New Protein

Duck season is upon us!!

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A successful harvest so far this season means that I’ve had a fun chance to do something new with a protein I’ve never used.  I’ve had restaurant duck plenty of times, and it’s always been delicious.  But wild duck is a whole different animal, and it really puts a whole new spin on it when you can take something all the way from harvest to plate.

In addition to eating we also have some wings stashed in the freezer for a taxidermy/biology lab style display I want to do for the upstairs loft.  I’m thinking something along the lines of displaying the wings with little tags and their Latin names.  It’s a nice way to blend hunting with science in a stylized way, and it will feature the prettiest part of the birds….in my opinion.  Using as much of what we bring home as possible is something I really put a lot of focus on, The Engineer might say too much focus….but he usually goes along with my ideas! 🙂

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The most shocking part of duck season so far is how strongly Madam Roo has taken to the whole situation.  My usual timid, perpetually nervous girl has taken to charging right through The Engineer when he arrives home that she can go investigate what he’s brought home every morning.  Poor guy just wants to say hello to her, and she can’t even be bothered until she’s accessed the daily harvest.

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I’ve shared this already on Instagram, but it’s just too good and too cute!
“The Stay at Home, Delicate Duck Hunter”

I have grand cooking plans for all sorts of wild game, so I tend to get a bit bossy with home the birds should be cleaned.  Sadly, it’s been a bit too early in the season to pluck a bird for roasting.  They have all been about halfway between their summer feathers and having their dense winter, downy feathers grow in.  This has just led to a mess of plucking, so sadly I haven’t had a bird yet for roasting with my canned apple chutney.  That will come with time I’m sure, but I am antsy to try that and let you know how it goes!

While we patiently wait for the birds to fully plume for winter, and hopefully cleaner plucking, we’ve been breasting out the birds.  I tend to be a bit more skilled than The Engineer in that capacity, so bird cleaning as really become a whole family affair.  We usually try and keep Scout in the house while the knives are flying, but she’s taken to crying like she’s being beaten if we are out with the ducks without her, so we usually cave about halfway through.

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Ummm excuse me iz trying to investigate pleez!

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Pleez do not mind while I investigate these ducks pleez….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My very first adventure into cooking duck was Spicy Thai Duck Burgers curtesy of From Field to Plate.  I’ve used other From Field to Plate recipes before, and I’ve always had really great results.  I really can’t say enough good things about his lime and tequila turkey marinade!  The burgers were alright, but I would defiantly tweak the spices and flavors next time we make them.

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I think I’m just not a huge fan of cinnamon paired with meats.  I know that it’s a normal flavor profile in some Eastern cuisines, but it’s just not my favorite flavor.  Also, I didn’t find it all that spicy, and even The Engineer thought it was too mild.  I will say I did half the jalapeño in the slaw, but usually a single jalapeño is all The Engineer can tolerate spice wise.  It’s so hard to know especially because every pepper is a little different, but it could have used way more oomph.

I would definitely remove the cinnamon and amp up the spice for round two.  Also, I don’t like peanut sauce and it was a Wednesday night, and I was feeling lazy…..so I cheated and bought some peanut sauce for The Engineer.  The From Field to Plate homemade version is probably much better.  If you’re into peanut sauce and give it a try let me know!

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High on list of things you don’t want in your burger patty…..

This week we were a bit crunched for time, so instead of trying a new recipe we went to an old fall back.  Friday night duck taco and nacho night with margaritas was exactly what this week called for!  Just treat it exactly the way you’d use regular ground beef, and no one will even know you’re sneaking waterfowl into the dinner rotation!

I do a bit feel like I’m not really using the ducks to their full flavor potential, and it’s making me a little bummed.  I’m not really in love with the texture of ground duck….it’s a bit soft.  More on the side of ground turkey or chicken then say ground beef or deer.  It defiantly goes better, in my opinion, with something crunchy….slaw or tortilla chips.  But, at the end of the day, it’s all getting gobbled up and that’s really what counts.

