Over the river and through the woods, a lovely deer made it’s way into my kitchen, complements of my hunter husband. Every fall my man goes on multi-day excursion to hunt with a group of five other fellas, all of which are my immediate family or my sister’s in-laws who are like family to us as well. We all love the rewards of a successful hunting trip and look forward to meals of marinated venison chops or steaks throughout the season.
Venison is quite lean which can make it tough so a nice overnight marinade makes these venison chops super flavorful and tender. This marinade is Asian inspired and is very similar to the marinade I use for Korean Flank Steak. A true Minnesotan pairs their venison with a wild rice side dish so in true homage to my roots, these marinated venison chops are paired with a wild rice and mushroom dish. I’ve kept with the woodsy theme by using a mix of northwoods mushrooms but updated it with some added kale and a light kick of Asian flavor to blend with the flavors in the venison marinade. For added tastiness, reserve some of the marinade sauce (before the meat goes in it) to use as a dipping sauce or drizzle at the table!
1 cup wild rice blend (I used Lundberg's wild rice blend)
1¾ cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 stems kale, stem removed and leaves finely chopped
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Combine green onions, tamari, lime juice, ginger, honey, garlic and jalapeño in a small bowl.
Reserve 2 tablespoons to use as a dipping sauce or drizzle when serving.
Place venison in a zip top bag and pour remaining marinade over top. Massage gently to evenly coat the meat.
Let marinate in the fridge at least 4 hours but preferably overnight for best flavor.
When ready to cook, drain marinade and discard. Arrange venison on a broiler pan and broil about 10-14 minutes until desired doneness, turning once halfway through. You can also grill them on medium heat if you prefer.
While venison is cooking, prepare the rice.
Sauté mushrooms in a saucepan with the butter until they've browned.
Add all other ingredients and simmer, covered, about 40-45 minutes until all liquid has absorbed.
The first snow of the season (happening now!) always makes me a bit giddy. This can only mean one thing…that the holidays are approaching and spending lots of meaningful time with family is just around the corner. The hubby and I have been hosting his family for Thanksgiving for the past 8 years and we love it! It gives us a chance to create a wholesome meal with a heaping helping of nostalgia. Though each of us has our “must-have’s” as part of the main meal, there’s always room for a little improvisation in flavors like in these Cajun herb roasted Cornish hens.
Cajun herb roasted Cornish hens are much faster to prepare than roasting a turkey and look SO adorable on your table! After marinating overnight, these little fellas roast up in just over an hour which is a far cry from the multi-hour event that roasted turkey takes. If you prefer the big bird, this seasoning combination would also work great for turkey though you’ll have to double or triple it depending on the size of your bird. Our favorite side dishes are easily prepped either in advance or can be prepped while the Cornish hens are roasting.
Election day, election day… yes, I did indeed go out and vote my conscience. I’m grateful to live in a nation that has a democracy where we can be free to express and embrace all of our opinions and individuality. I’d love a few more morally acceptable options on the table this year but that aside, I educated myself on all of the viable candidates (third parties included) and voted for the candidate I’d be proud to invite to my dinner table for this spinach feta breakfast casserole and trust to hang out with all of my littles – chickens included.
Spinach feta breakfast casserole is the perfect dish to impress your morning brunch guests and it’s easy enough to make and refrigerate or freeze for easy weekday grab-and-go breakfasts. Many egg bakes or breakfast casseroles contain bread which I don’t really care for in a baked dish. Bread adds unnecessary empty carbs as well as creates an odd soft spoonable but not smooth texture. Mushy soft bread = not a fan. Instead, the base of this dish is browned hashbrowns topped with sausage (optional), a bunch of spinach, feta and eggs. It’s filling enough to get you to lunch but won’t weigh you down. For tomorrow’s breakfast, my vote is cast. My vote goes to this awesomely easy spinach feta breakfast casserole!
In a sauté pan, brown the hash browns with butter or olive oil until warmed and lightly browned.
Place hash browns on the bottom of a greased 1.5-2 quart casserole dish.
