Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wonderful White Gravy with Sausage


Making good gravy takes a lot of practice and failures. I use to make gravy I thought was excellent but I struggled to keep it clump free and it normally got nasty thick as it cooled. But I thought it was great!
Then one night I had my cousin over for dinner, search squirrel on here and you will find that dinner. My cousin is a culinary grad and spent two years in Italy with her husband’s family where she cooked with skilled housewives. I took that opportunity to pick her brain about gravy and it changed my gravy for good. 
I learned about making a “roux.”
Now I get it, you can’t make good gravy without first making your roux. I prefer to use grease from my sausage if I’m making sausage gravy. Or butter will get you started if you’re meat free. You mix that with a little flour until you have a slightly thick mixture, but not too dry. 
Have your whisk and a strong arm ready, it’s time to whisk like crazy. Begin adding milk, about 1/4 a cup at a time, and whisk like there is no tomorrow. You don’t want clumps to form, so you must keep whisking and adding the milk slowly keeps from shocking it. It’s ideal to warm your milk ahead of time… but I’m a bit lazy sometimes so it goes in cold. So I must whisk like my life depends on it and pray my arm does not fall off.
Everyone’s idea of how gravy should be will vary, I like mine to be slightly thick and creamy like. If you want it to be runnier, that is completely up to you. 
I also put a little flavor into mine, salt and pepper plus a little bit of garlic and onion granules, literally just a dash or two of each. They’ll overpower the mixture fast. I once put a little paprika and turmeric in my gravy, that was amazing as well. Those don’t quite fit my idea for biscuits and gravy, but they rocked the gravy along side some fried chicken.
Once the gravy is the consistency you want it, add the meat and mix, mix, mix it up! Taste it to see if it has the flavor you want and check the consistency again. And that is it! 
I threw this on top of my biscuits I showed you yesterday and it certainly hit the spot. I really should not eat like this prior to Thanksgiving but… I can’t help it when I’m cold. You could also serve this on toast for that S.O.S feel, like the literal “It’s on a shingle because I’m so broke” feeling. 
I may not be back around until after Thanksgiving, if that is the case: “Happy Thanksgiving!”


Sausage Gravy
1/2 Pound of Sausage, Cooked.
Drippings from Sausage or 3 Tablespoons Butter
Flour
Milk
Salt
Pepper
Onion Granules
Garlic Granules 
  1. Start by creating a roux, slowly adding flour into sausage drippings or melted butter in a large pan.
  2. Whisk roux until it has a paste like thickness, but not too dry.
  3. Slowly add milk, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly to prevent clumps. Add milk until you reach your desired consistency. 
  4. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion to flavor, be sparing with the onions and garlic.
  5. Add in sausage and stir until combined. Check flavor and season if necessary.
  6. Serve on biscuits!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hello Biscuits!


Sunday night was cold as we survived the passing snowpocalypse, which was mostly just an ice storm with a few flurries in my part of the state. But that didn’t stop people from clearing grocery store shelves like the world was ending. That’s winter in Oklahoma for you. Speaking of, I’m starting to suffer with winter, by time I am done cooking it’s already dark or it’s getting there and it kills my natural light. I had to pull my flash out to survive! I just adore natural light photos of food more than those taken with flash. Let’s continue onto the biscuits now!
My husband had been out hunting all day and I wanted to make something warm, filling and easy for dinner. Man food? Carbs, meat and gravy? That is man food, correct? I’m going with it. So I settled on biscuits and gravy for dinner or as my dad calls it, S.O.S. [You can google that if you don’t get it]. I promise mine is above being called S.O.S.
I was lucky enough to have some blue and gold sausage in the freezer, so mine was made with sausage. If I was feeling extra lazy, I would have used canned biscuits, use them, I’ll be the last person to judge you for shortcuts. But I didn’t have any canned biscuits [or bisquick for that matter] so I had to make mine from scratch. Of course, making them from scratch is super easy but it does take more effort than popping a can open. The upside is no scary biscuit can suspense.
"Will it pop? When will it pop? Maybe it won’t this time… <POP>… DANG IT!"
Gosh, I hate opening biscuit cans.
I looked around at a few different recipes and settled on a couple of similar ones that consisted of very few ingredients and plenty of fluff! And that didn’t require buttermilk, I didn’t have any of that either and I wasn’t making it.
These biscuits were so easy, my 3 year old son helped me make them. He cut the butter into the flour for me and mixed in the milk. I took care of kneading the dough, rolling it out and cutting it just once. After that, he insisted on rolling it and cutting it.
These guys bake for a quick 10 minutes and then you have fluffy biscuits, perfect for topping with gravy. This is the kind of meal I need when the weather reminds me about the percent of fat my body no longer carries. Sometimes being thin doesn’t pay, it makes you cold.