Meals do really mean more when you know the time and sacrifice that have been put in to make them happen.  So many people have moved so far away from knowing where their food comes from.  Nothing that arrives on your table arrives by magic, and I’m glad that in this house we are active participants in at least some of the meals that arrive on the dining room table.

Bonus points for not having any shot end up in the taco meat!  I’ll take that as my major victory for the week!!

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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Life’s a Garden…Eat It!

It’s that time of year again….time to plant some delicious veggies, water daily, and wait for the magic to happen!  This year was a much more enjoyable planting season since we didn’t have to dig out and dispose of sod first!  Plus, it’s much easier to break up soil that’s been tilled once already.

I decided that last year’s layout wasn’t a great use of space.  It just felt like we had a ton of open dirt.  I know you aren’t supposed to crowd plants, but I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from.  Doesn’t get much fresher than the backyard!  A little reorganization was due this year to really optimize our veggie producing potential.  Last year we grew-

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans
  • 1 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Pants — Indigo Rose Variety
  • 3 Pepper Plants — 2 Banana Peppers, Cajun Bell
  • 3 Kohlrabi
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil, Thyme, and Oregano
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix and Kale (Kept at an anti bunny nibbling height)

This year we have planted

  • 3 Spaghetti Squash Plants
  • 2 Rows of Green Beans (They are being eaten alive by bugs, we might not get beans)
  • 2 Full Sized Tomato Plants — Cherokee Purple and Siberian Prince
  • 2 Cherry Tomato Plants — Chocolate Sprinkle and Yellow Cherry
  • 2 Rows of Snap Peas
  • 4 Kohlrabi
  • 3 Peppers — Orange Bell, Giant Marconi, and Anaheim
  • A smattering of White Onions (In the direct sight line of the bunnies, so fingers crossed)
  • 2 Patio Pots of Herbs — Basil Blend, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro
  • 1 Patio Pot of Lettuce Mix, Kale, and Arugula (Still at an anti-bunny height!)

We did do some rotating, tomatoes down to the side with the sprinkler system leak since they enjoy lots of water, and beans and peas over to the dryer side of the garden.  The only veggie that didn’t move locations are the squash.  Since the mowing is hired out by my HOA, if the squash head towards the rocks I can keep them from getting mowed to death by the high school boys the lawn company hires.

 

SO MANY PLANTS!

Ugh….I’m just so excited!  Also feeling slightly antsy.  I would really like to be able to walk out to the garden and pick fresh tomatoes and herbs for a caprese salad, but alas….we aren’t there yet.  The herbs have started growing enough that we can pluck some, so in the meantime we will just have to settle for store bought tomatoes to go with our fresh basil, thyme, and oregano.  In addition to the classic Italian trio, we also decided to try some Cilantro.  We make a ton of tacos and salsas, so it seemed like it would be a good addition to our fresh herb collection.  Our cilantro has since grown into a small tree…..so yesterday I decided to chop it off and whip up some taco deliciousness!  So good and so easy….which was ideal cuz I had furniture to refinish and naps to take yesterday!  Something about a cool breeze coming through the window just makes me wanna curl under a blanket and nap on the couch….so that’s what I did!  But, I’ll put my flung together recipe below….just in time for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!

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Lime and Cilantro Pork Tacos

  • 1 lb Pork Roast
  • 1 Medium Onion, Sliced Thin
  • 1 Bottle Corona
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder and Cumin
  • 0.5-1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (Spice to what you like!)
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • Zest of 1 Lime
  • Juice of 2 Limes
  • Salt and Pepper

Create a bed on the bottom of your crock pot with the onion slices, add the pork, and then top with the spices, zest, juice, and beer.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  I flipped mine halfway through so the top half could get some loving, but only because I happened to be home….otherwise just let it go all day.

