Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food


6 Smoked Recipes for a Greener Grilled Summer

The summer sun brings a chance to enjoy some quality meals in the yard or on the patio. Tradition tells us that the barbecue is the go-to cooking method for backyard eats, and for good reason. However, if you've never tried your hand with a smoker, you're missing out. This flavor-packed cooking method offers a laid-back, slow cooking approach that's perfect for summer days and produces tender meats and savory treats.

Grilling and smoking your food isn't just a great way to enjoy some time outdoors while making delicious meals, though. These cooking methods can help save the planet at the same time. By using a sustainable fuel like all-natural pellets or wood chips in your smoker or grill, you'll be burning naturally occurring fuel that doesn't contribute to pollution and greenhouse emissions.

grilled-vegetables-2172704_640

Alton Brown's Simple Smoked Salmon

Hearty brisket and cured bacon might be what most of the country thinks of when it comes to smoked dishes, but for West Coast inhabitants, smoked salmon is often the gateway drug to the only good kind of smoking habit. The buttery flavor of fresh salmon takes wonderfully to some smoke and cooks much quicker than red meat.

This simple but effective recipe from Food Network's ubiquitous epicurean expert Alton Brown might look imposing because of its day-long prep time, but it's just a matter of marinating the fish overnight in a sweet and savory mix of brown sugar and salt.

Grilled Veggie Pizza

How would you like to eat delicious pizza made with fresh ingredients for less money than a visit to the local parlor? You can, in your own backyard. All it takes is a pizza stone and a recipe, and we've got you covered for the latter. This veggie pizza is bursting with flavor from fresh mushrooms, onions, peppers and mozzarella cheese. After you experience the wonderfully crispy grilled texture and homemade goodness of fresh grilled pizza, you might not want to go back to restaurant-style.

Smoked Mojo Chicken Legs

Get your mojo going with this easy take on citrus-heat chicken legs. Fresh cilantro, lime juice, orange zest and orange juice combine with jalapeno peppers for a dish that calls for the use of a smoke packet. The combination of applewood smoke and citrus heat is wonderfully creative, and juicy chicken thighs make the perfect vehicle for this zesty take on a summer classic.

Smoked Tomato Salsa

What would summer be without snack food? Chips and salsa are a tried-and-true favorite that you can make on your own by doing a little green grilling. Smoking brings out the lovely flavors in tomatoes, which combine with sweet onion and yellow corn to create a colorful classic chip topper that is simple and flavor-forward. This recipe calls for a digital smoker, but if you've already got something more sustainable, it'll do just fine.

'Ol Hick Baby Back Ribs

Ribs are a summertime staple on the grill, but you can always take things up a notch and think outside the traditional barbecue sauce box. Rub them with a combination of paprika, turbinado sugar, garlic and onion powder, coriander and more. After grilling on a pellet cooker for about two hours, wrap the rack in foil with some butter and brown sugar. When they're done, you'll have deliciously tender meat falling off the bones.

Juicy Lucy Stuffed Burgers

What's more fun than burgers on the grill? How about burgers that ooze melty, cheesy goodness when you bite into them? The name "Juicy Lucy" hails from Minnesota, where taking advantage of a clear summer day is an occasion for stuffed burgers indeed. The trick to getting these right is nailing your burger construction. Make sure that there are no holes or thin spots for stuffing to seep through, as that might lead to burger breakdown on the grill. Cheese is the standard "stuffing" for these burgers, but there's lots of room to experiment and find just the right mix for your taste.

Smoked Duck Pancakes

Yes, you read that right. Summer classics are great, but when the sun is out, you sometimes have to find a little whimsy in your menu. Fans of chicken and waffles will feel right at home with this sweet and savory combination, which pairs moist smoked duck with a blueberry compote and whipped Chevre cheese. Breakfast, lunch, dessert — there are few meals where this dish doesn't fit in. If you're craving something that combines sweet and savory, give these a try.

