Monday, October 21, 2013

Tailgating... at home!

I'm on a quest to enjoy autumn this year. I normally associate fall with cool weather, short days, and back to school chaos, but now that we have a toddler I am also trying to embrace the family time, cozy nights and fall colors.

A few weeks ago my mom, brother and cousin went to an Eagles home game and raved about their tailgating experience. I'm not sure if I'll get to an NFL game this year, so I decided to do my best to re-create the party atmosphere at home this past Sunday.

Earlier this year, we invested in a Traeger grill. I had never heard of them, but I'm so glad that we bought one. They aren't cheap, but our Traeger (we have the 'Lil Tex Elite) has replaced our big, dirty charcoal smoker and we often use it instead of a regular charcoal grill. Yes, the Traeger is expensive, but we paid way less than retail at our local Costco. And remember, we love to grill, so we feel that it was a worthwhile investment for our family. We used our Traeger earlier this month to smoke a turkey breast and a pork shoulder.

The key to smoking is to cook your meat low and slow. This requires a controlled temperature and a lot of patience. It's also best if you burn wood to flavor your meat. Using our Traeger is like Wood Smoking for Dummies because you just load the smoker, set the digital thermostat and let it run. I baste the meat occasionally, but it's so low-maintenance that I feel comfortable running to the store or watching a movie while our dinner cooks.

We put our turkey and pork shoulder on the Traeger right after breakfast and they were ready to eat by early to mid-afternoon. We enjoyed the meat later as pulled pork sandwiches with and turkey, bacon and cheddar paninis. The leftovers were amazing.

While we're on the topic of tailgating, here are a few of my favorite party recipes for football season:

Super Bowl Meatballs - You can make these in advance and freeze them.
Roasted Tomato Salsa - This one uses Roma (plum) tomatoes, which are available at a decent price year-round.
Spicy Salsa Wings - Pick your favorite salsa (jarred works great here!) and adjust the heat to your liking.

In all honesty, I'm not a big football fan, but I love the opportunity to cook and eat game day food, so tailgating at home is a winning idea for me. Do you have any favorite football food recipes? Link them up in the comments!

P.S. Traeger doesn't know I exist, I'm just sharing my experience with our new grill.

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