In the same sauté pan, brown sausage with the onion and then layer on top of the hash browns.
Sprinkle the chopped spinach and feta overtop of the sausage.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, coconut milk and rest of the seasonings together.
Pour eggs over spinach and feta.
Bake about 45 minutes until center is set and no longer wiggly.
If you prefer not to bake it right away, this can be fully prepped, covered and refrigerated overnight and then baked in the morning. Note, it will take extra bake time if baking directly from the refrigerator - closer to 60 minutes.
Leftovers can easily be refrigerated or frozen for an easy heat and eat breakfast option!
If I had to survive on only one cuisine for the rest of ever, it would be Mexican. Or maybe Thai. It’s a tossup. They both have one thing in common. Mexican and Thai flavors are both very cohesive and flavorful through the entire dish and have a lot of heat. I don’t mean just the little bit of kick, kind of spicy. I’m talking about the hit ya in the backside kind of spice but not so much that it knocks you over. THAT is what I like. I don’t even know HOW I’m a Minnesota girl, honestly. My roots are all Scandinavian and German (you know the type: those who think ketchup is spicy… and we dance a mean polka). Yet, somehow, I can’t GET enough hot spicy goodness in my life. I’ll blame it on my travels to Mexico and Asia. I remember a trip to Seoul, Korea where the vendors I was working with were astonished that I was eating whole charred garlic cloves straight off the grill (in multitude). I then proceeded to douse my rice with their chili paste (not for the faint of heart). I had been forewarned that “this is SPICY!!” and that maybe, as an American, I wouldn’t like it. It was fantastic!! I then proceeded to dare my coworker into a “you taste the spicy chili and I’ll taste the sushi” dare (I don’t do sushi… it’s the texture). I won. These amazing enchiladas are a testament to my love affair with spice though they are less spicy than I would make for myself, given the choice ;) These chicken white bean enchiladas are still kid and Midwestern husband friendly!
Chicken white bean enchiladas start with a slow cooked chicken. Hello, drool-worthy shreddable tenderness! To that, we add a touch of garlic and onion and a tish of that tomatillo salsa which also goes on top. You can use any other enchilada sauce too if you prefer red or green. My go-to sauces when I don’t make it from scratch are the Frontera brand that you can get in a pouch since it doesn’t have preservatives. If you like a nice red (rojo) enchilada sauce from scratch, you can use the red sauce I created for this venison enchiladas recipe both in the sauce and as a “smother” for baking. Add to that a bit of white navy beans, more garlic, and a little lime and spinach and we have ourselves a respectable chicken white bean enchilada. You can make this as spicy as you want simply by altering the type of peppers you use when making the sauce. Less spicy peppers equal less spicy sauce. Or use less of them just be sure to use a variety for a well-rounded flavor. Simple simon… and SUPER delicious!
I can’t believe I’m constructing a rooster tail out of chicken wire and feather boas right now. The hubby has a work trip next week which includes attending a costume party so in true form, he wants to go as a giant, ahem, “rooster” except that’s not the word he used ;-) He’s got himself a rooster hat, a rooster themed tee shirt and I’m in charge of using my skills from my former years in the apparel industry by fashioning him a rooster tail that attaches to his belt. It’s a pretty comical sight. A sight that I nonetheless need a break from for a little slice of heaven. Right now, nothing says “heaven” to me besides this perfectly spiced pork tenderloin with tomatillo sauce.
Pork tenderloin is the best cut of meat you can get from a hog if you ask me. Not only is it very tender, but the tenderloin is also lower in fat content while still providing tons of flavor. It’s easy to roast with any combination of spices. In this case, I used a Cajun spice blend with a touch of smoked salt. I then sliced it and covered it with tomatillo salsa, corn kernels and pickled jalapeños, both compliments of my abundant garden. Paired with cilantro lime rice it’s a winning dinner combination!
