Important Uses of the Best Electric Meat Smoker

meat smokingIt is best to spend the weekends with family doing fun-filled activities and eating good food. This is one way to break out of the busy work and school days. It is more fun to stay outdoors during family weekend moments. Children can play and run around while adults sit back, having conversation and a good laugh with a refresher cooler in hand. The most common scenario when spending time in the backyard with the family is barbecuing. Indeed, this is fun to do. But, you can spice up the gathering by adding a dash of delicious flavors to the meat and veggies you are preparing. Smoke cooking is a wonderful option. This is very easy to do with the help of the best electric smoker.

 

A smoker makes the smoking process a lot easier and enjoyable to do for barbecue lovers. This cooking appliance has become very popular because of the convenience it brings. The best electrical smoker is designed based on the needs of modern day people. It is a stylish yet highly useful option, retaining the flavor of smoked meat without experiencing the hassles of wood and charcoal grilling. Here are some useful functions of this type of smoker.

 

Cook Delicious Smoked Meats

 

The best rated electric smoker can cook, soften and give a delicious flavor that is hard to resist to your dish. It can do all the said tasks in a short time. All you have to do is place the meat inside the machine, set the timer and leave it behind. There is no need for you to keep an eye on it to ensure that the meat will not be overcooked or burned. Even if it is unattended, the smoked meat will come out well done. Most smokers can maintain its temperature at certain levels.

 

Cook Multiple Items at Once

 

Electric smoking machines have multiple racks for food placement. It can accommodate lots of meat, chicken and fish. Thus, you can cook and serve the food items in no time at once. Although they have large cooking space, they the cleaning aspect isn’t too difficult either. I think that if you get the best electric smoker for the money then you are definitely going to enjoy your barbecue parties and that too without spending over the top.

 

Cook Healthier Foods

 

Aside from cooking mouth-watering foods, you can prepare healthier dishes out from using it. This is because, smoke cooking cuts out the oil and calories that you can consume when cooking it the other way. Hence, you can practice a healthier cooking habit and food consumption when using this amazing cooking machine.

 

If you are looking for a helpful cooking companion, you will never go wrong with the best electric smoking machine. By using this kitchen appliance, you are not just cooking good food; you are also providing a great flavor to the food you are preparing. There are different electric meat smokers available in the market, but not all of them can suit your cooking needs. That is why it is best to search online and read electric smoker reviews in order to get the best type of smoker.

 

Caramelized Onion Dip

In my last few years of college, a friend and I had a standing Thursday night date. Each week, we would go grocery shopping, recap our weeks, make dinner, and watch the NBC lineup. We had a rotating schedule for dinner plans, too: one week I’d make dinner, the next week she’d make dinner, and then on the third week we’d either go out to a restaurant or (more likely than not) have an appetizer night. I almost prefer having a variety of fun foods to choose from versus having a heavy meal. However, some appetizers can pack the same (if not a higher) caloric punch if you don’t choose carefully. For me, I like making my own appetizers as I can easily lighten up standard recipes to make them fit in with my standard.

 

Even though the Thursday night tradition had to end, my love for lightened up appetizers (and appetizer night) still runs strong. Instead of turning to a pre-made item from the store or a standard recipe, I decided to make something a little different today. This recipe let me feature one of my favorite things: caramelized onions! If you aren’t a fan of onions, this probably isn’t the recipe for you, but if you do love them: give this recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Caramelized Onion Dip – Recipe Elements

 

4 small (or 2 large) onions, thinly sliced (sweet onions are ideal).

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

1/2 cup of low fat plain yogurt.

1/4 cup of low fat mayonnaise.

3 ounces low fat cream cheese.

Spices: salt, pepper and garlic powder.

The Full Cooking Process

 

This Caramelized Onion Dip is definitely worth a try.1. Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet (or regular pan) over medium-high heat on the stove. When the pan is coated with oil, add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes or until they are softened; stirring often. (If you aren’t using sweet onions, add a sprinkle of sugar or sweetener at this step.)

 

2. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and cream cheese. When the onions are finished cooking, pour them into the bowl and mix thoroughly. Adding them when they are still hot allows the cream cheese to melt into the mixture.

 

3. Pour the entire mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed. Add spices to taste.

 

4. Chill for about 2 hours to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with sliced vegetables, chips and crackers; enjoy!

 

As always, be relatively light-handed with the spices. I added in a little too much garlic powder and it is stronger than I had planned, but still good. Also, this recipe doesn’t have to be pureed, but I would recommend letting it chill for even longer to allow the flavors to come together better. This dip would work so well with this Bratwurst and potato salad.

 

The flavor of the onions really comes through in the final dip, and has a very real and authentic taste instead of the fake onion taste you sometimes get in pre-made dips. Don’t be fooled though, the flavor of onions is quite strong in this recipe. If you aren’t a huge fan of onions like me and you want a milder onion flavor, I’d recommend cutting the amount of onions you use in half.

