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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spicy Spinach Soup

We had a baked potato bar at work last week, with all of the fixings. As you can probably imagine, there were plenty of leftovers. Enough that we had potato bar for two days, and then some ! One of the options we always have for the employees is salad for a side dish, and this time, for some reason, we had a lot of left over spinach, and a handful of potatoes, and of course, the requisite sour cream. I didn't want to waste anything, so I was trying to think of how I could use those up. 

This super easy soup came to mind. It was the perfect way to use up the leftovers, and I wouldn't have to spend all afternoon in the kitchen prepping dinner. Served with a sandwich , it is a great option for a meatless menu.

I was a little worried, as I stuffed more and more spinach into the pot, than I might "over-spinach" the soup, but I am not sure you can do that. The Indian inspired spices are a nice match to the earthy taste of the spinach. Enjoy !

Spicy Spinach Soup 
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium jalapenos, diced
3 tablespoons ginger, grated
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup diced, baked potatoes
8 cups fresh spinach
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Sour cream for garnish
In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until soft, then add jalapenos and ginger. Saute 2-3 additional minutes. Add vegetable stock and potatoes, and bring to a boil. Start adding spinach a handful at a time. The pot will seam overly full, but the spinach will cook down. Once all of the spinach is added, reduce to a simmer and add spices. Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes until spinach is completely cooked. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Garnish with sour cream.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Venison Fajita-Style Chili (Ole and Lena's Mexican Vacation)

I entered this in a chili cook-off sponsored by the Freshwater Theatre Company, and they wanted all the entrants to come up with a fun name to represent their dish. Since this is Minnesota, full of Norwegians who hunt, I figured Ole and Lena would substitute venison in a version of chili they sampled on vacation ! 

No, I didn't win. AGAIN! I did get second place, aced out by my chili nemesis, the White Chicken Chili. If you have followed my blog you may remember I won a chili cook-off at work by begrudgingly "getting in bed with the enemy" and entering the White Chicken Chili. It's mostly because my coworkers have a less adventurous palate than I do. Now, I see, it is common to most of the state of Minnesota ! This is not the first time, nor will it probably be the last, that I will lose to this soup masquerading as a chili ! 

Off the soap box, onto the food ! I really like this mixture of flavors, it is brighter and more flavorful than a traditional tomato, ground beef and bean based recipe. Or maybe that's just my imagination because I added tequila ? My husband does an amazing job butchering the deer, so our steaks are already nice cuts, but the mojo style marinade really makes it.

So the upside of the whole day, was there was also a Home Brewer Contest, and I won it ! This was the first time I dared to bring in one of our home brews, so I entered our Barrel Aged Black IPA. I was voted "Best Firkin Brewer", so here I am, with my winning mug and my apron for second place in the chili cookoff.  And now I get free beer every time I attend one of their shows....totally cool !

Photo: Here's my winning darling sporting the apron she won for second place in the chili cook off, and holding the mug for first prize in the beer contest!!

Venison Fajita-Style Chili 
For the meat: 
3 pounds venison steak 
1/2 cup lemon juice 
1/2 cup lime juice 
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar 
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons grill seasoning 
2 tablespoons cumin 
1 tablespoon chili powder 
1 tablespoon dried oregano 
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a one gallon zip lock bag, and place meat into marinade. Let sit at least 12 hours. 

For the chili: 
3 pounds marinated venison steak 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely diced 
1 each red, yellow and green peppers, diced
4 jalapenos, minced 
1 large can spicy V-8 juice 
1 large can crushed tomatoes 
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed 
2 cans spicy chili beans 
1/4 cup cumin 
1/4 cup chili powder 
3 tablespoons oregano 
3 tablespoons grill seasoning 
1 tablespoon smoked salt 
2 cups tequila 

In a large stock pot, sear off steak to brown the outside, and set aside. Saute onions and pepper in the same pot. Dice steak into small pieces, and add back to the pot. Add all remaining ingredients, and let simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours, until thickened. Adjust spices to your taste. Just before serving, stir in the tequila. Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fresh Strawberry Blueberry Crisp

When I first met my husband, I made him blueberry crisp. I couldn't believe he had never had it before. Never had crisp of any kind. This was always a staple in our house, because we had rhubarb, lots and lots of it ! Over the years I have found a crisp, or crumble, to be my favorite "go-to" dessert because it is quick, easy and you almost always have the ingredients on hand to make it. I often make them to use up fruit when I "over-purchase" at the Farmer's Market, which I do quite frequently. They freeze beautifully, then I can just pull one out and toss it in the oven. I was thinking spring when I purchased this fruit at the store, but I bought more than we could eat in a week, so I had to make crisp, of course !

I like to make them in individual serving dishes when we have guests coming over, so everyone gets their own. And, we like them with a simple, homemade vanilla ice cream, served warm. This was my first try at this combination, using up some fruit we had in the refrigerator, but I will make it again, most certainly ! 

