country living, food, photography, Uncategorized

The Way to a Man’s Heart

 

banana-cream-pie-drw

Forget what Dr. Phil might tell you.  The secret to a happy marriage?  Homemade banana cream pie.  Not love, not communication, not shared interests.  Pie.  Lots and lots of pie.

Teresa

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food, photography, recipe, Uncategorized

Zucchini EncHAILadas

County Fair 1-3

One of my favorite recipes for using up the summer’s bounty of zucchini is Skinnytaste’s Cheesy Zucchini Enchiladas.  I had big plans to shred and freeze a large portion of our garden’s zucchini so we could enjoy this delicious spin off from traditional Mexican food.  Last week’s storm rendered that goal impossible.  Sad face.

Instead used the few zucchini I had in the fridge and this one I’d salvaged from the hail storm and we feasted last night.  I might only have gotten one batch of homegrown zucchini enchiladas, but they were amazing!  Any further creations will have to be done the old fashioned way – with zucchini bought from a store.

If mother nature smiled on you and blessed you with an ample harvest and lack of hail, consider these cheesy bits of vegetarian heaven to use up your summer zucchini.  They are great for a meatless Monday or a Lenten Friday or anytime you just need to switch it up!

Cheesy Zucchini Enchiladas – From Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 4 • Serving Size: 1 large enchilada • Points +: 7 pts • Smart Points: 7
Calories: 258 • Fat: 13.5 g • Protein: 22 g • Carb: 30 g • Fiber: 17 g 

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, grated
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups grated reduced fat mexican blend cheese (I just use cheddar)
  • 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • chopped scallions (optional)
  • chopped cilantro (optional)

For the Enchilada sauce:

  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (optional for more heat.  I skip these all together most times because I never have them on hand, and my daughter and husband like them less hot)
  • 1 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fat free vegetable broth
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

Directions:

For the enchilada sauce: in a medium saucepan, spray oil and sauté garlic. Add chipotle chile, chili powder, cumin, broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium nonstick skillet, sauté garlic and scallions in olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes; add zucchini, salt and pepper to taste and cook about 4-5 minutes.

( I throw the cooked mixture in a colander to drain, otherwise I find the mixture gets a little soupy and slimy.  Once it is sufficiently drained, I proceed with the next steps.)

Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup cheese; mix well.

Divide zucchini between in each tortilla, roll and place seam side down in baking dish.

Top with enchilada sauce (you might not use all) and remaining cheese and bake until hot and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

Serve with chopped cilantro, scallions, and reduced fat sour cream if you wish.

Buen provecho!

Teresa

food, humor, Uncategorized, writing

TomatOHNO Soup

Tomato SoupI don’t like fresh tomatoes.  My husband doesn’t like fresh tomatoes.  Wyokiddo doesn’t like fresh tomatoes.  We are united as a family in that regard.  But when I saw half a dozen beautiful Roma tomatoes in my food coop pickup, I figured I could do something yummy and healthy.

It was a windy and grey afternoon, so tomato soup sounded like a good idea.  Oddly enough, while we don’t like fresh tomatoes, we all love tomato soup.  We generally eat the canned variety, but I’m always up for a culinary adventure.  I got on Pinterest, researched some recipes and got to work.

The soup looked wonderful.  The slightly orange color was positively beautiful and my kitchen emanated savory aromas from the roasted tomatoes, garlic and onions.  My mouth was literally watering as Wyokiddo and I set the table.  The whole fam eagerly tucked into the dinner table, armed with the grilled cheese sandwiches and spoons.

You know how one bite of a new recipe and you know this will become a stable in your cooking arsenal?  When all the ingredients come together in one perfect, creamy, delectable taste sensation?

This was not that recipe.

I didn’t like it.  My husband thought it was too oniony.  Is that even a word?  Wyokiddo actually gagged when we asked her to try a few additional spoonfuls.