 

Are you a fan of onions? What is your favorite lightened-up appetizer recipe?

Savory and Sweet Chickpeas

This morning I woke up wondering what I was going to blog about today. I didn’t make dinner last night (we ate leftovers) and I have plans to go out shopping with my aunt this evening, so I’ll be eating dinner out with her. Plus, even though we went grocery shopping last night, we kept our produce purchases to a minimum because we are going to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning (and we probably won’t be eating dinner here again until Sunday evening).

 

I was perusing our pantry deciding what to make for lunch when I spotted two cans of chickpeas just begging to be turned into tasty snacks.

 

Lunch could wait; I had chickpeas to deal with. First up: hummus!

 

When I was gathering up ingredients for homemade hummus, I realized that I was missing some key ingredients for a traditional version, namely lemon juice and tahini. I wasn’t going to let this stop me, though, and thank goodness I didn’t, using what I had on hand gave me the most interesting and unique tasting hummus, plus it was so simple! Honestly, I liked it even more than the amazing chicken pot pie I made 2 weeks ago.

Balsamic Basil Hummus – Recipe Elements

 

1 can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

Olive Oil (amount will change depending on preferred taste and texture)

1 1/2 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar

Spices: Garlic Powder, Basil, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt and Pepper

The Full Cooking Process

 

These chickpeas are both savory and sweet.

1. In your food processor bowl, combine the chickpeas and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and water. Puree until you reach a smooth consistency; slowly add in the vinegar, making sure that it doesn’t become too runny.

 

2. When you’ve reached the right consistency (add water and olive oil as needed), add in the spices to taste. I used a fair amount of basil and garlic, and just a small amount of the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

 

3. Chill for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Serve with pita, toasted bread, pepper strips or other vegetables. Enjoy!

 

I loved that I was able to replace the acidity I needed with the balsamic vinegar. It gave it a really unique flavor that I haven’t experienced before in hummus. I think even those that aren’t huge fans of hummus (gasp!) would enjoy this recipe because the flavor of the chickpeas isn’t as strong.

 

I’d love to make this to bring to a party. So simple, so inexpensive and so delicious! Plus, it fit perfectly in one of my old hummus containers that I had held onto.

 

Next up, I decided to try something a little sweeter and a little crunchier using the other can of beans, which I had thoroughly dried out on a few layers of paper towels while I was making the hummus.

Apple Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas – Recipe Elements

 

1 can of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed and dried on a paper towel

4 tablespoons of natural applesauce

Cinnamon

Brown sugar

Stevia

The Full Cooking Process

 

1. In a mixing bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of natural applesauce, cinnamon, brown sugar and stevia; mix well.

 

2. Add the chickpeas and stir to coat.

 

3. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.

 

4. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes. I like to shake the pan around every 10 minutes to make sure they aren’t sticking and ensure each side it getting cooked.

 

5. Remove them from the oven, and toss with the remaining tablespoon of applesauce. Put back into the oven and bake at 250 until all of the moisture has disappeared.

 

6. Allow them to cool. Top with cinnamon and stevia to taste. Enjoy!

 

Roasted Chickpeas aren’t really the most photogenic snack, but I promise they are tasty. Store them in an airtight container to ensure freshness. I usually keep mine in the fridge. Before attempting this recipe, I had only ever had savory roasted chickpeas, seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes. I was a little hesitant about eating them in a sweet context, mainly because I was afraid the bean taste might be too strong. While they aren’t a traditional tasting snack, they are fun to eat and have an interesting texture to crunch on. They aren’t going to replace a decadent dessert, but they might hit the spot when you are looking for something sweet and crunchy!

 

So there you have it, chickpeas two different and delicious ways! What is your favorite way to eat chickpeas?

My List of Forbidden Foods

While I’m not the biggest fan of reading books, I was reading one the other day and came across something interesting. It was basically the “Forbidden Foods” Exercise.

 

These foods should be strictly forbidden.

 

As you might have guessed, the nature of the exercise was to make a list of all the things you “forbid” yourself to eat — whether that’s ham, salami, cookies, cakes, candy bars, chocolate, pastries, scones or ice cream — whatever it is that you think is off limits, or SHOULD be, for whatever reason. In my mind, for example, it’s not always just junk food — I even have conflicts about who made the product sometimes, whether it’s local or not, how much it costs, whether it’s bad for the environment, so much so that as I was drafting my list today it occurred to me that it’s a wonder there’s anything left in the world that I do allow myself to eat “guilt-free”! Think about all the possible excuses or conflicts from my list alone:

 

