never attempted to make them myself. I enjoy cooking and not afraid to get my hands dirty with ingredients especially if the final product comes out yummy. I assumed the process would be lengthy but after seeing a buddy of mine make his homemade specialty, I realized it is very simple to do.
So after some Google and YouTube consultation I recently found an enchilada sauce recipe that is quick to make. I already had most of the ingredients in my spice cabinet so I went to work. The result was surprisingly great. I experimented with both corn and flour tortillas though I received a good amount of Facebook backlash that “real” enchies are only made with corn. Flour apparently constitutes a rolled up burrito covered with sauce. Whatever. This is now my go-to dish and I may trademark a new moniker: The High-Tech TexMex.
Here is the recipe and process. Feel free to spice things up according to taste. And should you find easier or better recipes please send them to me.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Measure the dry ingredients (flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and salt) into a small bowl.
In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough that a light sprinkle of the flour/spice mixture sizzles on contact. This doesn’t take long.
Once it’s ready, pour in the flour and spice mixture. Whisk constantly until slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit and a spoon encounters some resistance as you stir it. (The sauce will thicken some more as it cools)
Remove from heat, then whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt, if necessary.
Grated Mexican blend or cheddar cheese. At least one cup.
Taco meat, grilled/spiced chicken, or any other protein (unless you want to go old school with plain cheese enchiladas)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Microwave the tortillas for 30 seconds to make them easier to roll.
Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Next, one at a time, dip each tortilla into the sauce. Set the sauce-soaked tortilla on a plate. Place on some of the meat, onions and your fave filling. Top with a generous portion of grated cheese. Roll up the tortilla to contain the filling inside.
Place the tortilla seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and pour the remaining sauce over the top. End with a generous sprinkling of cheese and any other bits of onions or other toppings you have left over from the filling.
Bake the enchiladas for 20 minutes, or until bubbly. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top and serve.
I popped on Great Day Houston (CBS) with some products unveiled at CES. Very first look at the new Samsung Galaxy S21 phones and Buds Pro. Also a UV-C light sanitizer that doubles as a speaker/alarm clock and a powerful new WiFi router. And how about the Oculus Quest 2 VR goggles? Watch below:
When life gives you a pandemic, make a mask phone. Yep, Mother Necessity (actually UK- based Binatone) just released the MaskFone, an interesting mashup of both high- and low-tech.
No more muffled talking through your mask as there is a Bluetooth headset and earbuds sewn into the fabric. The fabric mask takes N95 or PM2.5 disposable filters. A mic is strapped in the face piece via hook-and-loop fasteners and two earbuds hang on wires by the ear loops. The buttons on the mask front need to be aligned with internal mic/volume controller but you can also answer and hang up calls on your phone.
The sound is actually very good when I played music and it alerts you of an incoming call. The mask is comfy with a bendable nose bridge and adjustable ear loops.
I recently popped on “Great Day Houston” to share some ideas on what to give your friends and loved ones this holiday season. I will continue to yap about them on my radio show so tune in weekly for more ideas.
If interested in any of these items, here are the websites along with a few DISCOUNTED PROMO CODES just for you. Enjoy!
If it’s on TV and radio it must be true, right? Here is a some show-and-tell from my appearance this morning on Great Day Houston (KHOU-CBS) where I featured the new Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G smartphone. This bad boy is a powerful computer (yes, a computer in your hand) with a large, beautiful 6.9″ screen, Gorilla Glass 6 (I dare you to break it), 120hz refresh rate, and 3 rear cameras including a 108 megapixel lens.
We didn’t get around to talking about the white earbuds sticking out of my ears. Those are the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Live true wireless earbuds. The bean-like shape fits snugly in your ears and the tone can be controlled through an app. Active Noise Canceling (ANC) works well and they are an all-around good buy at $169.