adventures in game cooking: elk stew

If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I ever saw my self scouring the internet for recipes for game meat I would have scrunched up my nose and said absolutely not. I knew I always wanted to ‘live off the land’ as far as eating went but I always pictured it looking more like raising our own cows or chickens and having a giant vegetable garden. I wasn’t really thinking along the hunter-gatherer lines. Well, things change and I married into hunting. Duck, deer, elk, pheasant, turkey, basically if it moves and you can buy a tag for it, my husband wants to hunt it and so do most of his family and friends. I’m not against the hunting as long as we actually eat what comes home, which means I am always keeping an eye out for recipes or asking other wives of hunters how they prepare the find of the day.

A friend gave us some elk shoulder not too long ago and I have had absolutely no idea what to do with it, until I came across this post from one of my new favorite food blogs. I decided swap out the beef for elk and pair it with biscuits from an old favorite food blog. The result was absolutely DE-LICI-OUS. I was very pleasantly surprised, the meat was so melt-in-your-mouth amazing! So heres one for all you fellow wives of hunter-gatherers! Enjoy!

Balsamic Elk Stew
recipe slightly modified from Baked Bree

Ingredients

2 lbs. elk shoulder, cut into bite-size pieces
3 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 cups potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks (I used yukon gold but fingerlings or red potatoes would also work)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Directions
Place elk in a large ziploc bag with flour, salt, and pepper and shake until coated. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add elk and cook until browned on all sides. Once browned transfer to a plate and set aside. Add onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft add garlic and cook until just fragrant being careful not to burn. Pour in red wine and beef stock and add bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme. (I tied mine up in a little cheesecloth pouch to make removing later easy) Place the browned elk back into the pot, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until elk is fork tender. Add the carrots and potatoes bring to a light simmer and cook covered for another 30 minutes or until tender. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Add cornstarch mixture and balsamic vinegar to stew. Remove and discard herbs. Serve stew hot with cheddar chive biscuits.

Cheddar Chive Biscuits
recipe slightly modified from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3/4 shredded cheddar
1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in 3/4 cup chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in chives and cheese. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened. *I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream because my mixture wasn’t holding together and I ran out of buttermilk. Drop biscuits onto baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Serve fresh out of the oven.

finally, a meal plan!

A few weeks ago I had a heartfelt post that ended with the goal of being intentional about planning – meal plans, cleaning plans, etc. – truthfully, there hasn’t been very much of that going on here. Lots of other things have come up that have taken my attention, I’ve thought quite a bit about planning but haven’t actually sat down to do any. So I was very relived when my friend Colleen featured a great meal planning resource on her blog the other day.

Let me tell you this little gem is too good to keep to myself! It’s a feature from The Everygirl blog called ‘Dinners are Served’. It is a meal plan that features 5 dinners for two for under $50 – their prices are based on Trader Joe’s which is perfect for us! They include a list of what you should already have in your pantry as well as a shopping list. I decided to try it out this week so yesterday I headed to TJ’s equipped with my printed shopping list. It was so easy! The list includes prices for each item and they were almost right on. I decided to double the amount of meat listed in hopes that a little extra would make leftovers for lunches the next day. Even still, I had a few of the shopping list items on hand so I still spent under $50 for a weeks worth of dinners and a few lunches!

This is what was for dinner last night.It was delicious! I tweaked the sauce a little but Jake and I loved it. I didn’t dread making dinner because I knew exactly what we were having and I knew we had all the ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, they even include a picture of all of the ingredients.I love this because I am definitely a visual learner! The plan includes five dinner ideas, a list of items you should have on hand, a shopping list and all the recipes. You can download the pdf version here or find it on the blog here.

I’ll let you know how it goes but so far, I’m hooked!

girls night dinner

manicotti closeThe other night one of my closest friends came to visit. It was just the girls so I wanted to make a special dinner. When I think girls dinner I think pasta and this manicotti recipe was perfect! It appeared on one of my favorite food blogs a while ago and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to give it a whirl.ceasarI paired with this homemade caesar – I added extra anchovy paste and dijon to mine because I like my caesar to have a good kick.wineWe spent the evening planning a friends baby shower, laughing, drinking wine and dreaming of a day that we could live next-door to each other. It was a great Tuesday night.