  • It’s too expensive
  • I should have bought something healthier
  • It has refined flour in it
  • It’s a processed food
  • It has sugar in it
  • It has high-fructose corn syrup
  • It’s not organic/free-trade
  • It has caffeine in it
  • It comes individually wrapped, which is bad for the environment
  • It’s not on sale
  • No health nut would eat this
  • I’d be embarrassed if someone I knew saw what’s in my shopping cart
  • There are “traces of corn or peanuts,” which I’m allergic to — although even my doctor said I don’t need to be too concerned about this any more
  • I should only be snacking on fruit, not this
  • I shouldn’t be drinking the juice; I should be eating the fruit because it has more fiber
  • I should buy more vegetables instead of spending my money on cookies
  • So-and-so would never eat this
  • It was handed to me through the window of my car

 

Really, from that list, what’s left? Whole-wheat bread, organic fruit and vegetables and local, organically raised meats that, frankly, taste like the dirt and grass the animals were munching on before they came to their demise? And immediately, of course, a red flag goes up in my mind — YES! That is all you should be eating. What’s wrong with that? Maybe then you wouldn’t catch colds. Maybe then you wouldn’t also have conflicts about whether to call in sick when you’re sick. Maybe then you’d feel better about yourself and the tiny little world you live in.

 

And here, of course, lie all the problems.

 

Again, it took an outsider to point this out to me, but taking illness as an example, do you really think it’s possible to not ever catch another cold again just because you eat more fruits and vegetables? And on the flip side, do you really think it’s possible to never eat another blueberry scone again, for the rest of your life? That’s not the point. The point is to be able to eat the scone if you want it, and to not feel guilty about it. What good does guilt do? Your initial reaction may be, well, it spurs you on to act differently the next time. But, actually that’s true. Guilt, fear, panic, anxiety, even happiness or joy are just emotions. What counts IS the action you take next time, not whatever emotional reaction you had yesterday or last week or this morning. I may feel guilty, but I still eat the cookies, pita chips and store-bought guacamole.

 

So why don’t you take a crack at it? Make a list of forbidden foods, and then bring one of the items into your home for a week. Buy plenty of it. Eat it only when you’re hungry, and eat it only to satisfaction, not fullness, but try your best to not feel any guilt about it. In fact, don’t feel any emotions, necessarily; try to just focus on how your body feels after you eat it, and while you’re eating it, for that matter. Does it taste as good as you thought it would? Do you even really like hard candies? Do you like the texture of the steak? Think about this as you munch, and try to push away any other emotions — or write them down as part of the exercise. Identifying them may help you to move past them in the future.

 

Let me know how it goes!

Seared Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad

BratwurstEvery year around this time comes Oktoberfest. There is nothing more fun than music, beer and brats!

 

When I was growing up, my Grandmother, who was from Munich, Germany, used to spend Oktoberfest weekend cooking up all kinds of German goodies in the kitchen. She always had so much fun preparing for the festivities.

 

Now, I was not a big fan of German cuisine growing up, but I am now, and this time of year always brings me fond memories of my Grandma. If you’re not a German food fan, give this recipe a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

This is my take on my Grandma’s weekend of fun.

 

Seared Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad

3 pounds baby red potatoes

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped

4 fully cooked bratwurst

3 slices bacon, chopped (I use uncured, nitrate free)

3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

1 pound refrigerated sauerkraut

1/4 cup whole grain mustard

2 Tbs dijon mustard

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

 

In a large pot, add all of the potatoes and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook about 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

 

In a small skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove and drain on a few paper towels. Add the red onion to the same skillet and cook until tender and then remove from heat and set aside.

 

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustards, vinegar and pepper to taste. I like a lot of pepper, so it’s really up to you how much to add.

 

Cut the potatoes in quarters and place in a large bowl. Add the mustard mixture, bacon, and sliced eggs to the bowl and toss to combine. Add a dash of salt and more vinegar if needed. I like mine with a lot of vinegar. Set aside.

 

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the bratwurst and sear on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. You’re really just heating them through and searing since they are fully cooked. Transfer to a plate after heated through.

 

In the same skillet, over medium heat, (add more olive oil if needed) add the yellow onion and cook until tender. Add the sauerkraut and sauté for about 5 minutes.

 

Serve brats with spicy mustard and ice-cold beer. You can also add some peppers if you like.

 

I topped my brat with these peppers and they were a great addition. Wickles Wicked Pepper Rings!

 

Enjoy!

 

Savory Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot PieI don’t know many people who would turn down a chicken pot pie. Something wonderful happens when you bite into something flaky and buttery all at once. There is just something so warm and comforting about it.

 

This chicken pot pie speaks curl up on the sofa, with a big cozy blanket and your favorite television show!

 

If you prefer, use a rotisserie chicken to speed things up. I have even used cream of chicken, celery or mushroom instead of making the sauce homemade. Either is perfectly fine.