Shred and get ready to enjoy!  I like my tacos with some fresh onion, fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, and maybe another little squeeze of lime!  I will caution….these are saucy!  Next time I whip these up I might toss the meat into a skillet and cook it a little bit to try and thicken the sauce and crisp up the edges of the meat.  However, I will say, these are totally delicious right outta the crock pot, just make sure you eat over a plate!

Also, I grabbed myself a new iPhone 8 this weekend, so hopefully these pictures are looking premium!

 

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.

 

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!

 

Paint and Pie

IT’S FINALLY FALL!

It seemed like cooler, sweater weather would never arrive, but I guess good things come to those who are patient!  With the changing of the seasons comes my deep burning desire to spend time cleaning, organizing, and crafting in my garage.  Things that have been laying around all summer I suddenly have a burning need to organize.

The first craft of the fall was trying out chalk paint on some metal decor.  A few months ago I purchased a metal candle holder from Hobby Lobby.  While I do like the original color of the candle holder, it wasn’t really the right shade of blue for my house.  What better to do than throw some chalk paint on it and see what happens?!

Overall, I would say the mini project went well.  The only thing I would change was maybe the amount of distressing I did before I waxed the piece.  The paint chips off rather easy, so in buffing in the dark wax, several extra chunks of paint went flying off.  I’m not sure that in this case the candle holder could be “over” distressed, and since I didn’t have a specific outcome in mind….all is good in the chalk painting hood!  If you were going for a lighter distressed look, I might actually skip the initial distressing step.  Apply your wax, and then if you feel like you need a little extra maybe distress with sandpaper as a final step.

Another glorious part of the shift in the weather is a change in nightly meal choices!  I’m not one of those people who can eat soup and casseroles with its 100 degrees outside, so as the temperatures have been cooling I’ve been ramping up the oven!  Last night I tried out a new recipe…..shepherd’s pie!  I had never had a shepherd’s pie before, but The Engineer has had them and was having a craving.  Coupled with the fact that we watched Gordon Ramsey make some on Kitchen Nightmare meant that I needed to try my hand.  All in all, I think it turned out pretty well!  Used up a bunch of leftover veggies, and anything with cheesy mashed potatoes is a good life decision!!

Shepherd’s Pie

  • 2 pounds ground meat
  • Onion, chopped
  • 3 large handfuls of baby carrots, chopped
  • 5-6 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1ish glass of red wine
  • 6 Tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-12oz can of tomato paste
  • 3 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6-12 oz of water
  • 3 Tbs thyme
  • 1/2 12oz bag of frozen corn
  • 1/2 12oz bag of frozen green beans
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 pounds of potatoes, peeled
  • 5 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk

While I do understand that this isn’t a traditional shepherd’s pie as it doesn’t contain lamb, I’m pretty confident that this recipe would work with any red meat.  The most important quality of the meat, according to Gordon, is that it’s well drained and free of grease.  Elk, for all intensive purposes, is basically grease free and I have a freezer full of it now, so that’s what I used.  If using any wild game meat, remember that you will probably need to add some olive oil to your pan before adding in the meat.  Brown the meat and toss in all the fresh veggies, onion, and the garlic.  Continue cooking until you’re sure the meat is completely cooked, and the onions have gone slightly translucent.

Dump in the worcestershire, tomato paste, wine, bouillon and water.  You could also use any stock you have laying around the house, I just had the cubes to use.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and the thyme.  I used several fresh sprigs from my garden, but dried would also work just fine.

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When you use fresh herbs and your fancy starts showing!

Simmer your meat mixture until the carrots and celery become tender and the mixture thickens….about 45 mins.  Stir often so that the bottom of the mixture doesn’t scorch to the pan.  While that’s simmering, rough cube the potatoes and add them to a pan and boil until fork tender.  Drain and add to a mixing bowl with the butter, cheese, and milk. Basically, just make mashed potatoes the way you always would….only with the addition of cheese.  Maybe you make them with cheese all the time…..I don’t, so that was a little upgrade!