Fresh Strawberry Blueberry Crisp 
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced 
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 teaspoon lemon juice 
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
3/4 cup rolled oats 
1/2 cup flour 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon cloves 
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, toss together fruit, sugar, Grand Marnier, vanilla and lemon juice and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients, until crumbly and pea sized. Spray 4 individual oven proof dishes with non-stick spray. Divide fruit into dishes, and then divide topping over the fruit. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chicken Pot Shepherds Pie

What the heck is it ? Well, I wanted to make chicken pot pie, but I only had one crust, and I didn't feel like making a second one. What I did have, was a mess of left over mashed potatoes from dinner last night. Plus, all the other fixings from a massive chicken dinner (gravy, veggies, chicken). It only made sense to toss them all together into a pie ! 

And how quick and easy was this idea ! I know everyone won't always have a pie crust on hand, but store bought would work just fine, and this was one of the best comfort food meals I have ever made.

Chicken Pot Shepherds Pie 
1 prepared pie crust 
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken 
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables 
2 cups prepared chicken gravy 
2 cups mashed potatoes (I used horseradish mashed potatoes, but whatever kind you have left over should work) 
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Press crust into a deep dish pie pan. Layer half of chicken, half of vegetables and half of gravy, then repeat. Spread mashed potatoes across the top, and salt and pepper. Bake for approximately 1 hour until golden and gravy begins to bubble out around the sides. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spicy Cinnamon Honey Roast Chicken

We were lucky enough to get some really nice, farm raised chickens from one of the ladies in my brewing group, so whole roasted chicken was on the menu this Sunday. I have experimented with this preparation before, so I could also take advantage of the honey from our beehive. The chicken comes out so moist and tender, with crispy, sweet and spicy skin. And this bird was so large, we have plenty of leftovers for a nice pot pie tomorrow. 

Spicy Cinnamon Honey Roast Chicken
1 large roasting chicken (4-5 pounds)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 head garlic
1 orange, cut in half
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
Preheat oven to 450. Rub chicken generously with salt and pepper, and place garlic and orange in the cavity. Wrap the wing tips in foil to prevent burning. Place chicken in large roasting pan, and place 2 cups of water in the bottom. Roast at 450 for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, and brush over the chicken. Baste every 20 minutes for 2 hours until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees. Remove from pan and cover will foil. Let rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pan Seared Venison Chops and Roasted Cauliflower

I was really hoping to be grilling by now, but the weather this weekend was just too cold and rainy. I had venison chops on my menu, and my mind, so I needed to prep them in a different way. 

We have a grill pan for indoor grilling, but these small chops don't always come out the way I would like when I use it. So, a quick hard sear in a super hot pan, then finish in the oven, is the way to go ! 

I roasted some cauliflower in the same oven, and this was as close to a "grilled" dinner as we could get on this cold, rainy March day.

Pan Seared Venison Chops with Roasted Cauliflower
For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite size piece
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Toss the cauliflower in the olive oil and grill seasoning, and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cauliflower is golden and tender. Remove to a bowl and toss with parmesan cheese.

For the chops:
4 Venison chops
2 tablespoons grill seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

In an ovenproof saute pan, melt butter and olive oil together over fairly high heat. Add chops to the pan and sear each side 3-4 minutes until browned. Then, place pan in the preheated oven with the cauliflower for an additional 3-4 minutes, until chops ares just past rare. Remove from oven, and let rest for 4-5 minutes before serving with cauliflower on the side. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pork Osso Buco

We are still working our way through the last of the pig we butchered last year. What happens at this point, is we are left with the odd cuts of meat, so I really need to up the creativity. Since it was half a pig we came home with, I had two pork hocks I needed to use some how. Generally you see these pickled or smoked, but honestly, that would be too predictable, right ?

Then I started thinking about using them in place of veal in an osso buco. They are similar in size and shape, so I thought it would make an interesting dish. I love a dish I can put together and throw in the oven on a cold day, and this was so delicious and comforting. Served with some basil smashed potatoes, it was a rustic, but elegant Sunday dinner. 

Pork Osso Buco 

2 pork hocks (approximately 4 pounds) 
1 tablespoon salt 
1 tablespoon pepper 
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
4 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cups onions, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups carrots, finely diced 
2 cups celery, finely diced 
1 1/2 cups dry white wine 
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 quart diced tomatoes 
1 sprig each rosemary, thyme and parsley, tied together

Preheat oven to 325. Rub pork hocks with spices. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place pork hocks in the pan, and sear on all sides until browned. Remove from pan. Add onions and garlic, and saute until translucent. Add carrots and celery, and continue to cook until vegetables are tender. Deglaze pan with wine, then stir in tomatoes and chicken stock. Return the pork hocks to the dutch oven, and submerge the herb bundle. Bake 3 1/2 to 4 hours until meat is falling off the bone. Remove the meat from the mixture, and remove meat from the bones. Using an immersion blender, puree the gravy until somewhat smooth but still a bit chunky. Return the meat to the pot, and stir in. Serve over potatoes or pasta.