Elle’s Mushroom Bourguignon with Venison for #ElleAPalooza

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Elle loved winter (almost!) as much as I do! She was a New Englander through and through and we had a shared love for snow and cold days where you need a bowl of something hot and steamy to warm yourself up. Since we are in the middle of winter, I wanted to make one of her warming stews for #EllaPalooza and quickly decided on her Mushroom Bourguignon recipe.

I looove mushrooms and so I have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time. Too bad I waited until now, when she is no longer here to tell her how much I loved it and what a creative genius cook she was one last time.

I added some venison steak strips to the dish to stretch it because I wanted to enjoy this soup over and over again. I don’t think the stew needs it at all, the mushrooms hold their own in this dish, but if you feel like being indulgent, add some, it is quite delicious that way.

Your whole house smells good as you are cooking this dish up and you can cook it like Julia Child – one glass of wine for the pot and one for the cook! Elle suggests serving this over egg noodles, but we served ours over mashed potatoes (for Roberto) and mashed rutabaga (for myself). We toasted to Elle and thanked her for being a part of our lives and ate this delicious warming stew in her memory. It made the Elle-shaped hole in my heart warm for a few minutes. I miss you Elle!

If you would like to join the food blogging community in supporting Elle’s family, please join Friends of Elle on facebook to learn more about the auction be held to benefit her family. It is also a place where you can share your thoughts about Elle and gather with friends old and new who all loved this beautiful woman.

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs Crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 Portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, cut into chunks
1/3 pound of venison leg steaks cut into strips
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBS tapioca flour
1cup dry red wine
2 cups broth of your choice-vegetable, chicken, beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves

METHOD: In a large pot, heat about 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Add all of the mushrooms, the venison strips, about 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper, and sauté for about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, venison and accumulated juices to a bowl and set aside.

Add a couple more tbsp of olive oil, and sauté the onions and carrots for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Sprinkle the onions, carrots and garlic with the tapioca flour, stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and accumulated juices back to the pot, then add the wine, broth, tomato paste, thyme, Herbes de Provence and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Experimental Scoops for #ElleAPalooza: Hard Cider and Plum Sherbet #ElleAPalooza #Scoopapalooza

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#ElleAPalooza is an even that any blogger can join! This is our community’s way to remember a wonderful friend, mentor and blogger that passed out of our midst suddenly and sadly, Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen. Foodies celebrate with food and we also grieve with food and that is what this event is all about, remembering our dear friend Elle in a way she would have loved, with food!

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Elle and her friend Heather from He Cooks, She Cooks started an event called #Scoopapalooza and I just found out there is also a facebook page. This is the inspiration for Scoopapalooza in their words: “The idea is to pick up a new, unusual, or super fresh ingredient from the farmers market, grocery store, or even your own garden–and incorporate it into an ice cream recipe. Because that is what summer is all about! Fresh ingredients and ice cream!”

Well it isn’t summer anymore, but I decided what better way to honor my friend’s memory than with making my own crazy concoction! I was going to go straight up and just make Elle’s amazing Woodchuck Cider Sorbet  but I didn’t feel that was really in the spirit of Scopapalooza! I needed to mix it up – do something different, bold and a little crazy. So I decided on making a sherbet, using yogurt and of course that key ingredient, Woodchuck’s Cider. I know, sounds weird, but that is what Scoopapalooza is all about, getting creative with ice cream!

Talking to Heather the other day and remarking on her Hard Apple Cider Cranberry Sorbet  and how the color looked like Elle’s hair, I knew I wanted to add a pink element to this creation. So I added some plums I had frozen over the summer. I think the plum and the apple go well together, their sweet and tart flavors, mixed with the yogurt is definitely a delicious combination. For extra sweetness and more pink I also added some Swedish lingonberry concentrate. The sherbet didn’t get as pink as I would have liked, but I am happy with the result.

