Archives for September 2016
Sliders: Cute food with serious flavor!
Here we are, in the middle of summer, in the height of one of my favorite times of year: grilling season. It’s fairly well known among my friends and family that if there is grilling to be done, I’m more than happy to take charge. At home the grill is put to use at least 3 times a week, and that will continue well past fall. Only in mid-December, as the snow is falling and the icicles are forming, will I wave the white flag and put the grill away, grumbling the whole time. I guess you could say that I really like grilling! There does come a time , however, that you start to run out of ideas of fresh new recipes to grill.
I came up with this recipe during one of those times. Honestly, every once in a while you just need a break from the same ol same! This recipe is unique combination of beer brats,a juicy lucy burger, and sausage with sauerkraut. After a couple variations ( best “research” ever! ) this version is my favorite.
Here are my ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds bratwurst
1/4 cup beer (your choice on the flavor but I really liked the porter I used)
12 dinner rolls
15 cubes of Colby cheese (approx 1/2 inch)
1/2 can sauerkraut
Remove the bratwurst meat from its’ casing, and discard casing. Mix bratwurst meat in medium bowl with the beer just enough to incorporate the beer.
Take a small handful of meat and form into a thin patty on a cutting board.
Place a cube of cheese in the middle of the patty, and put a small amount of meat on top of the cheese.
Form the meat around the cheese until you have essentially a large meatball. This recipe should make fifteen ‘meatballs’.
Grill the burgers! Keep in mind that this is mostly pork, so the burgers must be completely cooked through. No medium or medium rare this time.
Split each roll into a bun, and build your burger. I love using the King’s Hawain rolls. That little bit of sweetness they add brings a nice addition to the sliders. I generally like to warm up the sauerkraut a little before adding it, so it does not chill the burgers. Then I stack on as much of it as the wee little bun will hold! For an extra punch I also add a nice dollop of spicy brown mustard.
It’s the same old story, time and time again. People I meet are always telling me that they don’t like venison. They had it when they were kids when uncle so-and-so made it, and they thought it tasted gamey. Or, they’ve never even had it and they just don’t like the thought of eating deer.
Well here’s the real scoop on venison. It’s healthier for you than beef, because it has a lower fat content. Here in Indiana, it’s basically a corn and grass-fed protein powerhouse. It is also technically organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO. So folks, it’s time to give it a fair shake!
Using it in chili is one of my all time favorite ways to introduce people to venison. MOST people have some sort of stand-by chili recipe in their back pocket. If they don’t, their aunt or grandma or cousin does. And every single one of them is different. My chili has a ton of flavor without the gamey taste, because there are five things I always do to make it amazing. The best part is, you can do everything else the way your family likes it. Want Texas style chili? Go right ahead. Want three different kinds of beans? Make it happen. Want five alarm chili that burns a hole in your esophagus? Be my guest. Just do these five simple little things if you are using venison instead of beef. Trust me, your entire neighborhood will be lining up to find out your secrets.
First things first- use fresh ingredients
I’m talking fresh tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. A can or two of diced tomatoes is ok in addition, but if you can at all use fresh, do it! Just cut fresh tomatoes in pieces small enough to fit in your food processor and dice them up. Same goes for whatever peppers you like, and fresh chopped garlic over the jarred stuff. Wild game really does benefit from the added freshness.
Even if you don’t like onion, cook it with the meat
If I’m using two pounds of ground venison, I use at least a whole large onion diced. Onion is famous for taking the gamey flavor out of many wild meats, and it works best if you cook them both together. Do not wait until the meat is cooked to add in the onion. They play nice together, really they do.
Always drain the meat
Once the meat and onion is thoroughly browned, drain that bad boy! Yes, I know that venison has less fat, and there may not be much there. However, what IS there is loaded with gamey flavor. And that just needs to go. No need to go rinsing anything, that’s not necessary at all. Just make sure the vast majority of liquid that collected while cooking is drained off.
Simmer simmer simmer
A beef chili, once the ingredients are all incorporated, can be served immediately. But if you notice, many of the chili cook-off winners let their concoction simmer for hours. And there’s a reason for that. Flavors need time to blend to meet their full potential. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that busy lives do not usually allow for dinner to take hours on the stove. I simmer mine for approximately forty-five minutes, and that’s usually a happy compromise between flavor and the hungry family staring me in the face.