As I may have mentioned before, I really don’t like left overs so thinking ahead, I made individual dishes for each of us and saved the filling for dinner the next night with Jake. Manicotti fresh out of the oven two nights in a row!manicottiManicotti with Spicy Tomato Sauce
recipe modified from 101 cookbooks

1 box manicotti noodles
one lemon

Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes

Filling
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup grated mozzarella – reserve small handful for topping
1 bunch of chives, minced – reserve some for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare manicotti noodles according to instructions on the box, drain and let cool.

Prepare the sauce by, combing the olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic in the now empty pasta pot. Saute until garlic becomes fragrant – careful not to burn garlic. Add tomatoes and bring to a light simmer for about 5 minutes.

Prepare filling by, combing ricotta, egg, and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir until smooth, add in mozzarella, zest from 1/2 lemon, and 3/4 of the chives. Scoop into piping bag -or ziploc bag with a corner cut off- to fill pasta. Carefully fill each manicotti tube with your filling.

Oil 9×13 baking dish and zest 1/2 lemon into dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with sauce. Place a single layer of filled manicotti tubes along the bottom of the dish. Pour remaining sauce over pasta, squeeze juice of 1/2 a lemon over pasta and top with reserved mozzarella, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle remaining chives for garnish and serve.

Because I was making individual dishes I only used two manicotti tubes per serving. I piped in the filling from a ziploc bag and saved the extra filling in the bag in the refrigerator for the next night’s dinner. I prepared the pasta fresh for each night. 

mediterranean pizza

mediterranean pizza mmm

I had every intention of doing a tutorial for homemade fabric softener but as I was writing the post last night, I realized that I don’t actually love the way it turned out. And I only plan on suggesting you try things that I actually love. I decided I need to do a little more experimenting before I share it with you. So, lets talk about something I do love.

One of our all-time favorite, go-to restaurants is a Northwest pub called McMenamins. Some of you may hate it, they are notorious for slow service, but we LOVE it. We see the slow service as an opportunity to sit an enjoy each others company without being rushed along. Each one of their restaurants has a different feel, slightly different menu and its own local charm. But what is always the same, is the locally brewed beer and the deliciously fried tots (cajun to be specific). If Jake and I are honest, we crave both, constantly.

In college there was a one within walking distance of my house and campus. And at this particular McMenamins they served a Mediterranean Pizza. This pizza was amazing! Before this pizza I wasn’t a fan of kalamata olives, red onions or feta (I know, those were dark and dismal days). I’m not really sure why I even ordered it in the first place, because like I said, I didn’t really like any of the ingredients. But the reason isn’t important, what’s important is this pizza revolutionized they way I eat. Sounds dramatic but really, it transformed my taste-buds.

pizza dough

pesto

So far, that is the only McMenamins that I have found that serves this particular pizza. Which means I absolutely needed to start making it at home. It was actually an easy, last minute dinner. I got all of my ingredients from the Trader himself and most of them are pantry items so they may be things you already have in your cupboard.

tasty ingredients

ready for the oven

Mediterranean Pizza

all of these ingredients are to-taste so exact amounts will not be included

pizza dough – Our favorite is TJ’s herbed dough. It comes in a dough ball that you roll out and cook at home. I haven’t perfected the homemade version but when I do I’ll let you know
kalamata olives
sun dried tomatoes
artichoke hearts
small red onion
pesto
feta cheese
mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees. While oven is pre-heating roughly chop olives, tomatoes, artichokes and onions. Roll out dough to desired size. Once oven is heated remove pizza stone, sprinkle with flour and place rolled dough onto stone. Spread dough with pesto, sprinkle with grated mozzarella, add the rest of your toppings. At this point I like to sprinkle with a little more mozzarella just to keep all the good stuff from falling off. Bake until the crust is crisp. You may need to cover with foil toward the end so the crust continues to cook and the toppings don’t burn. The pizza usually takes about 20 minutes in our oven. When the pizza is done make sure you remove it from the stone (if it stays on the stone the bottom will continue to cook and possibly burn). Let the pizza rest for about 10 minutes – this is the hardest part, but really, if your burn your tongue now, you won’t be able to appreciate this amazing mediterranean experience – once the pizza is no longer scalding, serve with a glass of red wine and try not to eat the whole thing by yourself.

mediterranean pizza

Enjoy!

Oh and by the way, look what is just around the corner for us.

almost crawling

Thats right, hands and knees people! Looks like we need to start baby proofing! Baby mobility is knocking on our door.