Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweet and Sour Tenderloin

  Tonight was our first night to be treated to Dan's fresh venison.  He cooked up a delicious Chinese style stir-fry.  It would be great served over rice.  Feel free to substitute pork, chicken or beef for your own dinner.  If you are allergic or soy sensitive there's no need to be deprived of good Chinese food. The pineapple and hot sauce made a delightful sweet and sour sauce.  Using frozen vegetables makes this meal a snap.  I think he prepared it in less time than it would have to go pick up an order of take-out!  It was so good I asked him to share his recipe.

Sweet and Sour Venison Stir Fry

Dan's Venison Stir Fry

 Brown 1/2 pound tenderloin in olive oil. Add 6 ounces Drew's Kalamata Olive dressing.  Add half a can of chopped pineapple with juice plus one tablespoon of Frank's Red Hot sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add a bag of frozen broccoli, carrots, and water chestnuts. Cook about 10 minutes for the vegetables to thaw. 

The Big Chill?

    We are getting ready for the long winter ahead.  I know it's not Little House on the Prairie and we can go to the grocery store instead of hitching up the wagon for provisions in town.  Dan has been splitting wood to stack up for the wood stove.  He's also got a five point deer that will give us plenty of meat to stock in the freezer.  This brings me to my debate: to buy the deep freeze or not to buy the deep freeze?
 We froze bags of peaches from our tree and a few bags of apple cider.  We have a refrigerator unit with the freezer compartment at the top, so there is just so much you can hold.  Dan suggested we get an additional freezer so we can save more of the peaches next year. If I was really ambitious I could blanch green beans and produce from the garden as well.  We did use much of what we had this year and shared produce with visitors, but there were a few eggplant that did not make it into the pot.  Maybe if I had extra freezer space I would be more inclined to cook them up to preserve for the winter months. 
 There's also the savings to be had if you buy in bulk.  There are two things holding me back here.  I picture a lone roast in the bottom of the deep freeze and me on my tippy-toes precariously balancing to reach it.  When I pull it out it turns out to be a roastcicle full of ice crystals after a 4 year storage in the bottom of the chest.  Also, I have heard that the electricity cost can end up outweighing or equalling out the initial food savings. 
 I'm going to need some help with this one before I can make a decision.  Please share your thoughts on the wisdom of buying an extra freezer verses staying with just our current unit.  I'll need opinions as well as important sounding research from Consumer Reports. Maybe you can thaw my extra freezer indecision.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shop Small

     Today is Small Business Saturday.  As someone who likes a bargain, the big box stores can be tempting.  I used to shop the malls for all my holiday gifts.  Then, I had my own children and not only was it torture for me to drag the little ones through the mall, but then you have to hide everything from them so it is a surprise.  Between lines to get into the parking lot and crowds to navigate through and the overheating in my winter jacket while shopping it just seems like so much work.  Before you mark me down as an awful Scrooge, I have a solution to my holiday shopping cynicism.
    Shop your local stores.  Who doesn't want to save on gas money by not traveling "over the river" to get to the mall metropolis?  Small stores appreciate business so are more apt to have that old-fashioned notion of customer service.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, let me define it.  It involves a human being offering assistance in some form.  Smaller stores are easier to make a quick trip since there aren't 6 million items to walk through to get to the one you are looking to buy.  This is apt to save me money as well.  If there is less to look at and less time spent shopping, there is less to bring home.
   Smaller stores are more convenient for me.  I can be in and out of the store instead of having an all day excursion.  Knowing that I am keeping a local family employed is rewarding as well. Plus, there are some unique items in those little stores that aren't a repeat of every store in the mall.  Of course, I'm saving my most important resource as well, my time, energy and sanity!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Take the picture quick before it's all gone.
   As I look forward to the holiday with family this week, I am feeling truly thankful.  First of all, we get to spend time together.  Secondly, we all live near each other so nobody has to make the effort of huge travel arrangements.  Most important of all we are going to my sister's house so all I have to do is bring a dish to share.  Now that is good news to me! 
   Last year I happened upon a book called The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll.  The bowl gets left out after the holiday dinner and ends up traveling about the neighborhood animals before making it back to Grandma's house.  Everyone fills the bowl with "I am Thankful for" slips of paper then takes turns guessing who's slip of paper it is.  We tried this and it was fun to see all the different answers.  The kids were thankful for food or toys, but the adults had more wistful and profound gratitude for family, new opportunities and the simple joys of life.  It is easy to get caught up with the prep and busyness of the holiday season.  Taking time out to appreciate the ones we love, the roof over our head, wonderful friends and the start of each new day is more important to me than all the trimmings on the table
    I whipped this cranberry sauce recipe up while we were watching the parade.  Yeah, less time in the kitchen and more time to relax and enjoy the holiday! I've never been a big fan of homemade cranberry sauce, preferring the canned over the lumpy kind as a child.  This recipe is made using canned apple juice for sweetener.  I used the entire 12 ounce can and skipped adding sugar.  I threw it in the food processor and blended until smooth before chilling. This one was hugely popular with the kids' table.  They even asked for seconds!
Cranberry Apple Sauce II

