Monday, May 17, 2010

Treasure Hunt

Yesterday morning Travis and I were awakened at quarter to six by a brusque knock on the door of the guest bedroom at my sister-in-law's house. It was his dad, telling us it was time to get up and get ready to hit the road. What warranted such an early start? The Elkhorn Antique Flea Market in Elkhorn, WI. My in-laws came into town for the weekend ostensibly to visit their kids, but really to be closer to the big event in WI on Sunday. My in-laws are big into antiques and invited Travis and I to come along. It was my first antique show, whereas as a kid, Travis was compelled to attend countless of these events with his parents, whether he liked it or not (he didn't). Time changes you, though, and having a wife and a home gave him a new perspective.

What helped us both enjoy ourselves yesterday was that we were on the hunt for a specific kind of treasure. Since settling in Oak Park, we've had the idea that we'd really like to hang a stained glass window pane in our home as art. Oak Park and Forest Park have their share of antique shops, but the windows we found were rather pricey, and none of the designs "spoke to us" loudly enough to warrant shelling out that kind of cash. An Elkhorn veteran herself, Travis' sister assured me that if we were going to find a window we loved at a more reasonable price, the Elkhorn Market was the place to find it.

After wandering through what felt like an endless maze of booths and displays spread out all over the fair grounds, and seeing many different stained glass windows of various colors, designs, and prices, we found the one that "spoke to us." It said something like, "Well now, would you look at me? Ever seen anything so fine? Check out my colors, my framing. I'm even ready to hang! Hold me up to the light and see the sun shine through. Wouldn't I look great in your living room? Take me home!" We listened to the compelling pitch, considered her superior beauty and finishing, and conferred amongst ourselves. Then Travis bartered, we made the purchase, and brought her home. Here she is in her new environs, followed by a close up so you can appreciate our treasure in detail.

The other thing that helped us enjoy ourselves? Fair food. BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, roasted corn on the cob, cheese curds, and bakery-fresh cream puffs and eclairs. Yum.

(What does it say about me that I carried my camera around an interesting venue for over 6 hours, and the only thing I felt compelled to photograph was the pastries?!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Year of Deer, Episode 16: BBQ Venison Chili

With all that ground venison in my freezer, it was about time to make another batch of chili. This time I modified a recipe from a Weight Watchers slow-cooker cookbook I've got on loan from Allison.

The Ingredients:
1 lb ground venison (if you lack deer, you can use lean ground beef instead, of course)
1 orange pepper, diced (use any color pepper you like; I like orange)
1 onion, diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 in chunks
4 cloves minced garlic
2 cups beef broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (29 oz) can pinto beans, drained & rinsed (next time I might try kidney or half & half)
3/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 Tb ancho chile pepper powder
3-4 Tb cilantro, chopped
Shredded cheddar or co-jack cheese, for topping

The Directions: 
  1. Brown meat in skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up with utensil, until no longer pink. Put meat into the crock of a 5-6 qt slow cooker. 
  2. Add pepper, onion, squash, and garlic to crock. Give everything a good stir. 
  3. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, BBQ sauce, and chile powder to crock. Give it another good stir.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or 4-5 hours on high.
  5. Just before serving, stir in cilantro. Ladle into bowls and serve with shredded cheese for topping.
The Verdict: Another winner! Both hubby and I really liked this chili. An interesting set of ingredients (for a chili, anyway) resulted in great flavor and an amazing aroma. Now that I'm working from home (in a room directly off the kitchen, no less), I've got all day to enjoy (and at intervals, be driven to salivating by) the smell of whatever's simmering away in the crockpot. I sent leftovers to work with Travis today, and he just reported to me by phone that when he heated it up for lunch it he was the envy of the cafeteria. Travis said I could make it spicier next time, which I'll consider.