Easy Biscuits
2 1/4 Cups Flour
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Sugar
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Stick Butter, very cold and sliced
1 Cup Cold Milk
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  2. Add butter and one cup of flour together in a bowl. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the flour.
  3. Add baking powder, sugar, salt and remaining flour. Continue cutting the butter in until the mixture becomes crumb like, about the size of peas. 
  4. Add in milk and gently toss the mixture together with a spoon until it is slightly combined.
  5. When the dough begins to hold together turn it out onto a floured surface [I like to use a baking mat].
  6. Knead the dough until it can be formed into a ball.
  7. Roll it out into a rectangle about a 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 inch circles. Don’t have a circle cookie cutter? Use a cup or coffee mug!
  8. Spray a cookie sheet with pam and place biscuits an inch apart.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
I served mine up as biscuits and gravy, but I am sure they would be amazing just buttered and on the side of dinner.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my gravy if you want this for dinner [Or breakfast, I suppose]: 

Monday, November 25, 2013

White Cheddar and Paprika Popcorn


I want to begin by telling you how much I love popcorn, it holds a special place in my life. It’s what I remember snacking on throughout my childhood and what a special pack rat stole off our tree one Christmas. I can’t stand to go to the movies without popcorn and I think I grew my son on popcorn as it was one of the very few foods I could eat during my pregnancy. I’ll eat my popcorn plain, I’ll eat it flavored, sometimes even with cheddar cubes and pickles. That’s not pregnancy food, its just happy food for me. Happy, Happy, Happy.
I was recently telling my husband about how I felt that I had a [not so] minor paprika obsession. I even lamented that I was going to become that crazy old woman that carries it around in her purse with the intention of sneaking it into everyone’s dishes.
"What are you making? Sugar cookies? I bet they would taste amazing with paprika in them!"
Okay, maybe I’m not that bad… maybe, but this did lead me recently to give it a try in my popcorn. I thought of the flavor I loved and imagined what it would taste be with toss on top of my popcorn. My dirty little secret? I love white cheddar flavoring on my popcorn… it’s just, yum. So my yummy little combination came down to paprika, white cheddar and dried parsley. I am in love. 
It all starts with a little bit of plain, freshly popped popcorn. I have an air popper I bought out of Target clearance a few years ago, it’s pink but it was a whopping $5. Popping it this way doesn’t add anything extra, no oil or butter, just popped by air. It can be a little dry, but you get used to it and I will be using a little olive oil to make everything stick.
So we have our popcorn.

Make sure your bowl is big enough to mix the popcorn, you’ve want to be able to toss it well enough to coat it. The ingredients consist of 2 tablespoons of olive oil, paprika, dried parsley and Kernel Season’s white cheddar.

This is another one of those recipes that I flavor to taste! I do stick to my 2 tablespoons of olive oil, I don’t want the popcorn to be too oily or add more calories than necessary. 
Start by adding the olive oil, drizzle it over the top and then mix until the popcorn is coated. Next add the white cheddar, paprika and parsley. You can always add more if there isn’t enough flavor, so start out light [seriously take it easy on the parsley]. Mine looks like this before I mix.

I take my big spoon and I mix and I mix and I mix until I feel it’s coated all the popcorn well enough. You will have some pieces that won’t hardly hold anything on them and others will be thoroughly coated, they’ll balance each other out when you’re eating.

And voila! Tasty popcorn. Now take it to a dark place and hoard it to yourself. When I say things like that, it becomes evident that I am a mother. I always hide with my snacks because my kiddo will want what I have. Or be a good person and share it, bag some up and share it with the neighbors too. It is far better than anything you could buy in a can this time of year. I’m just putting that out there.


