Cleaning out the Freezer and Hauling in the Veggies

Hunting season has started in states all over the country, and you know what that means?!  You need to get all the old meat out of your freezer before you start adding fresh stock!  Annoyingly, The Engineer and I didn’t draw any deer tags this year.  Frankly we should probably be hoarding our meat for the upcoming winter, but I guess if we have to go vegetarian over the winter that’s what happens.

To go along with our meat, we suddenly had a small surplus of fresh tomatoes out of the garden.  Late summer is a strange time like that.  Surpluses of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs are all at your disposal, but you freezer might be less with just huge roasts and some less than stellar cuts of meat.  Since discovering that my Kitchenaid is more than capable of grinding up a large elk roast, we’ve become less worried about using up all our pounds of burger meat….we just make more!

I decided it was time to whip up a new recipe, and I really couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out.  It seemed like it had been weeks since I’d spent anytime in the kitchen making dinner, so I decided to really do it up this week!  Due solely to the fact that I don’t every decide to do things until late, prepping dinner actually took 2 days!  Don’t panic, it’s not hard nor does it take that long….I just didn’t have a plan going into things!

STEP 1:  Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I had probably around 2  or 2.5 pounds of large tomatoes out of the garden.  We have two heirloom varieties, Cherokee Black and Siberian Prince, and they seem to have suddenly kicked production into high gear.  I simply blanched the tomatoes whole until the skin started to split and then peel and rough chop.  I didn’t bother to deseed the tomatoes, I just tossed the rough chunks into a medium sauce pan.  If you don’t have access to fresh, garden tomatoes, start with a quart of canned tomatoes.

To my quart of tomatoes I added:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil….our basil plant had a rough go of things this summer 😦
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook on medium until just before boiling before dropping the temperature to low.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  If you’re going to eat it immediately, you may want to let it simmer longer…..longer is always better!  I of course started this whole process around 9pm….so after it simmered I placed it into the fridge for use later!

STEP 2: Elk and Herb Meatballs

I didn’t have a plan for using my tomato sauce when I made it, I just didn’t want that many tomatoes to go bad before I had a chance to use them!  The next night I was sitting around thinking….and it occurred to me….we need meatballs!  After consulting a variety of cookbooks I had laying around I settled on a variation of  Anthony Bourdain’s recipe of meatball sandwich meatballs and Steven Rinella’s recipe for wild game meatballs.

Anthony recommends a blend a veal, pork, and beef….and while I’m sure that makes a delicious, more traditional Italian meatball….those aren’t the meats I have hanging out in my freezer.  Steven’s recipe calls for raw onions and milk soaked breadcrumbs in your meatballs, but Anthony says to sweat the onions and add dry crumbs…..so I sweated some onion and added crumbs and milk!

In a small pan heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano

Sweat the onions, garlic, and herbs together until the onions to translucent and soft.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  You’re maybe sensing a theme here, but trust me you really can’t over do the Italian flavors!  See what I mean when I say if I had planned this out better…..just chop double once and you’ll be able to whip up meatballs and sauce together in no time flat.

In a large bowl add:

  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 milk
  • Cooled onion and garlic mixture

Mix lightly until everything seemed combined and the herbs, onion, and garlic seem evenly sprinkled throughout.  Form into golfball sized balls and set on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I got 13 meatballs from the pound of meat.  Also, I know it’s probably slightly controversial…but I didn’t add any fat to my meat mixture.  I still think they turned out great, but I feel I’m making Italians grandmas the world over shudder in terror!

My next step might also be slightly controversial…..but just stick with me.  We weren’t going to eat the meatballs that night because once again in was much later than one should be making meatballs.  Third day simply had to be the charm for enjoying this meal so I decided I would toss the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker so everything would be ready to enjoy right after work.  Sounds fine, but I was suddenly overcome with fear that my glorious, raw meatballs would dissolve in the crockpot and leave me with a delicious meat sauce.  Meat sauce after I had ‘slaved away’ making meatballs wasn’t something I was willing to risk…..so I broiled my meatballs!

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IT WORKED GREAT!

Simply turn your broiler on Low and give your meatballs 8-10 minutes for form a nice crust.  Turn them every couple minutes to prevent burning and provide an even caramelization.

I put a thin layer of sauce down in the bottom of my crockpot, layered in my meatballs, and then tossed the whole thing back in the fridge.  The next morning I topped them with the remaining sauce and set them to cook on low while I went to work.  8 hours later I came home to delicious smells and a crockpot full of happy meatballs and a sauce that had slow cooked to thick, robust perfection.