Grilled Peaches and Mascarpone

Impress your summer sweetheart with this health-conscious dessert that looks outrageous and takes only a couple of minutes to cook. The key to a delectable fruit dessert is good ingredients. The more flavor you can bring out of fresh peaches and cold mascarpone, the better it will be. Just paint some agave onto your halved fruit, throw them on the grill for a few minutes and then top them off. You'll be amazed at how simple it is to make something that looks so gourmet.

This list offers you a selection of sweet, savory, delicious goodness and health-hearty veggies, all of which you can make in an environmentally friendly way using your sustainable grill or smoker.

Easy Shredded Beef Tacos Recipe

When I lived in Oakland, California I liked to go to a restaurant nearby and order a dish called Bus Up Shut. Bus Up Shut! What, might you ask, is that? Well, dear readers, I can tell you! Bus Up Shut is the Caribbean way of saying tattered and torn shirt. Get it? Bus(ted) Up Shirt! It’s the name of a sandwich made with an amazing flat bread and filled with curry meat and vegetables. It is absolutely delicious!

So you can imagine my pleasure when I ran across a local dish made by Mexican housewives called “Ropa Vieja”. I guess the shredded meat in this recipe reminds them of old, torn clothing. Our local version of Bus Up Shut!

This delectable shredded meat can be used any which way but it’s particularly good as a base for soft tacos.

shredded beef
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Here’s how I make Old Clothes, I mean, Ropa Vieja. Ay, chihuahua!

Get a good size chunk of beef brisket or beef chuck roast. Get a piece that will feed the people you’re cooking for. It’s only me and my husband right now so I get a 2-pound chunk and then I have a little leftover for other recipes.

Ingredients

Tacos:

• 3 pounds of beef (feeds 4 people)
• 1 lime
• 1-2/3 cup beef bone broth
• 2 tablespoons avocado oil
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 tablespoons stevia

Sauce:

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 3 tablespoons avocado oil
• Smashed and minced small clove of garlic

For serving:

• Warmed corn tortillas or leaves of butter lettuce
• Finely chopped scallions or white onions
• Sliced avocado
• Sliced radishes
• Minced cilantro
• Salsa cruda or any kind of salsa you like

Instructions

Juice the lime and saved the juiced halves. Put the juice, lime halves, bone broth, oil, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves in your slow cooker. Put your chunk of meat in the broth and turn it so all sides are coated. I do all this just before bed so I can put it on low and while I’m sleeping it’s cooking. (8 hours). Set on low, put a lid on it and have a nice sleep!

In the morning use a slotted spoon to remove the beef and then, being careful because the slow cooker pot will be hot, scoop out the cooking liquid and leave about 2/3 of a cup. Stir in the stevia. Set the cooker on high and let the liquid cook down a bit. If it never boils, don’t worry. Add the beef back in and using 2 forks shred the beef.

When you're ready to eat mix together the sauce ingredients and tear up the lettuce leaves or prepare the tortillas. Then prepare your garnish items.

Spoon the shredded beef into your lettuce cups or tortillas, add a dollop of sauce and sprinkle garnishes to your heart's content. I serve mine with a side of black beans and rice and veggies.

Me gusta!

Edible Hosta Tart Recipe

Hostas are a common shade plant here in the northeast, and they’re known for their lush glossy foliage and stunning flower spikes.  They’re one of the few plants that thrives in full shade, creating a beautiful landscape where most flowers won’t grow.  Now there’s one more reason to plant this shade perennial…hostas are edible!

They were originally a wild foraged spring green in Japan, in the same way that fiddleheads and ramps are enjoyed in the states.  Somehow, when hostas made the trek across the pacific to become a landscape shrub, the fact that they’re a sought after edible plant got lost in translation. 

If you’re curious about the history of this fun plant, and a few promising studies looking at the medicinal properties of hostas, check out this article on how to cook edible hostas.

fresh hosta tart

In the early spring, the shoots taste like a cross between asparagus and leeks, with a mild sweet subtly onion-y green flavor.  They’re particularly good as simple oven roasted bacon wrapped hostas, or in a wild greens stir fry alongside other spring wild foraged edibles.

