Monday, November 29, 2010

Indian Pumpkin Bread

It's that special time of year. 

The day after Thanksgiving, while others were rushing around at 4 am to grab $2 DVDs, $4 toasters, and other vaguely useful things, we were contemplating how best to thaw out the deer carcass hanging in our garage, frozen solid after a week of single digit temperatures.  A big meaty ice block, hanging from the rafters of our single stall.

After considering waiting to butcher until the spring (just kidding, just kidding...), we borrowed a propane heater, set it up in the garage, and cranked that baby up.  It worked like a charm, thawing the meat out enough so Kent could actually cut off a quarter.  He set up the butchering block on our tiny kitchen table, sharpened up the knifes, and hauled the first front shoulder into our kitchen, cutting off steaks and separating some pieces to be ground into burger.  Ben toddled around, curious as to what was happening in the place he usually eats his morning oatmeal.  A pile of bones, hooves, and other remnants collected in our snowy backyard, much to the dog's delight. 

While he was butchering, I dropped off Ben at grandma and grandpa's house and got a massage (or a mass-ahhhhhge).  By the time I got home, the butchering was done and the kitchen was almost cleaned up too.  Impressive. 

With an extra hindquarter from my folks, here's the year's venison tally:

- 35 lbs. of ground venison, which will be mixed with 35 lbs. of pork to make 70 lbs of sausage (country sausage, Italian sausage, summer sausage, Polish sausage, and bratwurst - we'd usually save some ground venison to use plain without seasoning, but we have lots of ground moose thanks to bro-in-law's lucky tag this year)
- 20 lbs. of venison steak
- 1 deer heart
- Two happy dogs that got to gnaw on some big 'ol deer bones

That a lot 'o meat.  After the carnage, I found myself reclaiming my kitchen, retreating back into the warmth and domesticity of baking.  This weekend, I went on a baking spree, turning my oven to 350 and baking cookies, meatloaf, potatoes, and this lovely pumpkin bread.  It's called Indian Pumpkin Bread because of the cornmeal in it.  Not very PC, but I do love me some cornmeal.  Give me a toasted corn tortilla over a bland flour one any day of the week.  Cornbread?  Yes please.  Cornmeal porridge?  Why not, serve it up.  It gives this bread a little bit of texture. 

I've actually made this bread twice in the past couple weeks simply because it uses up a lot of pumpkin.  And I have A LOT of pumpkin to use up.  I finally said "to hell with it" and threw some perfectly good spaghetti squash in the compost (I just couldn't stand to eat another one), but the pumpkins I diligently roasted, scraped, pureed and froze, even though a can of Libby's costs about 59 cents.  There are still a couple pumpkins sitting under the snow on my front step.  I'll just consider those emergency rations. 

Indian Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger, you'll need to go to the liquor store (at least in ND) to find cream sherry.  Also, the toothpick test is necessary here - it'll look done on top, but still be undercooked inside.  This will probably end up looking darker than you are accustomed to when it's finally ready to be pulled from the oven.  This recipe makes three loaves (or two loaves and a dozen muffins - of course, the muffins cook quickly, so check them after 15 minutes.  Toothpick test still applies).

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 and 2/3 cups pureed fresh pumpkin (or two 15 oz cans pumpkin puree)
4 large eggs
1 cup walnut oil (can cut this with some applesauce and/or canola oil)
1 cup fine cornmeal
3 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup cream sherry

Grease three 8 and 1/2" x 4 and 1/2" loaf pans (or two pans and a 12-muffin tin).  In a large bowl, combine sugars, pumpkin, eggs, and oil.  Beat until smooth.  In a separate large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Combine wet and dry ingredients, beating until smooth.  Stir in cream sherry.  Beat vigorously until thoroughly blended, about 1-2 minutes. The batter will be thick and fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared pans, filling each no more than 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until tops are crusty with a long center crack and toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean.  Let loaves stand a few minutes in the pans, then remove from pans to a cooling rack.  Cool completely before cutting. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


The last few hours of the last day of deer hunting yesterday.  Freezing cold, roaming the stark Badlands of western North Dakota, trudging through drifts of fresh snow. 