Last but not least
The final weapon in my flavor packed arsenal is beef broth. It may sound kind of quirky, but it works. You don’t need a lot, generally a quarter to half cup is enough. Just that little hint of real beef flavor is enough to tip the scales in my favor and turn any anti-venison skeptic into a believer. I will give a word of caution on this though. Broths are usually pretty heavy in salt, and if you don’t keep that in mind and just season your chili like normal, you may end up with way more than you wanted.
How to keep away mosquitoes, without DEET!
This year started out fairly dry, with lower than normal amounts of rain. In fact, I believe we were actually something like three inches below the normal at one time. Boy, did Mother Nature really make up for that! It’s now the very tail end of summer, and the rain has been coming down in buckets. And that means mosquitoes, lots of them.
It bothers me how many chemicals we use on a daily basis, and I really don’t like the thought of spraying them right on my skin. I also don’t like having to change my clothes as soon as I come in the house, because NO one likes having chemicals rubbing off on their furniture.
So this year, I checked out some options for an all natural version. I looked up a base recipe from DIYnatural and mixed up my own batch to test out. And, yes; by test I mean stand around outside waiting for mosquitoes to bite me. When I conduct an experiment, I’m dedicated like that.
First I’ll tell you exactly what I did. The base recipe is:
2 tbsp Witch Hazel
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vodka
100-110 drops of essential oils
*A few side notes here. The Witch Hazel can be substituted with vodka, because it’s only a carrier liquid. It is very good for your skin, and at $1.44 from the local big box retailer, is not a big expense. The oil can be any of the following; grape seed, jojoba, almond, or olive oil. I used olive oil because that is what I had on hand. I would REALLY like to try this with the almond oil next time.
According to the folks at DIYnatural, there are several types of essential oils that are natural insect repellents. I used 55 drops of lemon, and 55 drops of tea tree oil. The tea tree oil was my big expense at $7.24, however I am a big fan of the health benefits of this stuff. Check it out when you can, because it’s quite useful. The lemon essential oil was $4.97, so not a really big expense either. (If you don’t have olive oil or vodka on hand, we can’t be friends. I mean, honestly, who doesn’t have those things?)
So I mixed my potion in a small clean spray bottle, and trooped outside. I sprayed my legs and arms, and rubbed some on my face. Then I walked into the woods and presented myself as a buffet to the bugs.
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I want to be completely honest with you all. I was out there for approximately 15 minutes, and I did get bitten a few times. However, considering the clouds of mosquitoes that surrounded me, I should be one huge bite mark by now. I also puttered around in the garden, and fed cantaloupe rinds to the chickens. The results were pretty clear. This concoction does actually work. While it’s not surprising that the natural spray didn’t work QUITE as well as a toxic chemical, I am surprised that it worked as well as it did. And I’m pleased. My skin is not oily, and I actually don’t smell like one big lemon peel. In fact, I hardly smell at all. (I got a few other people’s opinion on that, thank you very much.)
There are several other essential oils that have insect repelling attributes, including eucalyptus and peppermint. Other oils like sandalwood can also be added in order to alter the scent. It is worth mentioning at this point, that different scents smell different on different people. If you have ever tried to borrow someone’s cologne/perfume before, you may have been disappointed when you sprayed it on yourself. This is a similar situation. Body chemistry will have an effect on how this smells on you.
That being said, please try this out, and let me know what YOU think! I would love to hear what mixtures you’ve tried, and how you liked them!
After a week of waiting, it is finally time to bottle the beer!
It is my goal to be completely honest with you all, and I’m going to tell you something. This part was a little labor intensive. The reason behind that is that as I said previously, everything needs to be sanitized before you start your work. And this little kit makes quite a bit of beer!
We sanitized 56 bottles and used every single one of them. We also had to sanitize the bottling bucket, the siphon, as well as the caps. But once that’s done, things go quickly.
First you siphon the beer out of the carboy into the bottling bucket.