I learned a valuable lesson too, while making the sherbet. I wanted to use some delicious jarred morello cherries in juice that I get from Trader Joe’s – for the sweet and for the pink. We don’t have a TJ’s near us so when I come across one in our travels I always get a jar of those cherries (more if we have lots of extra room). They are precious because I love them so much and they are so hard to come by. So I dole them out sparingly, trying to save them, make them last longer. Well I guess I let these wait a bit too long, when I opened the jar there was a fizzy sound, meaning the cherries had spoiled. So I had to throw half the jar away. Instead of enjoying the cherries while they were good and fresh. By hoarding them, I lost half the jar. Lesson learned was to enjoy things in the moment because you never know what tomorrow will bring. Enjoy life NOW. If Elle’s passing taught us anything it is that life is precious and way too short. Follow your dreams, do what you love, be passionate about what you do, or don’t do it. Live each moment in the fullness of your being.

I think Elle would have been proud of my experiment and the lessons learned in its making. I wish I could have a dish with her right now to celebrate the sweetness of life. I am sure she is making delicious ice cream and treats in the great beyond. I love you, Elle.

If you would like to join the food blogging community in supporting Elle’s family, please join Friends of Elle on facebook to learn more about the auction be held to benefit her family. It is also a place where you can share your thoughts about Elle and gather with friends old and new who all loved this beautiful woman.

Hard Cider and Plum Sherbet

INGREDIENTS:

2 c. plain yogurt
1 bottle Woodchuck’s Hard Cider (Elle’s Favorite!)
1 plum, cut in half and parboiled
4 TBS lingonberry concentrate (can also use black currant or pomegranate)

METHOD: Place all ingredients in a high powered blender, like a Vitamix. Blend until mixed thoroughly. Place in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. I let my sherbet mix for about 25 minutes.

Every Day Chef Challenge – Autumn Bisque

In my last post, I shared with you my first Every Day Chef contest entry, Pumpkin Pie Parfaits. Today I will share with you a delicious holiday starter, Autumn Bisque.

Here is my inspiration for the recipe:

“I love cooking seasonally, and autumn is my favorite season. I adore the bright orange squashes that are so plentiful this time of year. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I wanted to create a wonderful seasonal starter with delicious local vegetables, local beer and sharp cheddar cheese – all three things we are known for in terms of food culture here in Vermont.”

So yes, this delicious and creamy soup contains, vibrant orange winter squash, local beer, sharp cheddar cheese and BACON! So what’s not to love?

Recipe ingredients:
1 cup carrots cut into chunks (@ 2 small carrots)
3 cups red kuri squash, halved (@ 3 medium squashes)
Olive oil to drizzle
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 apple, cored, seeded and chopped (@ 1 small apple)
½ cup yellow onion, chopped (@ half of a small onion)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced (@ 1 medium clove)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Dash of black pepper
¼ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
½ cup of gluten free ale (local is best!)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into pieces (optional garnish)

Cooking instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the squashes in half and lay cut side up on a cookie sheet. Also place carrots on cookie sheet. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for about an hour, or until fork tender and slightly caramelized.
2) Scoop out the insides of the squash and set aside with the carrots.
3) Brown butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, over medium heat, sauté apples, onion and garlic until they browned – about 5 minutes. 3 minutes in add the salt and spices. Stir frequently.
4) Add Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, turn heat up, stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until apples are tender – about 5 minutes.
5) Add beer, squash puree, and carrots. Stir and heat through.
6) Add entire contents of pot to a blender. Puree in a blender; be careful not to burn yourself. Make sure the lid is on tight, and don’t do the whole thing at one time, unless you have a large capacity blender.
7) Carefully return contents to the soup pot, add the cheddar and lemon juice, and stir over low heat until incorporated.
8) Top with bacon crumbles if desired, serve immediately. Can also be reheated for later use.
9) Serves: 4 appetizer sized bowls.

Please click on this link to see the recipe and vote ! It only takes a second, you don’t need to register to vote, or anything. AND, you can vote everyday! So if you feel inspired and like both this recipe and the Pumpkin Pie Parfaits, you can vote for both, everyday until November 14th! Thank you so much!

A True Honor

 

Today is a very exciting day for me; one of the posts I wrote for my homesteading blog was featured on the blog of one of my personal heroes today, Gene Logsdon’s blog, The Contrary Farmer.