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
6 ounces unsweetened apple juice concentrate


In a sauce pan, combine the cranberries and apple juice. Cook over medium-low heat until berries burst. Additional sugar may be added if desired. Mix well, chill and serve.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Piece of Cake

Dan's Birthday Cheesecake
      I know I should know better.  I actually thought of making things easy on myself.  I told myself it was okay to pick up a cake for my husband's birthday this year since it was in the middle of the week and he had a meeting that night so we weren't going to have much time for a big celebration that night.  I was out at lunch with a friend on Friday and saw that our local coffeehouse sells cheesecakes.  I e-mailed them to see if I could order one.  In the meantime, I remembered that I had a healthy recipe for cheesecake in a cookbook at home.  I decided to go ahead and make the effort to have a homemade cake.  Plus, I googled the Cheesecake Factory and I could make this whole cake for the price of one slice of theirs. 
     The cookbook suggested a cranberry-raspberry sauce, but I wasn't sure how that would be received.  I decided to save my fresh cranberries for Thanksgiving and made a strawberry-raspberry sauce variation instead.  I used regular cottage cheese instead of lowfat. I opted for the food processor rather than the blender. My cake baked up shorter than I expected, but I used a wider springform pan than recommended in the cookbook. The cake was very popular.  I had to grab the last slice off the table to share over tea in the morning with my favorite blogger:

from: Fat Flush Cookbook by Anne Louise Gittleman

1 pound 2 percent cottage cheese
1 cup mashed ripe banana
2 packets Stevia Plus
Juice of 1 lemon
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cottage cheese in a blender and blend until smooth. Add mashed banana, lemon juice and Stevia Plus and blend until mixed. Beat eggs one at a time and add to the mixture, blending well after each addition. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased (use butter), 8-inch springform pan. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and loosen cake from sides of pan with a knife. Cool and then chill for several hours or overnight before serving.

Quick Cran-Raspberry Sauce (also from Fat Flush Cookbook)

1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3/4 teaspoon Stevia Plus

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat in a saucepan for about 2 minutes or until hot. Serves 1.

My Stawberry-Raspberry Sauce
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 cups frozen strawberries
2 packets PureVia (Stevia)
3 Tablespoons Orange Juice

Thaw berries for 2 minutes in the microwave. Blend all ingredients in the food processor adding just enough orange juice to moisten the berries. Place berry sauce in pastry bag and dot on plate for serving or decorate cake.  This produced a large quantity of sauce to use up on another project later.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Duck, Duck, Goose

Pan seared duck
   I had never cooked a duck before.  In fact, I could barely remember having it out at a restaurant more than once.  My husband brought home duck so I couldn't just let it go to waste. Hmmm...what does one do with a duck?  A quick internet search led me to recipes involving berry sauce reductions.  This was not exactly where I wanted to go with a quick dinner plan.  Plus, my husband is not a huge fan of sweet sauces on meat.  He ordered a pork tenderloin at a lovely restaurant and was not thrilled with the cranberry "roof" when the meal came.  For these reasons, I decided to quickly sear the breasts according to Emeril's recipe.  It said to slice them so the cooking took a bit longer when I left them whole.  I've been told that duck is very greasy, but we had skinless breasts and there was no greasy or oily taste.  Surprisingly, duck has more of  a red meat flavor.  It doesn't "taste like chicken."