Serve with your favorite noodles, or in my case spaghetti squash from the garden, and enjoy.  I added cheese, a hefty slice of garlic bread, and a class of wine.  Perfect easy dinner to come home to, and I promise it won’t take you 3 days to get there!

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Expanding Small Spaces

The Engineer and I have been on a bit of a home improvement kick.  Fitting two people’s stuff and design tastes into a single home isn’t always easy.  In an effort to make keep the house somewhat organized, and preserve my own sanity, we’ve really had to try and maximize all the storage opportunities in the house.  I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile, but it seemed like we just kept doing projects so I kept thinking I’d wait.  I think we finally wrapped up all the little projects, and several of the big projects are well on their way!

Our biggest summer project was expanding the patio!  The slab that was poured for my patio is only 6ft x 8ft.  Some of the units in my HOA have big, expansive patios….I guess that just wasn’t in the cards for my specific unit.  It was fine when it was just Scout and I at home, but even for just us it had always been small and crowded.  Then The Engineer came, and then we bought an umbrella, and then we got a big grill….and pretty soon we were sitting on top of each other trying just trying to spend time outside on the patio.

 

Lucky for our bank accounts, The Engineer can occasionally snag sample concrete mix color and finish pavers from his employer!  Plenty of precast buildings are grey, so we decided to extend the patio slab out with two rows of 1ft x 1ft pavers on each side.

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Such style he’s got that man of mine!

Honestly, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the landscaping rock out of the area.  In my brain I would just be able to scoop it right up with a shovel and move it to other areas of our landscaping that were a bit light on rock.  I’m not sure if you know this…..but rock doesn’t really shovel.  It turned out one of the sides was severely lacking in dirt, but a layer of pea gravel below the paver base brought it back up to grade.

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Actually placing the pavers was pretty easy.  Pour out and smooth a think layer of paving base and smash it down firmly.  They make a tool for this…..or just use your feet in heavy construction boots…..that’s the method we used!  After its smooshed down evenly, use a garden trowel to sprinkle down another thin layer of paver base.  Set your pavers down into the base and press or stand on them to settle them down into the base.  You might have to trial and error adding some base or maybe removing some to get everything level.  I think we did quite well for having never laid pavers before.  Everything seems level and graded to drain correctly….time will tell though, they may settle over the winter and we might have to adjust them in the Spring.

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So much space for activities….and a lurking pupper in the doorway!

Inside projects have been centered around keeping spaces organized, and keeping things from exploding out into the living room and dining room.  Single me was a chronic “toss wet laundry out onto stair railing and chair back to dry”.  It was always annoying to me, but somethings just don’t belong in the dryer so I just ignored the fact that I was annoying myself.  Cut to my laundry, The Engineer’s laundry, my hats, The Engineer’s hats and a shared closet and I was slowly loosing my mind at the general disheveled state.

Step one was a closet clean out!  Nothing will help you get rid of unwanted clothes faster than the feeling of not giving someone their fair share of the closest storage.  I still feel bad about this…..my crap still takes up way more than half of the closet space.  He tells me it’s fine, but I feel bad in spite of that. So, every month or so I go in and try and purge a few more items.  To further assist we build some strategic storage….a hat rack for the closet, and two drying racks for the laundry room.

I had previously bought one of those back of the door hat hangers….it was garbage.  The hats fell off all the time.  Matters were made worse by the fact that it made opening the closet door impossible.  The hats took up so much space behind the door, plus I already have scarf storage behind the door.  The whole thing was just a mess.  Some on sale hooks and a stained 1×4 later and we have easy, out of the way hat storage!  The rack we installed matches two very small hanging racks that were installed in the closet before I moved on.  No more falling down hats and no more me throwing tantrums cuz the hats are always all over the closet floor!!

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The closet isn’t well lit….but you get the idea.  A lot of things happening in a small space!

The hanging racks on the laundry room have honestly made a huge difference!  I can hang things, I can lay things on the rods, hook smaller items on the ends….it’s just such a space saver!  I did add a small dowel inside the hanging bar to help it hold up against the weight of all the wet clothes, but depending on the length you decide to use that might not be needed.