I am really in awe right now and truly honored. Gene, along with Wendell Berry and David Kline, among many others, notably, Joel Salatin, are such amazing and down to earth (literally, in so many ways) advocates for the agrarian movement. Their writing has inspired and taught me so much. So to have my writing featured on a blog of Gene’s writings is well, just WOW.

Thank you so much to Dave Smith and Gene Logsdon for featuring my post! If you want to follow my homesteading adventures, please check out my blog Got Goats? – we are on facebook too and would appreciate if you could “like” us! THANK YOU!

Bringing Home the Sausage, Part 2

Delicious Maple Smoked Bacon and Pork Loin

 

Before I get to the “meat” of my post, I want to give a great big THANK YOU to Rachel and the team from ThriftCultureNow.com for featuring me and this blog, as the Thrifty Blogger of the Week . You can follow them on facebook and get their Thrifty Tip of the day, on their facebook page I have to hand it to Rachel for painting me, the blog and our lifestyle in such a wonderful way. So please check out the article, and their website for more great info!

 

So last week, I shared with you a comprehensive post about breaking down a whole pig into useable parts, the genius of my friend Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher (who was also nice enough to give me a shout out on his blog, recently) and the making of fresh sausages.

 

This week in my Value Added Products class at Sterling College, our instructor, Chef Anne Obelnicki showed us about the art of curing, fermenting and smoking meats. We pretty much used up the rest of the pig yesterday. It was a long day – 10 hours of standing, cutting, simmering, mixing, grinding and stuffing in a hot and humid kitchen. I totally lost count of how many times I washed my hands in the first 5 minutes.  When I got home around 7, Roberto had dinner ready. I scarfed it down and went to bed shortly after. Dealing with a whole animal, even when you break it up into two days, is hard work, but it is also FUN. You get such a huge feeling of accomplishment from the whole process! Plus it is really fun working with a few other people feverishly to get it all done!

 

 

Yesterday we hot smoked the maple bacon and brined pork loins we started curing last week. We also smoked the hocks and the bones. Nothing on this pig went to waste. We trimmed the jowls to start curing guanciale and used the second shoulder to make fermented sausages – spicy sopressata and hunter’s loop. We also made another brine for the 2 hams – we injected the brine first and then placed the hams in the leftover brine to continue curing. These products will have to ferment and cure for several weeks, so I am not sure I will be able to taste the outcome. But the preparation was an education in and of itself, and has led to a lot more questions for me, mainly about the use of nitrites.

 

“Pink Salt”, spice blend for spicy sopressata and wood chips soaking

 

I guess it is a good thing that I don’t want to make sausages for a living, as Roberto and I have been avoiding foods with nitrites for several years now. I did a lot of reading this week about charcuterie, and it seems that if you are going to age anything that will not be cooked at some point, nitrites are used.  For example, you don’t need nitrites to cure bacon, since that will be hot smoked once it has cured. But you do use nitrites to make salami, sopressata and various other cured meats that will not be cooked.

 

Apparently nitrites are naturally occurring and can be found in dirt, rocks, etc as well in an abundance of vegetables, most notably beets and celery, which is what some producers of cured meats use in the place of “pink salt” ( “pink salt” is salt mixed with a smaller amount of powdered nitrites that is dyed pink so that you don’t sprinkle it on your eggs by mistake) when curing.  So even “Nitrate Free” foods still contain nitrites, even if it is just in the form of celery juice, because nitrites are naturally occurring.

 

Nitrites do two things when curing – preserves the food and contributes to aesthetics – namely color and taste. It reacts in the meat to form nitric oxide which retards rancidity and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, like the ones that cause botulism. However, nitrites react with amino acids in our digestive tract to create nitrosamines, known DNA-damaging chemicals.  Not only that, but you know it is harmful when it is suggested to use gloves when working with “pink salt” and other forms of curing salt. Yes, it is supposed to convert to something less harmful through the aging process, but can something like that ever be truly safe?

