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Our Own Ranch

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I think that it’s a dream of just about every hunter to have a place of his own… not a hunting lease but a hunk of land that belongs to him to hunt as he pleases, to wander around on, look at the stars at night, watch the sun rise and set, knowing that every corner and everything in between is his.

It’s been a dream of ours for years; having a place to hunt that is our very own, not a lease. It’s a dream that has finally been realized!  Deerslayer and I are now the proud owners of our own 256 acre hunting ranch in the Texas Hill Country! I don’t think I can put into words my excitement.

The process of finding the place was difficult, frustrating, and exhausting but it was worth it.  For years, we’ve added to and adjusted our wish list.  Our “dream ranch” :

  • has to be in the Texas Hill Country
  • has to have at least 200 acres
  • has to have access to highway and city
  • has to have power and a well
  • has to be easily traversed
  • has to have lots of oak trees
  • has to have a view of sunsets and sunrises

After more than a year of searching in earnest, we found a place within our budget and negotiated until we agreed on a price.  Our ranch (I just love saying “our ranch”) is about two hours away from San Antonio with it’s medical center, shopping and international airport.  There are smaller towns within 30 minutes to an hour away that have grocery stores, hardware stores, a church, etc. that we will need access to.

There’s a casita on the place that will take some fixing up. Since we bought the place “as is”, there’s lots of trash that will need to be hauled away.  There’s also a trashed camper on the place that, luckily, the realtor will be removing. We’ve taken our own camper out there which will allow us to work at our own pace until things are taken care of to our satisfaction. It will certainly be a labor of love. Heavy on the labor.dsc_0233

We’ve brewed coffee and watched the sun rise over the ridge.  We’ve seen axis deer and flushed coveys of quail.  We’ve heard turkeys.  We’ve watched the sun set, sat around a fire and gazed at the stars ON OUR OWN RANCH.

wp-image-1004744136jpg.jpg2017 is going to be a great year. I can’t wait to share it with you.

 
 

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A First! An Axis Buck!

I’ve seen axis deer for years on drives through the Texas Hill Country.  Usually, they’re behind  the high fences of hunting ranches.  Sometimes they’re dead on the side of the road, having escaped from one of those ranches and not having kept up with the rules of the road.

They’re beautiful animals originally from India, fully spotted with long, three-pronged antlers. They were brought here to be hunted as exotics.  Slightly larger than whitetails with beautiful spotted coats like a fawn, they were first brought to Texas in the 1930s to keep on game ranches.  Because they’re exotics, they can be hunted any time during the year, not just during hunting season.

Deerslayer and I had heard, through the years, that axis is a preferred game meat because of its mild “non-gamey” taste.  I’ve always said that game that is properly processed and prepared beautifully doesn’t taste gamey.  But my curiosity was certainly piqued regarding axis deer.

Even though Deerslayer has hunted since he was a kid, he’d never had an opportunity to bag one….. UNTIL NOW!  An opportunity presented itself for Deerslayer to harvest his first Axis.  We were both really excited.  The buck was a little larger than a whitetail.  The skin was gorgeous.  I asked Deerslayer to save it for me.

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Being the Deerslayer’s Wife, I was so excited to try out the meat. It had quite a reputation. And after all, this is what I do.  As I use the meat for all my favorite recipes, such as Venison Parmesan, Pecan Crusted Venison Steaks, Seared Tenderloins or Backstrap, Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Football Roast, and all the others, I’ll share with my readers my findings regarding any differences that I discover between the axis and whitetail.

The first night that we brought it home and processed it, I noticed the gorgeous deep, rich mahogany color of the meat, deeper in color than whitetail.  There was also more fat on it than what I was used to seeing on whitetail.  In the Deerslayer household, we don’t really care for fat  that some whitetail have.  It kinda coats the inside of your mouth and doesn’t seem to add good flavor to the meat.  For the sake of experimentation, we decided to grill the tenderloins of the axis, one trimmed of fat and the other with the fat left on.

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It was the consensus of the family that both tenderloins, seared to a glorious medium-rare were as good as, if not better than, whitetail.  The tenderloin that had the fat left intact was as flavorful as can be. There was no unpleasant after-taste or mouth-feel.  I’ll continue to compare and share.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Christmas Decor for the Discerning Deerslayer

I think it’s safe to say, readers, that being a Deerslayer household means that life is a little bit different from ordinary households.  It permeates every nook and cranny of your existence. This seems most glaring  during the Christmas season.

While other families are wearing matching sweaters and caroling, we’re loading the truck for a weekend of hunting.  Christmas parties give way to camping, sitting by a fire, sharing stories, looking at the stars, and listening to the coyotes.

I have to admit that I cannot blame Deerslayer for the timing. Granted, the coolers and camo and other paraphernalia strewn about the house during this time of year do add a certain  unique ambience that is unmistakable. Christmas DOES fall during hunting season in South Texas, after all.

This tray holds sheds that we’ve collected over the years as well as ornaments that were on my Christmas tree when I was a child and some fresh and festive clementines.

It can be pretty hard to prepare for Christmas while we’re in the midst of hunting season. This is when being a Deerslayer’s wife gets complicated.  There are gifts that need to be bought and wrapped, a tree that needs to be thoughtfully chosen and decorated, cards for teachers and helpers that need to be written out, tamales that need to be made. You get the idea.

Grab the wine.  Take a deep breath. Perhaps block a few phone numbers like the homeroom mom’s or committee member’s.  Do the stuff that you must, delegate out some of the other chores.  Focus on what makes your family happy.  Remember the reason for the season.