Later on in the season, full grown hosta leaves can be cooked like collards or kale.  As the flowers start to emerge, you can cook hosta flower buds and then the fully opened blossoms are tasty edible flowers (raw or cooked).

Though they’re edible throughout the season, my favorite time to enjoy hostas is in the early spring when they first emerge from the soil.  At that point, they’re tender and sweet, and I use them in place of asparagus in just about any recipe.  I’m particularly fond of quiche and tarts, since they’re simple to prepare and spring is a busy time of year at my house.

The base is a simple pie crust, and I generally make it with 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, a pinch of salt and a splash of cold water.  Feel free to use your favorite pie crust recipe for a single crust pie, or get a pre-made pie crust from the store.  If you’re feeling adventurous (of course you are, you’re about to cook hostas, right?) then go ahead and try this sourdough pie crust or this old fashioned pie crust with egg and vinegar.

This hosta shoot tart comes together quickly and is beautiful too.

unbaked hosta tart

Hosta Shoot Tart Recipe

Ingredients:

• 6 to 8 young hosta shoots, about 4 to 6 inches
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
• 1 unbaked pie or pastry crust

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Toss the hostas in olive oil and roast them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until they just begin to caramelize.  Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

3. Place the unbaked pie crust in a tart pan.  Top with parmesan cheese.  Gently place the hostas on top of the cheese in the tart shell.

4. Beat eggs, milk and heavy cream together and pour the egg/cream mixture over the hostas in the tart.

5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the egg is cooked through and begins to brown.

6. Serve hot or cold.


Ashley lives in a solar and wind powered home in Vermont with her husband and two young children.  She writes about gardening, foraging, DIY, home brewing and all things off-grid at Practical Self Reliance and shares recipes from her Vermont kitchen on Adamant Kitchen.  You can find pictures of her homestead adventures on Instagram, or follow along on Facebook pages for Practical Self Reliance and Adamant Kitchen.  She’s also on Twitter.

Traveling While Doing Keto

After a lot of contemplation and preparation, I finally committed to trying a keto diet for six weeks. I was hoping to avoid traveling during this time so it would be easier, but it did not work out that way. Since it had taken so long to commit to the six weeks, I was determined to stick with it the best that I could while I was traveling. 

MIL keto travel

I knew there were not any great keto options on the route that I was traveling. It is really important to me that I am sticking with real foods for the most part and making sure to eat my vegetables. My best option for the road was to pack my own stuff. 

One thing that I was concerned about was getting my fat in on the road. I was excited to find Trader Joe’s packets of coconut oil. I ended up adding that to the tea that I had in my hotel room on the trip. I also bought kale chips so that I would have a way to get some vegetables on the road. I bought some organic canned chicken, but in the end, I did not eat it. I still think it is a good travel food though.

Normally when I travel I eat a lot of carbs and load up on soda for my caffeine. I had to make a different plan this time. I was happy to be able to drink Zevia energy drinks in place of the soda. They are sweetened with stevia and no carbs. I also packed some kombucha for the trip. I have to take that from my carb allowance for the day, but it is so worth it for me. I brought  some single serving electrolyte and Natural Calm magnesium packets to add to my water. 

For my travel time to my destination, I ate only what I had packed. For breakfast, I had a low carb keto bar. For lunch, I had a no-carb Chomps beef stick along with the kale chips. I also packed some mixed nuts. I ate some Parmesan cheese crisps. I certainly was hungry by the time I made it to my destination and was ready for a great dinner. I was able to enjoy a nice steak dinner with asparagus and wild mushrooms. The mushrooms were the best that I have had. I felt good with my dinner choices. 

When I was not on the road, omelettes with vegetables were my go to breakfast. I added avocado when it was available. I was able to enjoy a lovely buffet that had some good low carb options. I ate Chipotle for one meal since I knew it had some good low-carb options as well. 

