For the Weekend: Venison Beer Chili

DSC_1289 DSC_1304 John made quite a bit of ground venison out of the deer he shot this fall (with a bow, at 54 yards, not in a tree stand), and it is my favorite.  Other than the venison he cans with our friend the surgeon, who also hunts (to his wife’s mild dismay). But the canned venison is a story for another day. Anyway, we don’t have any plans for the Super Bowl, but I do love football weekend food, so I decided to make a big pot of chili for our weekend stew. I don’t have a recipe for you (I more or less followed the Red Meat Chili recipe in nourishing traditions but added a small can of tomato paste and used a can of cheap beer instead of the red wine).  We ate it today, we’ll have it for lunch tomorrow, and then tomorrow night… I will make chili cheese nachos out of whatever is left! So it will be pretty much exactly what we will have eaten for the previous three meals, but in nacho form, which means it will be awesome.DSC_1296 Also, when I went to the grocery this morning it was 10 degrees outside.  Anyway, hope you all are staying warm and enjoying some good, satisfying comfort food this weekend!

Some Things About Winter & Normal Days

It’s still freezing cold here.  Lots of mornings in the single digits.  And general misery of that nature. This is our week (below).  And all the weeks from now until halfway through April. I know no one wants to hear anyone else complain about the weather, and a lot of you probably also live in cold places, but my poor little southern self still cannot get over this (and this is not a particularly bad example, this is just literally the normal weather for this week):

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Anyway. We eat a lot of potatoes in the winter because it just seems like the right thing to do, and they’re cheap.  It’s the only produce that I buy organic anymore, but I do think for potatoes organic is important.  Someone once told me that farmers of conventional potatoes won’t eat the ones they grow because of all the poison they know is on them.

One of my favorite things to do with them is to make a Spanish tortilla, which is kind of like a frittata but with onions and potatoes, and both of those cooked up nice and soft in heaps of olive oil, and then baked with the eggs poured over.  Here’s a picture of the potatoes and onions in the first stage of cooking, in the olive oil.  I’ve started adding several teaspoons of paprika to the potatoes and onions as they cook, and it just tastes like perfection. This is just as good like this as it is baked with eggs in a dish.  Either way, super warming and filling and rich and delightful for cold winter days.

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And then here are some pictures of Will recently.  He’s in this fun stage of saying new words almost every day: cheese, juice (by which he means elderberry syrup diluted with water; I don’t actually let him drink juice), baby, oink, uh-oh.  And doing puzzles like a champ, and helping put his toys away (even starting to put them back on the right shelf where they go).  And building with Duplos forever on his own. And also throwing some crazy tantrums and being really strong-willed and obstinate and all of that. But mostly being delightful and darling.

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But the tantrums and toddler craziness and the dishes and the coats and mittens and hats and the absolute cold (with no end in sight) have been tempting me to hate these days and wish them away.  But I read this the other day on this blog and I thought it was so beautiful:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion

That just stabs me right in the heart.  These days are so precious, and my little baby is getting big and independent so very fast and these days of little smudgy fingers holding mine and snuggling in my lap and the little kisses on my mouth, these days will not last long.  I want to treasure them and savor them and not wish them away for warmer days.

We finally took our Christmas tree down.  I never posted any of the videos of Will and his Christmas tree joy, but for the first 2 weeks we had our tree up, Will would run into the living room first thing in the morning, gasping and laughing with joy when he saw the tree.  He would do happy dances and twirl around.  He loved that tree.  Now, ever since we took the tree down he points to where it was and then to the front door (where he knows it went) and makes the sign for “all gone” and then waves bye bye and makes a sort of anguished, concerned sound while doing these gestures.  It is heartbreaking. And precious.

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Moroccan Stew for the Weekend

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I almost always make a big pot of stew or soup of some kind on Saturday morning, enough to last us for lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday.  Fortunately John doesn’t mind having the same thing a few meals in a row.

I forget if I’ve written about this here– I don’t think I have– but John shot a deer this fall! With a bow and arrow! At 54 yards, no tree stand.  Kind of a big deal, I’m just saying. And that means a freezer full of venison for us!  He ground a fair amount of it, which is my favorite to use for cooking, and he’s also canned some of it with a friend of his (which sounds really odd but it turns the meat completely tender and then it’s the easiest thing to just toss into whatever you’re cooking).

