Hearty Minestrone Soup

Hearty Minestrone Soup

Nothing warms you up on a cold winter day better than a delicious hearty soup. This hearty minestrone soup recipe is loaded with tasty ingredients that take very little effort to put together. All you need to do is chop an onion, some celery, carrots and garlic and the rest just gets dumped into the pot. The soup is made hearty by cooking it with the lid slightly open to let out some steam. This reduces the broth by steaming off the water but keeps in all the good flavor. This soup is meat free but you can add in some cooked Italian sausage for extra heartiness.

Ingredients

  • 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 cup elbow or small shell pasta
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

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Directions

First dice the onions, carrots and celery. Add olive oil to an 8 quart stockpot and heat it on a medium temperature. Saute the onions, celery, and carrots for 8 – 10 minutes. Mince the garlic, then add it to the pot and saute for 1 minute. If you have fresh spinach (not frozen) chop it and add to the stockpot at the same time as the garlic. Add the vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes.


Next, drain and discard the liquid from the canned beans then add them to the stockpot. Add the frozen green beans and frozen spinach. Cover the stockpot with a lid and bring the soup to a boil on medium high heat.


Reduce the heat to almost medium and simmer the soup for 15 minutes with the lid slightly open on the side to let out steam. This is optional and will thicken up the soup but you can close the lid tight during this step.


Next add the pasta and the Italian seasoning then continue cooking for 15 – 20 minutes. Check the tenderness of the pasta at 15 minutes and allow it to cook longer if needed. Turn the heat to low, then salt and pepper to taste.

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Pellet Smoked Spinach Artichoke Dip

Pellet Smoked Spinach Artichoke Dip

Who doesn’t love a good spinach artichoke dip when you are watching “The game that lawyers won’t let us mention”. But have you ever tried a smoked version of this dip? Sure we all know what the TGI Friday’s Chili’s Applebee’s Ruby Tuesday’s (RIP) local sports bar dip is like and heck it ain’t that bad… usually. But there is something special about a smoked version of this dip with your own hand selected cheeses. One could only guess how your favorite restaurant prepares their dip, maybe it’s all a frozen pre-mix in a plastic bag. But you have a pellet smoker and free will so you can make some fresh and delicious smoked dip! The good part about this recipe is that you can do all the prep work a day or two ahead of the cook day. When you are ready, all you need to do is put this dip on your smoker and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts
  • 10 oz frozen spinach
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz gouda cheese
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

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Directions

First, thaw out the frozen spinach overnight in the refrigerator. On the next day when you are ready to start, remove the cream cheese from the refrigerator and allow it to soften on the kitchen countertop.


Next open the can of artichoke hearts and drain out the water. Using paper towels, squeeze out the excess water from the artichoke hearts. Roughly chop the artichoke hearts and place them in a large mixing bowl.


Next open the package of the thawed out spinach and drain out the water. Using paper towels, squeeze out the excess water from the spinach. The spinach should already be chopped but if not, chop it. Add the spinach to the large mixing bowl.


Next grate the gouda, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese then set aside a small amount from each (about ½ cup total) for a topping and add the rest to a large mixing bowl. Add the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream, then mix everything together. Add the spices and mix everything once again. At this point you can cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator if you plan to cook the dip the next day.


Preheat your smoker at 250F and use mild pellets such as apple or competition blend. The total smoke time should be at least one hour and 20 minutes but you can cook for longer if desired. Transfer the dip mixture into a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet and place this on the smoker when it reaches temp.


Stir the dip every 45 minutes and if you plan to cook for the recommended 1 hour 20, then you will stir the dip just once. If you plan to cook longer, use the 45 minute stirring as a checkup to see how much moisture is lost and don’t allow the dip to get too dry.


20 minutes before you plan to remove the dip, add the 1/2 cup of shredded cheese that was set aside to the top of the dip. Allow this to cook without stirring and let it melt down. Another option you can try is to brown the cheese topping in the oven by placing it on the top oven rack and using the broiler. Set it to high and cook for about 2 – 3 minutes. Do not walk away, always keep an eye on the brown coloring of the cheese.


Allow the dip to cool for at least 5 minutes because it is molten lava hot. Then serve it with corn chips, or pita chips for dipping. For extra fancy stuff you can thinly slice a French baguette and toast the slices in the oven.

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Oven Roasted Eye Round Roast

Oven Roasted Eye Round Roast

Roast beef can be made from various cuts of beef, and that’s a good thing because you have options. Even better is when those options go on sale at your favorite market. If you ever notice eye round roast on sale, pick it up and try out this recipe. This is super easy to make but it really does help if you have some kind of wired or wireless digital thermometer. You want to avoid opening the oven door as much as possible so checking temperatures with a handheld thermometer is not recommended. It’s also best if you have a cast iron skillet to brown the beef in prior to roasting. So once you gear up with this small equipment investment, you are ready to enjoy some home made roast beef.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 – 4.5 lb eye round roast
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

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Directions

Salt all sides of the roast then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


Set the rack in the oven to the medium position. Preheat the oven to 225 F.


