Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy new year! Thanks for all your support this past year. May the next one be even better, full of great hunting and delicious food. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Venison Steaks with Cherry Shallot Sauce

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We like to be creative, but nothing beats a nice, simple steak. This week, we go back to the basics to bring you juicy, tender venison steaks drizzled with a sweet cherry shallot sauce. Making a good steak is easier than most people think. If you follow a few basic rules, you'll make awesome venison steaks every time. 


1. Let steaks come to room temperature before cooking, AT ALL TIMES. This is the secret to making perfect steaks-- any kind of steak. This allows for better control over internal temperature, giving you a nice sear on the outside, but warm and medium rare on the inside. If your steak is cold, chances are that you will burn the outside before the inside reaches the correct temperature. Also, the rapid switch from being extremely cold to extremely hot makes your meat tense up. Allowing the steaks to rest at room temperature relaxes the meat, giving you melt-in-your mouth tenderness. 

2. Especially when it comes to venison, REMOVE all silver skin and fat from the steaks. Leaving it on is a no-no and will absolutely ruin your beautiful piece of meat. Not only does it taste horrible, but it will also make your meat tough. Silver skin and fat is what gives venison its "gamey" taste, which accounts for most bad venison experiences. It is widely accepted that the tenderloin is the most tender part of the deer, but roast makes great steaks as well. Most of the time, we can't even tell the difference. Great steaks can come from leg meat as well. The important thing is to cut the roasts up in a way so no silver skin runs through the pieces.

3. Season steaks before cooking. Salting steaks before you cook it gives it a more subtle saltiness, allowing the salt to marry with the flavors of the meat. The best salt to use is kosher salt.

4. For a good sear and crust, make sure you DON'T use a non-stick pan (if you can help it) and make sure your pan is hot before placing steaks. We suggest cooking at medium to medium-hight heat, depending on how thick your steak is. With venison, we don't cut our steaks too thick so pan searing is no problem. Thicker steaks should probably be cooked on the barbeque grill. One easy way to know if your pan is hot is by sprinkling some water into the pan. If it sizzles and evaporates immediately, it's hot enough.

5. Watch your meat and DO NOT overcook. I'm sure most of you know that venison tastes disgusting if it's overcooked. Venison is a different meat and should not be treated like beef. It should not be cooked past medium. But this shouldn't intimidate you because venison is more forgiving than people think. Do the finger test. Practice makes perfect and the more you do it, the easier it will become. And it's okay to eat red meat. It won't make you sick.

6. Resist the temptation of moving or flipping your steak before it's ready. The more you play with the steak, the more moisture will evaporate from the steak. Notice how steam comes up every time you move the steak, especially on the grill. This is precious moisture you're losing.
Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 2 1/2 lbs. venison steaks
- 4 tbs. olive oil, divided
- Montreal Steak seasoning
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 cup cherry preserves

1. About 1 hour before you want to cook, take your steaks out of the fridge and remove all fat/silver skin. 1 hour allows the steaks enough time to come to room temperature.
Rinse any excess blood (it's technically protein) under cold water and dab dry with a paper towel. 

Drizzle 2 tbs. of olive oil over steaks and season all sides liberally with Montreal Steak Seasoning. Let the steaks rest to room temperature. 

 2. To make the sauce, cook shallots in a saucepan with 2 tbs. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until golden. 
De-glaze the pan with pomegranate juice, scraping the bottom of the pan.
Stir in cherry preserves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until thickened. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. 

The sauce may take awhile to reduce, so make it beforehand. If you find it too sweet, add a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. 
3. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Cook steaks about 1-2 minute each side, or until medium-rare. Make sure your pan is hot before placing down the steaks and don't overcrowd the pan.
Drizzle cherry shallot sauce over steaks and serve with your favorite sides!

We made "Pepin Potatoes" and bacon spinach.