Last weekend, we had a photographer come out to our acreage to do a little family photo shoot. I also had her take some updated pics of me so I can finally update my photos here on the blog (soon!). I was re-living the senior picture experience all over again… except that I was posing with produce, ha! Between photos and family time, I froze some corn in prep for Thanksgiving and had a few corn kernel escapees to toss into this quick and easy cilantro lime rice.
Cilantro lime rice has such a great flavor and is a perfect sidekick to tacos, enchiladas, or to toss into a salad for some extra carbolicious bite. When making rice (or quinoa), I often cook the grains in a chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Doing so significantly increases the flavor of the dish and adds complexity. In this case, the cilantro lime rice is cooked in chicken broth. Then, a quick addition of garlic, lime juice and cilantro completes the dish in seconds!
I’m beginning to question the sanity of having such a large garden. I do really enjoy gardening and all beautiful fresh edible things that it produces. The catch is that during “harvest” time it takes up a lot of my free time to preserve the bounty. My dehydrator has been getting a workout with drying herbs, kale and chard to use during the winter months. I’ve also been canning a lot of tomato sauces, ghost pepper strawberry jam (OMG so delicious!!), jalepeno jelly and this amazing roasted salsa verde. I never realized one tomatillo plant could produce so many fruits! Not a problem really, I’ve canned this salsa verde to be used for dipping and topping enchiladas all winter long!
My tomatillo plants don’t realize that fall is here. They’re still producing like crazy so I see a few more batches of tomatillo salsa verde making in the near future. Salsa verde is very easy to make and also easy to can. I roast all of the vegetables for about 15 minutes first to get a little char on the edges. Roasting also brings out a sweet, slightly smoky flavor that makes for irresistible eats. You can make this salsa as spicy as you want by using hotter peppers or more of them. I used a mix of anaheim, serrano, jalapeno and tossed in a ghost pepper for heat. Using a variety of peppers allows for a deeper flavor profile in addition to heat.
Aside from the abundance of tomatillos, the rest of the garden is looking a bit sparse. There’s a handful of squash and pie pumpkins hanging around waiting for me to pick and store as well as some hardy greens like kale and chard. I’ll be a busy gal the next few weeks finishing the process of preservation and then cleaning out the plants to compost. My chickens make great helpers cleaning out the plants from the garden. Or maybe they just like to keep me company because so many bugs get uprooted in the process. Either way, I have my work cut out for me this weekend with the rest of the garden cleanup and I’ll be sure to make time to have a sample of salsa verde, or two or three!
1 pound tomatillos (about 8 medium size), husked and rinsed
4-5 mixed hot peppers (Anaheim, jalepeno, serrano, ghost, etc), stemmed
1 small white onion, sliced into large rings
3-4 garlic cloves
½ cup water
⅓ cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (optional if making/eating fresh but necessary for canning)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat.
Place tomatillos, peppers, onion and garlic on baking sheet.
Roast in oven about 15 minutes, turning once halfway, until vegetables are charred and tomatillos are softened. If the peppers, onions or garlic begin to burn, take them out earlier.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Place the roasted vegetables and any accumulated juices in a blender or food processor.
Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
For canning, pour salsa into sterilized canning jars leaving ¼" of headspace. Wipe rims of jars and place lid and ring on tightly. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Recipe yields about 2 cups. For canning, you may want to triple the batch to get about 6 cups of salsa. Fresh salsa will keep in fridge about one week. Canned salsa will keep unopened for about a year.
I walked into the kitchen last night expecting to start dinner late since I had been outside enjoying the early evening with my neighbor. What I found was a delightful surprise. My husband was deep in the trenches of chopping vegetables and spiralizing a zucchini for our stir-fry. My jaw dropped. After I regained my composure, I refilled my red solo cup and went back outside. I didn’t want to disturb this precious moment by stepping in to help. I let him be the king of the kitchen for the night and it turned out amazingly delicious. I’ll have to let him cook more often! Most of the produce used in his stir-fry came straight from our garden of wonders. This recipe for chorizo stuffed peppers also uses peppers picked minutes before and combines a touch of sweet corn and fresh tomatoes to use the last of my garden’s abundance.
