Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Veni Vidi Vici--VENISON!

My son, Nathanael, made a successful bow kill this autumn--his first. And he was generous enough to share some of his bounty with us. I have always been hesitant, for some reason, to eat venison. Maybe it's the cute faces of the deer (but then, I do eat the meat from cows with cute little faces; so figure that one out); maybe I think that since deer are wild, the meat will taste gamey or "off" or that it will be tough. Whatever the reason, I always end up trying it anyway. And again and again to my surprise, I love it!
I was excited when Nathanael offered us some of the meat from his kill, and could hardly wait to try cooking it myself. I chose cuts that I thought were most tender and flavorful, like chops, steaks and ground meat. For the chops and steaks, I searched recipes/methods of cooking online, and was pretty successful in reproducing them. By the time I got around to cooking the ground venison, I was brave enough to be a little creative. My Cowboy Venison Chili is the result! And I must say, if you think you do not like venison, you must try this. You would be hard pressed to convince someone it was not beef. And if you like chili at all, please try this. Anyone can do this, and I guarantee you will enjoy it. The meat is tender and tasty without any "off" flavor or wildness.

Nathanael came, he saw, he conquered the animal. But I conquered the fear and the flavor. And it tastes like.............CHILI!
Cowboy Venison Chili

1 1/2 pounds ground venison (you may use any ground meat you like)

salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

1 large onion

2 large cloves garlic, diced

1 can Campbell's Condensed Beefy Mushroom Soup (it is a thicker soup as opposed to a broth--Campbell's preferably, but another brand would suffice)

1 can (about 15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice (I always use Hunts; any flavor is fine--for this recipe I used the basil, garlic and oregano; if you only have plain, season your chili with herbs of your choice while cooking)

1/2 cup water

2 TBS chili powder

2 medium potatoes, cubed

1 can corn, drained

Shredded Cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Put a little olive oil in a large cast iron skillet.
*I much prefer cast iron for browning. You simply will not get the same quality of brownness with non-stick or aluminum. You can't beat it. It gets hot and stays hot. You might be a little skittish or hesitant at first--I certainly was--and need a few trial runs to get the "feel" of cooking in cast iron; but once done, there is no substitute. I feel no kitchen should be without at least one cast iron skillet.
Add the onions, salt and pepper them to taste and cook on medium-high heat about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the ground venison, breaking it apart and adding salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste; cook until the meat is browned. If there is any, pour off the grease. Add the diced garlic and cook a minute more. Add the beefy mushroom soup, the tomatoes, water and chili powder and mix to combine. Add the cubed potatoes. Turn down heat, cover and simmer about 1/2 hour, or until potatoes are tender and the chili thickens a bit. Turn off the heat, mix in the corn, top with shredded cheese and cover until cheese melts. Sprinkle on parsley before serving.
You may serve with sour cream on top if you like, with biscuits, corn bread or hard rolls and a salad.
*This would make an excellent campfire meal. Just brown the meat and onions over the fire, add the remaining ingredients, cover and let simmer. This would be great spooned over corn bread or biscuits. Could not be simpler or less work.
Peace and Good Eating,

Smokin' Sausage

We were going to have smoked sausage for supper last night. While I normally love that simple meal with french fries or roasted potatoes and corn, I just wasn't in the mood for it. It is near the end of the month and my cupboards are pretty bare; so I got a sudden creative urge to use whatever I had on hand to dress up that little package of smoked sausage. It's always fun to create, and last night was no exception. Once I started, there was no stopping me! I cleaned out the pantry and harvested some goodies from the garden and voila! Dinner was served. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Smoked Sausage-Sesame Flat Bread Pizzas
The Flat Bread:
1 pkg dry yeast
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 or 2 TBS sugar
1 1/2 TBS toasted sesame seeds
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
drizzle of sesame oil
approx. 3/4 cups warm water
Put yeast into a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup warm water and the sugar, mix together and let sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast will become foamy and double in quantity. 
In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sesame seeds, olive oil and sesame oil. Add the yeast mixture. Add about 1/2 of the remaining warm water and gently mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough. If the dough seems dry, add the remaining water and mix together gently. The dough should not be wet, but formed together, soft and pliable, even if a bit sticky. 
Pour dough onto a well-floured board and knead about 5 or 10 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and elastic. You may need to keep adding small amounts of flour so the dough does not become too sticky.
Put a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turning around to coat in the oil. Cover and put in a warm (NOT HOT) place to rise until double in size. It should take about 1/2 hour if you are using quick-rise yeast. You may now form your pizzas, or refrigerate for later use, or freeze for future use (allow frozen dough to thaw in the refrigerator before using).

*If using in this recipe, I would begin with dough and while it is rising, you can move to the sauce. By the time the sauce is finished cooking, you can take it off the heat and let it sit while you prepare the flatbreads.
The Sauce:
1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 can good diced tomatoes (you can use plain; I used Hunts with green pepper, celery, onion in this recipe)
pinch or 2 of baking soda
2 TBS tomato paste
1 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms
1 roasted red bell pepper (if using jarred peppers, about 1/2 jar)
2 TBS Lipton Beefy Onion or Onion Mushroom Soup & Dip Mix, or similar product (I think the beefy onion tastes richer)
Seasonings of your choice: I used Mrs. Dash Tomato, Basil, Garlic and also an Italian seasoning blend (without salt)
 Put 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil into a medium saute / frying pan. Add the sliced onions and cook until caramelized on a medium heat, about 20 minutes, stirring now and then to prevent burning. When onions are caramelized, add the garlic and cook about 1 or 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the can of tomatoes, with a pinch of baking soda (adding the baking soda burns away acid in the tomatoes, preventing the tomatoes from being too sour; but always be careful when adding baking soda, and add only a pinch, as too much will make your sauce completely tasteless!!). The tomatoes will foam a bit, so just stir it up. Add the remaining ingredients and seasonings of your choice; stir together and cook uncovered at a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
*You may use the sauce immediately for your pizzas, or store in jars in the refrigerator for future use. It should easily last a few weeks. Or, you can freeze it for a longer period of time. The sauce can be used as a cooking sauce for chicken, pork or any type of meat, or a sauce for meatloaf. Use your imagination! Try browning some chicken or boneless pork chops and then cooking in this sauce until the meat is tender, and serve over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles. Heavenly comfort food!
The Pizza:
1-pound smoked sausage, cut in rounds (I use Hillshire Farms--it has a wonderful meaty, not greasy flavor--and no gristle.)
extra virgin olive oil
fresh basil leaves
sliced tomatoes
2 cups shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese (or cheese of your choice)
*Using fresh cheese and grating it yourself makes a world of difference in the flavor of your dish--gives a much creamier, buttery flavor; however, if you only happen to have bagged pre-shredded cheeses, go with it. It will be fine. Since I was "cleaning out the cupboards" and had no fresh cheese on hand, I simply went to the freezer and took out a pre-shredded bag of a mixed Italian cheese blend. I was not disappointed.
Divide the risen dough into 2 or 3 equal parts (depending on how large you want to make the pizzas). Flour a board and roll the individual pizzas into very flat pieces (about 1/8th inch thick). Sprinkle a little olive oil on each piece of dough; spoon on desired amount of sauce and top with basil leaves, tomatoes and shredded cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 425-degree oven about 15 minutes on baking sheets or pizza pans lined with baking parchment, until dough is cooked and crisp and browned on the bottom and cheese is melted.

*Baking parchment is not a must; however, I always use it, as it helps to prevent burning and gives a lovely, evenly-browned crust. A pale, yeasty beer, such as Miller High Life, truly pairs well with this meal, and gives a very pleasing lingering flavor!
Peace All,

Friday, July 18, 2014

Be Fruitful!

It has been an amazing summer growing season! The weather here in Ohio, while a bit uncomfortable for a period of time because of rain and high humidity, has been absolutely perfect for our garden. I'm finding we may have put a bit too many tomato plants in the small area we designated for our garden this year, for they are overtaking the entire garden. Live and learn.

Still, they are in a good, sunny location and are providing a great amount of tomatoes. I see new baby tomatoes and new flowers each day. Among the varieties (six plants) are several heirlooms (including Cherokee Purple and a striped orange variety), a  Better Boy, Goliath Hybrid and an Early Girl--from what I remember. Unfortunately, the foliage is so thick I can't see the little name tags I placed by each plant, and don't remember all the varieties this late into the season! I am truly salivating at the thought of my first tomato and mayo sandwich (on soft Italian bread, of course) of the season.
For the first time this year, we planted garlic! One of my favorite accomplishments in the 25+ years we have lived on this tiny farm. I am one of those people who cannot cook without garlic, and it would be a disaster indeed if I were ever out of it. My husband planted 13 little cloves this past October. Every one of those little cloves grew and survived during the extremely harsh Ohio winter of 2014, which included mounds of snow and days--even weeks of sub-zero temperatures. They not only survived, they flourished; and so, today, we are rewarded with 13 heads of garlic which we harvested this morning. And the extent of our work was to put them in the ground and then forget about them. Each of those little heads of garlic contains about 13 to 15 individual perfect little cloves! And so, today my husband gathered them up, I braided them and we hung them in the barn for a month or so to dry. I am most proud of this endeavor. I will bring them into the kitchen when they are dried, to hang there, to use and share with family and to decorate my humble little farm kitchen--and to keep the vampires away, of course :).
This year's weather has also been perfect for our Greek Columnar Basil and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. I love parsley as much as I do garlic, and must always have the flat leaf variety around for cooking and salads. I think it is much more flavorful than the curly kind. I am expanding my horizons. I used to think one could only cook with parsley or use it as a garnish, and not usually eat it right out of the garden. It took a magical Christmastime visit to London, England in 2012 to change my mind about that. The night before we left for home, we had dinner at Rules Restaurant in Covent Garden. Rules is the oldest and most famous restaurant in London, and one which none other than Charles Dickens himself frequented. We were truly blessed to have secured a reservation there the day before, as most often reservations require weeks in advance to obtain. We ordered two  salads for the table to share with our meal, and one of them was strictly an herb salad, with flat leaf parsley being the main ingredient. No salad has ever been paired more perfectly with the roasted game entrĂ©es we enjoyed that evening. Since then, I have also been making parsley salads for our dinners at home, as well as cooking with it as always.
The basil is also quite nice. I don't like a very strong, harsh basil flavor, and this Greek Columnar Basil really fills the bill. It is a delicate basil flavor and has smaller leaves. I love it. I cannot wait for my own tomatoes to ripen so that I can make a wonderful caprese salad! It has started growing fast, faster than I can use it fresh; so I am drying a few stems of it so that I can harvest it before it flowers, and not waste a leaf.
We normally grow only bell peppers. I'm not a fan of the more bitter green ones, but love the sweet red, yellow and orange varieties. This year we have added a Carmen red sweet pepper and pimiento. They are all doing well. Do you remember that wonderful pinkish pimiento cheese spread in a jar from when you were a kid? I do. It was one of my sister's, brother's and my favorite snack on crackers. I cannot wait to make a homemade pimiento-cream cheese spread from my own peppers.

It doesn't take a lot to grow a garden. And the rewards are so sweet--and savory. It's such a creative endeavor, and always reinforces my belief that we (should) work hand-in-hand with God to create, to share the yield, to be fruitful, to make good of the gifts we have been given. How can a world go hungry, when even the smallest garden space is so fruitful and multiplies to such an enormous yield? I don't think I could enjoy nourishing myself with food I had helped to grow if I did not share it: " is not only from eating, but in the breaking of bread with another that we receive our comfort and satisfaction in the gift of food." (From Thy Bounty by Monica E. Smith). There simply is no greater feeling than to be aware we have been creative and fruitful at base level. Enjoy your summer.


Italian Flat Leaf Parsley / Greek Columnar Basil
                                                       Carmen Sweet Pepper / Orange Bell / Pimiento

Drying Basil (above); Garlic Braided and Hanging to Dry in the Barn (below)

 Monica and Daughter, Veronica Browsing the Amazing Menu at Rules / Parsley Salad

My Husband, Scott and Son, Jeremy Anticipating Our Meal at Rules with Great Delight