So I’m taking suggestions for new and improved homemade tomato soup recipes.  As for Wyokiddo, she’s asked that I let daddy make the tomato soup from now on. 🙂

Teresa

agriculture, agriculture life, Birds, Uncategorized

Let the Chickens Come

Let the Chickens Come

My former hometown is considering creating an ordinance allowing residents to keep backyard chickens – up to 5 hens per residence.  Folks across the city, which has about 60,000 residents, want to have the ability to raise a small flock of chickens for fresh eggs.  And some folks are losing their minds over this.

“They smell!”

“They are too noisy!”

“They’re dirty! And dangerous!”

“There will be chickens running loose in the city!”

The way some of these people are squawking, you’d think the city is considering an ordinance to allow backyard Bubonic plaque.  They are chickens, folks, not harpie eagles with a penchant for eating the faces off of young children.

Backyard chickens provide much healthier eggs for consumers.  Numerous studies done have proved that eggs from chickens allowed out of their cages to walk in the dirt, peck at bugs and generally just be a chicken, are much more nutritious than those from their cage-raised, commercially grown counterparts.  You only have to crack open a home-grown egg to see the difference in its rich yellow-orange yolk.  A study conducted in Europe also revealed that salmonella was more prevalent in caged flocks than in organic, barn and cage-free flocks of chickens.  Plus, you control what your chickens eat, what medications they receive and how eggs are handled and stored.

Hens are usually calm, quiet and well-mannered.  Roosters can be noisy with their morning crowing, but hens go about their business quietly clucking and cooing, if making any noise at all.  They eat bugs, making them a great organic pest control tool.  They will eat table scraps like fruit and vegetable skins.  Think of them as feathery little garbage men, er, women, that recycle much of your kitchen waste, saving space in city landfills for actual garbage.  One study I read said that a single hen can “biorecycle” about seven pounds of food residuals in a month.  So if 500 households raised 5 chickens each, that would be 105 tons of waste each year diverted from city landfills!  And chicken poop, when composted properly, makes excellent fertilizer for gardens and lawns.

Backyard hens can also provide a wonderful teaching tool for children.  Like any pet, children can learn responsibility and empathy from chickens.  But hens have the added benefit of teaching about food systems and the human-food relationship.  Society has become so far removed from the farm, children often don’t know eggs come from chickens or beef comes from cows.  I think anytime you can be involved in  the production of your own food, it’s a good thing.  You become more invested in what you are putting into your body.  And spending time outdoors has proven to reduce stress, help with allergies and improve your health and well-being.  Chickens are even being used as therapy for patients with diseases like dementia, Alzzheimer’s, depression and autism!

My backyard is, for all intents and purposes, one giant chicken coop.  Except we raise pheasants, not chickens.  About 20,000 of them at the peak of the rearing season.  The only time I am bothered by the smell is when it has rained or snowed and we are walking smack dab in the middle of the bird pens.  Occasionally I can hear a rooster crow or squawk, but given all the noises around our place, it doesn’t even hit my radar.  I lived in town and town noises are much more obnoxious that a few hens merrily clucking about.  Yes, hens, can and do make noise.   But guess what else makes noise?  Dogs barking all day and night.  People playing their music at max volume.  Drunks walking home after a party.  Street traffic.  Construction.   You know what wakes me up at night?  Owls.  Dogs.  Coyotes.  Trucks.  But never our pheasants.

Raising hens isn’t for everyone.  You need to be a responsible pet owner that is ready to provide the chickens with the right habitat  and clean up after them.  You need to be prepared to spend some money on their purchase, care and welfare.  You need to be educated on how to protect them from predators and prevent attracting other vermin to your neighborhood.  You’ll need to find someone to chicken-sit when you are on vacation.  Hens are living creatures with needs, just like a cat or dog.

And most importantly, you will need to be prepared to make tough decisions about your hens’ lives when their laying days are over.  Egg production will decline as a hen ages.  Will you let your beloved Christina Eggulara live out her retirement in your coop and begin buying eggs again?  Are you prepared to have a vet euthanize Chick Cheney ?  Or slaughter and eat Cluck Norris yourself?  It is NEVER appropriate to just turn your hens loose and let them fend for themselves. Local animal shelters simply aren’t equipped for hundreds of unwanted hens.  So have a plan before you even step foot into your local farm and ranch store and be prepared to make some tough choices about Tyrannosaurs Pecks when the time comes.

