Friday, February 26, 2010

eat. pray. love.

eat: Curried Coconut Chicken

pray: for unemployed friends who need jobs

love: this video showing a couple with love and spunk and teamwork after 62 years of marriage

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 7: Potato (Etc.) Chowder

I wasn't sure about including yesterday's lunch in my year of deer endeavor, because it kind of feels like cheating. It wasn't from scratch (I made soup from a mix) and threw in some venison sausage (which meant no actual cooking of venison was involved). However, as Travis pointed out, "We just ate venison, didn't we? Why wouldn't that count?" And so, here we are.
One of my favorite ways to throw together a quick, hearty meal is to doctor up a Beer Creek Soup Mix. For the meal in question I started with a 4-serving pouch of Creamy Potato, and added some frozen corn, green onions, carrots, and some diced venison summer sausage (from the 2 lb log we've been working our way through for several weeks now). The extra veggies made the soup heartier and a bit more nutritious. The venison sausage added an interesting salty component to the flavor mix. The final product was pretty tasty for a spontaneous "what can I find to throw in the pot?" meal.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 6: Venison Goulash

The recipe for this meal came from my sister-in-law, Jamie, who made the dish for us (albeit with beef) when we were over to their house for dinner a few weeks ago. Jamie is pregnant, and one of her strongest food cravings has been for tomatoes. With diced tomatoes, tomato juice, and ketchup, this recipe definitely hits the spot! If you're not pregnant, and just happen to love tomatoes (like me), it's still a very satisfying meal. I made it with a pound of ground venison and served it with cheddar chive biscuits.

The Ingredients: 

The Finished Product:

The Verdict: Delicious! I will definitely make this again, either with ground beef, venison, or turkey. The only downside is that I now have half a can of tomato juice left to use, and I have no idea what to do with it. Maybe I'll just have to make another batch and freeze it for later!

Bonus: For dessert we had the last two servings of the apple cranberry bread pudding I made Tuesday evening (isn't it BEAUTIFUL?!) as a way to use up the rest of the Hawaiian bread that had come to our SuperBowl party with spinach dip (which I meant to send home with Jon, but forgot - sorry Jamie!). This was my second bread pudding in recent months, and I think my appreciation for bread pudding is now rivaling my affinity for trifles. (It's a dessert duel! Which sweet will win!?!)

Valentine's Getaway, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways.

As are many of our shared activities, how we would spend Valentine's Day this year was a surprise (for me) and an event lovingly planned with great relish (for Travis). Going into it, all I *officially* knew was that we were going away for two nights, and that I should pack a couple casual outfits, a couple dressy outfits, and something warm for cross-country skiing. (Unofficially, I had a pretty strong hunch that we were headed to Galena for the weekend; at  dinner with friends a few weeks back, Galena came up in conversation and I noticed how Travis perked up, tuned in, asked questions, and offered opinions like someone VERY interested in the quaint little town).

1.  The private villa Travis reserved for us at Eagle Ridge Resort was the perfect setting for our romantic retreat. We had a one-bedroom town home all to ourselves. The first floor had a kitchen and dining area, living room with fireplace (where we enjoyed a fire each evening), and (hurray!) a washer and dryer. Now, some people might think that taking along several loads of laundry on a romantic weekend getaway is, well, pretty unromantic. However, my understanding husband knows that coming home to all of that laundry, with no time during the following week to get it done, would have stressed me out, and that I would find a great deal of satisfaction in getting it done (with machines all to myself, no less!) over the weekend. So, three baskets of dirty laundry came with us, and three baskets of clean clothes, towels, and underwear came home. Happy day. Upstairs was bedroom, along with a nice big bathroom and a tub with spa jets. Ahhhh...

2. The weekend included my first attempt at cross-country skiing. In general, I panic when an activity involves strapping things to my feet and moving with any degree of speed and any uncertainty of stopping (downhill skiing, ice skating, rollerblading, etc.). This was no exception, but I still really enjoyed myself, and being out there getting some good exercise with my husband was a gift. Yes, I screamed on a few of the downhill parts, and fell down several times (a few times on accident, more times as my only recourse for stopping my momentum), and still had sore muscles several days later, but overall I can honestly say that I had fun, and would do it again. 

3. Both Sunday and Monday afternoon were spent ambling up and down Galena's Main Street, popping in and out of all the different little shops and browsing the variety of wares. Highlights included a wine tasting at Galena Cellars (we decided on a bottle of their Bubbling Blanc for later that evening), admiring the unique jewelry and artistic presentation at Vintaj Earth, and four delectable pieces of gourmet chocolate from Chocolat.
4. Saturday evening we got "all dolled up" for our Valentine's dinner at Woodlands, the restaurant at the resort. I had salmon, while Travis enjoyed the prime rib buffet. Seeing the sheer happiness on his face as he surveyed (and proceeded to rapturously eat) the meat in front of him was precious. You say prime rib, I say chocolate mint truffle.
5. Cuddling while watching the season premier of The Amazing Race, which is still my hands-down favorite TV show.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 5: Black Bean Venison Chili

On Tuesday evenings Travis gets home late from counseling, so last night I seized the opportunity to make a recipe that called for 20 minutes of prep + 1 1/2 hours of cooking time. The recipe came from Bobby Flay, with a few modifications and adjustments by me.