Anyway, this morning I made a Moroccan stew with some of the venison, loosely based on this recipe from the Splendid Table’s website.  I say “loosely based” because I really only used the proportion of spices from the recipe and otherwise used what I had on hand (venison instead of chicken, plus lots of freshly cooked chickpeas.  I skipped the almonds but added the zest and juice of a whole lemon. I added green beans and about a cup of dried apricots and prunes.)  See here for another similar recipe, if you’re interested.  And here’s a vegetarian version if you want to use chickpeas instead of meat.

It was 8 degrees this morning, so it was nice to be standing near the hot stove preparing this, and it felt good to use heaping teaspoons of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin and let those spices melt together and fill the house with warmth.

This turned out a little meatier than I probably would have preferred (I probably used about 3 pounds of venison and would have been happier with 1, but I’ll just try to remember that for next time around.) I’m going to make a pot of rice to pour this over, and then we’ll be set until Monday.  With a lot of chickpeas and just a little bit of meat (ground lamb would be easy and really perfect for this), this is an incredibly economical and filling meal for wintertime.  And if any of you have any ideas for good filling stews please let me know! I have been rotating through the same 2 or 3 lately and could use some fresh inspiration!

Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

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It’s still blindingly cold here. Cold air pours through our floors and walls.  Now, instead of thinking about buying rugs and insulating our basement, I just think about making John quit his job and letting us all move to Arizona.  It was negative 8 or 9 when we woke up this morning.  I still managed to get Will bundled up and out the door for a free music class downtown, which, for my little Tennessee self, was a feat that bordered on the heroic and insane.  In order to qualify for free parking in the downtown parking garage I decided to buy a cup of coffee at a little shop right across from where the music class was (it was either that, or pay $2 for parking, so I decided a cup of coffee with a stamped receipt was a better use of $2).  And I ordered my coffee and was about to pay, and the guy at the register told me it was on the house!!!! I was completely floored and overjoyed.  Trying to savor the beautiful, small moments in the midst of the paralyzing and soul-crushing cold weather.

So this is a variation of my almond meal pancakes, which you can read about here.  This version also has flax and hemp, for a little variety in texture and some extra protein and fiber.  I’ve been buying frozen wild blueberries lately– they’re smaller than the “regular” blueberries you usually see, but wild blueberries apparently have almost twice the amount of antioxidant goodness as non-wild blueberries.  Interesting, huh?

I’ve been eating these, smothered with butter and blueberries, which add enough sweetness that I can live without syrup (although a little maple syrup wouldn’t hurt at all).

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Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, can be a little expensive, but they are packed with nutrition.  Just 3 tablespoons contains 10 grams of protein, 20% RDV iron, 20% zinc, 45% magnesium, and 3 grams of fiber (with only 3 g. total carbohydrates).  I bought a big 5 pound bag from the brand Manitoba Harvest, because it was much cheaper per pound than buying it in small quantities. I usually throw a few tablespoons in smoothies (I make one similar to this, minus the dates, plus 2 T of peanut butter), or toss some in the morning porridge.

One note about the pictures/recipe– for the pancakes in these pictures, I put blueberries right in the batter, but the berries ended up burning a bit as they were cooking, so the recipe says to just make the pancakes without the berries, and then add berries at the end.

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Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

1/2 c. almond meal
1/4 c. ground hemp hearts (aka hulled hemp seeds)
1/4 c. flax meal
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs
1/4 c. water
2 T. oil or melted butter (plus more to add to the pan for cooking)
1/2 t. vanilla extract (optional)

wild blueberries, thawed (or fresh, if they’re in season)

1. Mix dry ingredients, and then add remaining ingredients (except for blueberries) and stir until well-blended.  If you want to be really fastidious you can beat the eggs separately before adding them, but I just mix everything together in one bowl.

2.  Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add batter, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.  Caution:  These do not form little bubbles like regular pancakes do to test for doneness, so you just have to watch them closely and use a little intuition to tell when to flip them.

3.  Top with butter and a mound of blueberries.  And real maple syrup (which you can buy the most cheaply at Aldi’s if you have one close by!).

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Chicken Necks for Stock and Other Things

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Once again, I know it’s been forever since I’ve written.  We three traveled quite a bit over the holidays, flying to Nashville to see my family and then driving to Maryland to see John’s.  It was lovely seeing everyone, and getting to spend time in houses that are insulated and have dishwashers.

