Thursday, March 03, 2016

Venison Kofta with flatbread

I come from a family of hunters.  Hunting has always been an integral part of my life.  I grew up on a pheasant hunting preserve and there was a time during my childhood that I often woke up to the sound of bird shot tinging off of the roof above my bed.

When my husband and I started dating at the tender age of 16, hunting was completely foreign to him.  My father and my brothers slowly started to introduce him to the sport and educate him on all aspects of hunting small and large game.  Eventually they took him on hunting trips and my husband found that he really enjoyed hunting.

Now that our son is growing up, my husband has started to take him along on hunting trips to my parents' farm in Michigan.  This past fall the two of them were each successful and filled the freezer with so much venison that even I had to take a moment.

I grew up eating venison, but we ate it occasionally and in only a couple of tried and true preparations.  There was the swiss steak version, the peppers and onion version, the chili version, and  maybe two others.  I can't say I ever loved venison, but I wasn't opposed to it either.

After looking down into that freezer full of venison, I decided that I would try to challenge myself even more than I have in the past to come up with better ways to prepare it.  I have made many versions of middle eastern style meatballs over the years, and though they are all good, this time I wanted to make them with 100% venison.  No mixing or enhancing it with other meats almost entirely because I have so much ground venison and just a little bit because I did not want to venture out to the grocery store after getting home from work.

Instead of adding breadcrumbs or fats of some sort, in a moment of fleeting genius, I added in bulgur.   It worked and this will now be my go-to method.  Each (of the many!) components came together to make a delicious bite and the sweet and sour muhammara sauce worked really well with the tahini yogurt sauce.  Everyone loved this and requested that I make it again very soon.

Kofta with Yogurt Sauce Pita Sandwich

2 pounds ground venison (beef, lamb, or a combo of meats would work well here)
1/4 cup grated onion
4 cloves garlic, grated
2+ Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
a handful of flat parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dry #1 bulgur (soak in 1/2 cup water)

Use a fork to thoroughly combine all ingredients in a large bowl.   Shape into 36 large-ish meatballs.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24.  Bake in a 400 degree oven until cooked through.  (Depending on size of meatballs it should take 10-15 minutes.)

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove grated garlic (optional)

Combine ingredients together, whisk until smooth.

Muhammara Sauce
1 roasted red pepper, peeled and seeded  (I grill it or broil it until blistered and blackened all over and then place in a paper bag for 10 minutes before peeling.)
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

Blend the red pepper, water, and molasses in a blender until chopped into smallish bits.  Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced and slightly thick.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Mix in chopped parsley.

Grilled Onions
1 large onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot.  Add sliced onions, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium to medium-low heat until tender and sweet, about 20 minutes.

recipe here

Pocketless Pita Bread
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/5-4 cups flour

Combine first 5 ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.  Let set 5 minutes.  Add salt and 3 cups flour.  Mix on medium low speed, scraping down the sides until all of the flour is incorporated.  Add additional flour, a few spoonfuls at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a soft dough.  Knead 4-5 minutes.  Remove dough, form it into a ball, and place in a large greased bowl.   Place in a warm spot (I heat the oven to 200 degrees for a minute or two and shut it off) for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Shape into 8 equal portions.  Roll out into thin flat discs about 7-8 inches in diameter.  Preheat and lightly oil a griddle to medium low heat.  Cook until lightly browned on both sides.  Remove and wrap in a clean dish towel.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle is about as fun as it gets when making candy  The ingredient list couldn't be more straightforward, but cooking it is like conducting a science experiment.  The sugar syrup erupts like a volcano when the baking soda is introduced and it is quite impressive, albeit a bit scary at the same time.  Kids also enjoy the last step of cracking the huge sheet of candy into bits and pieces.

Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups raw peanuts
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar, water, and corn syrup to a boil in a large pot.  Place a candy thermometer in the sugar, be sure it is not touching the bottom of the pan.  When the mixture reaches about 230°F, also known as soft ball stage, add the peanuts.  Continue boiling until the mixture reaches 310°F, at which point it is called hard crack.
Remove the mixture from heat and add the butter, baking soda, and vanilla all at once.  Be careful as the mixture will erupt and boil rapidly for a few seconds.  Mix well and spread on a buttered pan to cool.  Once the mixture has cooled completely break it into pieces.