The ingredients: 
 (Yes, that's a bottle of beer. And honey. And lime juice.
Three things I never thought I'd add to a pot of chili!)

The verdict: Travis LOVED it; he said that it rivals Creamy Chicken Apple Chili for his favorite kind of chili (which, if you knew how excited he gets about CCAC, would really tell you something). I liked it, too, and thought that the leftovers I had for lunch today tasted even better than what we had last night.

The chili has a very unique, complex flavor to it. You can definitely taste the beer. The achno chili powder is smoky and doesn't pack as much heat as I'd expected, so next time I might add as much as the recipe calls for (3 Tb) but will probably still leave out the chipotle pepper puree, as I prefer that chili not make my eyes water.
I baked up some corn muffins to go along with the chili. When I set the bowl on the table to take a photo, I thought I might as well include the flowers that Travis ordered to for our table at Kendall College's Dining Room, the scene of our date night dinner on Friday. They're gorgeous, aren't they? The card contains a haiku Travis wrote--he's the best!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Infrequently Asked Questions

Ever since I chose a new template for my blog, there've been those 4 links up there in the purple swatch. Except, until today, only the first (Home) was actually a link. The other 3 were simply a tease that went nowhere. Well, I'm out to change that, one at a time. This post shall be the linked-to page for the third one over. The person who created this template designed it to have an FAQ page. I've decided to instead post some IAQ - Infrequently Asked Questions (and their answers, naturally). Enjoy!
  1. What's your shoe size? Ten
  2. Worst moment in gym class? Hard to say, really. Maybe the day I accidentally punched my best friend in the face (we were paired up during a self-defense unit, and obviously had some miscommunication about there where the DynaStrike-punching-thingy was to be). Or perhaps the day in junior high when I got a mild concussion from getting clocked in the head with a basketball that *accidentally* came my way (after leaving the hands of a kid who'd given me grief in various forms since third grade). Or it could have been the entire 2-week rollerblading unit in high school: I was so bad the teacher sent me out into the hallway during class to hobble back and forth while holding onto the railing. 
  3. Personal achievemant you're most proud of? Losing 50 pounds in 2006 and then maintaining my weight ever since. 
  4. Best thing I ever ate? (Question inspired by the new show on Food Network) It's hard to answer this without a category to narrow it down (like they do on the show), but the one dish that makes me close my eyes and moan with delight every time would have to be the datiles con tocino (dates wrapped in bacon) from Cafe Ba Ba Reeba in Chicago.
  5. When did you get your ears pierced? I think the first holes were 4th grade. The second set came sometime during the latter half of high school. Finally, I got the stud in the cartilage of my left ear during my sophomore year of college. And I've slept on my right side ever since.
  6. When did you begin to develop your uncanny ability to screech like a monkey? In high school. I think I was at a badminton tournament the first time I tried it out. 
  7. What's your favorite fruit? Apples. They're so versatile! And they'd better be Gala. 
  8. What do you remember from calculus class? Absolutely nothing. Except how my teacher wore tapered leg jeans with brightly colored high heels, and wasn't fooling anyone about being a natural blond.
  9. What's in your pocket right now? Blistex Complete Moisture Lip Protectant. 
  10. Have you ever had the chicken pox? No.

A Year of Deer, Episode 4: Simple Cranberry Roast

Saturday evening was my first experience preparing venison for others: we had our friends Erin and Peter over for dinner and conversation. It was their first encounter with venison and my first attempt at a venison roast, so I was a little nervous. I shouldn't have worried, though, because (a) my slow cooker is my hero (aka, favorite kitchen appliance), (b) I used a recipe from Stephanie O'Dea, of the blog A Year of Slow Cooking and the cookbook Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, who has yet to steer me wrong, and (c) all of the venison we've had so far has been right tasty (and not at all gamey), so why should the roast have been any different?

Indeed, the roast was delicious, and preparing it couldn't have been easier. Here's how it went:

The Ingredients: 

About 3 lbs of venison roast, 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce, 1 medium onion (chopped), and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. 

The roast went into the crock first, then the onions, cranberry sauce, and soy sauce on top, as pictured here:

Eight hours later (the recipe calls for 7-9 hours on low, or 5-6 on high), I had a tender, flavorful, beautiful roast to present as dinner (with great relief). I served it with some apple-walnut wild rice and Balsamic Glazed Carrots. After we'd started eating I suddenly remembered I needed a pic of the finished product! Here's my plate and then Travis with our good-looking guests.
The Verdict: This recipe is so easy, and the result so tasty, that it's going in the "Keeper" file, not just for venison but beef, too. Mom, if you're reading this, try this one - I think you and Dad will really like it!