 

Savory Chicken Pot Pie:

3 large split chicken breasts (about 3 pounds), bone in, skin on

1 package pie crust (I prefer Immaculate Pie Crust) or homemade

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 large carrots, peeled and diced (or 1 cup baby carrots 1/4 inch diced)

4 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 Yukon gold potatoes, diced (about 2 cups)

2 cups low sodium organic chicken broth

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup half and half

1 Tbs unsalted butter

3 Tbs olive oil

Mix together:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp poultry seasoning

Pinch of dried sage

3/4 tsp coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the chicken:

3 Tbs olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and rub all over chicken. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, sea salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle on the chicken and place in the oven to roast 40 minutes. Increase oven to temperature to 375 degrees F the last 10 minutes. Set aside to slightly cool off.

 

In the meantime, in a large stockpot (about 4 quarts) over medium-low heat, add the butter and olive oil. When melted, add all the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and onions. Cover the pot for about 12 minutes, stirring in between. You want the potatoes to be slightly cooked, but not fork tender.

 

Add the flour mixture, stir and cook 1 minute (add more oil or butter if needed, you want a nice blonde roux). Add the chicken broth and continue stirring well to incorporate. The sauce will start to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk and half and half. Continue stirring until the sauce starts to thicken again. Remove from heat.

 

Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Pull the chicken off the bones and shred into large pieces. Add the chicken to the sauce and stir. Adjust seasonings as needed. I don’t like mine salty, so I only added a little more black pepper if needed. Sometimes, I will add a little more poultry seasoning too. Just depend on what you like. By the way, if you want to try something a little more exciting than pot pie, have a look at this yummy turkey meatball stroganoff that I made a few days ago.

 

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a round baking dish with olive oil. Place one piecrust in the bottom of the dish, molding it in gently. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Pour in the sauce mixture. If you have too much, which I usually do, save it for another time, or what I do is eat it over rice the next day or so.

 

Place the second crust over the top of the pie and tuck in around the edges. Cut a few slits in the top of the crust to vent. Make an egg wash with one egg and a little water to brush over top. This is optional, but makes a nice shiny brown crust.

 

Bake about 20 minutes until golden brown.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Turkey MeatballI love stroganoff. I was at Publix the other day without a grocery list, contemplating on what to make for dinner. I try really hard to steer away from red meat (although I love it!), as they say it should be limited to once a week or so for good heart health. So, I always tend to lean towards chicken, turkey or fish. Well, we have had chicken several times this past week, I did not feel like fish, and John gets to the point where he is protesting, no more chicken, so to keep the peace, I decided on turkey!

 

Ground turkey can be used to replace beef in all sorts of dishes. Stroganoff is one of them. I could not make up my mind between meatballs, or just breaking up and browning the meat. Either is just fine, but I went with the meatballs, and I’m glad I did. It’s nice to step out of the box once in a while.

 

The milk and parmesan make the center of these meatballs so moist and tender. I like to crisp the meatballs up, so on the outside, they are crispy, and then the inside is moist and pillowy (is that a word?).

 

Although I call it “Mushroom Cream Sauce”, I did lighten it up a bit by using reduced fat sour cream and half and half, and it still tastes creamy. Most recipes call for a condensed soup or heavy cream. I have used both, but prefer to keep things lighter and still tasty if at all possible. The egg noodles will soak up some of the sauce as well.

 

Heres what you will need:

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff with Mushroom Cream Sauce

 

Sauce:

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

8 ounce package baby bella mushrooms, sliced

3 Tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups reduced sodium organic chicken broth

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 Tbs dijon mustard

1/4 tsp Worcestershire

1 tsp poultry seasoning

1/8 tsp garlic salt

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 12 ounce package egg noodles

 

Meatballs:

1 pound 93/7 lean ground turkey

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I pulsed 2 slices of whole grain bread in a food processor)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

1/4 tsp coarse salt ( I used sea salt)

freshly ground black pepper (about 1/8 tsp)

3 Tbs olive oil (for browning meatballs)

 

In a large pot, use the directions on the back of the package to cook your pasta. Drain the pasta and then leave to the side.

 

In a large bowl, add the turkey, egg, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, milk, salt and pepper. Combine together. Using a small ice cream scoop to measure out the turkey balls, make small balls by rolling in your hands, and place them on a plate.

 

Put a skillet on the hob and heat up and then add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onions, and saute until tender. Put the required amount of garlic in the skillet and cook about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, half and half, poultry seasoning, garlic salt and simmer until it has reduced some and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add the sour cream , dijon and worcestershire sauce. Set aside in a large bowl.

 

In the same skillet, add the olive oil and brown the meatballs, until cooked through. Place on a plate with a few paper towels to drain.

 

Add mushroom sauce mixture and egg noodles back to the pan and toss to combine. Add the meatballs and gently toss again.

 

Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to your liking, if needed.

 

Enjoy! 🙂