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Chocolate Milk with Blackberry Brandy and Whipped Cream

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Named by my daughter “Single’s Solace”

I’m pretty sure that, over the years, I’ve shared my view of VD (Valentine’s Day).  When I taught elementary school, I had my share of construction paper hearts, cupids, paper doilies, and conversation heart candies (yuck). There were many single years that I bought into the hype of the Hallmark inspired season. Unhappy, unfulfilled times, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Once I found my own true soulmate, and had little angels of my own, the commercialism and annual guilt-buying of over-priced flowers, cards, and candies really had to come to an end. I now had to be a positive role-model for my daughters.  My darling needed to know that he didn’t have to desparately spend money on jewelry, nasty lingerie, or teddy bears to show how much he loves me. Waiting in line for a table at a trendy restaurant for a reduced menu of items that have not-surprisingly doubled in price didn’t appeal to me in the least.

Valentine’s Day, originally Catholic saint’s feast day, has become something sadly different. Does anyone enjoy explaining to young children why the undies departments of any Target, Wal-Mart, or any department store have become a veritable sea of red and black uncomfortable, see-thru lace garments?

Following my lead, my family has made a commitment to honoring St. Valentine by spending time with loved ones, preparing a nice meal to share, and my adult, single daughter has concocted a delicious beverage that seems perfect for what she has renamed the holiday “Singles Awareness Day”.

Single’s Solace

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Chocolate milk mix of choice

milk

blackberry brandy, a splash

whipped cream

fresh blackberries

Seriously, does this really need explanation?  Make some chocolate milk. Use designer shaved dark chocolate or Nestle’s.  Make it in a Waterford glass or a plastic cup. Add a splash of blackberry brandy, the stuff that’s usually on the bottom shelf at the liquor store (so you can find it even if you’re on all fours).

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Top it off with Coolwhip or homemade whipped cream with vanilla bean (that’s what we did!) and float some blackberries on top. Make one for yourself and give one to somebody you love… or like a lot.  Simple, cheap, sweet.  That’s what Valentine’s Day should be all about! Keep it real!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Recipes, Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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What Makes a Mother Proud (A Hunting Mindset)

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My baby made these shots from 100 yards with her Browning Micro Medallion .308.

There are so many things that make moms proud of their little ones.  It starts with ultrasound pictures before the little guys are even born.  Then come all the “firsts”; first solid food, first steps, first words, first successful potty visit.  As time goes by, first scrawled pictures, first book read, first awards in school take the place of previous achievements.

The household of a deerslayer family takes this a step further.  First rifle, first buck, first pig, first field dressing are held in high esteem among members of the family and extended family.  Even I, as a former educator, have to admit that I was very pleased when my two junior deerslayers each harvested a doe this year. We’ve had plenty of trophies over the years but the tender, delicious meat from a whitetail doe can’t be beat in my book  The elder junior deerslayer skinned and gutted hers with minimal assistance and the younger watched carefully and learned as Dad proceeded to field dress hers.

trashcan turkey, pheasant phantazmagoria 039In the Deerslayer clan, being a National Merit Scholarship winner and valedictorian paled in comparison to getting one’s first buck. Early on, I was stymied by the mindset. As I’ve adopted the hunting ways, and grown in years and wisdom, I think I finally understand. Academic knowledge is wonderful and opens many doors in life. In the grand scheme of things, though, being able to sit around a campfire with family and friends, building and nurturing those relationships that will truly be lifelong, while providing healthy, lean, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat for one’s family is truly something to be proud of.

 

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Take a Quick Breather When You Can

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Sometimes, through no fault of your own, life starts to get a little bit frantic.  You look down the road a bit and see chaos, disorder, and general suckiness headed your way. It’s the way life is.  You have to take the bad with the good.

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My first instinct, as is probably the case for many of you, is to scramble around, creating order where there will soon be none.  Batten down the hatches, as it were. I find myself swiffering within an inch of my life.  Dust bunnies are rounded up  and vacuumed to their death.  The refrigerator is purged of suspicious contents. Every article of clothing is washed and pressed.  Deerslayer’s socks look fabulous!  Then I collapse for the evening, after preparing a killer meal, with a couple glasses of a soothing beverage… and brace myself for an upcoming crisis.

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I’m not saying that this tactic is a good one, just the one I’ve always employed.  It usually leaves me frazzled and exhausted in the face of chaos, disorder, and general suckiness.  This year’s first stumbling block has me stepping back and trying something new, a more relaxed approach.