Again, thanks for looking at our recipes. Remember to share with all your family and friends. :-)

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Bacon Spinach Greens

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If you love collard greens, then you will love this spinach dish. Bacon-y and vinegar-y, it will bring you back home to Southern cooking.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 3 large bunches of spinach. Stems removed.
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1/2 cup onions, chopped
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar 
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook 4 slices of bacon in a large pan. Remove bacon once the fat has rendered out. Set aside.
2. Add chopped onion to the bacon grease and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

3. Then, add sugar and vinegar. Cook over high heat until sugar dissolves, stirring often.

4. Add spinach and cook for 3 minutes. Stir often.

Cut up bacon into small pieces and stir back into the spinach. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Enjoy with your favorite meal. Thanks for looking!

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Pepin Potatoes

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O.M.G... these are sooo good! Buttery, soft and aromatic, these potatoes are Jacques Pepin's gift to humanity. The French master cook has been eating potatoes this way since he was a little boy, and you should feed your children this, too. Maybe your kids will one day grow up to be master chefs as well. REALLY. It's THAT good! These potatoes will fill your kitchen with heavenly smells, complement any meal and lift your spirits. Rick totally went ga-ga over these potatoes. He even told me that I couldn't have any... even though I cooked them. I just rolled my eyes, but seriously, if you make anything from our blog, make these. It's become one of my favorite ways to have potatoes.

Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 3 lbs. baby Yukon gold potatoes
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 cups of chicken stock/broth
- 3 tbs. butter
- 2-3 tbs. freshly chopped parsley

1. Place potatoes in a deep skillet, in one layer. Add chicken stock and butter. Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

If you don't want to make 6 servings, just add enough chicken stock so that it covers the potatoes halfway.  Adjust butter accordingly.
Cover and cook potatoes until almost tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Remove the lid and allow stock to evaporate, about 5-10 minutes.

3. Once the stock evaporates, give the potatoes a slight crack by flattening with a spatula or whatever you have that's flat.

Don't mash. Just flatten a little.
4. Continue to let them cook. Once browned, flip over and brown the other side. About 5 minutes.

It really helps to use a skillet that's bigger.

Sprinkle chopped parsley on top. Sprinkle more salt/pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raisin Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

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Mmmm... cinnamon rolls. Warm, soft and gooey, they're a must for winter baking. But these aren't just any cinnamon rolls! Rick learned to add walnuts and raisins from his mother. It's the only way he'll have it.

Servings: Makes 12 cinnamon rolls
Prep Time: Varies, depending on how fast your dough rises
Bake Time: 15-20 minutes
- 1 loaf of Bridgford "Ready-Dough" (1 lb.)
- cinnamon
- sugar
- 1 tbs. melted unsalted butter
- crushed walnuts
- raisins
- Crisco Baking Sticks All-Vegetable shortening
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 tbs. heavy whipping cream

1. Follow the directions on the package to rise the dough. Depending on the temperature, this can take anywhere between 4-6 hours. 

2. Sprinkle flour over your working space to keep dough from sticking. Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape.

3. Brush melted butter onto one side of the dough. 

4. Sprinkle cinnamon onto the dough. You don't have to be exact.
Then sprinkle LOTS of sugar.
Add as much raisins and walnuts as you want.
5. Roll the dough lengthwise, pretty tightly.
6. Lay the roll fold side down and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces.
7. Take a Crisco baking stick and grease baking dish.
Place rolls into baking dish(es). Allow for some room because the rolls will expand.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Let the rolls sit for another 15 minutes for them to continue to rise.  

8. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
9. Meanwhile, make the sugar glaze. Mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream. Add more cream if it's too thick for you. 

Pour glaze over cinnamon rolls and sprinkle more walnuts. Eat while its still warm and fresh. Enjoy!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Fried Wontons with Venison

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Uh oh... another Asian dish with venison. Some may not agree with our veering off the beaten path too much, but deer exist all over the world. It tastes great, in all types of cuisines. One of the reasons why we made this blog is to show everyone how versatile venison can be. This is one of those examples. Instead of using pork, which is the traditional protein used in wontons, we substituted with venison. Although there really is nothing like a pork wonton because pork does have all that flavorful fat in it, venison wontons are a great healthy alternative. If calories isn't an issue and you are able to get ground venison with pork fat added to it, please do so. But by all means, for those who don't know, don't grind up your venison with its own fat. Rick says it tastes rather putrid and will ruin your meat. 