There is a large hanging bar installed under a large shelf on the opposite wall of the laundry.  I used to use that for all our shirts that needed to be hung to dry, however The Engineer’s gun safe has taken up a home under the hanging bar……so that sort of ruined that hanging spot.  There is still a bit of room above the safe….so all my bras get hung on hangers above the safe!  I’m sure it was always his goal to have a mid-sized collection of bras perpetually hanging above his gun safe!  🙂

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More stained 1×4 and just some cheap curtain rods…HANG ALL THE THINGS!

The garage is a whole different world of organizational nightmare.  There was a period of time when my 2 car…..very small for 2 cars but still technically can fit 2…..garage barely had room for my GMC Terrain.  There was just a giant horseshoe shaped ring of stuff around the edge and a section in the center that I could park in.  IT DROVE ME BATTY!  I’m a bit crazy about feeling organized I know, and I know that my weirdness about the issue drives The Engineer nuts sometimes.  I can be perfectly fine living in disorder and chaos….until one day when I’m not.  The house can be filthy for weeks and then one day I will just snap and start power cleaning like a wild Tasmanian devil…..

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Get outta my way I have shit to clean!

So…..we built a shelf….a really big 6ft x 3ft hanging shelf in the garage .  It made me feel better to get stuff up and off the ground.  We will have more shelves to put up and some reorganizing to do…..I would like if all my Christmas decor could be in one spot instead of scattered around on different shelving.  But, getting this stuff up and organized has made a huge difference.  I think that’s how you know you’re becoming old and lame…..when cleaning and organizing a garage becomes a major source of calm and happiness in your life.  Ughs

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JUST LOOK AT IT….IT’S AMAZING!

It’s so much stuff up and organized!  Do you even know whats up there?!  Well let me give you the run down…..

  • 24 duck decoys in bags….if you don’t hunt you might not know….but these are full sized ducks….24 DUCKS!
  • 2 tents
  • 2 sleeping bags
  • air mattress
  • 2 storage totes of our hunting clothes and camping supplies
  • 4 hunting bags and backpacks
  • other small hunting and camping accessories

Now imagine all of that strewn out all over a garage floor…total garbage!  It’s so pretty and organized…..AND I LOVE IT!  And would you look at that….more stained 1×4 with hooks!  We added easy storage for our hunting boots and his waders.  We also have hooks we can use for things when we use them more frequently.  For example, now that hunting seasons are kicking back into gear, the backpacks will get moved down onto the hooks so that we can access them without a step stool whenever we’d like to head out to the field.

I’m totally sitting here nerding out about how excited I am to have gotten all this organized.  Look at it this way….I’m so excited about getting organized that I felt the need to tell you all about it!!  It’s not like anything we’ve done to try and keep the house organized is crazy or a brand new idea.  Maybe it will show you that you don’t need to hire a professional organizer or spend a ton of time and money on supplies to get started organizing a space that’s a source of frustration for you.  Just pick an area you’d like to improve, break it into small pieces if need be, and then just go for it.  In our case it was just making the decision to get started and then making a trip to Menards for the supplies.  Just create a place for things to have a “home” in….hooks, shelves, cubbies….whatever fits your style or needs.  And don’t forget your new mantra…..ain’t nothing a 1×4 and some stain can’t remedy!

Taking Matters into Your Own Grinder

The Engineer and I are facing a slight crisis….our supply of ground elk and deer is dwindling dangerously low.  We have plenty of steaks and roasts, but our tubes of ground meat are quickly disappearing!

How are we supposed to make tacos without ground meat!?!

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Accurate depiction of The Engineer and I as I demand avocado on my tacos….except he is a crunchy taco and I am a soft taco!

Now I know that I could make steak tacos….pulled pork tacos…chicken tacos…fish tacos……

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ALL OF THE TACOS!

Trust me, we make tacos a ton and in a wide variety of flavors and styles.  However, some tacos require planning and forethought.  I’m not always the best at taking things out of the freezer to thaw in advance, but a pound of frozen solid ground meat is just easy to toss straight into a frying pan!  Basically, having a reliable stash of ground meat in my house is a requirement.

The Engineer bought me a grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aide for Christmas because I had grand visions of getting into sausage making.  I have yet to make a batch of sausage, and so the grinder had just been waiting patiently in a kitchen cabinet to be used for something delicious.  Last weekend we decided to test out the grinder and tackle our meat issue head on!