But if you’ve educated yourself on the responsibility of raising laying hens and are prepared to be a good neighbor and responsible owner, I say bring on the cluckers.  Will the backyard chicken movement go perfectly?  Probably not.  But I’d venture to say that the small group of locavores who will participate in this effort have already put more thought, time and effort into raising chickens than a large percentage of pet owners out there.

Let the chickens come.  Then take your neighbors some eggs.

Teresa

cooking, recipes, Uncategorized, wild game

Wild Game Wednesday – Cream Cheese Pheasant with Broccoli

 

Cream Cheese PheasantLiving on a bird farm with 20,000 pheasants outside our backdoor, one might think we eat a lot of pheasant.  Nope.  Outdoor Guy doesn’t care for it.  When we lived at the fish hatchery, we rarely ate fish.  He says when he’s around animals like that day in and day out, the last thing he wants to see at the end of the day is another fish or pheasant.

I will never let him work in a chocolate factory.

But occasionally, I do get to sneak some pheasant onto the supper table.  My cooking method of choice for wild bird is usually the slow cooker.  The slow cooker keeps wild birds, which can often be a tad dry, deliciously moist.  And it will tenderize even the toughest ol’ range bird.

I first tried this recipe with blue grouse and it was amazing.  I’ve tried making it with chicken, but it just doesn’t have the same zip.  There’s something in the combination of the strong and earthy flavors of wild bird that perfectly complements the sweet in the cream cheese and the tang in the sherry.  Mmmmmmmm.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless pheasant breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I left mine whole)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package (1 ounce) Italian salad dressing mix (I use 1 tbsp of a homemade mix)
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 bag (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed (I used fresh)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • Hot cooked pasta (we use egg noodles)

Instructions

  1. Toss chicken with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Italian salad dressing mix.  Place in slow cooker.  Cover; cook on low for 3 hours.
  2. Coat large skillet with nonstick cooking spray.  Add mushrooms and onion; cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add soup, broccoli, cream cheese and sherry to skillet; cook until hot.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Cover; cook on low 1 hour.  Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

My photos really don’t do this dish justice.  This recipe is easy to pull together, but has sophisticated enough flavor that you won’t feel like a slacker serving it to guests.  You can try it with chicken, but I really recommend saving it for wild bird of your favorite flavor!  I promise, you won’t go afowl… 🙂

Teresa

food, recipe, vegetables

Monday Yumminess: Shredded Brussels Sprouts a la Crow

Brussels sprouts

I hated Brussels sprouts.  I’m talking make me gag just thinking about trying to eat them kind of hate.  They were a vile weed not fit for human consumption.

Then I met and married Outdoor Guy.  And he loved the darn things.  His family loved the darn things.  They served them at holidays, for Pete’s sake, they were so revered.  And so, in the interest of marital accord, I gave them another chance.  I bought some frozen Brussels sprouts, boiled them according to the directions on the bag and served them to my newly betrothed feeling very proud of myself for falling on my sword in the name of love.

Two bites in, I about lost it.  Choked down the first one, the surreptitiously fed the remaining four globs of green yuk to my dog.  I finished the rest of my meal feeling very proud of myself for finding a way to feel noble about serving Brussels sprouts without having to actually eat any more of the Brussels sprouts.

“See, not that bad!” said Outdoor Guy, nodding at my empty plate.

“Yum-O!” I enthusiastically replied.

Then the dog threw up my Brussels sprouts all over the kitchen floor.  The dog was not impressed with the Brussels sprouts.  I was not impressed with my dog.  Outdoor Guy was not impressed with me.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

Some years later, I started participating in a food co-op, making a weekly payment  in return for a basket of mystery produce.  And one week, it happened.  There in my basket sat two pounds of Brussels sprouts, brightly and cheerfully wrapped up like a Christmas present gone horribly wrong.  Their little heads shined brightly, sucking up all the air in the room.  I hadn’t even so much as uttered their name since the great vegetable horking dog incident of 2010.