Dry the roast with paper towels, then rub it down with olive oil. Apply black pepper to all sides of the roast.


Heat a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet on medium high heat with a tablespoon of oil. When the oil starts smoking, sear the roast on each side for 3 minutes per side.


Transfer the roast to the rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 1.5 hours until the center reaches 115F.


Turn the oven off, do not open the door and allow the roast to cook about 30 more minutes until the center is 130F. Remove the roast from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Slice thinly and enjoy with a horseradish sauce.

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Pellet Smoked Cajun Butter Turkey

Pellet Smoked Cajun Butter Turkey

Holiday time is here again and your family is looking forward to your smoked turkey. And this year it’s time to give them a different flavor of buttery creole goodness. Now don’t worry, this is not spicy and grandma won’t need a tall glass of milk to cool down the burn. This recipe uses Tony Chachere’s cajun butter injection which has a very buttery flavor with a little bit of kick. If you haven’t tried this before, you should give it a taste before injecting so you know what you are working with. But that’s not all, we’re going to add a creole seasoning herb butter underneath and on top of the turkey skin! Just smoke it for a few hours at 250F then crank the heat to 375F to crisp up the skin. Take it off the smoker when the breast hits 165F, let it rest, then slice in and be amazed at how juicy this turkey is.

Ingredients

  • 10 – 15 lb whole turkey
  • 1 bottle Tony Chachere’s cajun butter injection
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh sage
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3 – 5 tbsp Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning

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Directions


Thawing
Usually your turkey will be fully frozen and if so let it thaw out in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours.


Spatchcocking
When the turkey is thawed, remove it from the packaging and remove any giblets and pop up thermometers. Next, cut out the backbone using kitchen shears or a chef’s knife. Cut from the tail along the side of the backbone up to the neck. Repeat this step on the other side of the backbone and remove it completely. Following this, cut the breastbone in the center and now you can flatten out the turkey. This flattening of the bird is called spatchcocking and it will allow the breast and thigh meat to reach their finishing temperatures at the same time. And don’t throw way that backbone, it’s perfect for making gravy or turkey broth!


Injecting
For this recipe, we are using a bottle of Tony Chachere’s cajun butter injection. You may end up using only half the bottle per turkey so pour the injection into another container and do not stick your injection needle directly into the bottle. That will cross contaminate the injection liquid with raw turkey and besides that, it’s just easier to use a wider mouth container. Use your injection needle to pump the turkey up with all the injection liquid as possible. Inject the thighs, legs, wings and breasts and move the needle around to inject multiple points. Putting too much liquid in one area will create a pocket of injection, which is not a bad thing but will be noticeable.


Butter Rub
Use one stick of room temperature unsalted butter and mix with 1 tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning. Add about a teaspoon each of fresh chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary then mix everything together. Next use a small silicone spatula to separate the skin from the meat starting at the neck area and working around to the thighs. Next you can put some seasoned butter on the spatula and work it down underneath the skin. Use your fingers above the skin to spread the butter around. If you are careful you can separate the skin from the thigh meat and get some seasoned butter there as well.


Seasoning
Flip the turkey over and use Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning to coat the inside of the turkey. You can be heavy handed with the seasoning if you like, this is a big piece of meat! Flip the turkey back over and season the skin side. Next rub on the remaining seasoned butter then add the remaining herbs. Add one light coat of creole seasoning for good looks and flavor.


Smoking
Turkey can be smoked at temperatures ranging from 225F up to 325F. However there are some food safety concerns when smoking a turkey larger than 15 pounds at 250F or less. For this recipe we recommend using a turkey less than 15 pounds and smoking at 250F using a wood such as apple, pecan or hickory. Your total cook time will vary depending on the total weight of the turkey and cooking temperature. A 14 pound turkey would take around 4 hours more or less of cook time. The problem with a smoke temperature lower than 300F will be rubbery skin or at least skin that is not crisp and possibly chewy. To help fix this, you will need to crank up the heat of your smoker to 375F when the breast reaches an internal temp of 150 – 155F. Let the turkey continue to cook and when the turkey reaches around 165F in the breast and 175F in the thigh, remove it from the smoker and let it rest uncovered. If you cover the turkey for too long, the steam will work against you and moisten the skin. Just let it rest 15 minutes to allow carryover cooking to do it’s job and work the juices around. After resting, carve into that turkey and be ready to deal with a cutting board full of juices!

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