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First things first….thaw out a giant roast!  When The Engineer had his elk processed in Canada, it was cheaper to just get it cut into large roasts.  This makes total sense and is fine, except that the two of us don’t necessarily need to cook up a 4-5 pound roast for a nice dinner at home!  Also, don’t worry if the meat isn’t totally thawed.  The colder, even still slightly frozen, the better.  Also, if you’re going to add additional fat into your ground meat….that fat needs to be frozen!

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The little lurker quickly noticed that tasty meat scraps come out of the grinder after every round of processing….there is always a little morsel left in the auger!

 

The grinder worked great!  I had read some questionable reviews so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I had emotionally prepared to spend most of the day fighting and struggling to get the meat processed.  It was such a smooth process I wish we had thawed out more meat and we could have just done it all at once.  We ground the meat twice, once through the coarse blade, and a second time through the fine.  I’m not sure that a second grind is required if you’re just planning on tacos, chili, casseroles, and such with the meat, but it’s the typically recommended procedure.  Between the rounds of grinding I took apart the grinder and cleaned it out.  It had built up a little ring of tendon, fat, and meat right behind the grind plate, but it was easy to just clean out.  Also, once the flow of meat stops moving down the auger, a small chunk was left that couldn’t be pushed through the grind plate….no biggie and Scout really appreciated the snacks!

The only slight issue we had is that no store in town stocked the “Sausage Kit” with the filling nozzles.  Minor setback, and it worked pretty well to just hold the bags and let the ground meat sort of just fall into the bottom.  Actually, once the bags had some meat in them they sort of just sat themselves up.  Easy peasey lemon squeezey!

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4 beautiful little tubes of ground elk all ready for delicious things!

Now, if you’re looking for a tasty way to use up some ground meat….might I suggest Mexican Stuffed Peppers!

Ingredients:

  • Drizzle of olive oil (Only needed for wild game as it is super lean and sticks)
  • 1lb ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 can Original Rotel
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper…or to taste if your spice sensitive
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese, plus 2/3 cup additional for topping
  • 3 large bell peppers

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add meat and onion.  Cook over medium until the meat is fully cooked and the onion is soft.  Add the garlic, Rotel, rice, beans, and all spices to the skillet and mix to combine.  Turn heat off and allow to sit to cool and the flavors to meld for a couple minutes.  Divide peppers in half through the stem and remove all seeds.  Immediately before “stuffing”, stir 2/3 of cheese into the meat mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between all the peppers….don’t worry about being too neat.  They will be large and in charge!  Sprinkle the tops with the additional cheese, if desired, cover with foil, and bake at 370 for about 30-35 minutes.  I like a crispy, brown, cheesy crust so I uncovered them for an additional 5 minutes.  The cooking time will be reduced if you have smaller peppers, just cook until the peppers are soft and tender.

Serve immediately with any of your favorite taco toppings!  I did avocado….OF COURSE!…..and The Engineer likes his with taco sauce and sour cream.

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Tag Soup the Delicious Way……Vegetarian Blizzard Prepping

We’ve basically been sitting around all day waiting for the forecasted blizzard to start.  It was supposed to start early this afternoon and blanket us in snow until sometime tomorrow.  It’s now evening and the snow has yet to start.  Each hour that passes without snow drops my chance of getting an elusive adult snow day tomorrow!!  If you get me all hyped up for 10 inches of snow…..you really need to deliver the 10 inches of snow!

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I was digging back through my posted recipes hoping that I could just repost a link to tonight’s dinner, but I was shocked to discover I’ve never shared the recipe.  The Engineer loves soup, and nothing sounds better when the weather is due to turn crappy than a large pot of soup simmering away on the stove!  My minestrone recipe is fast, easy, and a perfect way to use up any random veggie odds and ends you might have laying around.  Honestly, anything goes so just load it up with whatever you have laying around in the crisper drawer!  I’ll list what I generally toss in, but the amounts vary by how much soup you want to make, how thick and chunky you want it, and how much of everything you have.  I like mine extra thick and loaded up….extra hardy and filling for those cold nights.

It’s extra perfect for us as January draws to a close.  I never had a chance to get back out in the field to fill my fall turkey tag.  Mostly it was a function of the weather swinging from unseasonably warm to mind numbingly cold.  Plus, the added research and learning that nearly impossible to get fall turkeys to come into calls…..they just aren’t that interesting.  I’m not giving up hope on my #operationthunderchicken, just taking a break to hit the range, train, and refocus before the spring season starts.  The whole state is open, and the tags aren’t issued by county which means I’ll be able to go hunting pretty much anywhere we can get permissions or find public land.  Those odds seem much better….and warmer!

