Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beef Chuck Tender Roast

Life will be a little less complicated for me after this week-end. Our son, wife, and grandson are moving to their own place. They both found work and rented a home just three blocks away. They have been with us for six months. Other than keeping my nose out of their business, I didn’t do very well at times; the hardest part was cooking to please all their tastes. I do all the cooking. I did manage to please everyone a few times.

I only had to cook to please myself tonight. My wife left for an overnight trip to meet with two friends she worked with as secretaries for the FBI in DC in the 60’s. My son and grandson would be busy moving some to their new home and my d-i-l would be at work.

I usually buy all my meat from my local butcher but look for some good specials at Walmart when I shop for groceries. They had a cut I had never seen before, a beef chuck tender, 2.3 pounds. They had one marked managers special, wasn’t as pretty as the others but to me it had some marbling. The grain was running lengthwise so looked like it would slice up nice.

Chuck told me it should be cooked low & slow. I coated it with some olive oil and rubbed on some Penzey’s beef roast seasoning, covered & in the fridge for 4 hours. I got it on at 1:00 pm, on my new frog mat. I did it for ½ hour smoke mode; it was running about 190 deg. Then I went to 225 deg until an IT of 120 deg. I then placed it in a pan on some onion slices with a cup of beef broth; I made it with a cup of water and a teaspoon of better than beef bullion base. I covered it with foil and was looking for an IT of 160 deg.

I also put on two whole onions with butter and some grey sea salt to use in a sandwich.
I let it rest for about 45 minutes before slicing. I sliced it by hand, about 1/8 inch & back in the juice I had poured the fat off. It went in the fridge until I was ready to eat. The roast really shrunk and I figured I should have pulled it at 135 to 140 IT.

For my supper I made a small spinach salad with blue cheese dressing. I sliced half of a small baguette in half, some au jus on the bottom half, a generous portion of beef, some of my smoked onions and smoked sharp cheddar cheese. I drizzled some olive oil on the top half of bread and all went under the broiler to melt the cheese and toast the top half of bread.

The Roast

Adding the rub

After one hour on smoke

Ready to foil

The onions

Ready to slice

Slicing up

In the Au Jus

Cheese melted and bread toasted

My Plate

Smokin Don

Friday, September 28, 2012

Quinoa Burgers

My daughter in law has been a vegetarian for several years now. I have searched for a good vegetarian burger to make. The first I tried was a black bean burger. They were so dry no one could eat them all. A large portabella mushroom does make a good veggie burger, topped with your favorite ingredients. Awhile back I did make some brown rice burgers, served in a pita pocket with lettuce, onions, and salsa. Everyone did like those.

I had seen the Quinoa burger recipe at and liked the ingredients, quinoa, white beans, spinach, onions, celery, carrots and garlic. It was topped with a red pepper salsa, roasted red peppers, onions, parsley, cumin and lemon juice. That all had to taste good.

I made them up for tonight’s supper and for sides we had fried corn and baby snap peas, for an all veggie meal. It was colorful, even the burgers. My thoughts were they were fair to pretty good. They do need the red pepper salsa, it compliments them. I did them at 300 deg. for ½ hour on my Traeger. They may have been better cooked fast on a grill or pan fried in some olive oil; but I like the ease of doing them on my Traeger, no fuss or worry about flipping.

My wife just thought they were fair, the son & wife liked them, the grandson only ate a few bites. Some more seasoning would work for me too. I guess I just expect too much from a veggie burger, like it should taste like a big juicy beef burger! They don’t take as much prep time either.

Salsa ready to mix

Veggies for the burgers

Veggies sauteeing

Mashed beans, spinach, and veggies

Ready for the smoker

All done

My Plate

Smokin Don

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Smoked Potato Soup

I remember my Mothers potato soup, sometimes she added rivvels, a drop noodle, and that was the best. I have had it in my head for a few days to smoke some potatoes for soup. Today, a mild fall day was a good day to try it. My wife makes some great Knopfles, German drop noodles, I would have liked to use but she was busy so I used some of my favorite store bought German spaetzel.