 

According to Harold McGee, the author of famed book : On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, “…yet at present there is no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase the risk of developing cancer…” yet he also exclaims in the same book when comparing the difference in taste between grass and grain-fed beef that “another important contributor to grass-fed flavor is skatole, which on its own smells like manure!” and also, “the saturated fats typical of meats raise blood cholesterol levels and can contribute to heart disease”. So personally, I think I will take his lax attitude towards nitrites with a grain of sea salt.

 

This issue of nitrites is something I definitely need to explore more. Like, is there a difference between naturally occurring nitrites, like celery juice and sodium nitrite which is added to many processed foods.  Luckily we don’t eat much cured meat or any processed foods.  Just bacon once a week…and our favorite prosciutto – Prosciutto di Parma which I also learned in the Harold McGee book,  is cured with sea salt not nitrites.

 

But the fact that an old and revered food art, like charcuterie has a long use of nitrites in its history is a little disheartening and I was pretty bummed to learn about it. I guess you can’t assume just because it is a traditional art, or because it is “natural” it is good for you.  I guess in the case of cured meats, it is the lesser of two evils – botulism or nitrites? I am not sure I like the odds.

 

If you have more information about nitrites, the differences (or NOT) between naturally occurring and things like “pink salt”, I want to hear about it! So please leave a comment.

Food Goals 2011!

Happy New Year to all my readers! I wish you all, health, happiness, love and prosperity in 2011! Blogging has given me all of these things, and I am eternally grateful for all of your support these past years. The Leftover Queen is going to be better than ever this year! So please make sure you are subscribed to my  email updates, RSS feeds,  and my NEW Monthly Newsletter (see box at the top right).  You aren’t going to want to miss a single post! This year I will be focusing more than ever on my homesteading adventures, cooking real food, making my own convenience foods, making dairy products and much, much more! Make sure you are following me on Facebook (if link does not work do a search for: The Leftover Queen) and Twitter (@leftoverqueen), I often post things on there that I don’t blog about, and there are often many interesting conversations going on!

Last year I made a list of food goals for myself – and I am happy to look back at them, and see that I accomplished every single one, even though I don’t think I looked at the list once since I wrote it. The only thing I didn’t accomplish was getting sheep and goats. But that is in the works and will *hopefully* be happening this spring. The barn is just waiting for them!

In 2010, after moving to Northern Vermont, I have basically become a full-time locavore. The majority of the foods we eat are local or something we have grown ourselves. If it isn’t local, we at least buy it from a local, independent store, instead of a chain. Even our holiday celebrations are locavore. This means we have eaten the freshest foods and best ingredients, while supporting our local economy, even in these hard times. It is because of this, that I am now, more than ever convinced that everyone, no matter what their economic situation is or how busy they are, can find a way to feed their family the best, freshest food possible. We are living proof of that truth – with full time jobs, raising animals, growing food plus all our other extra-curricular activities and crazy schedules. We always share dinner together at the table, as a family – every single day.

These are all good changes. I am extremely happy with how much I learned about homesteading this past year, and look forward to many more years on this journey. I have finally found my calling in life, and it is simple: become more sustainable, more self-reliant and bring back the old, tried and true ways of doing things. This is the best way I know how to honor and respect my ancestors. Something that is so important to my spiritual practices. This means constantly evolving and learning new skills and techniques – in the kitchen, the garden, the barn and the woodlands. I want to create the kind of life where when we have a family, our children will grow up with all these skills as second nature. Something neither Roberto nor I ever had.

This year, to continue on this journey, my goals are:

Food Goals 2011

Discover the foods of my ancestors and learn about the traditional preparation of those foods~

I have learned quite a lot about my ancestry this year. As an adoptee, this has been a lifelong journey, that I was finally able to get some answers to, after following my new year’s resolution in 2010 to get my DNA tested.  I strongly believe that the best foods for an individual to eat, are those foods that their ancestors ate. Which had a lot to do with motivation towards this goal.  As individuals we have come up through the ages, riding on the coat-tails of those that have gone before us. I wrote a bit about that in this post.

