Ever wonder how spending a day grilling and smoking vegetables could help you reduce food waste at home? Our friend, and grill master extraordinaire, Mike, is back with another blog in his Live-Fire Cooking Series to tell us how! Learn about how he uses his smoker not only to make delicious smoked vegetables, but also to meal plan for his family and reduce his food waste making sure that everything gets repurposed. Read on for some inspiration on how to use this way of cooking in order to free up more time to enjoy with the family and produce some really great food while you’re at it!

Finding The Time –

I am married with a family which means life is busy! My wife demands time.  I have 2 kids and those 2 sweet little monsters demand time.  I have a dog, and though I think she understands me more than the rest, she also demands time!  And of course, on top of that I have a full-time job, we have just moved to our third house in the last four years, and we are renovating, so of course EVERYTHING demands time! 

In my last blog Live-Fire Cooking – The Grilling Experience I wrote that I love spending time next to the smoker, with a glass of wine in hand, to unplug from the demands of a busy life.  In fact, I started smoking foods because of how busy my life was.  I sold the idea of getting a vertical smoker to my wife because that way I would be able to leave our food cooking while I was doing something else on the to-do list.  That is the beauty of technology – I have one of those newer vertical pellet smokers with plug-and-play, or better to say plug-and-cook, technology!  Having a smoker with this technology has helped make my busy life a bit easier – let me tell you how!  

I started off loading it each Sunday with something for the family to eat that same day, but then I thought to myself “Mike, you’re making a mistake – do more!” I love to meal plan and cook for the week every Sunday.  This makes sure that we have plenty to choose from during the busy work week but also that we have delicious items for dinner that day too! I can load it with fresh veggies and meat and leave the vertical smoker cooking for hours through the day so that I can be doing something else.  To be honest, this usually means I’m also preparing items for us to eat that day on my other grill! 

Plan the Work, Work the Plan –

I slowly started cooking on both my grills and smoker at the same time because this way I would be able to help with the meal planning and prep for our family. I typically use the vertical smoker for whatever food I wanted to eat during the work week because, let’s face it, we just don’t have extra time to cook with our busy schedule and having it all ready to go makes life so much easier. I like to ensure that I have both meats and vegetables in the smoker together so that we have plenty to choose from when it comes to preparing meals for the week ahead.

I always try to cook two types of meat or fish – usually chicken, beef, or pork. One we eat the day I’m cooking and one to leave for leftovers so that we can repurpose into other dishes during the week. Once I know what I’m going to cook, I can plan out all the recipes we want to have for the next few days.

  • Chicken: If the intention is to eat chicken that day, then I usually do a full, butterflied chicken.  We eat some portions for dinner and the remaining we leave in the fridge for the week so I can make chicken quesadillas, salads, and wraps etc.
  • Beef: If I’m cooking beef, let’s say 3-4lbs of skirt steak, we eat some on Sunday and then we will have left over for tacos, burritos, and nachos. I even finely slice it and put it on potato salads or other sorts of creamy salads since after a few days the meat will be a bit on the drier side.
  • Pork: I’m sure you agree, pulled pork is a must! We pull it and then use it a few different ways – served with BBQ sauce, in pulled pork tacos, or we even turn it into carnitas. 

Beyond the Meat –

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just meat that I enjoy cooking in the smoker.  Each of the veggies I cook are a big part of our meals and highly complement the proteins I select:

  • Pure Flavor® Sweet Bell Peppers: These guys are so versatile! When choosing peppers, look for greenhouse grown – this means that they are available all year-round and are always consistent in flavor and freshness. I make a lot of my favorite Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce (which I will talk about in a bit), but I can also slice them and put into quesadillas, chop them for salads, add them to dips … you get the picture! We love to eat them fresh off of the grill, though maybe I just can’t say fresh because they’re hot but you get the point!  If you are looking for a recipe to use them in, this Grilled Vegetable Salad is a good one to try.
  • Pure Flavor® Tomatoes:  I usually make this incredible Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad, or Tomato Chutney when I smoke tomatoes.  If I grill them, I just simply mash them the next day, add salt and pepper, and then use them on top of scrambled eggs. 
  • Corn: I can easily reheat cobs of corn after they are smoked or use the charred kernels in salads along with the peppers and tomatoes.   Sometimes my wife puts the corn in little cups with either lime juice, salt, and tajin, or mayo, mustard, and cheese on them.  

I could easily go on and on as to what we like to create but the best tip I have for you is to think beyond “I can eat this today” and think of “How else can I use this for the week ahead”. That is what meal planning is all about!

Planning ahead brings me back to my original point about limiting food waste. Nothing goes to waste in our house because we try to use it in a variety of different ways through the week. For example, the Smoky Bell Pepper Sauce I mentioned above, we Hispanics typically use it for a dish called “Choripan”, which I will tell you about shortly, but I also like to serve it in a small bowl with tortilla chips, or top my scrambled eggs with it.  The point is to be creative but plan ahead of time with what you want to cook and then, follow the plan! 

Smoky Bell Pepper Sauce – 

My Smoky Bell Pepper Sauce is a favorite at home for sure and I’m sure if you try it, it will be one of yours as well! For this one you will need the following items:

  • Pure Flavor® Red Sweet Bell Peppers, smoked and finely diced
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 3 fresh oregano sprigs
  • 2 chipotle chiles, diced
  • 1 head of garlic, smoked and chopped
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparing this sauce is simple and it can be modified based on how you like it.  If you want it chunky, simply dice the smoked Bell Peppers and garlic a little larger, then mix everything together and serve. But if you want it saucier, I would suggest using a food processor and simply put all the ingredients in and blend until it’s the desired consistency.  

Create the Choripan –

For this flavorful Hispanic dish, you will need only four ingredients: fresh Chorizo sausage, baguette, garlic butter, and Smokey Red Pepper Sauce!

Cook the chorizo on the grill slowly over indirect heat. I set the smoker between 250-300F and will then leave them for about 15 minutes per side. Once one side is done, cut them lengthwise similar to a “butterfly cut”, flip, and continue until fully cooked. Next, brush the baguette with garlic butter and put it on the grill as well to warm through. Once everything is ready, serve by spreading both sides of the warm baguette with the Smokey Red Pepper Sauce, place the sausage in it, and fold together.  If you want, you can serve it with a roasted onion as well for an extra boost of flavor! 

Stay Tuned –

When you think of smoking, you may think “oh you’ll be smoking for hours!” and yes that is true, but you can also enjoy your time once everything is loaded in to cook. I usually start my smoker before we have breakfast Sunday morning so that I have the whole day ahead. Take advantage of that time – finish up tasks at home, prep other parts of the meal, or spend time with the kids. Use the smoker as your friend for meal planning and load it with everything that you will need for the week. Then once it’s all ready, all you have to do is portion it out in the fridge to be used for other meals.  Now, please don’t get me wrong I’m talking about my pellet smoker here today.  If I use my offset smoker or if I use my Kamado Grill for smoking – well, that is a whole other topic!  Stay tuned for my third blog in the series where I talk about grilling, smoking, and barbecuing. Are these the same? Please stay tuned to find out!

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