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I will take life one day at a time, handle things that I’m able to, pray about the things I can’t, and appreciate and be thankful for my loving family, friends, and sunrises at a South Texas Hunting camp.  And throw in a few posts as well. Who am I kidding?  Head ‘em up. Move ‘em out, dust bunnies!

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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Wild Game Osso Buco (Means “I Love You!”)

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 017Deerslayer had a delicious meal in Vail a while ago that he was excited for me to research and try to replicate.  He was so enthusiastic (and cute) that I couldn’t  say, “no”.   The dish was Osso Buco (which means bone with a hole) and is traditionally made with cross-cut veal shank that is then braised in a savory mix of veggies, tomatoes, and wine. If a hunter decides to prepare this recipe with wild game, keep in mind that venison shanks are pretty puny for this particular application.  The shanks need to be decently large and meaty like might be found on an elk, bear, wild pig, moose, or NILGAI!

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This photo shows very clearly the sinewy layers that seem to run through the muscle of nilgai meat. Not just shank but other muscle cuts as well!

Since we don’t purchase meat from a grocer, how fortuitous that we recently acquired some very nice nilgai shanks as part of the reward of  a successful hunt.  As I began to scour the blog world for wild game versions of this recipe, I found posts dealing with bear, moose, and elk. I was thrilled to stumble across Hank Shaw’s Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook. There’s some pretty powerful stuff in the wild game cookery department on his website.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found my new wild game cooking bible.  His books are definitely on my birthday wish list!  I ultimately ended up preparing a version of his recipe.

Deerslayer and I also needed info on the best way to cut the shanks so that we’d end up with the clean cross-cut slabs.  We wanted them to be about 2 to 2½ inch sections. The meat was slippery and difficult to hold on the cutting board because of the fascia (silverskin).

Of course, having the proper tools for the job makes everything much easier.  Since we didn’t have a butcher’s meat band saw, we tackled the problem by wrapping both ends of the semi-frozen shank with clean kitchen towels on either side of the cutting line.  Laying the towel-wrapped shank on the cutting board, (and having me hold one end) Deerslayer was able to use an LEM hand-operated meat  saw without the meat sliding all over.  We ended up with 4 servings per shank.

Wild Game Osso Buco

*This recipe is for about 4 large shank servings or 5 small ones.  We went crazy and prepared two whole shanks (8 servings or 2 large dutch ovens’ worth!)

1 large wild game shank (about 4 servings, cut into 2-2½ cross slices) one per person

cooking twine, to tie shanks

salt and pepper

flour for dredging

olive oil, cooking oil, or butter

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

around 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced (or others that you like)

1 cup of white wine

1 cup stock (beef, chicken, game—– I used nilgai stock)

1 tsp. thyme, fresh or dried

1tsp. oregano, fresh or dried

2 bay leaves

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

chopped parsley for garnish

Cooking time is about 3 hours depending on the size of the shanks and amount of sinew.  The nilgai took every bit of the 3 hours.

Tie up the shanks so the meat doesn’t fall off the bone during cooking.  It provides a nicer presentation.

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Preheat the oven for 300°.

Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dredge in flour..

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Add oil to a cast iron dutch oven and heat.  Brown meat on all sides and remove from heat.

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After I took this picture, I gave the meat some more time so there would be a nicer brown on it.

 

Add carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until beginning to brown.

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Add wine, stock, tomatoes, spices, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Stir up browned bits from the bottom.

Add meat back into dutch oven.  Cover with sauce.  Reduce to a simmer.

Place a lid on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven for about 3 hours.

Check after a couple of hours to see if meat is getting tender.

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Serve over risotto, polenta, orzo or other worthy bed.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Tell your Deerslayer-Nilgaislayer-Elkslayer, “Osso buco, darling!”

This would be perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

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The Perfect Gift

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The serrated blade and leather sheath make this a pretty great skinning tool.

Many years ago, Deerslayer received a Cutco hunting knife from his dad as a gift. Of course, it was a favorite because it was from the patriarch of the Deerslayer clan.  It was also a great knife that carries a lifetime guarantee that, for the cost of shipping, Cutco will sharpen FOREVER.   The serrated blade is superb for skinning even the toughest, oldest wild pig or nilgai. It  makes an easy task of processing any meat  but is impossible to sharpen oneself.

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Deerslayer and I had this conversation  before our recent 30th wedding anniversary.  Sooooo, I knew what would make a perfect gift.  Camo lingerie for me? No.  A cruise? No. A nice musky cologne for either of us.  Nope.   Additional Cutco hunting knives that could be used while his favorite knife was being sharpened!  Bingo!   I purchased two additional knives.  To make it a personalized and more sentimental gift, I had them engraved.  Cutco does that!  Not too mushy, not a gift that would be awkwardly accepted and placed in a drawer. The perfect gift for my perfect Deerslayer!  Priceless!