Now if it was me, I would probably toss some cheese and pickles in with this and enjoy myself. But there are many more days, I just enjoy it as it is, because it’s spectacular just like that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Summer Comes Back


I came across a mysterious memory card and on it were only a few photos of my son, Izzy, riding his bike. We’ve had a hard few months and this week itself seems to be the ugliest we’ve weathered. Our spirits are broken, are hearts are heavy and it doesn’t seem like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Summer has gone and fall has set it, bringing longer nights and the bite of cold weather, followed by winter. But just a few pictures remind me of the better days, the days we spent outside with countless walks and bikes rides, enjoying the warmth of Summer.
Summer will come back, it always does.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Venison Chili



When you are carnivorous as I am, there is significant amount of joy in the acquaintance of a hunter. It means at some point, between bow and the following rifle hunting season, I will receive some venison [deer]. I look forward to venison because it is such a healthy red meat! It doesn’t get any more free and organic than this.
I didn’t expect to have deer for a few more weeks, I don’t know many bow hunters and rifle season doesn’t open until this weekend. I was over joyed when my Father stopped by to bring me a couple of pounds of venison a friend had given him, which includes a backstrap! I just don’t even know what I am going to do with that, so many delectable options. I am aware of some oddballs out there that don’t like deer, they claim its too “gamey” and usually fall into the group of people that turn their noses up to rabbit and squirrel. If they fall into the vegetarian or vegan category, they are exempt from my opinion because meat isn’t a part of their diet anyway. But if you’re a meat eater, how could have not like some of the most delicious and flavorful meats out there? I suppose I am weird, I like bison tongue and I’m dying to try the kangaroo meat I found at Sprouts Market. 
When I received the meat, I immediately knew I would be making chili with some of this deer! It’s been wonderfully cool outside and this was just what that nippiness needed to warm me up. Granted, I am a cold weather lover, I love to be bundled up! 
Chili is a wonderful meal that you really can’t fail unless you just flat out burn it [I did that once, don’t be embarrassed]. It’s one of those “the sky is the limit” dishes that everyone has their own variation of. Some people use pinto beans, others use black beans. Some people use a form of alcohol to add flavor, red wine or beer for example. It can just be straight tomato, beans and meat or you can fill it with a wide variety of vegetables. You can even drop the meat and use a substitute for the cheese to make it vegetarian or vegan. 
This weeks version is simple for me, I didn’t want to make a store trip and had everything I needed for a simple chili. I will admit I am a huge fan of putting a bottle of beer into my chili, flavor heaven, but I didn’t have any in home. Also, take note that chili can be quite healthy as long as you don’t fill it with a bunch of fatty or high calorie additives. Beer and wine are those high calorie additives, as well as topping it with cheese and sour cream. 
My chili generally begins the night before, I sort, clean and soak my pinto beans. The pinto beans go into the crock pot the next morning with a jalapeno and cayenne pepper. They’ll be tender by time I am ready to cook my chili.
When it’s chili making time, I begin with an onion and a clove or two of garlic. I prefer red onions for their sweetness or yellow… I just hate white onions. Chop that onion and garlic up and toss in into the bottom of a large stock pot with some olive oil. Let them cook until the onions become slightly translucent. Oh! And if you’re a heat seeker, add a few jalapenos in the there.
Next up is the tomatoes, sigh. There is this thing I have about store bought “fresh” tomatoes, they suck. Used canned tomatoes unless A. You have a garden full of your own or B. Have access to a local farmers market/farm fresh tomatoes. The reality right now is that tomato season is OVER, anything “fresh” right now probably comes from a hot house where they were picked long before they were ripe. I pick up my canned tomatoes at Sprouts Market, they offer organic canned tomatoes. Open up a can of whole peeled tomatoes and add them in with the onion and garlic, drop the heat to medium and let them simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate pan, brown your meat [if you’re using meat], drain if needed. Venison is not a fatty meat, it’s very lean, so you shouldn’t have anything to drain. 
Time to start adding flavor. Again, it’s completely up to you, I’m a paprika lover, so that goes in there. You need some cayenne pepper and a little bit a chili powder. I like to add a little bit of basil and if either the onion or garlic isn’t enough, I add onion/garlic granules in for flavor. Once you have the flavor you desire, toss in that meat.
Remember those pinto beans I made? Time for them to go in, I probably add 2-3 cups, but it just depends on if you want more beans or less beans. Add in any extra vegetables you want at this point.
This is the point that I add in my beer, if I’m doing that, and let it simmer for a good 30 minutes. The alcohol cooks out and you’re left with flavor. If you’re not a beer drinker but want to try it this way, check a local liquor store for single bottles. I suggest a Shiner Bock, it’s a dark lager. Dark lager and chili just go hand in hand for me. I would not suggest using a cheap beer, Bud, coors, etc. They don’t have the flavor.
If you’re passing the beer, then you just want to let things simmer for a good 30-40 minutes. Be sure to taste test it and see if you need to add anything extra. I like my chili thick, so if it seems too soupy, I will add a can or two of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste. If you do, be sure to check your seasoning.
So how do you eat chili? Serve as is with a sprinkling of cheese. Top it with a dollop of sour cream and chives. With a side of corn bread. I never cease to love tossing it on top of some corn chips with a little cheddar cheese. Talk about the not healthy way to serve it, but it’s comforting and crunchy.