“Things just got interesting,” said Outdoor Guy with a smirk when he saw them.

So I took to my cookbooks and the web to find a way, ANY WAY, to cook Brussel sprouts that would make them taste less Brussel sprouty.  Somewhere in the depths of the Internet I found a suggestion to simply chop them and sauteed them with some olive oil, bacon, garlic and shallots.  Surely the bacon would help, right?

And I’ll be darned if I didn’t kind of like them prepared that way.  Actually, I loved them.  They were nutty and flavorful and robust.  I had two helpings of vegetables and two helpings of grief served to me by my husband.

To this day, I will not eat boiled Brussels sprouts.  But prepared any other way, they are one of my favorite vegetables.  We probably eat them at least three times a month, more when they are in season and less expensive.  But I always buy fresh ones and stick to sauteing or roasting.  I have several different favorite methods of preparation and flavors.  But the following recipe is the one that made me a convert and brought me to the dark side of the Brussels sprout debate.  I call them Shredded Brussels Sprout a la Crow, because even people who say they hate Brussels sprouts admit they kind of like them prepared this way.

The crow, of course, is optional.

Teresa

Shredded Brussels Sprout a la Crow – adapted from Jamie Deen, Food Network

Ingredients
1 strip bacon, sliced into thin strips (you can skip the bacon, if you like.  It’s still delicious!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
6 ounces Brussels sprouts (2 big handfuls)
Pinch brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Instructions
Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.

While the bacon is cooking, cut off the ends of the brussels sprouts. Then chop the Brussels sprouts in half. Lay them cut-side-down and finely chop until they are all shredded.

Add the garlic and shallots to the skillet and saute until fragrant and the shallots are soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the Brussels sprouts and saute until tender crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Add a pinch of brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice. Saute for 1 minute more. Toss with the chopped parsley and bacon. Serve hot or at room temperature.

cookies, food, photography, recipes

Monday Yumminess: Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

If the Zombie apocalypse ever gets started, I’m convinced it will be transmitted through pumpkin spice flavored nonsense during the fall.  It seems like everyone goes a little overboard when the weather cools, throwing pumpkin spice in everything.  Pancakes.  Pies.  Lattes.  Milkshakes.  Pumpkin flavored bacon cupcakes.  Or maybe that was bacon flavored pumpkin cupcakes.  Either way, ick.

I actually like pumpkin.  So much so that I use it year-round.  My favorite pumpkin recipe is a quick and simple one for Pumpkin Cookies.  This is one of my favorite cookie recipes because it can be so gosh darn quick and easy.  It’s so easy, in fact, you will feel like you are cheating.  Three ingredients, mix, cook, ahhhhhhh!

But before fall blows away and pumpkin spice products are replaced by peppermint flavored products and my recipe is so last season, I give to you…

CHEATER CHEATER PUMPKIN EATER COOKIES

    • 2 cups of All-Purpose Flour
    • 3/4 cups of Sugar
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger
    • 1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
    • 1 to 2 cups chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries or nuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
  3. Add pumpkin and mix until combined.
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips, raisins or nuts. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on size of cookies.
  5. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for up to 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Store in an airtight container for best results.

Notes

  • Ready for the Cheater Cheater part?  Swap the first 8 ingredients for a spice cake mix.  Then follow the rest of the directions accordingly.  Yes, that’s right.  A cake mix, pumpkin and chocolate chips are all you need to make amazing cookies.
  • But if you are like me and rarely have a spice cake mix on hand, or just want to control each ingredient, use the traditional method.
  • These are great to make with kids because there are no eggs and very simple measurements.