Getting the produce out of my garden and using or preserving it all has been quite the challenge. I’m happy to use the ingredients fresh as often as I can in recipes like these chorizo stuffed peppers. Chorizo is a Spanish style sausage that you can purchase ground or as links. If you can only get it in links, simply remove the casing and remove the ground chorizo. The filling starts with an easy skillet mix of chorizo browned with onions. Add pre-cooked quinoa, black beans, corn and diced tomato for a south of the border twist. Stuff each half of the peppers with a generous amount of filling and bake. You can top with cheese and cilantro if desired. These are flavorful, filling and mild enough in the spice department for kids to enjoy them too. If you want to kick up the heat, add a minced hot pepper (like serrano or jalepeno) to the filling while it’s cooking to meld the flavors or use a hot salsa in place of the diced tomatoes!
I have the worst luck this week. My fridge freezer decided to stop freezing food over the weekend resulting in soft “frozen” veggies that I fed to my chickens. The peeps were overjoyed with the demise of the veggies, however, since they got a super special treat. I had to toss a few meat items that had un-frozen as well. Sigh. It should be fixed in time for this weekend which is a necessity since we’re picking up meat in bulk from the farm and need a place for it. As if that wasn’t enough of a problem to deal with, my dishwasher has decided to play hooky too and is now apparently on strike. My girls got the privilege of learning how to do about three loads of dishes the “old-fashioned” way in the sink this morning. In the interest of doing less dishes, I’ve made this awesome spiced potato salad in one pot and I’ll be serving it hillbilly style straight from the pot on the table tonight too!
This spiced potato salad is a German style potato salad meaning that it’s not creamy and isn’t made with any mayo or eggs. It’s sweet and savory spice combo comes from mustard, ginger and harissa sauce. Add some diced crunchy cooked bacon (because bacon makes EVERYTHING better!) and a touch of cilantro and it’s ready to rock your next picnic. Since this salad doesn’t contain mayo or eggs, it can be served warm or cold and is able to sit out without refrigeration longer than the creamy style salads. You still need to refrigerate it but it’s a bit safer for pot luck picnics outdoors since the bacon is cured and cooked. Take this marvelous spiced potato salad to your Labor Day picnic and it’ll be the hit of the party!
I’m just going to hit pause on the awesomely easy summer strawberry salad for a sec… I get to go dancing in two days!!! Maybe that’s not exciting for you, but it is for me :) The hubby and I used to do fun things like take latin dance lessons. Of course, this was before kids when we actually had extra time and extra cash. We (mostly) remember the steps and what we don’t, we improvise and pretend it looks good. Throw in a twirl here and there and everyone thinks you’re great even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ha! This weekend is my step-brother’s wedding so just as exciting as dancing with my hubby, is dancing with my dear old dad. Growing up, my parents used to belong to a country dance club so every now and then we’d push the kitchen table out of the way and dance until our feet ached and our hearts were full. I’m sure my dad and I will get a good swing going and probably a two-step or two before the night is through. My heart will be full this weekend. I will be seeing a lovely couple get married, celebrate with extended family I haven’t seen for quite some time and will be able to laugh it up, dancing the night away.
Let’s move off the dance floor and back to the summer strawberry salad (I know, less exciting perhaps but so delicious!!!). This is my go-to salad when I need to bring something that everyone is guaranteed to enjoy. It’s also an amazing salad-as-dessert since it has the sweetness of strawberries both in the salad as well as the strawberry poppyseed dressing. Tossed with a little celery and pecans for crunch, the Havarti cheese gives it a little bit of cozy creaminess that says “I’m eating something naughty!”… but you’re not! If you would rather not make the dressing, I’ve found that Marzetti’s makes a great all natural, no preservatives strawberry poppyseed dressing that is quite tasty. You can also use a raspberry vinaigrette or a more creamy poppyseed dressing if you like. All taste wonderful and after a bite of this summer strawberry salad, your heart will be full too!