I got my potatoes and onions ready and on the smoker at 2:00 pm. My idea was not to fully cook the potatoes, but to get some smoke flavor in them; they would finish cooking in the soup. I had peeled one of them, thinking it would take on more smoke. If it dried out too much I would still have four to use. It turned out good to use; I mashed it up after cooking to thicken the soup some. I did them on smoke, 170 to 180 deg. for one hour then another hour at 225 deg. I used my Amazin tube smoker for some added smoke.

At 3:00 my wife was at an auction, my son was at the house they rented, my daughter in law was at work, and my grandson was coming home from school. It was drizzling rain so I walked two blocks to the bus stop with an umbrella to greet my grandson. I don’t know why, he walked ahead of me in the rain!

Everything came together to eat at 6:00. I made some toasted cheese sandwiches to have along with the soup. My wife said it was the best potato soup I ever made. My son said it was phenomenal. My grandson ate a big bowl. My daughter in law had some after she came from work and liked it. I loved the soup and had a nice feeling that everyone liked it.

This recipe is a keeper, next time I may peel all the potatoes before smoking & see how that tastes. The only thing that would have made this better would be to have some of my Cajun crackers along with the soup.

Printable soup recipe

Soup ingredients

Ready for the Smoker

After one hour

After two hours

Potatoes and onion

Diced onion

Celery, garlic and onions simmering

Diced potato

A little more pepper for me

My Plate, soup topped with cheddar and bacon

Smokin Don

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lemon Pepper Pork Chops, the easy way

Tonight’s supper was easy, almost no prep and no effort. I had some lemon pepper marinated boneless pork chops from my butcher, Kah Meats; about 2 lbs. of fresh asparagus, and some Alexia frozen sweet potato fries.

About an hour before cook time I washed & cut the asparagus, splashed on some white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a little grey sea salt and pepper. I had planned to bundle w/silicone bands and doing on the smoker. At the last minute I decided to just do them in the microwave, I got lazy! I covered w/saran wrap and did for 8 minutes, they were just right for me.

I put the chops on at 4:30 for a half hour smoke. At 5:00 I put a basket of the fries on and went to 300 deg. At 5:30 I brushed the chops w/butter & molasses; I had mixed a teaspoon of molasses w/2 Tbs. of butter. I did both sides and moved the chops to the left side & fries to the right. The chops were about done & the fries needed to crisp some more. At 5:50 I went in & put the asparagus in the MW for 8 minutes then brought the chops & fries in.

Next time I would go to 325-350 deg after the smoke. I think the fries would crisp up better and the chops should get to 150 deg. IT in 30 to 40 minutes. Mine were at 160 deg.
The chops were about 5/8 inch thick.

It tasted pretty good for quick & easy. My grandson ate a lot of asparagus, ½ chop and 3 pieces of bread & butter. My veggie d-i-l just came home from work and ate some of the asparagus & fries; she said she could taste the smoke on the fries.

The asparagus

The Chops

On the Smoker

My Plate

Smokin Don

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Weather is Chili Time

Every year when the nights get cool, the first sign of fall weather I get hungry for a warm bowl of chili. I like to top mine with some shredded cheddar cheese, some sour cream and buttered saltine crackers along with it. Sometimes I like to add about a tablespoon of yellow mustard to give it a little tang.

For years each batch of chili I made was a little different, I never followed a recipe. I always told my wife this is the best chili I ever made, at times it wasn’t! She said I needed a set recipe so after one batch she said was extra good, I wrote down the recipe. Now I have a set recipe to use.