There are a few reasons for this. As the malty mixture does its fermenting, the solids settle to the bottom. These are mostly just remnants of the hops, but they aren’t exactly great tasting. So siphoning removes the liquids and leaves those sediments out.
You will also, at this point, add the priming sugar. The remaining yeast will eat this new sugar after the bottling, and create the carbonation required to make a truly satisfying brew.
Finally, the bottling bucket has this sweet nozzle on it, which allows you to fill the bottles with ease, and lessen the chance of spilling any beer. Spilling ANY beer is generally frowned upon as abusive, and loosing any of this, that you have worked and waited for, would be borderline tragedy.
As soon as the bottle is filled the cap is applied, with a nifty little hand capper.
Simply place the cap on the bottle, set the capper on top, and pull down both arms firmly and equally. This crimps the cap around the bottle nicely and makes a completely sealed product. This part too, can be a little laborious. However, it is extremely gratifying watching those beautiful bottles add up.
These beauties must be stored in a cool dry place for approximately a week before the priming sugar has done its job. It is also recommended to wait an additional three weeks to properly age the brew to perfection. Trust me, take this opportunity to start another batch, because once you’ve tried your custom home-brew, you will never look at store-bought beer the same! Cheers!
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are quickly coming upon my favorite time of year, fall. And with this wonderful season of changing leaves and cool but not frigid temps, comes something else I favor, hunting.
Just recently I got my bow out and starting getting geeked up and planning for deer season. Now, if you have spent more than five minutes hunting, you realize that there is a lot of work that goes into the season before you actually get into the stand. First things first is taking care of the bow itself. It is extremely important that the bow is properly maintained.
The folks at Michiana Archery took really good care of me this weekend. I wanted a heavier draw weight, and they moved it to 55 pounds for me. They also inspected my now three year old bow and let me know what kind of maintenance it would need. My main concern was the string, which is starting to get a little “furry”.
I’ll give it a good waxing, but the guys at the archery shop told me they are only good for five years max, so next year we will get a new one put on. For this year though, we are good to go. They
also inspected the limb pockets, and told me they were in great shape. The rubber tubing is starting to show a little wear, but again, will be fine for this year. They also helped me with my grip, to help me improve my shooting form. It really is a nice little shop, I highly recommend checking them out!
Once that is done it’s time to throw some arrows! Being a bow hunter requires a good deal of commitment, as you cannot simply sight the bow in and be done with it. Practice
makes perfect, and it is recommended to practice in short sessions several days a week. Set your sight pins to equal distances; for example, mine are set at ten yard increments. It is very important to shoot to the distance you are comfortable. A comfortable confident shooter will shoot better than someone taking a shot they are not sure of.
With every day that passes, we get that much closer, and I am so excited!
This time of year, I start feeling a little like a squirrel that needs to stock up for the winter. I get the itch to take advantage of good deals on fruits and veggies to the max, and this week has been jalapeno peppers. They are big and beautiful and in their seasonal peak. And they are $.88 a pound. Tell me, WHO could pass that up? Not this girl.
Ok, so you caught me. I know that I can survive the winter without hot peppers. I also know that they are available in nice little jars at the grocery stores all year long. BUT! At $1.99 a jar versus $.88 a pound, I AM saving money. It’s not going to make or break my budget, but every cent counts, right?
To top it off, the work involved is almost nil. I’ve mentioned before, the name of my game is E.A.S.Y. Five ingredients. Twenty-five minutes total. No ‘cooking’. Here’s how it goes:
- Wash and thinly slice 10 large jalapenos.
- Bring two cups each of water and white vinegar to a boil
- Add three tablespoons of sugar, and two tablespoons salt.
- Add a tablespoon of minced garlic
- Stir together until salt and sugar have dissolved
- Turn off heat, add sliced jalapenos
- Let peppers steep in brine twenty minutes.
- Pour peppers into clean jars, and add enough of the brine to cover.
- Chill in refrigerator.
The peppers will stay good in the fridge for several months, due to the high vinegar content. They are NOT going to be shelf stable unless you process them in a water bath canner. I don’t go that far with these, because in my house, they will be gone long before they even think about going bad!