 

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Classic Wild Game Meat Pie

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 021There are certain times when a savory meat pie hits the spot like nothing else. I have no doubt that Sherlock Holmes would eat a delicious meat pie.   Make it with wild game (venison, elk, nilgai, wild pork) and it can’t be beat.  The ease with which this dish is prepared makes it perfect for leftover turkey, chicken, goose, or pheasant as well.  It has become my go-to recipe when I’m looking for something rich, delicious, and healthy that can be made with any leftover meat (or cooked-all-day game), veggies and a yummy crust.

This picture does not include potatoes or pie crust. Oops! The bowl of small, red orbs is actually pearl onions. Use ‘em or don’t as you like.

1 1/2 lbs. Cooked-all-day wild game (venison, elk, nilgai, wild pork or leftover turkey, goose, pheasant, or chicken) cubed

4 tbsp. butter
Splash of olive oil

8 oz. crimini mushrooms (or more…. or none) sliced

Tommy’s salt & pepper mix

2 carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 small red potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup canned or frozen peas

32 oz. box of beef, chicken. or veggie stock or homemade stock

6 oz. Guinness beer (Drink the rest!)

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper

1-2 tbs. worcestershire sauce

2 cups any awesome cheddar, grated

one prepared pie crust (or one  homemade crust)

In heavy cast iron skillet, saute mushrooms in butter & olive oil. Season with Tommy’s salt & pepper mix.

In another sauce pan, bring stock to a boil. Add carrots, celery, and fresh, peeled pearl onions (or frozen). Cook until tender. Add potatoes.  Cook for another ten minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer veggies to skillet with mushrooms.

                                                                                    Toss in peas and shredded or cubed meat. Return  stock to heat, reserving 1/2 cup. Add the 1/2 cup and cornstarch to a jar, seal and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE.

Add Guinness and stock-cornstarch mixture to remaining beef stock. Boil on medium heat until thickened. Pour all into cast iron skillet and heat through. Season with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.

 

 

Stir in grated, awesome cheese.

 

For days when I don’t feel like making crust from scratch, I lay a ready-made crust over the top of the ingredients.  Cut slits to let steam escape, roll the edges for a popular rustic appeal, and paint top with an egg wash.

 

cutco, pot pie, osso buco 018Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees until crust is golden.  Easy Peasy!  Once again, you have maintained your title of  “Hunting Queen/King of the Universe”.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Game Birds, Nilgai, Recipes, Venison

 

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A Word about my Christmas Goose

Oh, by the way,…… I almost forgot to share my goose hunting experience.  The junior deerslayers and I decided that we wanted to “go Victorian” for Christmas this year.  Christmas goose was going to be the star of the show.  Figgy pudding would provide the grand finale.  Since we had just had a typical South Texas thanksgiving with turkey, cornbread dressing, and such, we were in the mood to shake things up a bit.

goose, nilgai, 2015 001So I began the hunt….. to the local grocers.  Clearly, goose is not only NOT a tradition in these parts, I had to spell it out to several local butchers. When I say “spell it out”, I’m talkin’ G-O-O-S-E spelling it out. Don’t forget, goose is not traditional fare for this area.

Finally, after several days of hunting, I spotted my prey.  Stealthily, I crept up to the unsuspecting flock, in the frozen food aisle.  No hurry, though. Remember that no one else in this neck of the woods was in the market for a goose.  I had my pick.  The grocer seemed strangely proud of these birds that aren’t part of the local customs.  Perhaps, since they are exotic, they fetch a premium price.

goose, nilgai, 2015 024 By Texas standards, the price was high, but the experience, in my mind, would be priceless.

I followed the instructions, piercing the skin all over to allow the fat to render out of the bird while it cooked.  I cut away the extra fat around the opening to the cavity.  Domestic goose, while very juicy and pretty much all dark meat, needs to have the fat drained away from the meat.  Our ten-pound bird rendered out over a quart of fat.  I have to say, though, that a little goose fat, some rich drippings, giblets, and neck meat produced an amazing gravy that we served with garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli-rice casserole, and peas. The meal was finished off with a delicious figgy pudding, the likes of which have never been experienced in South Texas.  I don’t know how authentically Victorian the meal was but it was tasty and we enjoyed it.  All was right with the world.  Next year, turkey.  Or nilgai!

 

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Perhaps domestic goose is a little “highfalutin'” for a Texas gal and her family.

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Game Birds, Recipes, Uncategorized

 

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