Servings: 4 appetizer servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
- 1/2 lb. ground venison
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 green onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. oyster sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of salt
- 20-25 wonton wrappers
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Caesar Vinaigrette with Parmesan 
- Sriracha sauce, to taste
- green onion, green parts sliced
- vegetable or peanut oil

1. In a bowl, combine ground venison, 2 sliced green onions, sesame oil, oyster sauce, ground black pepper (to taste) and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
2. Beat one egg in a small bowl. With a brush, brush egg around all four sides of the wonton wrappers. Add about 1 tbs. of the venison mixture in the middle of the wrappers.

You can buy wonton wrappers in the freezer or refrigerator section at your grocery store. 
To seal, fold opposite corners together. The egg helps the wrapper corners to stick. 
Then the other corners... making sure that you squeeze out all air bubbles.
They should look like this... little pyramids. 
3. Heat oil in a deep pan to 360 degrees. You can fill it up to submerge the entire wonton, or fill halfway. You'll have to do more flipping to make sure all sides are evenly fried, but you'll save more oil this way.

Fry in batches until golden, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. 

Drain on a paper towel. 

4. To make dipping sauce, combine together soy sauce, Caesar vinaigrette, chopped green onion and Sriracha hot sauce, to taste. Adjust ingredients to your liking. Mix well. It should be salty, but also balanced by the tartness in the dressing. 

If you don't have dressing, you can use lemon juice, starting off with a small amount and adjusting.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hunting Nebraska

We know this is long overdue. It's been weeks after our return from Nebraska, and we have barely uttered one word about it. The thing is, Nebraska’s not like Disneyland. It was a kind of fun that takes awhile to digest. 


There’s something about the country that is so appealing. It has an unassuming beauty that is often overlooked, drowned out by the illusions of city lights and sounds. It is a place where at any given moment, the most you’ll likely hear is the sound of a truck driving down an old dirt road, or a cow mooing in the distance. It is a land of big blue skies and tall grasses, of combine tractors and corn. 

Trees line up along small-town streets, shading the homes of some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, in hues of orange and green, red and gold. 

We arrived in Nebraska on a Thursday, two days before the rifle opener. Rick’s cousin Pete pulled up in his Chevy Truck, jumped out and gave Rick a familiar hug hello. Then he turned to me and said, “If you’re gonna hang out with the family this weekend, you better get used to hugs too!” From that moment on, I knew the week was going to turn out great.

We loaded up, and I saw Rick smile in the side-view mirror – the kind of smile that was just for himself, private and satisfying. I knew he felt like he was finally home.

On the way to the house, we saw about fifteen does in a single field. Down one road, we caught another one trying to cross. She was beautiful, with her soft tan coat, and large ears that were darkly rimmed with a deep stunning brown– not typical of whitetail deer in Lancaster County.

So this was the country. And I soaked up every part of it. My favorite moments were actually just riding in the back of Pete and Tyler’s truck, just to watch the dust stir up and settle back down again. Rick’s cousins knew how to show a couple Californians a good time.

Deer Camp was different this year, so I was told. For the first time ever, the men invited the women out, to celebrate the night prior to the big day. We had so much food… Tyler’s delicious pheasant soup, Pete’s bacon wrapped venison steaks and Brian’s deer chili. 

I talked and mingled with the wives, from whom I learned that kindness and a sense of humor will allow any woman to put up with a crazy hunting man. We warmed up by the fire and laughed the night away. Colton, Rick’s youngest cousin and Pete’s son, suddenly said, “I don’t think books have ever been talked about at deer camp before.” That made everyone laugh. The men said that “things are changing,” and they didn’t seem to mind. 

Then all the women left, except me. Tomorrow was the opener, so all those hunting had better get some sleep. Rick and I would be hunting with Tyler and his son Joseph on the Thody property, a beautiful 10-acre piece of woods that Tyler’s parents have had for years.

Rick and I woke up early that next morning. I quickly threw on my camo bibs, gloves, my camo hunting jacket, camo boots and orange vest—things that I had been shopping for and accumulating for months before the hunt. Rick made sure that I had enough clothes, because I’m a girl and I generally don’t do well in cold weather. I had so much clothes on that I almost waddled to our blind.

All was quiet as we slipped into our spot, which was comfortable. Tyler worked hard that summer before, ingeniously turning the cover to his old truck into a practical deer blind. 