Add your frozen veggies and just let them warm up a couple minutes.  Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking pan.  The entire mixture didn’t all fit in my pan, in hindsight it would have, but I made a small, additional baking dish and threw it into the freezer for later.  Top the mixture with the mashed potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  If the top isn’t as brown as you’d like, turn the broiler on and babysit your pie carefully until the desired level of golden brown is achieved.  Dish up and enjoy your meat, potatoes, and veggies!!

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I raked my potatoes with a fork before baking and topped them with extra black pepper because it’s The Engineer’s favorite!

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PIE!

Slicing and Dicing the Blues

I like cooking.  I might even love cooking, but it’s sometimes a hard thing to wrangle when you’re single.  Yes, I could come home from work every night and whip myself up something yummy, and yes I would probably be happier for it in the long run.  But, a single person doesn’t need to have a fridge that’s over flowing with food all the time.  This is why I’ve rather come to enjoy hosting parties and holidays at my house.  It gives me the ability to go to town in the kitchen without having to deal with all the fruits of my labor.

In an attempt to combat the huge quantities of food I sometimes manage to create, but mostly because Lil Sis had a 50% off coupon….I decided to give Blue Apron a whirl.  If you aren’t familiar, they are a food delivery company where you select the meals you’d like every week and they ship all the ingredients to you in a single box.

 

I HATED IT!

Okay, hate is maybe a strong way to put it….but I didn’t really enjoy the process or understand the point.  Yes, it was nice that they shipped only two portions of each meal, yes it was nice to try some new recipes with spices you wouldn’t normally purchase, yes all the meals are sent with very specific instructions to assist even the worst at home chefs, but overall the meals weren’t all that great and the whole process left quite a bit to be desired.

The way I see it, part of the cooking process is going to the store and picking ingredients.  I know that Blue Apron is shipping out thousands and thousands of boxes each week so they don’t have time or the ability to pick through all the veggies and check everything, but that’s the perk of being able to go pick your own.  I received wilted green beans, zucchini with a big, mushy portion, and herbs that were looking slightly past their peak.

Speaking of herbs, I love using fresh herbs, garlic, and ginger….but all are much more convenient to purchase in pre-minced varieties.  I might love to cook, but I don’t enjoy mincing garlic and peeling ginger.  Although, there is something satisfying about whacking cloves with your knife for easier peeling…….I’m not sure that people who aren’t familiar with cooking often would have an easy or quick time of making up any of these recipes.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we…..Week 1 meals

 

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I’m not sure that my salmon really ended up crispy….although I mean a filet of salmon is always delicious.  The major issue I had with this dish was the orzo salad.  Now….I generally like everything that went into the salad:

  • Orzo
  • Green Beans….which arrived wilted and sad 😦
  • Garlic
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Lemon
  • Sour Cream

However, as you’ll notice, my salad ended up much…creamier….than the salad they have pictured.  The first few bites of the salad seemed okay, but the longer it sat the worse and worse it got.  I actually didn’t even eat the second portion of the salad.  I’m not sure if something happened to the sour cream during shipping….or if the addition of the lemon juice caused it it curdle….I just know it became essentially inedible.  Needless to say, I wasn’t off to a great start.

 

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These tacos….specifically the spices used on the meat…where quite tasty.  Sour cream was included to top the tacos, and I skipped it to avoid the same disaster as the first meal.  I might make a variation of these in the crock pot sometime using like a pork roast instead of the sausage.  The sausage was a bit greasy…as sausage is, but I think a pulled pork style taco would be delicious!  Also, the quick slaw was easy and had good flavor.  Overall, this wasn’t a bad recipe which could be improved on and added to my standard rotation of cooking.