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If you don’t fill your tags…..you can always at least make soup!

Minestrone

  • Onion — 1.5 onions, rough chopped
  • Baby Carrots — about 4 Cups, diced
  • Celery — 5 stalks, chopped
  • Garlic — 2-4 cloves, minced
  • Zucchini — 2 medium zucchinis, diced

Sauté with salt and pepper in a few good drizzles of olive oil until the onions start to soften and go translucent.

Add to the veggies…..

  • Red Wine —  anything you’d drink. Part of an old bottle you have open will work just fine, 1-2 Cups
  • Diced Tomatoes — 28oz can
  • Water — fill your tomato can up twice
  • Bouillon Base — I use “Better than Boullion”…..3 heaping tablespoons
  • Spaghetti Sauce — 40oz….doesn’t need to be exact.  That’s the size jar I can get at Costco, but just use your favorite kind.
  • Spices — Thyme, Oregano, and Basil….about a tablespoon each.  Two Bay Leaves and a small dash of Cayenne Pepper.

Let simmer until the carrots and celery are tender and cooked through.  If you’d rather not use jarred sauce feel free to use just tomatoes, you’ll just need to add more spices and cook it longer to get that home-y, slow cooked sorta taste.  Part of what makes this a fast minestrone is my little jarred sauce cheat step!  Also, if you have any stock laying around….chicken, veggie, or beef…..feel free to add that instead of the water and bullion.  Don’t be nervous if it seems too “soupy” at this stage.  It’s going to simmer for awhile and the next step will soak up some of the extra liquid.

10 minutes before serving time…..

  • Kidney Beans — 2 cans
  • Noodes —  Again, just use what you have laying around.  We had half a pound of rotini so that’s what I used tonight.  I’ve used elbows, small shells….honestly just toss in a couple handfuls of whatever you have

Serve….

  • Spinkle a little parmesan cheese on top
  • Bread for soaking up all the spicy, delicious broth

It’s vegetarian and would be easy to make vegan.  I love it because it’s veggies so you can pound down a couple bowls and not feel guilty at the end of dinner.  The Engineer loves it because it’s soup, and soup is always his jam, and because I let him pass off some of his zucchini chunks to me.  We are about as far from being vegetarian as your can get, but meat isn’t something you miss with this meal. A bowl of this, some warm, fresh baked bread, and some good red wine makes for a homey meal that will please even the most carnivorous of palates.

 

Winter Clean Up

It’s been a productive weekend here at Casa (Mis)Happenings!  We cleaned, we lounged, we played my new lego movie video game, we went to Costco…..typical weekend around here really!  Just so everyone knows…..I suck at video games, but I totally beat The Engineer at my new lego game!!  Don’t tell him I told you that though…. 🙂

It’s the end of an era as I parted ways with my faux leather, gold couch that Momma and Dad painted for first college apartment.  I bought it for $10 off a sidewalk sale, and they proceeded to put probably $50 worth of primer, paint, and metallic gold glaze on it!  We’ve had a good run, but there just wasn’t really room in the house for two couches.  Tomorrow after work it will be off to it’s new home and 3 new doggie loungers!  Hopefully it will keep the 3 doggies and their Momma as comfy as it kept me for several years!

Side note……apparently gold couches are a popular item on the Facebook Marketplace.  I had a ton of interested buyers….way more than I expected honestly.

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Gold, squishy, and puppy cuddle approved!

In order to sell the couch…I had to post pictures.  To get pictures….I had to clean 3 years worth of assorted stuff off of it.  It was occupying a prime spot upstairs in the loft, so it had become a storage bench of plenty of junk.  The biggest item was the curtains that I removed from the master bedroom when I repainted.  They had just been draped over the back of my poor couch for years.  So to start off the weekend, the couch got cleaned, and the curtains were hung in the spare bedroom upstairs!

They aren’t the best, but they aren’t the worst and fit nicely with the grey/blue theme I want to eventually do in the guest room.  I have really grand plans, but one thing at a time I suppose!

To cap off the weekend we cleaned the garage, moved the couch into the cleaned out section of the garage….couches and stairs….ughs…..and I started some new chalk painting projects!  I’ll be sure to share pictures when they are done.  It’s a bit cold out in the garage this time of year so I didn’t get past the initial painting phase.  They always look weird to me when they are just flat paint.  Needs some distressing and some waxing and they will be good to go!  Now it’s time for some homemade nachos, and Mexican mule, and a movie with The Engineer and Scout-a-Roo!