And my man came through victorious. 

That, my dear readers, is what they call "a buck".  A 5-by-5, for those of you keeping score.  Congrats, honey!  And remember, now that deer season is officially over, I have a hair appointment and a massage appointment this weekend.  I figure I've earned it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And the Winner is...

Are you in the holiday spirit yet?  I know, I know, let us focus on Thanksgiving before we even THINK about Christmas, but your awesome comments on memorable gifts got me all excited.  And I don't think I'm the only one.  Status updates from Facebook friends have been filled with comments of "paying it forward" in the Starbucks drive-thru by buying drinks for the person behind them (or being on the receiving end of such generosities).  Christmas music is on the radio and I hate to admit, I'm actually enjoying it, despite the early timeframe.  And yes, I do believe there is some snow in the forecast this weekend. I stocked up on butter in preparation for a one-person baking extravaganza.

But first things first.  After a little number generation action, I do believe we have a winner! And what was their memorable gift?  

JanaLynn said...

I would totally say the Nintendo year was one of the best. My sisters and I were pumped to get the Power Pad and Duck Hunt, too. What technology! :)

Yes!  Another original Nintendo aficionado!  JanaLynn, I'll send you a note with details on the gift certificate.  And for everyone else, an early Happy Holidays wish to you all!

Oops.  Wrong picture. 

That's better. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

To All You Lovelies

By now most of you know that I keep this blog pretty light and easy going.  There's enough heavy stuff in the world, I figure.  I try not to take myself or my blog very seriously, and I'm guessing you're ok with that.  So in my recent curry post, when I said everyone should pick up an extra jar of curry paste for me whenever they are passing through Fargo, surely you knew I was speaking in jest.  I mean, I love me some curry paste, but making a special trip to the Asian grocery store for moi? 

Then I got a note from a reader: 

"...I happened to be in Fargo this weekend for a class, and it was only a few blocks from the Asian/American market, so I did stop and buy you a jar of curry paste..."

OMG, seriously?  She stopped by my office and dropped off this lovely little gift bag with not one but TWO jars of curry paste, telling the tale of how it was her first venture to the Asian grocery store...and maybe her last, since it smells a little funky in there...but I was just blown away by the thoughtfulness. 

So let's pay it forward, shall we?  A little giveaway, perhaps?  Maybe $45 to buy ANYTHING YOU WANT at CSN Stores?  Maybe you're taking a holiday trip and could use a new suitcase.  Maybe you need a new roasting pan for Thanksgiving.  Or maybe you just like free stuff.  You can use this at any CSN Store, all 200+ of them. 

Just leave a comment telling us about a memorable gift, either given or received, either awesome or memorably bad.  Like that terrible pink sweatshirt you got for Christmas in 5th grade with a necktie embroidered on it.  Or The Nintendo Christmas (the original Nintendo, thank you).  That was a great year.   I need some gift ideas.  And whoever wins the giveaway may need some ideas, too.  Comment deadline is Thursday, Nov. 18th at 8 pm CST.

And to that dear reader, thank you again so much for the curry paste.  I'll think of your kindness every time I crack open those jars. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

All I can say is that I was asking for it.

Ben is in a phase where he loves opening and closing doors, flipping light switches on and off, climbing up and down the steps, anything that involves repetitive motion is his game.  This little game includes taking lids off of things and replacing them.  When he reached for the petroleum jelly jar out of the bathroom cabinet with its fun, clicking, easy-off lid the other day, I thought, 'Ok, I'll just watch him really, really closely.'  And I did.  I was a hawk eyeing its prey.  A laser directed on its target.  I did not waver. 

Then I must have seen something shiny or something, since somehow I got distracted, only to stick my hand into a gooey mess on the arm of a recliner.

Yup.  I was asking for it.

I resolved then and there to not let him play with things that would make a ridiculous mess, like tubes of toothpaste, bags of melty chocolate chips, or leaky bottles of used motor oil.