Ithaca, like everywhere else, it seems, is freezing cold right now, and the floorboards of our house are icy cold because there is not one particle of insulation at all.  So I dream of buying rugs to layer on the floors, or having someone come put insulation in the basement (even though we’re renting and it wouldn’t make sense for us to pay to insulate this place, unless we were going to stay here a few more years, which we’re not). The picture below was in one of the library books I got this week, and it pretty much sums up how I feel about life right now.

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So we wear sweaters and hats and put our bathrobes on over our sweaters, and wear slippers, and Will’s fingers are always cold. BUT we snuggle under blankets and drink tea and two days ago I finally thawed out a 4 pound bag of chicken necks a friend of John’s gave him.  Nice, local ones.  John knew I would want them, which I did, but it also took me awhile to look up what to do with them.  As it turns out, you can just make chicken stock with them! Without the chicken!

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This was lovely news, because I had been wanting some stock but I didn’t want to spend money on a chicken, or even chicken bones, so I put all four pounds of the thawed necks in our stockpot and made just the same way I would have done with chicken bones.  Tonight I made some hot and sour soup with some of the broth. (Surprisingly easy to make, and I’ve always used black pepper instead of white because I’ve never had white pepper on hand, but it still tastes amazing).

In other news, Will is just amazing these days. He’s 20 months old now and just beyond precious, and also crazy. (I’ve included pictures of him rather than of the chicken necks, because they aren’t the prettiest things in the world to be perfectly honest.) Anyway, Will is constantly cracking us up these days with his little dances and the way he says “da” for “yes” and how he seems to just understand everything we ask or tell him. He’s been saying some new words this week: hat, water, wow (if something is really amazing), and ding dong (like the doorbell).  He will sit and look at the pages of one of his books for quite awhile on his own, which is darling.  I just re-read French Kids Eat Everything, which inspired me to work a little harder at getting more vegetables and general variety into Will’s diet.  Tonight I gave him a few pieces of artichoke heart, and he refused to touch them, so I chopped them up and put them in his quesadilla.  He ate the whole thing and loved it.  He is obsessed with olives these days, loves red, yellow, and orange bell peppers (but not green).  He adores raw mushrooms but doesn’t care for them cooked. He loves brie and comte and smoked oysters.  He wants to try whatever John and I are eating– Thai lime & chili cashews from Trader Joe’s (which he loved) and whatever other random things we try to sneak while he’s around. I’m sure pickiness will come at some point, but for now I’m thankful that he is eating so much!
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Blueberry Ginger Buckwheat Dutch Baby

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Sometimes the less we spend on food, the better we eat.  Maybe because I have to plan a little more, put a little extra work in to coax meals out of dry beans or little bags of buckwheat groats that have been sitting in the pantry too long. I love cooking with buckwheat.  The taste reminds me of the savory buckwheat crepes I ate in Brittany all those summers ago, and because buckwheat is actually a seed (and not a true grain) it is gluten-free and I think agrees with my system much better than real flour does. So recently I decided to use some buckwheat to make a dutch baby pancake (basically, a one pan, eggier version of pancakes). I love the texture of these, and one “pancake” will work pretty well as a weekend lunch for John, Will, and me.  We had some blueberries in the freezer so I tossed a handful of those in, and added ginger for a little kick. We ate it with the last drops of the maple syrup. And butter and milk. Perfect, filling fall weather food. DSC_1041 Blueberry Ginger Buckwheat Dutch Baby 1 c. buckwheat flour (or half buckwheat and half regular flour if you aren’t used to the earthy taste of buckwheat– though John usually doesn’t care for things made of 100% buckwheat, and I don’t think he even noticed that this was made with something other than regular flour– the soaking process seemed to mitigate the buckwheat flavor) 1 c. water plus 2 T yogurt or whey or apple cider vinegar (or instead of water and the whey or ACV you can use one cup of buttermilk or yogurt) 4 eggs 1 t. vanilla extract 1/2 t.  salt 1/2 t. ground ginger dash of cinnamon 1 c. water (or whole milk) 4 T butter or coconut oil 1/2 c. (or more) fresh or frozen blueberries 1. Soak flour overnight (or up to 24 hours) in the water plus yogurt, whey, or ACV. (After adding the liquids, stir to make sure everything is well incorporated before letting it soak.) 2. The next day, or when ready to cook, heat oven to 350 degrees and add coconut oil or butter to an 8″ pan.  Place in oven until oil/butter is melted. 3. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and add them, along with the remaining ingredients, to the flour that has been soaking.  Pull out the pan with the melted butter or oil, swish melted fat around to coat the pan and then pour the rest of the oil into the batter.  Stir batter until everything is incorporated, pour into pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pancake is lightly browned on the edges and set. *Obviously, you can leave out the ginger and blueberries if you’d like.  Substitute another kind of fruit, or add chocolate chips instead! Or leave plain! Or omit vanilla extract, fruit, and spices and add a cup of grated cheese to make a nice savory variation.