You’re singing the song now, aren’t you?  🙂

Teresa

chili, food, recipes, wild game

Monday Yumminess: Game Warden Approved Elk Chili

Elk ChiliI love spicy foods.  Outdoor Guy does not.  So in the interest of marital bliss, I’ve learned to tone down how much spice and heat I add to recipes.  If Daddy ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy after all!  One of the recipes he got me hooked on was this version of a not-so-spicy chili.  It is now the only variety of chili I make for our family, because it has great flavor without a lot of heat.  I’ve included the official ingredients in the notes so that if you’ve got someone that likes to live on the spicy side, you can accommodate them as well.

Usually a pot of chili will last our family 3 or 4 meals.  This one barely fed us twice, thanks in large part to the hungry game warden that dined with us last week.  Hunting seasons are starting to open up around here.  And that means lots of cold food and meals from a can for our friend Warden Rob.  Rob is a game warden, or wildlife resource officer.  His job is to enforce Wyoming’s hunting, fishing and wildlife protection laws.  Knowing I’d have plenty of chili to go around, we invited the warden to dinner.  Wyokiddo enjoyed regaling Warden Rob with stories of her preschool.  And I think he appreciated a warm meal.  He ate two heaping bowls, so I’m taking that as acceptance. 🙂

So I present to you, the perfect kickoff to fall…

Game Warden Approved Elk Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground elk meat (use any ground meat, including beef, but elk is our favorite!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans tomato sauce (10 1/2 oz. each)
  • 2 cans Italian style stewed tomatoes (15 1/2 oz. each)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained (15 1/2 oz.)
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions

Brown elk, onion, and garlic in skillet.  Add other ingredients, cover, and simmer on low for an hour or more.  Or add all ingredients and cook on low in a slow cooker for 4-6 hours.  Serve with corn bread.  Serves 4-6.

Notes

  • Feel free to substitute any ground meat for the elk in this recipe.  I’ve made it with beef, a beef/Italian sausage combo, venison and antelope.  But elk is by far our favorite.
  • I’ve made this in a slow cooker and on the stove.  I’ve found letting it hang out in a slow cooker is the more delicious way to go!
  • I skip the saltine crackers and provide Frito corn chips as an add-in instead, along with sour cream, cheddar cheese and extra onions.
  • The original recipe was called Rocky Mountain Elk Firehouse Chili, and was the 1989 Arizona State Fair Blue Ribbon Winner.  To add the spice back in, add the following in addition to the ingredients listed above:
    • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
    • 2 fresh yellow hot peppers, diced
    • 2 additional tsp. of red chili powder
food, recipe

Monday Yumminess: Stir-Fried Green Beans

Stir Fry Green Beans

I grew up primarily on canned green beans and corn, iceberg lettuce, and frozen broccoli.  Oh sure, we’d occasionally have some cauliflower or carrots or GAG!?! peas.  My limited vegetable pool was one part my own finickiness and one part that was just how our family operated.

Now, I’m a veggie lover, and it just doesn’t get better than fresh vegetables.  Fresh peppers, Swiss chard, parsnips, rutabaga, squash…if it’s a vegetable, it’s consumed at our house.  Even peas, the spherical nemesis of my childhood, are welcome guests at our dinner table.

But my favorite of all is green beans.  Most of the time, I just steam fresh green beans and serve them as a simple, unadorned side.  Occasionally, I revert to my childhood and serve them from a can.  But when I want to really mix things up, I break out these Stir-Fried Green Beans.  They’re simple, garlicky and delicious.  Wyokiddo loves this recipe so much, we have to limit the amount she receives so she won’t eat herself sick on them.  They are that good.

This recipe is also great with asparagus, broccoli and cabbage.  If you like an extra kick, add a pinch of crushed red pepper or a splash of Sriracha.  Try it as a side to your favorite Chinese dish for takeout without ever going out!

Stir Fried Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

For Sauce:

  • 4 tsp soy sauce (I use low-sodium or it can get a little salty)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sherry

Instructions

  1. Stir fry beans in oil, garlic and ginger over medium to medium-high  until crisp tender.
  2. Add sauce to beans and steam until tender.
  3. Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve.