Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moose Stew

One of the things I've come to enjoy around this part of the country is hunting season.  Its not because I actually go hunting...or because my husband disappears to go hunting for weeks at a time.  Its actually because everyone we know who goes hunting usually has a wife who hates cooking game meat!  They usually wait a few months after hunting season is over and ask us if we'd take this meat away so they can have their freezer back. We win!  Not only is it free meat, but its lean and healthy too.  Wild animals aren't maintained the way that livestock is cared for, which can be good and bad. 

Good points:  no steriods or hormones were ever administered
Bad points:  you have really no idea where this animal has been getting its food or drinking water OR how much road salt its been licking up over the years.

At any rate, I like introducing wild meat to my kids.  It is a different flavour altogether and its nothing like they serve at fast food restaurants which has got to be a good thing.

Every time I eat wild meat I feel more like a pioneer than a consumer.  Living in the country, it just makes me feel like we live off of the land more...even if its not actually us doing the hunting.

I made Moose Stew the other night and this is how it goes:

Moose stew for you!

Rinse the meat really well once it has defrosted.  This method helps the meat lose some of the gamey flavour and any residue the meat may have.  (especially if you don't know who did the butchering)

Marinate the meat chunks in water and salt and pepper (or beef stock or wild game seasonings) overnight.  Discard water after.

Simmer meat on low in some liquid (stock or seasonings).  I used beef stock, less than a 1/2 cup per 2 lbs. (discard liquid after)

In a separate pot, simmer onions, carrots (from our garden) and potatoes. 

Add meat, more stock or seasonings, as well as 1/2 cup of  barley and simmer some more.

Towards the end of the simmering, I added frozen peas and beans from our garden that we froze and blanch devereaux'ed.  Its at this time you can add more stock if the barley has absorbed too much of the liquid.  I made the mistake of adding much more than I should have and decided to add some corn starch mixed in 1/2 cup of milk to thicken it up...but i should have just let the stew boil off.  That's why in the picture above the stew seems a little creamier than a stew normally is....

I also would have added some celery if we had any, but it still turned out nicely!  Not bad for not following a recipe....

I topped off this dish with garlic parmesan biscuits.....mmmmmmm.....

Now this is a thick and hearty meal from the Canadian wilds! 

I truly enjoy living where I live.  I especially love learning about the edible things in my area...so look forward to future posts about eating locally, foraging for goodies, and eating a true Canadian diet. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tomato Basil Soup from Scratch

Here is another edition of Freezer Food!

So Campbell's Soup sells tomato soup for $0.75 these days...and although I can't compete with that pirce...I can feel good knowing that I can control the amount of sodium and sugar in my family's food as well as making a meal that has virtually no carbon footprint!  If we had a wood stove, this recipe would have an even smaller foodprint. 

For storage, we take our best tomatoes and cut a cross in the bottom skin (instead of peeling them fresh).  Add them to a large freezer bag and there you go!  Another storage trick I thought I'd try this year was from the Mathers.  Pick fresh basil place in  a food processor.  Add garlic too.  Now add a 1/2 cup to a small freezer bag and press thin.  Freeze.  Now when you want to add basil and garlic to a meal, you just snap off what you want.  Easy!

Read below for my step by step tomato soup from scratch recipe!

We pulled out the frozen tomatoes at around 10am.
We let them simmer, covered, on very low for a long time. 
After the tomatoes have turned to mush, you can add the frozen basil garlic combo and desired salt.  I also added a pinch of white sugar to combat a bit of the bitterness from our tomatoes.
Press soup through a strainer to get rid of excess seeds and skin.
Parmesan cheese is a suggested topping.

I served them with home made biscuits.  (the heart shape is optional....but fun!  Can't you feel the love?)

Ready for lunch!

left: basil garlic frozen in baggie, middle: home made biscuits, right: mater soup!

Eat yer Parsnips!

This is the perfect time of year for parsnips!  I know, I know...parsnips?  Seriously?

I never used to like parsnips...perhaps that was from being force fed the poor roots as a child.  Last year I got a Canadian Gardening issue with an article about growing parsnips and leaving them in the ground after the frost.  As the article suggested, they transformed into a different vegetable altogether. 

digging in the garden for the the last crop of the year....PARSNIPS!

My husband and I were up for an experiment...as most of our gardening has consisted of trial and error guess work.  We purchased the seeds and last year we grew our first crop of parsnips.  We Planted them during the May 24th weekend and left them alone basically until after the first major frost. (ie.  after the first morning we had to scrape the car windows off.)

The result:  amazingly sweet root veggies!  The parsnip has a mild nutty flavour, but they do lack in colour on the plate.  We have tried cooking the parsnip in a variety of ways.  For example, we boiled them and we roasted them.  I sauted them with oil and walnuts and garlic.  I finally decided the best way to eat a parsnip is to sneak it in.  I've hidden the savoury roots in sheppard's pie and squash soup. 

My favorite way to prepare the parsnip (by far) is in my roasted root vegetable dish.  Its made up of sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, parsnips and a coarsely chopped onion.  Toss in oil and a pinch of kosher salt.  Roast at 400 degrees F uncovered for approx 30 min.  Check them half way through and toss, adding more salt if desired.

For storage you can do one of two methods.  Freezing or root cellaring.  A root cellar is something I deperately want to try.  Given the right conditions, I'm told, a parsnip can last in a root cellar until next spring!  The idea of storing food without using any fossil fuels is something I could really become fanatical about (especially after our last hydro bill!!!)

We dig up the parsnip by digging out the area next to the roots and working our way inward.  The parsnip root gets VERY deep, so you don't want to shove your shovel through the mid-section of the vegetable.  we knock off as much soil in the garden, and then again at the outside hose.  I scrub them off in the kitchen sink with the potato scrubber and then to the cutting board!  Peel and chop the root.  I have found that the larger the shunks are, the better for year round roasting.  Last year we chopped some smaller to slip into sheppard's pie....but the result was that they hardened when cooked.  Fill a large freezer bag 1/3 full.  Then flatten out and freeze.  You can add more later on, once the new ones are frozen too....but this method allows for freezer separation....instead of one massive clump of frozen parsnip. 


Monday, November 15, 2010

Prepping the Ground pt 3

Prepping the Ground pt 3

I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing the Mathers.  Cam and Michelle are truly inspirational when it comes to all things gardening.  They have a combined gardening knowledge that astounds.  It is because of them that our garden this year was exceptional and far less trial and error.

Last May, I was able to attend a seminar that Cam was hosting at Burt's Greenhouses in Odessa.  It was a fantastic overview on how to start, maintain and relish your garden.  Cam is a garden fanatic of sorts and his enthusiasm is contagious.  He also happened to have his new book available after the seminar.  Lucky me I was able to snag one...but if you have someone who's a gardener on your Christmas list...feel free to pick one or two of them up here:


It is without a doubt the only gardening book I've ever read cover to cover....its that readable!


Now, about that manure.  It is in the aforementioned book that I discovered the true value of manure.  We are finally at a point in our lives (my husband and I) that we were able to grow asparagus.  It takes about 3 years before you can  harvest the asparagus after its planted.  A very kindly neighbour of ours (Thanks again Mrs Goodberry!) showed up one afternoon with a basket full of new asparagus seedlings.  I had no idea how to grow asparagus.  My family had been through 4 years of moving once a year.  The garden selections were strickly annuals.   

It was in Cam Mather's book that I discovered that you have to "do your part" as he says.  Yes, asparagus is the gift that keeps on giving, but you should assist it when you can.  Manure is the best way to boost your asparagus...as it has been traditionally grown in it for centuries.

The absolute best time of year to buy manure (unless you are in a rural area and can get some from nearby farms) is late summer or fall.  Garden centers will be wanting to get rid of this garden gold.  We picked up the stack shown above for only $1.99 a bag.  How's that for 'small purse'?  We choose a mix of sheep and cow.  There's no real reason, mind you, just personal preference.  If we had chickens at the house, my husband would skip buying manure and just shovel out the coop. 

Reading Cam Mather's book, I learned that you add manure in the spring to give the plant roots plenty of minerals and nitrogen to grow.  The result?  A very tall hedge of asparagus.  The lesson learned?  I wouldn't have planted the asparagus on the side that blocks all of the morning sun...but I was thrilled that the manure had such an effect!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cornmeal and Jalapeno Bass with French Fries and Beans

I've loved growing things for quite a few years now...but I've discovered that growing a thing is only half of the challenge.  What do you do with that thing after its grown???  Well, you eat it obviously...but its the eating of things that I've always had problems with.  I never liked cooking...I avoided the kitchen like it was a torture chamber.  I suppose that's one of the reasons why I married a chef.  This past summer, I spent a lot of time at home with my 3 yr old son Owen, while my husband desperately worked 3 jobs to keep us paying those bills.  I had plenty of time (and not much money) to consider what was going to be on the table when dinner time came along.

So this is the introduction to the other portion of this blog...what do you do with these things once you've grown them!?!?! 

There will be future posts in which I will discuss my new found obsession with eating locally, the 100 ft challenge and other things of this nature, but mainly we were quite broke and I needed to discover a way to make delicious meals with everything we grew in our garden.  I guess on some level it was a way to become as self-sufficient as possible on the budget we were attempting to live on.

Last night we started the freezer eat-out....well that's what I like to call it....simply put...we freeze most of the things that come out of the garden...and at some point we have to start eating it before it gets freezer burnt!  The garden has been almost completely emptied...so the thought of going to the grocery store now is actually painful for me to think about.  We have subsisted for several months now mainly on garden fair...so I dipped into the freezer for an outstanding meal! 

cornmeal jalapeno bass with french fries and green and yellow beans
Here is the dinner fare for last night...I'll break it down for you:

Cornmeal Jalapeno Bass
Bass caught on Holleford lake (less that 15 min from our house) which equals a very small carbon footprint!
cornmeal bought at the bulk barn
Jalapenos grown in our garden

standard flour/egg wash/cornmeal dip in that order
diced jalapenos (seeds removed because I'm a spicy wussy) added in the cornmeal dish

fried then baked for 10 min each

This is where I get to explain what I started this blog about.  We grow jalapenos every year.  This year we ended up with 15 jalapeno plants that seemed to yield about a basket EACH!  But here comes the problem I face.  No one in our family eats these things...but my husband.  So how do you prepare and serve something that no one eats?  Why do we grow these things?  These are questions I began to ask myself during this past summer's unemployment.  I rose to the challenge of finding something to do with these little fellas.  I scoured cook books and magazines.  I trolled the internet on sites like cook.com and allrecipes.com.  Eventually this fish recipe came from my huband wanting to make cornmeal jalapeno pancakes for the kids and I one weekend.  (i have no idea where he got that recipe...but he's a cook so it could have been from anywhere)

I love the crunch that cornmeal brings to the fish...which we normally fix up with breadcrumbs we make.  Evena  spicy wussy like myself was loving this recipe.  The peppers gave a hint of heat...but not too much.  The flavour of the pepper was able to be tasted without the taste buds getting burnt off.  I will definitely try this recipe again! 

French Fries
We didn't grown potatoes this year, but we do subscribe to a local "good food box" program.  You pay the month earlier and each month you get a blue bin sized box full of fresh, mostly local, often seasonal veggies all for $15.
I hand cut my taters for french fries as I feel like its a more nutritious solution to store bought freezer fries.  Hand cutting fries is a major time consuming endeavour...that's pretty much the only downside...but I'm unemployed with all kinds of time to cut fries...haha...
I toss them in sunflower or canola oil and kosher salt, then bake them at 425 degrees C on a stone.  about 25 min does the trick.

Green and Yellow Beans
We grew three colours of beans this year...green, yellow wax and purple.  We discovered that when you cook the purple beans...they turn green again!  So purple is purely for fresh veggie platters...
When the beans are ready to pick, I usually pick them every few days.  Each day I bring them inside, wash and pat dry.  Then I get a pot of water boiling for the blanching process.  I'm very new to this process...as the first year we froze beans, I didn't bother.  The result was awful tasting...and almost turned my step son off beans altogether (and he'll eat almost anything!)  I now blanche my beans as we pick them...if we aren't goingt to eat them right away.  They freeze wonderfully and I love seeing the bright summer colours on my plate when the weather turns cold.  Like an extra boost of vitamins!  When freezing beans, I fill the large freezer bag about 1/4 full...then press out the air and press the bag flat.  I freeze them flat, then after I have a couple of flat frozen bags, I'll empty them into one bag for storage.  It may seem like a bit of work...but its way easier than using a pick axe to separate the block of beans you'd have if you just filled a bag to the brim with fresh, unfrozen beans.  (we've had to do that too....learning from experience is fun!)

NOT SHOWN:  Home made quick n dirty tartar sauce...
-sweet relish
-dill from our garden
-lemon juice
-salt n pepper to taste
-optional:  capers diced

SIDE NOTE:  we served the kids the cornmeal bass...but added the jalapenos for the filets that my husband and I ate.  When my 3 yr old Owen decides he's had enough beans, we always remind him to eat them all up...saying the green ones give him Hulk power and the yellow ones are Wolverine power.  Don't ask me why, but if you give cool names to veggies, your kids will have no problem wolfing them down...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Prepping the ground pt 2


So on the last post I showed you how we add leaves to our compost and gardens to add lightness to the soil...which the plants love as they have loads of nooks and crannies to grow huge root systems. 

Now its time to talk about other ways in which you can help keep the nutrients in your soil.  We actually add soil directly into our soil....does that even make sense?  Ok, I'll illustrate...

top left: planter soil, top right: end of the season plants, bottom: more leavings
Planter Soil
We have a lot of planters around...we use them for herbs and cherry tomato plants, but we also have a lot of houseplants.  Sadly, our houseplants do very well all summer long on the back porch, but they barely survive indoors in the winter time.  Between the lack of direct sunlight on a lot of our windows and our menacing cat called Buster...they don't stand a chance.  Usually I need to make tough decisions in the fall.  Which plants will I save and which will I use for compost?  Once I've decided...I dump the soil from the planters directly on our garden patch (as shown in the top left hand picture)

End of Season/Leavings
Once the plants in your garden are spent (meaning not giving you glorious fruit or veggies any more) then you can leave the stalks and leaves right in your garden!  We pull ours up to speed up the decomposition process.  Pull and leave then directly on your garden patch.  Easy!  (as shown on the top right hand picture)

The bottom picture shows our main garden patch with the leaves from our parsnip plants.  It this time of year that everything else is spent in our garden, but we still have parsnips to dig up!  We wait for the first few frosts, then dig them up for the best flavour. 

Since we use a roto-tiller in the spring time, there is no reason why the composter must do all of the work with the heavy parts of plants.  The stalks are tough to break down..so we let the winter and the tiller do the work for us.  Keeping in mind that the plant parts themselves must be free of parasites and other harmful things...if they do we burn them in our burning bin...(I like to play it safe, but this is overkill....and if you have an urban garden, this may not be allowed).  Healthy plants parts still contain nutrients that will break down over time and again leaving room for the roots of next years plants to grow strong.

Next post:  MANURE!