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Apple Picking

photo 1-15 Will and I went to Indian Creek Farm this morning to pick apples. There were some raspberries hanging on to a few bushes, so we picked some of those, too. The farm also has a great sandbox and play area for kids with swings, old tractors kids can climb on, a giant sling shot for shooting rotten apples, etc. I love fall in Ithaca. And I love this little man!photo 1-13photo 4-5 photo 2-17 photo 3-7 photo 1-14 photo 2-16 photo 3-6

Eating from the Pantry: August 18-25

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We’re going into our final days of trying to spend only $150 on groceries this month while I eat our way through the pantry and freezer. As of today I have about $10 left.  We have company coming in town this weekend, so I’m going to have to spend a little extra on food for them, but otherwise I think we’ll be able to make it the rest of this week! I have a dozen and a half eggs (really good ones from the farmers’ market two days ago, picture below), we have lots of produce from our CSA, and still plenty of beans and some pasta left in the pantry. Plus 2/3 or so lbs of organic pork sausage in the freezer.

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Spending:

Aug. 18 $10 3 dozen eggs (from local, pastured hens)
Aug. 20 $25 3 loaves of bread, organic yogurt (on sale), organic cheese (on sale), local, pastured pork hot dogs (a very impulsive purchase– I was feeling really sick and was grocery shopping at 4:30 pm and it just happened), 4 Larabars (on sale for $0.60 each)– this grocery trip, the hot dogs and larabars particularly, might not have been the best idea.  This trip left me with $16 or 17 left for the next 11 days………. Not sure if we’ll be able to make it!!!!
Aug. 25 $10 2 dozen eggs and a pound of lamb’s liver from a vendor at the farmer’s market

Total spent: $45 (Remaining: $8 and lots of quarters, so maybe $10 total)

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August 18, Monday– Breakfast Soaked porridge for me and Will, plus an egg each. Lunch was mung beans and rice. Dinner, salmon cakes with kimchi tartar sauce.

August 19, Tuesday– Breakfast: Eggs and porridge. Lunch: mung beans and rice with curry. Dinner: John worked late and ate sandwiches on the road, and Will and I ate mung bean curry

August 20, Wednesday– Breakfast: (Soaked) buckwheat dutch baby pancake with blueberries Dinner: Roasted potatoes with pesto, hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard.  Will had mung bean curry, blueberries (thawed from the freezer), and potatoes.

August 21, Thursday– Breakfast: I made some little kale-dill cakes for Will and me.  The kale had been sitting in the fridge for almost two weeks, and I decided that we would eat it today, by gum.  But I don’t think Will is ready to chew sautéed kale yet, so I cooked it and then pureed it in the blender along with some dill and two eggs.  I added some bread crumbs (that I made from stale sourdough bread a few weeks ago), and then cooked them up like little pancakes.  Will loved them, and I ate several myself. Lunch: Soaked buckwheat crepes with cheese, more kale cakes for Will.

Dinner at friends’ houses both Friday and Saturday nights. Random things for breakfast and lunch.

August 24, Sunday Made a big pot of black eyed peas with rice and ham.

August 25, Monday Dinner: CSA heirloom tomato sliced and topped with pesto from the last of our basil for the week. And some lamb’s liver I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday– dredged in flour and seared in the pan for a couple of minutes on each side.  Will ate black eyed peas, lots of liver, little dollops of pesto, and chunks of beets I roasted last night.

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Also, Will and I went to play in the fountains at the park today, and I packed a picnic lunch. Trying to soak up as much sunshine as possible over the next few weeks….

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Eating from the Pantry: August 10-17

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We just finished our second week plus a day of eating from the pantry (and only spending $150 for groceries for the month of August). The pantry was a little barer than it was when we began, but our fridge was full of beautiful vegetables from our CSA. Two very sweet friends brought soup on two different days early in the week as I was recovering from being sick. And one of them gave me a whole, cooked (local, organic) chicken later in the week. I pulled all the meat off, made stock out of the bones, and then cooked a warming soup with coconut milk, lime, and ginger.  And odds and ends of vegetables.