 

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A perfectly fine dish.  Wasn’t amazing….wasn’t bad….could have probably used more spice and zip, but I used all the ancho chile powder that had been shipped.  Again, I’m not sure that getting corn off of the cob is something that everyone knows how to accomplish….so I’m not sure that “Cut the corn kernels off the cob; discard the cob” is really going to be enough of an instruction for anyone trying to use Blue Apron to learn how to cook at home.  Even for those of us who know how to accomplish the task….it’s messy!  Again, I made the lime crema…..but didn’t use it on the dish.  I might whip this up again, I might not……but it’s good to have recipe options laying around for when you need to spice up the routine.

I didn’t mean to receive an additional week of meals…especially at full price….which is quite a price honestly, $60!!  

But, I didn’t get it cancelled in time, so….on to Week 2 meals!

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I don’t love mushrooms…..I don’t mind the flavor, it’s the texture that really gets to me.  A bit like eating rubber bands if I’m honest.  Luckily, the large slices were easy to pick out and around.  Again, this was a nice little dish that I might try again, maybe using a different style of noodle.  The main perk I got from Blue Apron was the ability to try spices like togarashi without having to commit to buying a huge quantity of it.  We’ve all done that…..found a recipe that sounds good and bought a dozen random ingredients only to discover that we hate it.  Then the spices just sit around, and we know we will probably never use again.  The quick pickles were crunchy and well spiced.  I’m also a huge fan of cooked celery and radishes, so that didn’t hurt this recipe at all either!

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Sorry for the less than fancy picture…I made this late one night and just split it into portions for lunches.  It’s just a fancy version of breaded, fried chicken and a warm potato salad.  This potato salad I might make again.  Actually, these were the first brussels sprouts I think I’d ever had!!  Again, it had celery which I do really enjoy.

Much like the blackened chicken with corn salsa…..it was good, not great.  I will probably keep it around just to add some variety to my life.  I was briefly debating adding this potato salad to my Thanksgiving spread, but I’m not hosting this year due to some family shuffling around.

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My cousin and I made these sandwiches as part of our booze and crafting weekend.  The idea of a turnip sandwich was good, but I’m not sure they worked out all that well.  Again, we skipped the crema, because by now I’ve just realized there’s something always a bit off with the creams they send.  Therefore, there was no goo keeping the sandwiches together, so when we flipped them in the pan everything just sorta exploded out.  The slaw was basically just dressed in oil and lime juice.  It was light and fresh, but there wasn’t much to it.  We both ended up adding some shredded cheese onto the sandwiches which added the creamy, gooey-ness we both thought they were missing.  I’m not sure I’d make these again, but if I saw it on a menu I might order it.  It was sorta a bland ending to what was a disappointing food weekend of crafting, bitching, and booze with my cousin!

The other thing I find particularly annoying about Blue Apron is the inability to select any 3 of the 6 meals that they offer each week.  There are usually 3 meat options and 3 vegetarian options.  However, you can’t mix and match any of the recipes, which as someone who eats both vegetarian and non vegetarian food, I find annoying.

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The two combinations you can’t see are Beef and Potato Latkes and Harissa Chicken Skewers.  I just find it annoying the I couldn’t have latkes and burgers.  I’m not sure why that is.  There is actually an option to select that you eat strictly vegetarian and then I’m sure they adjust the given recipes accordingly.  Frankly, any omnivore, the meal plan I selected, who wants to try a veggie burger isn’t going to care if the veggies get shipped along with the meat to make the latkes.

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Heaven forbid you would want to have spicy shrimp linguine and squash curry in the same week!!!  

It’s just stupid little things like this that annoy me, but when the options are either paying $60 a week to have limited options, or going to the store, probably spending less money, and being able to eat anything in any combination that I want…..the answer seems pretty clear to me.  It’s especially easy because the major grocery store here now offers online shopping.  You can either schedule a time to go collect your preselected food from the store, or they also offer delivery options which can be free if your total bill is large enough.  I don’t use these services as I don’t at all mind grocery shopping and I have plenty of time to be doing it, but they are offered and basically serve as a DIY Blue Apron for those who use them.