For this batch I wanted to try Saveur’s State Fair Chili. I have never eaten chili at a state fair but the recipe looked good and their photo made it look tasty. I followed their recipe except I drained the ground beef after browning; just a brief set in a colander then back in the pot. I figured that left enough fat in for flavor. I always use pinto beans but stayed with the kidney beans the recipe called for and used light red kidney beans. Tasting at the end I also added about a teaspoon of cumin. I added the chili powder to the meat after browning and let it cook about 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. A Mexican friend of mine, and a good cook, told me years ago to season the meat for soups and stews.

I almost forgot; I didn’t add any tomato paste either. I thought it was thick enough without it. It is hard for a cook to just follow a recipe to the letter without adding their own touches!

I did this all inside, nothing done on my pellet smoker; I was busy trimming and mowing grass in-between making the chili. I did it in a large pot then all went in a Crockpot to simmer about 3 hours. I read once where chili needs to cook at least 3 hours to meld all the flavors.

We all liked the chili, my son and I added some Cholula hot sauce to ours. My veggie daughter-in-law even ate a bowl; the smell got to her! This is a good basic chili recipe and to please different tastes serve some chopped jalapenos, chopped onions, crushed red peppers and a good hot sauce on the side. Don’t forget the shredded cheddar and sour cream.

Link to Chili Recipe

Chili ingredients

Garlic, celery, and onions

Meat simmering with seasoning

Ready to serve

My Bowl

Smokin Don

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Crispy Dry Rub Spare Ribs

One of my favorite things is to search the net for recipes I can adapt to a pellet smoker. I love to try new things. When I saw this at serious eats cooking site I just had to try these.
The recipe is from Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats and authors of The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meats.

I am pretty well set to how I usually like my ribs, wet down with red wine vinegar, a coating of Penzey’s Galena Street rib rub and marinated over night. I do them dry and serve any sauce on the side. This dry rub called for ¼ cup of coarse salt, ¼ cup of dark brown sugar and other spices. It makes about 1 ½ cups for one rack of spare ribs and marinated 30 minutes up to 12 hours.

The description said it was suppose to encase the ribs in a crispy layer with juicy tender meat on the inside. The crispy layer could be eaten like potato chips. This all sounded good to me, ribs with bark!

This called for a full rack of spare ribs, it didn’t say anything about any trimming but I trimmed off the flap meat. I had just over a 3 lb. rack from my butcher. I removed the membrane and coated well with the dry rub, I had about ½ cup of rub left to add before going on the smoker. I used a scant ¼ cup of salt since it sounded like too much to me. I covered with saran wrap and in the fridge for 3 hours.

I lit my amazin tube smoker and got the smoker up to 250 deg. I used all Traeger oak pellets. I got the ribs on at 3:00 pm. The recipe said 250 deg. for 3 hours so we would eat at 6:00 pm. My Traeger held pretty close at 250 deg. I did them meat side up and after 2 hours and 40 minutes they didn’t look like they was getting crisp. The bone side looked great so I flipped them and went to 300 deg. I pulled them about 10 after 6 so total cook time was 3 hours 10 minutes.

My sides were two of my favorites, cheesy scalloped potatoes and scalloped corn. I had a slice of Home Pride wheat bread and butter with my meal.

My first bite of ribs was way too salty, and I am a salt lover. My wife said they weren’t too bad but then said too salty. Her first bite must have not had much salt! They were not bad enough to not eat; I loved the crispy layer and the meat inside was tender and moist.

I will definitely do these again but cut the salt to 1 or 2 Tbs. If you try these I would also say do 2 hours meat side up then 1 hour down.

Ribs, I had applied rub to the bone side

Ready for the smoker

After one hour

After two hours

Meat side before flipping

Bone side after the flip

Ready to serve

My Plate

Smokin Don

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Install a manual fan switch

Most Traeger owners find that Traeger should have installed a manual switch so the draft inducer fan could be turned on to burn off pellets in the fire pot at the end of a cook. Most like me find that sometimes at the end of a cook, especially after using high heat; they can continue burning back through the pellet auger feed tube after being shut down. Turning the temp down at the end of a cook to the smoke mode for 15 minutes and leaving the lid open after shutting down usually takes care of this.