*Be sure to monitor the temperature carefully and do not let it exceed 310°F or it will quickly burn.

(Excerpt from Cooking on the Farm)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Basil Parmesan Mayo

This tasty basil Parmesan mayo goes well with beef as well as most poultry.  I recently served it with a beef tenderloin and it was the perfect accompaniment.  My son liked it so much he smeared it on his dinner roll and ate it up.
A couple of days later I made paninis with leftover chicken and the leftover mayo I had in the fridge and it was terrific.  I plan on making this again in the coming week to have on hand to make quick grilled turkey sandwiches or paninis with our Thanksgiving leftovers.

Basil Parmesan Mayo

1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 handful (about 1/4 cup) basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 - 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil

Using a mini food processor or stick blender with processor attachment, blend together the egg yolk, lemon juice, cheese, mustard, basil, garlic, and 2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper.  Mixture should be smooth.  Slowly blend in oil a few tablespoons at a time until mixture emulsifies.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Za'atar and Egg Pizzette

These easy pizzettes were a nice departure from our run of the mill cheese pizzas.  Since I love a breakfast of pita bread and over easy eggs with a bit of za'atar sprinkled on them, this combination was a no-brainer.  I enjoyed this for a late lunch, but it would be great any time of day.  Give it a try!

Za'atar and Egg Pizzette

Pizza dough - see recipe here, or use your favorite recipe
1/2 cup za'atar spice mix
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 500°F.  Once your pizza dough has risen, cut off a handful of dough and set on a flour surface.  Use your hands to flatten the dough into a rustic circle shape and then transfer to a pizza pan.  I a small bowl mix a few tablespoons of za'atar with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Mix until a thick paste-like mixture forms.  Spread a few spoonfuls over the pizza dough.  Gently crack an egg over the center of the pizza.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until egg is set and crust is light brown.  Remove and let rest 5 minutes.

You can easily make breadsticks with any remaining dough by placing on a small pan.  Lightly pat out into a 1 inch thick rectangle.  Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and generously dust with grated Parmesan cheese and a little salt.  Cut into 1 inch sticks.  Bake until lightly browned and then brush with melted butter.   Serve with warm marinara dipping sauce.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cooking on the Farm

Now Available!
Cooking on the Farm is a cookbook/memoir that contains over 80 family recipes and nearly a dozen stories from my childhood at The Rooster Ranch Hunt Club in the Thumb of Michigan.  It contains over 50 color and 60 black and white photographs.  It is a book for home cooks as well as hunting enthusiasts.  Many of the recipes are geared towards wild game, such as pheasant and venison, but easily adapted to more conventional proteins.
Signed copies are available now.  Use the paypal button on the sidebar or buy through amazon here.
If you have questions, contact me here: 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

Last week my husband was in charge of dinner.  He made a menu for the week, grocery shopped, and made dinner and lunches for 6 straight days.  This is something that has never happened in our 11+ years of marriage.  Like most men, he is in charge of the grill and clueless about pretty much everything else that happens in our kitchen.  He doesn't mind slapping some steaks on the grill when I have the meat prepped and ready to go.  Heck, I normally even have the tongs and a clean plate for the finished product, so he really doesn't have to do much of anything.  So, I will admit, it was fun to watch him squirm throughout the week.

The final meal of the week on his schedule was chicken, mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies.  I was happy with that plan since our prior meals consisted of the saddest looking nachos anyone has ever seen, burgers, scrambled eggs and carrots?, chicken fingers, and spaghetti.  It was a sad food week, and we quickly learned that my husband has a hard time judging how much food to make (way too little) and he almost always forgets to season, so I was hopeful that he had improved throughout the week and I was looking forward to the grilled chicken that night.