I feel like I did well overall. I did have two fast food options. I had an Arby’s Beef and Cheddar no bun, no red sauce and a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese no bun. I did forget to ask for no ketchup so I scraped it off the burger. They were not my first preferences, but I felt they were manageable. I was out of town for four days and I did not gain any weight so I was happy with that. 

Since I have been home I discovered two more great things for me to carry for fat if I travel or just eat out. I found some olive oil packets and also packs of ghee. I like to be prepared and have good options available for me. I feel good about what I achieved on my keto journey while I was traveling. There certainly was much temptation.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: Invasion of the Brown Fuzz

Dear Readers, I have to post the results of my apple cider vinegar experiment so you will know how it might look when it all goes wrong. Unfortunately, at 4 weeks when I was advised to remove the apple slices and take out the weight holding down the apple parings I must have introduced bad bacteria. Even so, at 5 weeks my ACV looked like it was doing all right. At 5 weeks I checked on it and even noticed slime forming which I interpreted as the Mother or SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) forming.  There it is. On the 6th week when the vinegar should be ready to go, I find this.

mold 1   mold 2

I have not been able to confirm with my fermenting friends that this is, indeed, mold but in my long history of making food in many forms and styles my experience tells me that this must be mold and no doubt about it. It’s fuzzy and brown! I am so disappointed! Strangely enough, it doesn’t smell bad. If anything, it smells like what I would describe as sweet vinegar. The liquid beneath the layer of mold is clear and peach colored.

This just shows that you can do everything right or think you did everything right and it still doesn’t work. Once the ball is rolling on this process of fermenting apple cider vinegar, as far as I know, there is nothing a person can do to prevent it. What will be will be.

To quote one of my favorite newscasters from my childhood, Paul Harvey. “And now you know the rest of the story.”

4 Ways to Find Food For Free

Let’s face it, most of us don’t have tons of extra money laying around the buy food. Whether you’re a starving college student, single bachelor, or have a ton of mouths to feed at home, it helps to source food locally for free.

I’m not talking begging for handouts or asking friends and family for assistance. No, I’m talking about practical ways you can get back into nature and gather some of her bounty.

The four methods I’m going to outline will take some work, planning, and maybe a bit of money to get started. However, once you’ve gotten the basics set up, you’ll be gathering heaps of food for many years to come.

Grow Calorie-Dense Food

potatoes

When growing for substantial amounts of food, it’s important to focus on calories. This means you want to grow crops like:

Fortunately, these are some of the easier crops to grow. It’s almost like Mother Nature wants to cut you some slack if she knows you’re growing for your own survival. If you live in an area with a lot of space, then you can grow enough of these crops to keep you well fed for months.

If you’re in an urban area or smaller space zone, you should check out my urban gardening book that outlines everything you could possibly need to get started growing your own food.

Foraging for Food

Foraging for food is the fastest way to gather free food...just be careful! I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about people picking random mushrooms or berries and eating them without checking, only to get sick (or worse)!

I’m not saying this to frighten you, only to shock you into doing your research ahead of time. There are usually foraging guides or clubs in every city, so before you grab a handful of books and try it yourself, go visit one of these experts.

I’ve been doing a lot more urban and coastal foraging lately with great success. I’ve been given local avocados from a neighbor (after asking of course), found some loquats on a tree in a park, and even some hearty mussels from my local beach. If you don’t know where to begin, check out Falling Fruit for local items in your neighborhood you can grab.

Host a Potluck

This method is a bit unorthodox, but since that’s what my family calls me, I figured you’d enjoy it too! Since we’re all social creatures, why not lean on our fellow humans for some food. Hosting a potluck is a great way to enjoy the company of others and share in their favorite foods.

Best of all, usually the host gets to keep the leftovers, and for good reason! You’re doing all of the prep and cleanup, so the extra food is often the “payment” for hosting. You don’t need a fancy reason to have friends over...just say you’re trying to unplug from technology a bit and spend some quality time with others.