The first time this happened to me I had smoke coming from under the pellet hopper lid pretty bad. When I realized what was going on I turned it back on smoke mode and let it run until the smoke had stopped coming from the hopper and shut down again. If fire ever got into the pellet hopper you would have a fire that would probably ruin your smoker. Being retired I have the time to sit or keep a close eye on my smoker after shutting down.

After having burn back several times over the two plus years I have had my Traeger I finally installed a manual fan switch.

I bought some 3-wire push connectors and a toggle switch at Lowes for a total cost of $6 US. Now it was just a matter of lying on my back, finding the correct wires and splicing the switch in and drilling a whole for the switch. You will need to tin the wire with some solder for easy insertion into the push connectors.

Traeger’s manual shows the wiring diagram and from it you can see you need to connect to the black wire, coming from the power cord; it comes through a grommet in the sheet metal. The other wire you need to connect to is the orange wire going to a molenex connector where the fan connects. I cut these two wires and tinned the ends after stripping about ¼ inch of insulation.

Caution: You should use a wire stripper when removing the insulation from the wires. Using a knife is not a good choice with these small 18 gauge stranded wires. I have a stripper that does not nick the wires.

The switch I used had wire leads that were already tinned so I just plugged each one into a connector then plugged the two black wires into one and the two orange wires into the other. The switch was rated at 6 amp 125 volts, plenty to handle the induction fan.

You can see a board in the one photo I placed up under and behind where I was drilling my hole to protect the wires. When drilling through thin metal the drill tends to pull in when you break through.

I got to test the switch with today’s cook. After a little over a 5 hour cook I turned the smoker off and the fan on. I left the lid closed at first but then decided it was better to open the lid to burn off the pellets left in the fire pot.

Note: As with any modifications on the site, do so at your own risk. Also if your Traeger is still under warranty; any modifications may void your warranty.

The connectors

Switch with connectors

Board in place for drilling hole

Switch installed

Smokin Don

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gravy Smothered Arm Roast

This is my kind of meal, some tender beef, gravy, potatoes and carrots, a side veggie with bread and butter. I was at Kah’s, my butcher and this arm roast looked good. I would do it on my smoker low & slow smothered with gravy.

It was a warm and muggy day, slow drizzling rain most of the afternoon. I enjoyed sitting on my smoke deck while the roast was on, watching two humming birds chasing each other.

I trimmed the roast some and seasoned with salt & fresh ground pepper. I heated my cast iron skillet with a little olive oil and seared the roast then on the smoker at 225 deg. I topped with a couple slices of sweet onion and just enough beer to keep the bottom of the skillet wet and did it for 45 minutes before adding my gravy. For the gravy I mixed a jar of Heinz savory beef gravy and a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with garlic. Now you could make your own gravy but this is a whole lot easier! The roast was on a total of 4 hours and my Traeger was more like 235 deg on the 225 setting.

I baked some take home & bake crusty rolls to have with supper. I made a dish of half ripe tomatoes from my garden sliced up. One layer then a couple slices of onions chopped, seasoning and topped with a cup of shredded four cheese Italian blend. Then I added another layer of tomatoes, seasoning and one cup of shredded cheese.

For my other side I peeled and cut up some potatoes added some organic carrots and boiled for 10 minutes. They then went into a casserole dish with butter, olive oil, salt pepper, and parsley. I had both sides ready for the oven at 360 deg. at 5:00, I had figured on one hour and the meat would be done. After a half hour the cheese on the tomatoes was starting to brown, I checked the meat and it was done so I got it all together just a little early. I cut up the meat in the skillet and served.

I had the beef and gravy over a half of roll and buttered the other half. The beef was fork tender and we had a great supper! I love some gravy bread!

Arm Roast

After 45 minutes

Roast is done

My two sides

Roast sliced and ready to serve

My Plate

Smokin Don