Venison Chili
1 Pound Venison [You can sub any meat or omit the meat altogether]
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Paprika
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
3 Cups Pinto Beans [cooked]
Onion Granules
Garlic Granules
Basil
Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste
Jalapeno
1 Bottle Beer [Shiner Bock]
Extra Veggies 
  1. Toss chopped onion, garlic and jalapeno into a large stock pan with olive oil, cook until onion is slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and smash them down with a spoon. Lower your heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Season to taste with paprika, cayenne, chili powder, basil and granules
  3. In a separate pan, brown meat and drain off extra drippings. Add into the large pot, along with the pinto beans. Check your flavor and season if needed. Add any extra vegetables you desire.
  4. Pour in one bottle of beer, tomato sauce and paste, let simmer. Continue to check flavor and simmer at least 30 minutes or until you get the thickness you desire. If it’s too soupy, just let it simmer a little longer.
  5. Serve warm with cheddar cheese on top!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No Deer Chili Today :(


Yesterday I promised to share about my deer chili, sadly that isn’t happening today. My day started with some not so excellent news and I’m busy making phone calls and trying to sort the situation. 
Maybe deer chili, tomorrow?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Your Oats!


I have to plead guilty as one of those people who wants to PUMPKIN SPICE EVERYTHING as soon as fall hits. I do have the dignity to hold out for the first cool “fall feeling” day but then it is on like donkey kong. I want my latte pumpkin spiced and I want my pumpkin pie, pumpkin spiced… which would make sense anyway. I already walk around in cozy sweaters and boots, real boots, I’ve never been an Uggs girl. I want real [fake] leather boots on my legs with knitted socks poking out of the top, that is what cozy is. And then I want pumpkin spice, because THIS IS FALL.
I made my pumpkin spice cookies last week and failed to put the spices back into the cabinet when I was done. The next morning when I crawled into the kitchen to make my breakfast, normally steel cut oats, the spices began to call my name through an eerie whisper. I always put a little cinnamon into my oats, but with its sister spices sitting there ready to be used, I continued to add them all. 
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and a little bit of all spice turned my oats into a warm fall goo. If I wasn’t conscious about my daily energy usage, I would have turned on the fireplace and wrapped myself in every sweater I own. 
So how do I make it? If you read about my cookies, you know how I feel about spicing to flavor. You can use prepared [ie. store bought] pumpkin spice. I will look the other way as I silently judge you. I add the spices as my oats are boiling and then a little bit a sugar before eating.
WHOA! Sugar in my healthy breakfast? Heck yes. I am controlling the amount consumed as opposed to the fifteen teaspoons in a little package of microwavable oatmoosh, I mean oatmeal. I get one teaspoon, maybe two if I feel like I need a little more sugar. You can use honey to sweeten it or if you’re hardcore, no sweetening at all. I’m soft and delicate like the petals of a rose, that means I require a little sweetness. I balance it with black coffee, okay?
And that’s all there is to making yourself a wonderful little meal that screams “ITS FALL” without the hundreds of calories our beloved pumpkin spice latte has. 
Every time I put something like the up that is actually vegan, I think, “WOW, I’m almost a vegan!” And then I realize I eating meat for dinner, so I am clearly delusional. I’ll have deer chili for you tomorrow! See? I’m no vegan. But it is organic, free range, grass fed straight from the fields with no antibiotics deer meat. 
[PSA: You can use Stevia found at a local health food store for sweetener too. But DO NOT use low cal/no cal sweeteners, they are bad for you. They make you crave more sugar and can lead to weight gain/over eating. Just google ASPARTAME. It’s better to give yourself a little real sugar instead tricking your body with chemicals.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cookies