Learn to Fish

fikshign

If you didn’t know, this June I’m doing a “survival challenge” called Apocalypse Grow, where I have to live off of only what I can grow, forage, fish, and barter for. As you might imagine, it’s hard to grow a lot of protein and fat...so I’ll be relying on fishing.

Thankfully, I live near the beach so I can do some surf fishing and spearfishing for my meals. Yeah that’s right, I swim in the ocean with just a mask and my snorkel to shoot fish in the most sustainable way possible. Who says finding free food isn’t an adventure!

If you don’t live near the beach, don’t worry, there are plenty of rivers, lakes, and ponds that you can fish in for freshwater fish.

3 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

I really hate food waste, so it’s no surprise I wrote an ebook about it. As someone raised in a traditional Italian family, I was always taught to eat everything on my plate and save the leftovers for later. 

Not everyone shares these ideals though. In fact, 40 percent of food is wasted in America alone. Where does it all go? To a landfill. There, it cannot properly decompose so it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 30 percent more potent than carbon dioxide. As you might be able to guess, all this food waste is a huge contributor to climate change. 

But why would anyone throw out good food, you ask? Plenty of reasons. Grocery stores will toss any food they cannot sell by a certain date, instead of giving the food to people in need. But consumers are at fault too: Every time you throw food in the trash, including the odds and ends of food, you’re contributing to food waste.  

Let's put an end to food waste once and for all. Here are three ways to reduce food waste. 

food stored in glass jars
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Plan  

Planning out your meals will help you avoid purchasing food on impulse. Impulsive shopping decisions lead to getting items you may not even eat. This results in produce sitting in the back of the fridge and rotting.

Instead, go to the grocery store with a plan in mind. The best way to do this is by creating a meal plan and grocery list before heading to the store. Sit down with a piece of paper and write out the meals you’d like to eat over the week. Write out each recipe you’d like to make over the course of the week so you know what to expect. Then, check your house for the ingredients to those recipes. Do you have any ingredients at home already? If so, great! You don’t need to buy those items. Any ingredients you don’t have, add to your grocery list. I call this shopping your kitchen first

Once you get all the items you need for the week ahead, it’s a good idea to come home and start meal prepping some items. Cook some rice, cut some vegetables, prepare some chicken: Whatever it takes to make your life easier throughout the week. I like to go shopping on Saturday with my meal plan and grocery list in mind, then prep some food ahead of time on Sunday. 

Store 

Storing your food properly can really extend the life of your produce. A lot of people don’t realize not all produce items go directly in the fridge. Produce can actually be quite finicky, and there are even some items that shouldn’t be stored together at all.

Generally speaking, you should always consider temperature, lighting, proximity and humidity levels when storing food. Food is very sensitive to these four things, so understanding what your produce items need will help them last longer.

Here are some items that should be kept in the fridge at 40 degrees F or lower: Grapes, apples, berries, cherries, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus. Keep squash, melons and tomatoes on the counter, but away from direct sunlight. Potatoes and onions should be kept in a cool dark place. Let avocados, pears, nectarines, plums and peaches ripen on the counter, then store them in the refrigerator. 

Compost 

Whatever you can’t eat, such as onions skins, strawberry tops and peach pits, should be composted. There’s no reason to throw food scraps into the trash. If you do, they’ll still produce methane in a landfill. I recommend investing in a compost pail and keeping it on your counter. Just add your food scraps to it over the course of the week, then take it to your local farmers market. Most farmers markets are more than happy to take food scraps off your hands. They use it to make life giving compost that acts as a soil conditioner for crops. 

For more ways to fight food waste, be sure to check out my ebook, How to Reduce Food Waste. It’s loaded with tips, tricks and recipes to make you a certified food waste warrior


Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me.com, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, RecycleBank and several other publications. Get her ebook "How to Reduce Food Waste" to learn how to become a food waste warrior today.







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