Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

In another fridge/freezer clean-out session, I discovered some frozen Arizona lemon juice that somehow missed this past summer's rhubarb-lemonade. It was like digging up buried treasure, that golden nectar just waiting to brighten up these snowy November days.

I quickly started skimming my baking recipes for something lemony, and happened upon lemon muffins. As always, I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding some whole wheat flour and blueberries, and the result? Little muffin cups of sweet lemony heaven.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hersperger

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick butter, melted
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
Fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Glaze
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine dry ingredients, including lemon zest, into large bowl. Use a whisk to mix well, as there is nothing worse than biting into a muffin and discovering a chunk of baking soda.

In a separate large bowl, combine melted butter, lemon juice, and eggs. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients just until moistened (don't overmix). Fold in blueberries, using your discretion as to how many you like. If you are using frozen berries, just throw them in the mix frozen to avoid the purple muffin effect with blueberry juice oozing all over the batter. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups, filling to edge.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and springy to touch.

Meanwhile, make lemon glaze by mixing sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar, but don't boil. Set aside.

Pierce the baked muffins in a few places. Pour the warm glaze over the muffins. Cool in the pan for a few minutes to absorb the glaze, then cool completely on the warming rack.

Or eat four of them while they are still warm, as I did.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Making Sausage

A North Dakota tradition during deer season, this is the very first year I've actually gotten myself involved in sausage making.

Sure, sausage isn't the haute couture of meat, and maybe sometimes I wish that we came from an Italian proscuitto culture, or a Maine lobster culture, even a Maryland crab shack culture. But we're sausage folk up here, and I have come to embrace it.

I'll admit this was an eye-opening experience...and actually kinda fun, with the entire family getting involved. Family + raw meat + stuffing sausage casings = fun. Who knew? For the uninitiated, I present a photo journey through the process.

Step 1: Mix the meat (50% venison, 50% pork). Venison from the Badlands, pork from family pig-farming friends. What, don't know any pig farmers? I didn't either, I married into those connections.

It helps if you wear your official sausage-making shirt for this process, or at least something with a gun-totin', pickup-drivin', Toby-Keith-lovin' theme to it.

Add the seasonings and mix again. We get seasonings from Butcher Block Meats in Mandan. Just tell them how many pounds of sausage you want to make, they'll measure out the seasonings for you. Bada-bing.

Put the mixed seasoned meat in the stuffer and start cranking. Yes, those are intestines being used as casings. Old school.

Sausage making is so easy! "How easy is it?" you ask? It's so easy, a five-year old can do it. Granted, a tough feisty five-year old, but still...

In case you don't have a sausage stuffer (or a feisty five-year old), skip the stuffing and just form the meat into patties and cook it up in your favorite cast iron pan. Or crumble into your spaghetti sauce. Or add to that white bean soup that you've been craving now that the cold weather has arrived.

Who needs proscuitto when you've got family like this?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Venison - From Field to Table

Half of the blog namesake has made its annual arrival to our home: venison, straight from the Badlands of ND.

For the sake of my light-stomached readers, I'm posting the no-flash version of this photo. If you want the real deal photo, leave me a note and I'll consider it...

See how it's hanging from the garage ceiling? Yeah, I helped hang it up, kinda proud of that fact. Granted, I squealed in a general freak-out mode the whole time, and moved very far away from the area once it was up, but I helped!

I know many (including myself) get a little squeamish when it comes to seeing deer like this, but consider that this one deer will feed us all year. Both K and I carry immense respect for the creatures that arrive on our plates, and the plentiful ND fields that they exist in. If we were all a bit more connected to our food and knew where our hamburgers came from, I can't help but think we'd live in a more peaceful, verdant society.

If you've lucked out this fall and landed some fresh venison, my one and only rule: do not overcook. Anything past pink and your headed to hockey puck town. Trust me, I figured this out quickly.

Otherwise, you can basically substitute it for beef in any recipe. Our favorite way to eat fresh venison cuts: pan-fried, seasoned with nothing but Montreal Steak. It's one of our stand-over-the-stovetop meals, the meaty morsels rarely making it to the table.

So go hug a hunter. Or a vegetarian. Or just the person closest to you. The world needs more hugs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Dollar A Day

Could you survive if you only had $1 a day for food? I can honestly say I had no concept of what it would be like to eat for only $1 until reading this blog by two adventurous teachers in San Diego. This is great food for thought.

Just thinking through my day, I spent $2.50 on my soy latte this morning. K and I ate an entire pineapple as part of our stirfry dinner ($3 on sale) and didn't think twice about it. That handful of trail mix I snacked on probably cost $1 in itself, and it wasn't even part of a meal.

So what does $1 buy you in America? Not a lot: oatmeal for breakfast, pb&j for lunch, and rice and beans for dinner. Doesn't sound terrible, but think about eating this everyday, and how much you'd miss fresh fruits and veggies. I think I'd become a dumpster diver, or at least a frequent customer at Dan's Supermarket on sample day. Mmm, samples...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Apple Crisp

Remember all those apples? The time has come to either eat 'em, freeze 'em, dehydrate 'em, apple butter 'em, applesauce 'em...ok, there are lots of apple storage options out there. In the end, I wanted apple crisp, quite possibly the easiest-peasiest apple dessert option right behind baked apples, but who really likes baked apples? Especially when you can have apple crisp.

Obviously we have no manners in our home and sometimes choose to eat right out of the pan. But don't worry - if you come over for dinner, we won't tell you that.

Apple Crisp

Fill a 8x8 pan with sliced apples and sprinkle with sugar. Fill it up, as they'll soften and bake down.

In a bowl, mix:

2/3 cup oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Handful of chopped walnuts

Cut 1/4 cup butter into the oat mixture until crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over fruit, bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.