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Christmas Break Activities

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  I’ve obviously been slacking a little bit this week on getting a blog posted, but better late than never I suppose.  The Engineer and I travelled all around and had several different Christmas dinners and festivities with our families.  I’m thankful that we had good weather all weekend, but I’m also glad that we finally got a nice snow right before Christmas.  It wasn’t feeling very festive looking out the window at mostly dead grass….

It was my intention last week to write a last update about my holiday prepping, but I didn’t quite get it done.  I did quick whip up something fun and tasty last Friday morning though….MARSHMALLOWS!  I didn’t even get a picture taken of my project, and I intended to get one when I got home from our Christmas’s travels, but the marshmallows didn’t manage to make the trip back home from Nebraska!  I’ve never made a candy for Christmas, but this was actually easy to accomplish.  The worst part is that it’s a bit of a sugary mess, but yea know…..that’s what makes them delicious!  Thanks Alton Brown for the recipe inspiration!  Good science will never fail you in the kitchen!!  I just made plain, vanilla flavored shmallows, but based on your projected used feel free to jazz them up with other flavors.  I really don’t think you can go wrong with these at all….I’ll link the recipe below!

(Side note—-I just used my meat thermometer to cook the sugar and it worked fine, but PLEASE make sure your meat thermometer is capable of going to 240 Fahrenheit!!)

While I was busy working on Christmas craft projects for gifts it occurred to me that I haven’t crafted anything fun for myself in quite awhile.  That’s this week’s plan of attack. The Engineer and I both took the whole week between the holidays off so we’ve been lounging, running errands, and doing some odds and ends that we just never seem to have time to get done….including my crafts!

First up on the crafts to do list this week is a snuggle mat for my Scout-a-Roo girl!  If you don’t know what a snuffle mat is, it’s basically a strategic tangle of fleece that is excellent for hiding treats.  To assemble a snuffle mat for the treat hunter in your life you need 4 supplies.

  • Rubber sink mat with grid holes
  • About 2 yards of fleece…..doesn’t need to be exact or pretty….get the cheap stuff
  • Scissors
  • TIME

You’ll cut the fleece into strips and then loop them through the grid…..that’s really all there is to it!  Based on the current progress I’ve made, I project using about half of the sink mat.  I left my fleece folded, just like it comes off the fabric bolt, and cut approximately 1 inch strips from the fold end through both layers.  I then cut each folded strip into 4 equal-ish length pieces.  Precision isn’t a required trait for this. Fill the grid horizontally and then go back through and fill in the grid vertically.  This will create a nice little puff mat for your pup-a-roo to dig and snort around in after crunches or other small snackies.  The Engineer and I are curled up on the couch watching hunting videos….and I’m slowly working my way through my massive pile of fleece strips!!

My “Just for Me” craft this week is going to be a new scarf!  I found a pattern on Knit Collage, ordered myself some expensive, fun yarns, and I’m getting ready to whip myself up something cozy to start the New Year!  I’ll update you on that next week once I get it done, but I’m pretty excited about it honestly.  With the recent temperature dip into the negatives around here, you simply can not go wrong with a new fluffy scarf!

 

Stags and Scotch

What do you get when you mix a lazy Saturday morning, venison sausage, a hungry me, and my over ambitious ideas?!?!?!!  

Scotch Eggs!!

I had never attempted a scotch egg before, but I have pounds and pounds of breakfast sausage from The Engineer’s deer and eggs are a constant staple in the fridge.  It seemed like a perfectly reasonable breakfast idea!  So, Friday night I googled a quick explanation from Gordon Ramsey and decided that fancy British breakfast was just the thing we needed Saturday morning.  This is exactly the sort of thing that happens when I watch cooking shows.  If Gordon can do it….I obviously can do it!  If I can’t do it as well as Gordon, I can certainly do it better than his stupid contestants on Hell’s Kitchen….but that is a different matter entirely.