So look for recipes this year from the following cuisines, as I explore the foods of my ancestors: English, Scottish, German, Danish, Dutch and perhaps even some Mohawk recipes.

Play more with dairy products ~

My doctor told me that although wheat and gluten really mess my body up – that I am one of those rare people that have a good reaction to dairy – that it actually helps me, and gives me energy! This made me so happy! I love dairy. So although in 2010 I learned the techniques for making yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, cheeses, crème fraiche, etc, I want to perfect the recipes and play with them – learn to use them even more in my cooking and flavor them.

Play more with home-brewing techniques ~

I usually make a batch of limoncello every year – but now that we are not in Florida, it wouldn’t be a locavore thing to do. So I am thinking this year about mead. Something my ancestors definitely enjoyed and definitely using local ingredients.

Eat more liver, wild caught seafood and roe ~

All important components of a healthy fertility diet. This couples nicely with one of my personal goals and wishes for the new year! ;)

Best Posts of 2010: As Voted By YOU!

Just wanted to take this moment to thank all my readers for inspiring me year after year to write this blog and in turn grow as a cook! I definitely pay attention to your feedback, and it helps me to determine the direction the blog takes. So here are your favorite posts of 2010 – as determined by the number of comments!

Looks like my readers like Pancakes (especially when they are disastrous!), Eating Organic On The Cheap and Healthy and Frugal recipes! So I will make sure to keep those kinds of posts coming in the New Year!

The Incredible Edible Egg

Kitchen Disasters: Pancakes

Goat Fromage Blanc with Garbanzo Bean Crackers

Creamy Tomato Soup and 7 Things

Eating Organic On The Cheap

Nourishing and Comforting Shepard’s/ Cottage Pie (less than $3 a serving)

Aebleskiver: Danish Pancakes

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Condiments

Food Preservation: My Life As A Squirrel

Have Food Will Travel

Safe & Happy New Year to all of you!

Un-Processed: Is It More Expensive To Eat Organic and Local?

I don’t go to the grocery store very often anymore. I am lucky to have a variety of year-round farmers markets, local farm stores and independently locally owned markets that sell locally made food available to me. Generally going to the grocery store means that I am really really pressed for time, or desperately need something I can’t get at these stores like paper products. To save on gas, I might pick up some organic staples while I am there and make due for the week with what I have in the pantry and freezer. But I know that not everyone has this variety of Local Love available. So I wanted to talk about how the average person living pretty much anywhere, can eat organic and local and SAVE money.

Many months ago I had such an experience. We were actually still in Florida. I had just stocked up on frozen organic berries for smoothies and some organic meat ( which was on sale) and I was getting all my dairy to make cheese, yogurt and kefir for the week (not a farmers market week). The woman in front of me had her cart, which was not as full as mine, with frozen dinners, boxed lasagna, bags of frozen meals – where you add your own meat, soda and a few organic veggies (she was trying)– enough food for maybe a week of meals. I made sure to take note of her total just for curiosity’s sake. When my cart was rung up, my bill was only $2 more than hers. I had loads of fruits and veggies, grassfed beef, organic meats, frozen organic berries, eggs, dairy and pantry staples – things I would be using over the next several weeks. This really amazed me, because I have been told so often that eating the way we do, is too expensive for the average Joe or Joan. So much so, that I was actually starting to believe it.

This event has stayed with me all these months, and so when Andrew from Eating Rules asked me to guest post for his October: Un-Processed challenge (you can still take the challenge!!!), I enlisted the help of friend, fellow blogger and grocery store resister, Melissa from Alosha’s Kitchen to write a post about how eating locally and organic has reduced the cost of our food bills over a year by about 30-35%!!!

If you want to see how we did it, I suggest popping over to Andrews blog and reading all about it!

Learn how to  have fun in the kitchen and support your local community, while feeding your family healthy and nutritious meals that taste WAY better than pre-packaged fodder, for less than the cost of eating every meal out, or takeout, or from the frozen food section! Try it yourself and see what happens! There are several recipes in the post to help get you started! Enjoy and Have FUN!