That lasted approximately 16 hours, when the next morning, the yogurt incident occurred.  Let's just say the foil lid was closed when I let him hold it while I put the groceries in the trunk, then banana cream flavored yogurt covered the front seat and the steering wheel of my tidy little Nissan by the time I closed the trunk lid thirty seconds later.

I scraped off what I could with my grocery receipt, set a piece of paper with one of his crayon scribbles from daycare on the seat to protect my butt from any remnants of banana cream, and cruised home to make this dip. 

Red peppers were on sale.  I love me a roasted red pepper.  I was a little irked that they were imported from El Salvador (me gustan mis amigos latinos, pero prefiero vegetables dom├ęsticos), but at $1/each, I bought a bag full.  Roasting the peppers under the broiler set off the smoke alarm during Ben's nap (another addendum in my Mother of the Year nomination), so if your going to try this at home, I'd recommend a) using the grill to blacken the peppers, b) opening all the windows prior to roasting, or c) getting a life and buying a jar of salsa or hummus.  Maybe I should've chosen C.  But when I get roasted red peppers on the brain, nothing will deter me, including a shreiking smoke alarm. 

But it was all worth it.  We had an absolutely gorgeous 70 degree day here on Sunday.  Ben and I played outside until we were played out, then sat on the back step in the late afternoon with crackers, carrots and this dip.  He watched me dip a cracker in, then he would dip a cracker in.  I sat quietly watching nothing in particular in the backyard, and he seemed to do the same.  For one quiet, calm moment, we just sat next to each other, munching on this dip, and everything was perfect.  And then I remembered, in my simple charmed life, everything is already perfect, yogurt messes and all.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.

3 medium red bell peppers
1 medium clove garlic
Kosher salt
1/2 cup crumbled feta (about 3 oz.)
2 Tbs. plain dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. dried dill
Position a rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Put the peppers on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred all around and the peppers have softened, about 20 minutes. Put the peppers in a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove the skins, seeds, and stems.

Peel and mince the garlic clove. With the side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic and 1/4 tsp. salt together to form a paste.

Put the peppers, feta, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, and olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the garlic paste and dill. Season to taste with salt and serve.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fish Chowder Revisited

The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life I picked up this cookbook at the public library's recent used booksale. The New American Plate Cookbook.  I adore it.  It's all about incorporating more veggies into your diet, since the "new American plate" is half veg with a little whole grain and meat instead of half meat with a lot o' potato and a bit of veg.  And I, for one, am all for it. 

I'm usually a bit suspicious of "health" cookbooks, but everything I've tried from this book has turned out great.  Ok, I do have a little secret, though.  I have a habit of purposely adding extra fat to these lean, mean recipes.  Yes.  I add fat.  Fat in the form of butter, oil, cheese, cream...I can't help it.  Maybe it's because it's winter and I need to work on that extra layer before the temps dip below zero.  Maybe it's because I've been brainwashed by watching too much Paula "just add some whippin' cream" Deen.  Or maybe it's because I just like food to taste good.  Whatever it is, when I saw this recipe for chowder with fish and veggies, I knew I had to try it.  And when I saw the recipe call for skim milk and fat-free evaporated milk, I knew I had to pick up a carton of whippin' cream.

Paula would be proud.

Actually, Paula wouldn't care, because she's too busy diving into her silo of gold coins and treasures a la Scrooge McDuck.  But before she made her millions, I bet she would've approved.

Fish Chowder
Adapted from The New American Plate. I wrote about another chowder recipe last year, but this one has the welcome addition of veggies.  Yes, you can use less cream or incorporate skim milk, but in my personal opinion, it won't be nearly as tasty.

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
1 lb. fresh walleye fillets (or other firm white fish), cut into 1" pieces
1 cup clam juice (look in juice section of grocery store)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and carrots and cook for 5 min, stirring often, until onion is softened.  Add clam juice, milk, cream, potato, corn, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender.

Ladle a couple scoops of vegetables and broth into a blender; puree until smooth, then pour back into soup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add spinach, fish, and thyme.  Simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.  Adjust seasonings, remove bay leaf, and serve.