Monday, January 30, 2012

Pheasant and Dumplings

A little forewarning before you make this recipe.  The aroma of this simmering on your stove on a snowy Sunday afternoon can cause abnormal behavior in household members. Your husband may actually awaken from his nap, get up off the couch, and meander into the kitchen to investigate.  "Hey, whatcha makin'?" Your brother, who hasn't stopped by in ages, will magically appear at your door.  "Hey, what's cookin'?"  Even your toddler, who is usually prefers Bob the Builder videos to any happenings in the kitchen, will sense something going on and forgo Bob to instead divebomb tiny Army soldiers into cups of water at the kitchen table.  "Mom mom mom mom mom."  (That's the toddler talking, his favorite phrase.)

We have plenty of pheasant in the freezer, and to make room for all that deer sausage coming up, I thawed a big bag of bird with pheasant and dumplings on the brain.  I looked up a chicken and dumplings recipe in the classic red-and-white-plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but it sounded bland.  Instead, a quick Google search brought me to The Pioneer Woman's recipe.  Thanks to her insistence on taking photos AT EVERY STEP OF THE COOKING PROCESS (exhausting), I had a good idea of what I was getting into.  PW browns the meat first for extra flavor, instead of simmering it straight away like the BHG cookbook recommended.  Smart.  There's also the classic saute of carrot, celery and onion as a flavor base, all of which I had on hand.  And the shot of cream she adds to it can't hurt a bit.  But what sealed the deal were the dumplings: instead of just flour, she mixes in some cornmeal, and you gotta know that I love me cornmeal anything.  Cornbread, cornmeal-crusted fried fish, corn spoon bread, polenta, I eat it all up.  

I basically followed the recipe, besides my obvious sub of pheasant for chicken, but I did cheat and use less stock than the recipe listed.  That was a mistake, as I lost some extra sauciness in my dish.  So don't miss the gravy train: include all six cups of stock.  The dumplings are going to thicken it up. 

But one more forewarning.  Once your pheasant and dumplings are ready to serve, you may try to take some photos of the food for your blog.  I suggest you let family members dish up BEFORE taking the photos.  You never know when your formerly napping spouse is going to sneak a bite (pardon the spit close-up - just keeping it real, folks).  

Pheasant and Dumplings
Feel free to check out the original recipe here on PW's site. And I definitely recommend taking the time to shred the meat.  It makes a world of difference, so many more little meaty crevices for the sauce to sneak into.  

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
2-3 lbs. of Pheasant Pieces
Salt And Pepper
1/2 cup Finely Diced Carrots
1/2 cup Finely Diced Celery
1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
1/2 teaspoon Ground Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric
6 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1-1/2 cup Half-and-half
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley (optional)
Salt As Needed
Sprinkle pheasant pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour.
Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Brown  pheasant on both sides and remove to a clean plate.
In the same pot, heat olive oil, then add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in ground thyme and turmeric, then pour in broth. Stir to combine, then add browned pheasant. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
While pheasant is simmering, make the dough for the dumplings: sift together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.
Remove pheasant from pot and set aside on a plate. Use two forks to shred pheasant, then return meat to the pot. Pour heavy cream into the pot and stir to combine.
Drop tablespoons of dumpling dough into the simmering pot. Add minced parsley if using. Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Check seasonings; add salt if needed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Great Plains

There is indeed a reason we call these plains Great.  I heart ND.  

(Photo taken near Elgin, ND on 1/7/12)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brunch Egg Bake

Yes, those cinnamon rolls are as amazing as they look.  Check out my post on them here.  But today, I want to talk about that dish in the back, next to Buzz and the grapefruit juice.  Let's not play games here.  This is not a quiche.  It's not a frittata.  It's not an omelet.  What we have here is a classic hearty Midwestern egg bake.  Lots of eggs, cheese, sausage, and enough veggies to add some color and make you feel like maybe this is actually good for you.

Lucky for you, this egg bake is good for you. Maybe not an everyday food as far as your arteries are concerned, but it is good for the soul.

I whipped this up for a New Years Day brunch this year, a mish-mash of a few different egg bake recipes I found on AllRecipes plus a little sprinkle of extra veggies that I had on hand.  In case you are considering a similar event next year, let me say that a New Years Day brunch is a terrible idea.  Half your friends will be hungover, the other half will be too lazy to leave the house on this rare holiday from work.  You will make this egg bake along with a huge batch of caramel rolls, prepping enough to feed a small army, and a total of six of your most dedicated friends and family will appear at your door.

Ah, but what a feast it will be.  The lucky guests will help themselves to seconds on the egg bake, another roll, and heck, why not fill me up with another mimosa?  Everyone goes home with Tupperware containers filled with egg bake for tomorrow and a few rolls wrapped up in foil.  A great way to start off a new year, me thinks.  The hungover folks won't know what they're missing.

Brunch Egg Bake
3 c. shredded cheese (I used half mozz, half cheddar)
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
4 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
2 Tbls. butter
12 eggs
2 c. milk
Parsley, basil and any other herbs you want to try (fresh if you got it, dried is ok too)
Salt and pepper to taste

Grease a 13" x 9" glass or Pyrex dish with butter.  Sprinkle half the cheese on the bottom.  Set aside.

In a large pan, melt the butter and saute the onion, peppers, and mushrooms until softened, about 5 mins.  Add in the spinach and sausage; mix and pour over the cheese in the baking dish.  Top with remaining cheese.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, herbs, salt and pepper (not much salt, as the cheese and sausage are already salty).  Pour over the veg/cheese/sausage mix and bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins or until firm in the middle and browned on top.  Let stand at least 10 mins before serving.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Better-For-You Chocolate Chip Cookies

So how are those New Years resolutions going for you?  The first thing I ate in 2012 was an ooey, gooey, butter-and-sugar-laden cinnamon roll.  I ate it with gusto and joie de vivre, as that cinnamon roll represented my commitment not to take myself too seriously this year, to enjoy the moment, to toss aside my tendency to be overzealous about January 1 health regimens and well-intentioned promises to myself that always end up being too heavy for me to bear in my oh-too-real life.

But I don't eat cinnamon rolls everyday.

In my constant quest to incorporate more whole food, more real food, less supermarket pre-packaged food into my family's diet, I treated myself to the cookbook Clean Food on the recommendation of my spirit-of-the-prairie friend Jenny, who cooked up some delicious baked root vegetable "fries" from the book for me to seal the deal. Of course, one of the first things I make from the book are the chocolate chip cookies.  My sweet tooth dictated me. I had no choice in the matter.

To call these "cookies" is a bit of a misnomer.  They are more like baked granola bites.  The dough is sticky and difficult to work with (using the side of the mixing bowl to shape the dough balls helped), but I had to post these because the level of sweetness is perfect.  I also appreciate all the whole foods goodness packed in each little bite: oats, walnuts, coconut, all sweetened with maple syrup.  On the nutrition index, it's still not a bowl of kale, but since I choose not to go through life deprived of cookies, the least I can do is be a little more well-intentioned about it.

Better-For-You Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Clean Food, expect a sticky dough and cookies that remind you more of gorp than Toll-House, but the crunchy granola gal in me loved these. Makes two dozen.  

2 c. rolled oats
1 c. all-purpose flour or brown rice flour
3/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbls. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 c. chocolate chips (or more to taste)

In large bowl, combine oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon and salt.  In separate bowl, whisk together syrup, oil and vanilla.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until evenly combined. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips. Prss dogh into equal-size balls, place onto parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 mins or until lightly browned.