If you wanna take a stab at making your own scotch eggs, here’s what I used to make my jazzed up, cheesy version.  They turned out crispy and delicious, although they are a bit of work, so they aren’t going to become an every weekend activity anytime soon even though The Engineer really liked them…

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Ingredients

  • 5 eggs plus one for an egg wash
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage of your choice
  • Flour for dredging
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese
  • Any spices you like….get creative!!!
  • Olive oil for frying

First things first, you must boil the eggs.  Gordon recommend a 4 minute and 30 second dip into already boiling water.  I don’t love super runny eggs, so I opted for an almost 6 minute boil.  Apparently British eggs cook faster?!  My 6 minute eggs were still runnier than I would have liked, and it made them a bit hard to peel and wrap in sausage without breaking open and oozing yoke.  The Engineer likes runny eggs, and I don’t horribly mind them as long as I have plenty of stuff to wipe them up with so we made do.  Next time though….I’ll let them go a couple minutes more.  I was worried that cooking the sausage would cook the egg inside more, but I don’t think that is the case.  Be sure you just cook your eggs to as hard or soft of a boil as you’d like.

While your eggs are boiling it’s time to get creative with your meat!  Our sausage blend is a bit under-spiced so it takes some jazzing up.  If you have a better blend or are just feeling lazy feel free to leave your sausage as it comes.  There aren’t a lot of rules, so add what you’re feeling!  Gordon apparently adds blood sausage and shredded apple to his pork sausage base.  I added cheese!!  The Engineer loves cheese with his eggs and I figured this would be an easy place to add it……plus the following pyramid of spices

1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Tablespoon each of Garlic and Onion Powder

2 Tablespoons each of fresh, frozen Thyme and Oregano from my garden

Get everything in your sausage all mixed up, and be sure to get your breading stations set up.  I added some salt and pepper to the flour mixture and a splash of water to the egg so it whipped up nicely.

Once your eggs are cooked, cool them down with some cold water and commence the peeling.  I find that peeling the eggs under a little running water really helps the shells come off easier.  I had one egg not survive the peeling intact, so I did end up just frying some of the sausage as patties…..but that’s our little secret so don’t tell anyone!  The recipe would have made 5 scotch eggs otherwise!

To prep your eggs, squash a “large golfball sized handful” of meat into a very thin patty.  I get that that isn’t a super exact amount….but I guess you’re looking for 5 even sized balls.  Try and keep it as round and thin as you can.  Carefully place your peeled egg in the middle and warp the sausage around it.  A couple times I had to grab a bit more meat mixture to bridge any holes, just make sure to get everything covered in the sausage layer.  I found the rolling and forming them in my hands the way you’d make a snowball was the most effective, although don’t squeeze too hard because if you break your eggs, and you like them a little runny, you’ll end up with exploding yoke everywhere.  Not only will this mean that someone will get a mystery scotch egg with no yolk, but it’s also hard to get everything stuck together with all the yolk oozing around!

Gently roll your delicious meat ball in the seasoned flour….transfer to the egg wash….and then finally roll in breadcrumbs.  If you’re ball has gotten a bit amorphous or wonky by this point don’t worry…..just pick it up carefully and reform it in your hands.  According to Gordon it is helpful to press in the breadcrumbs anyway so don’t worry too much about it.  It’ll be a bit messy….but the good things in life are usually messy anyway.

Scotch eggs are traditionally deep fried, but I don’t have a fryer and I didn’t feel like using that much oil just to fry up 4 egg balls in a large skillet.  So….I broke with tradition slightly and just added a generous drizzle of olive oil to my largest, deepest skillet and let it get hot.  Once hot, carefully place in the scotch eggs and cook until brown and crispy!!!  They get oh so deliciously crispy…..must be the cheese at work!  Once they are cooked on one side, grab carefully with tongs and flip over.  Once the top and bottom were golden and delicious, I set them on their sides and slowly worked them around until they were perfectly cooked little brown orbs of goodness.  You might think that a hefty drizzle in the bottom of the pan won’t be enough oil, but remember that sausage will loose grease as it cooks….use that to your advantage!  The cheese and the fact that you aren’t actually deep frying them does cause them to stick to the pan a tiny bit, so just be gentle when you’re working with them.

Serve piping hot with your choice of breakfast sides and of course some coffee…..mimosas if you have them!  If you like your eggs runny you’ll probably want some toast to help soak up all the deliciousness.  They are a bit heavy….in a good “old school, stick to your ribs, keep you full for a long time” sorta way…so I’d steer clear of anything like pancakes or hash browns.  I eat a ton, but even I think that’s too much to take on.  Some fruit, maybe some tea, and pleasant thoughts of the English countryside should be more than enough to start your day off on the proper foot!

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Glorious lil scotch eggs and some apple butter toast!