The clock said 6:30 AM. It is time to shoot. A few moments later, the sound of gunshots scattered throughout the land. It’s officially deer season!! I waited with my .243 Howa rifle and watched for any movement in the woods. I honestly had no idea what to expect, being my first deer hunt. I didn't know where the deer would be. When they’ll show up. Or if at all. But I was ready, and I was anxious. I was so afraid of making a bad shot, wounding the animal or ruining good meat.

Suddenly, a doe walked into the corner of my eye. It had only been thirty minutes. “There’s a doe!!!” I whispered to Rick. I watched her walk through the trees, making her way up the dry creek bed, and I steadied myself for a shot, if I was given one. She stopped, and bent down to eat. Her head and neck were hidden behind a tree. Rick whispered, “Take your time—” BANG! Before he knew it, I had already squeezed the trigger. She was standing about 25 to 30 yards away. It all happened so quickly that I don’t remember feeling my heart beat.

Her tail went up immediately and started flickering wildly. She trotted forward, seeming a little confused, then ran off behind some trees. I thought I saw her bed down, but I wasn’t sure. I prayed that I had not injured her, only to have her sneak away for a slow and painful death. Rick’s phone buzzed. It was Tyler, who was hanging out up high in a tree stand at the other end of the property. He wrote, “That sounded like a .243.” Tyler knew it was me. That made me more nervous, because the pressure was on.

We waited, and saw about 5 or 6 more deer walk through the woods. Unfortunately, they were too deep into the woods to shoot, and too close to the other property on the other side. But they were looking at something, stopping and sniffing where I thought my doe had fallen. That made us both hopeful. I was so anxious to go out and find my deer.

A few hours later, Rick and I headed back to camp. Tyler and Joseph were there, waiting for us. “Let’s go find a deer,” Tyler said. We unloaded our guns and walked back out into the brush, across the creek and through the trees. Rick walked ahead and then he stopped. He looked back at me and smiled, motioning me to walk up. I came into a small clearing and found my doe lying there, nestled in a bed of brown fallen leaves. I didn’t say anything. I just slowly bent down and silently ran my hands through her thick, soft coat. I felt the warmth of her body through my fingers.

“Well, dear, you did it” Rick said, proudly. “How do you feel?” I thought for a moment, but all I could blurt out was something lame like “happy” or “glad.” Writing this now, I am more aware of how I felt. But my mind went completely blank then, while I was kneeling right beside her. At  that moment, I didn’t feel like jumping up and down, because for me, that kill was private and personal. I quietly rubbed my doe’s ears and thanked her for what she had given me. Tyler shook my hand. It’s one of those moments that you never forget.

Thank you Joseph for helping me field dress my deer. :-)

One day at camp, Tyler and I waited by the fire for Rick to come back from his hunt. Tyler said to me, “It’s not about killing stuff. It’s about all this.” He looked around at the tent trailer and the fire; the trees and skies that surrounded us; the cool brisk air and our deer hanging by the tree, to be enjoyed by family friends for the year to come. I have Tyler to thank for showing me the true spirit of hunting. It's a tradition and a culture, one that I am honored to be a part of.  

I want to thank the Brown family and the Thodys for putting up with us that week. Thank you Jo Ann and Keith for welcoming us so warmly that first day we landed in Nebraska. They made homemade chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes, cherry pie, breads and so many other goodies that I can’t even remember them all. On our last night, they made warm mac and cheese and fried fish, which was one of the best meals we have EVER eaten. If you look up the word "hospitality" in the dictionary, this picture will show up.

Thank you Pete Brown, their son, who took us back and forth from the airport, and for being such a hoot the entire week. Thank you to the rest of the boys who hunted with us and to Norm, a local farmer, for allowing us to hunt his land. 

Tyler and Chris Thody, who allowed us to stay with them, and who took such good care of us in the field and at their home. We love and miss you all!

Last but not least, I want to thank Rick, who has been so supportive and loving. Thank you for opening up my eyes to a whole new world. I have so much fun being outside with you. Here’s to many more years of hunting! Baby, I love you!


View our slideshow for other great Nebraska pictures!
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