I’ve had a bad cold all week, and John came down with it later in the week, so I actually cheated a little and bought several boxes of Traditional Medicinals tea and a jar of honey that I’m not counting toward our total for this month. I’ve been thinking about how it’s such a fine line between food and medicine– what actually counts toward the grocery budget, and what doesn’t? Anyway, I made the executive decision to just buy the tea and honey and not stress about it.

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One somewhat unexpected benefit of eating from the pantry this month is that I have been just thinking about the overall functionality and aesthetics of our kitchen space.  Like I wrote earlier, we’ve lost a lot of pantry space because of Will, and we also lost the storage space under our kitchen island, so I’ve moved a lot of things around over the past few months.  But some things were moved hastily and not planned out very well.  So I’ve decided that I want to make our kitchen space work a little better.  And if possible… be a little prettier. The latter is the hardest, because I also don’t want to spend much money at all. But I’ve changed a few things around, bought a few new glass jars for things, and hopefully soon I can show you all the somewhat improved space! (Baking supplies below– I already had most things in glass jars, but I transferred baking powder to a glass jar, got rid of some old odds and ends, and peeled the labels off a few bottles (vanilla, ghee, and molasses) and replaced with paper labels to create a somewhat more unified appearance. It’s still, as you can see, not Pinterest-worthy glamorous, but it’s uncluttered, and I like it.)

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Anyway, here is what I’ve spent on groceries over the past week plus a day or so:

Aug. 10 $16.50 For 2 dozen eggs (local, pastured), a pound of organic butter, and a block of not organic cheese
Aug. 11 $24.50 Cheese, corn tortillas, organic pork sausage (a pound and a half), 4 avocados, 7 bananas, and a small amount of real salt from the bulk bins for some pickles I planned to make
Aug. 13 $4.00 bread
Aug. 17 $15.50 Raw, organic cheese, coffee filters, smoked oysters (for Will), 5 bananas, and dill (for some pickles I started a few days ago)

Total: $60.50, Remaining: $55.50

And here’s what we ate:

August 10, Sunday My fever was gone this morning, but a terrible cough has settled in. Sigh. Once again John has fended for himself and the baby for breakfast and lunch.  I ate about a third of a cup of yogurt in the morning, and a piece of cheese toast for lunch.  A dear, wonderful, angel-heart of a friend brought us over a big pot of lentil soup for dinner.

August 12, Tuesday Breakfast was eggs and toast all around, plus banana and cheese for Will. Lunch: I ate the rest of the lentil soup my friend brought.  Will had another egg, some beans, and sweet potatoes. John took our last two pieces of bread and a tomato to work to eat with some tuna fish he had in his office. Dinner: ANOTHER super sweet friend brought us soup for dinner.  Along with a loaf of bread.  Truly manna from heaven because I’m still feeling not great and the kitchen is piled with dishes I haven’t done from earlier in the day.

August 13, Wednesday Dinner: I made some pesto from CSA basil and we ate it with pasta, a small amount of the sausage I bought on the 11th (and froze in small portions) cooked up with onions and all tossed with finely chopped celery leaves.

August 14, Thursday Breakfast: More soaked porridge with raisins and cinnamon, plus 2 eggs for Will. Working on organizing the spices and overhauling the pantry in general and as I was cleaning out one dark corner I discovered half a bar of chocolate that had fallen down out of sight! Not too old, either!

August 15, Friday Made coconut chicken soup from the chicken a friend of ours gave us.  Used my last can of coconut milk and ginger powder instead of fresh ginger (didn’t have any fresh).  John has come down with a cold as well, so lots of soup and tea for both of us.

August 16, Saturday Chicken soup for lunch and supper. Odds and ends for Will, some chicken and vegetables from the soup, bits of avocado, scrambled eggs.

August 17, Sunday  Lunch: chicken soup Dinner: Roasted potatoes & tomatoes with heaps of pesto (pretty much all either from our CSA last week or this)

Here’s the pantry (when we started on the left, today on the right):

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CSA 8.10

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Our CSA yesterday: a couple of pounds of small, red potatoes, celery, kale, basil, lettuce, tomatoes. And a green pepper and two cucumbers. Not, as is suggested in the photo below, sweet potatoes, alas.  Those we already owned but John had taken them out of the fridge to dry (because our fridge has been leaking water inside for awhile, and John somehow miraculously fixed it yesterday afternoon). I made some pickles according to this recipe this afternoon with the cucumbers. We’ll see how they turn out.

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