Well, sadly, the chicken was so overcooked that it felt a bit leathery and the mashed potatoes were dry and lumpy.  However, the steamed broccoli and cauliflower saved the meal since they were spot on.  We had a good laugh through dinner as we choked everything down and talked about the meals he had made throughout the week.  It was a good learning experience and it gave us plenty to talk about each night, which is not always the case.  Looking back, I would have to say that we both had a fun week and I am tempted to suggest we make this a reoccurring event.  I'll let you know how that goes over!

I used the leftover grilled chicken to make this curried chicken salad and you would never know it, the chicken salad turned out moist, flavorful, and made a really good sandwich.  Feel free to use leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken if you have it.

Curried Chicken Salad

4 cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine or plum wine
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
a pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, preserves, and wine.  Add all remaining ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.  Serve in a toasted pita with lettuce.

*I garnished mine with dried cranberries and that made it even tastier.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cooking on the Farm - The Book

I did it...I wrote a cookbook.  I spent a good bit of last spring and much of my summer creating an outline filled with lists of recipes and family stories that I hoped would turn into a real book, a printed collection of recipes.  I can say it is a real book!  I received the unbound proof this week and I was finally able to hold it in my hands!  
Most of the recipes within are unique to this book and not found on my website because I wanted to focus on childhood favorites and family recipes for this, my first book.  Yes, there will be more to come, but first things first.   The title of my book is Cooking on the Farm.  It is filled with over 80 recipes and well over 100 photographs.  I included a photograph with every single recipe and over 50 of them are full color.  

I have included 8 chapters filled with everything from breakfast to soups, stews, and nearly a dozen dessert recipes.  The majority of the poultry recipes in the book are designed around pheasant as the main protein and the meat chapter calls for venison since the majority of the book shipment will be delivered to my parents' hunting preserve.  However, every recipe easily adapts to more conventional proteins like chicken, beef, and pork.  So don't dismiss it if you are not a hunter, every recipe is approachable and delicious whether or not you have access to wild game. 
I've also included over 10 stories from my childhood.  Many of them are hunting or fishing related since that has always been an integral part of my life.  (I grew up on a hunting preserve so I learned to embrace it as much as I could.)  I've also written about the wonderful people in my life and some of the most memorable moments I experienced growing up.  
The cookbook is now available for preorder and will be released for shipment on November 1st.   Signed copies will be available for a short time.  I've added a paypal account on the sidebar so you can order one at your own convenience.  I would be completely thrilled and probably speechless if you ordered one.  
The last thing I wanted to say was thank you.  Thank you for visiting my humble little blog and coming back time and again to check out my recipes.  I have enjoyed sharing every single recipe with you for the past 7 (nearly 8!) years and I look forward to bringing you even more tasty recipes in the coming years.  I have the comments off for the time being, but please send me an e-mail anytime.  I would love to hear from you.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Bread, three ways

This pumpkin bread is nice, light, and just barely pumpkin-y.  The pumpkin lends a bit of suppleness and moisture to the dough that helps it remain fresh for days.  The plain loaf is perfect for slicing and eating.  But if you want to take it even further, you should toast it and add a healthy shmear of a peanut butter and jelly.  Yum!

My son loves a good cinnamon swirl bread and was quite excited when I sliced into the second loaf for breakfast.  He thought it was terrific, and he enjoyed it toasted with a generous amount of butter on top.  

The third loaf I transformed into cinnamon rolls and they were quite good fresh out of the oven, still slightly warm.  I nibbled away at mine with a cool glass of iced coffee.  It was good, although I wouldn't mind a little more pumpkin flavor in the cinnamon rolls.  I'll be experimenting with that recipe a bit more, but I explained what I did if you want to give them a try.

This recipe makes a lot - 3 medium loaves of bread.  I opted to make one plain loaf, one cinnamon swirl loaf, and one batch of cinnamon rolls which gave us enough variety that we didn't tire of any one bread before it was gone.  