I promised cookies yesterday and I am delivering today with these delectable spiced cookies, you need these, you really do. Put them in a jar and hide them in the back of the fridge so hopefully no one else will notice them. Or you can be a good person like me and share them with your beloved spouse and children. If you have neither of those, then keep them all to yourself without guilt.
I wanted to find a cookie recipe to bring for Thanksgiving, it will just be my parents, my brother and my little group of three this year. So we don’t need a ton of desserts, plus my mom will be recovering from surgery, so a lot is in my hands this year. Of course, I am blessed with a husband and father who cook, so it won’t be too bad. Supposedly my Mom should be able to be up and around, but just in case, I’m planning without her.
I always like to have something sweet to nibble on when I am not quite ready for a helping of pumpkin pie. I think these little cookies will hit the spot! I found them over on No. 2 Pencil’s Blog, which is full of tons more good stuff, just fyi. If you just follow the link, her recipe is near perfect… Okay, her recipe IS perfect, but I always make things my way. Let’s put it this way, her cookies will be thin and soft, my cookies are thicker and kind of cakey, but still soft. It’s just how I like my cookies.
First, assemble your ingredients, always do this! I mean you don’t have to take a picture, but make sure you have EVERYTHING you need. Quick question, does anyone else buy a 25 pound bag of flour every year? Just me? Apparently I have lots of baking planned. [I also have a 25 pound bag of sugar for making Christmas candy!] 

Now, I always make my own pumpkin spice, store bought is fine, but I like to flavor it on the spot and get it just the way I like it. I taste as I go and adjust accordingly, I like a little extra cinnamon and ginger.
My version makes the cookies a little thicker and so they won’t melt down on their own, when they go on the pan, use a spoon to smoosh them down, much like you would peanut butter cookies. I use a spoon so it’s smooth, you could use a fork and make the little criss-cross if you don’t plan on frosting them.
I baked them for 12-15 minutes, checking them often. I wanted them to stay soft and they didn’t brown, so heads up.
These cookies are sweet but they have that spice flavor that just brings in the feeling of the season. I suggest eating them in front of a fireplace with a warm cup of coffee or cider, it just makes you feel warm and content inside. Recipe after the jump!



Cookies
  • 1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Ground Ginger
  • Ground Nutmeg
  • Ground Allspice
  • [Or pumpkin spice]
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with pam [or you can use parchment paper]
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and butter together with an electric mixer or by hand if you’re old fashioned like me.
  4. Next add in the egg and vanilla, mix until well combined.
  5. Combine with the flour mixture and continue stirring until combined.
  6. Begin to add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice, to desired flavor. I prefer extra cinnamon and ginger. If you’re not confident in creating the flavor, just use pre-made pumpkin spice.
  7. Mixture should be thick, but sticky, pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  8. Use a cookie drop or teaspoon and drop round balls, 2in apart on cookie sheet. Press down with a spoon.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes, pull cookies out while the centers are still soft.
  10. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes or until cookies are cool.
  11. Frost when ready.
     
Frosting
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 4 oz of room temperature cream cheese
  • 2-3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a large bowl, mix together butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, spice [to desired flavor], and salt.
  2. Continue mixing and add in vanilla extract.
  3. Cube the cream cheese and add in one at a time, until combined. I suggest using an electric mixer or stand mixer at this point, the cream cheese is stubborn.
  4. Mixture should be soft and spreadable. Add additional powdered sugar to thicken if needed.