Pumpkin Bread - plain
Makes about 3 medium loaves

5-7 cups all purpose flour (a mix of whole white wheat and all purpose would also work well)
2 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, sugar, and yeast.  Let sit 3-4 minutes.  Whisk in the oil, salt, and pumpkin puree.  Using the dough hook attachment, mix in 3 cups flour, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.  Gradually add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.  Mix with the dough hook for 5-7 minutes on low speed.  If the dough starts to stick to the sides add a touch more flour.  The dough should be quite soft but not sticky to the touch.  If it sticks to the very bottom of the mixing bowl a little, that is fine. 
Transfer dough to a large, oiled bowl.  (I like to spray the bowl with oil, transfer the dough, flip it over so the top gets oiled too, and then lay plastic wrap directly on top of the dough.)  Cover with a towel, and place in a warm spot for 30-60 minutes.  Transfer dough to a floured counter.  Cut the dough into thirds.  Use a rolling pin to roll one portion into a large rectangle roughly 12x30 inches.  From the 12 inch side, roll the dough into a log.  Tuck the ends under and place in an oiled loaf pan.  Repeat with remaining loaves.  Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake loaves for 30 minutes or until browned on top.  A good rule of thumb is that a loaf of bread should sound hollow when it is tapped.
Pumpkin Swirl Bread-make 3 loaves
To make pumpkin swirl bread, you simply sprinkle 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon over the bread before rolling it into a log.  Bake time remains the same.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Sugar Glaze-makes 4-5 pans of cinnamon rolls
To make these cinnamon rolls, you should cream 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Spread this mixture into the dough once it has been rolled out.  Sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pecans.  Roll dough into a long, thin log from the 30 inch side.  Using a bit of string, slide the string under the loaf and then pull the ends up and across the dough pulling tight to cut the loaf into 1 inch rolls.  Place rolls in an oiled cake pan, leaving a bit of space between each roll.  Bake time will be about 25 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes before glazing.
The glaze is 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar mixed with a tablespoon or two of heavy cream.  Spread onto the slightly warm rolls.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Beef and Pork "Sausages"

The other day I made a new variation of a Middle Eastern dish we have from time to time.  The taste is  somewhere between a meatloaf and a sausage.  I mixed a pound of beef and a pound of pork to create a very moist flavorful meat.  I added crushed garlic, parsley, onion, and hot paprika to give it plenty of flavor.  I served it with rice and a crisp, refreshing cucumber yogurt salad.  We loved this version and the kids requested them the following night, so I know they are a keeper.

Beef and Pork "Sausages"

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
4 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 cup parsley
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the ground beef and pork in a large bowl.  In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until they are finely minced.  Add the parsley and pulse until minced.  Add mixture to meat.  Season with paprika, a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Mix together with a fork or your hands.  Shape meat into 2 inch long football-shaped spheres.  Grill over high heat.  Serve with rice and cucumber yogurt sauce, if desired.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Pretzel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

A few weeks ago I went out to dinner at a local restaurant/winery, and I ordered a pretzel-crusted pork medallion.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the entree, and whenever that happens it almost always translates into an attempt at recreating the entree in my own kitchen.  Earlier this week my kids helped me in the kitchen, and we decided to give it a try.  I enjoyed creating this recipe because there were many opportunities for them to get involved.  Gabe was responsible for the crust and mashed potatoes while Grace was given the asparagus and honey-Dijon glaze.
The finished meal was a hit with everyone, and the kids had many things to discuss during dinner.  They critiqued the dish, and we talked about what we might change the next time we make this dinner.  We originally tied the medallions with kitchen twine, but we felt it was unnecessary.  So here is our edited recipe for Pretzel-Crusted Pork Medallions.

Pretzel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

1 (1-2 pound) pork tenderloin, room temperature

1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Whisk together in a small bowl.

1 large soft pretzel (we used a homemade version, recipe coming soon)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter

Place soft pretzel in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until pretzel resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Remove and place in a medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and then place a rack on top.  (A small cooling rack works well.  Spraying it with nonstick spray will help during cleanup.)  Slice the pork tenderloin into 3 ounce medallions.  Place on rack and brush all sides with prepared glaze.  Place in heated oven for 7 minutes.  Remove and add crust mixture to the top of each medallion.  Return to oven for 12-18 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145°F.  I often give the medallions a squeeze, if they feel firm to the touch they are ready.  Remove and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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