Over the years, I’ve not only come to terms with the fact that my house will never be  like one of those on the magazine covers, but I’ve actually begun to embrace the lifestyle of a hunter and his natural habitat. It may be cluttered and stacked to the ceiling with coolers, camo, guns,  and ammo but it’s part of who we are and I’ve grown to love it.

The basket with candles, sheds, and old ornaments is casual and easy to throw together (like our lifestyle).

The house smells like wonderful things to eat (thanks to Junior Deerslayer) during this holiday season and is full of things that remind us of memories that we cherish.   It doesn’t get any better than that.  Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

 

 

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On Being a Fan Girl…. Meeting Hank Shaw

Rarely do I come across someone who shares my passion for cooking wild game.  There are those who love a chicken-fried venison steak or dove breast with a slice of jalapeno wrapped in bacon.  But when the conversation turns to processing your own animal or using every possible bit of meat, the followers really seem to fall away.

In my neverending quest for knowledge of all things gamey, I came across Hank Shaw and his wonderful website, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.  It contains a wealth of information on hunting, fishing, foraging, and recipes, recipes, recipes.  If you want information on wild mushrooms, venison “wobbly bits”, or charcuterie of any kind, Hank has probably written about it.

Hank Shaw has recently released his latest cookbook, Buck Buck Moose, which he put out himself with the help of Kickstarter.  I was so excited to hear that he had come out with a volume dedicated specifically to “antlered things” that I pre-ordered five autographed copies, four to give as gifts and one to keep for myself.  I actually thought about keeping two for myself just in case something happened to one like there was a fire or someone broke into my house or there was a zombie apocalypse or something.wp-image-982332204jpg.jpg

I was not disappointed.  The book is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. The photos are gorgeous. The quality of the hardcover volume is top notch.  And then there’s the meat of the book (heh, heh)…. it should have a place of honor on the shelf of every deer slayer, moose slayer,  elk slayer, and slayers of all antlered things.  Hank goes through the entire experience, from describing in-depth how to field dress a deer to processing and packaging the meat and finally providing an array of recipes from around the world.

When I found out Hank Shaw was coming to San Antonio, TX  for a book-signing event at the Hotel Emma (which used to be the Pearl Brewery), saying that I was excited would be an understatement.  I’m embarrassed to say that I felt a little like a fan girl.

I made a reservation to attend the dinner and stay at the hotel, drove the 4 hours from the Rio Grande Valley with cookbook in hand, and arrived in time to look around the exquisitely appointed hotel and have my complimentary margarita.

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The evening began with with drinks and wild game appetizers with Mr. Shaw.

He was very easy to talk to, so genuine and appreciative of his fans even though he’d already followed a grueling schedule on his book-signing tour.

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“To Mrs. Deerslayer, 100,000 thank-yous for supporting this  book on KickStarter.  Without you, this would never have happened. Keep doing what you do and I’ll do the same!”       Hank Shaw

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It was wonderful to rub elbows with someone who not only shares my interests but has taken them to the next level. He has made it a passion and a way of life.  He’s like a superhero….. and I’m like a fangirl.

Thank you, Deerslayer, for encouraging me to take this trip just for the fun of it. I loved every minute.  I love you, too. Happy Anniversary!

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Rubbish Muffins

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Well, friends, that lull that occurs between dove season and deer season down here in South Texas has come and gone.  Before things got too hectic, before my house was once again piled with coolers and camo, while I  still had some control over my household,  I thought it was only appropriate that I should make muffins.

Muffins are soothing. They make the house smell yummy.  And, as some of you who have been following my ramblings for a while are already aware,  muffins allow me to use up my stash of cereal crumbs that I collect. These crumbs are just rubbish to most people, the stuff that is left over and thrown away.  For some reason, there seems to be a pretty high percentage of crumbs in every box of cereal.  In my mind, while I’m not willing to make my family pour up a bowl of crumbs and choke them down with milk,  it seems just plain wasteful to throw away perfectly usable breakfast stuff.  So I came up with a couple of recipes like Cranberry Rubbish Muffins and Apricot Brandy Rubbish Muffins that incorporated the crumbs.

I was in the mood for a really chocolatey version of my dear rubbish muffins.  Since one of the Junior Deerslayers is a real Chocolate connoisseur, I had in my larder some black cocoa from King Arthur Flour’s online store.  It adds a very intense unsweetened dark chocolate flavor and color and can be added sparingly to substitute for a small amount of regular Dutch processed cocoa powder in recipes. Black Cocoa - 12 oz.

I went a step further to send these muffins over the top with deep dark chocolatey notes by adding a tablespoon of espresso powder (also from King Arthur Flour’s website).  It really deepens the intensity of the almost bitter dark chocolate flavor in recipes.

The family was pleased with the results and I used up my cereal crumbs.

Make these muffins, send them with your hunters and express your love in the best possible way… before the house is full of coolers and camo!

Espresso Powder - 3...

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Rubbish Muffins

Makes one dozen

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 1 tbs. dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs. espresso powder*
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 cup cereal crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. each;  ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom)

* or use 1/3 cup cocoa powder instead of combination of  1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 tbs. dark cocoa powder, and 1 tbs. espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350°.     Lightly grease 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light in color.  Whisk in brown sugar and oil.  Add the cocoa powders, espresso powder,  and vanilla. Stir in cereal crumbs.

In a second smaller bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spices.

Add dry ingredients to egg mixture a little at a time. Fold in zucchini.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, 2/3 full.  Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack.

For a extra burst of chocolate, drizzle each muffin with prepared chocolate frosting, microwaved for a few seconds until pourable.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Recipes, Sweet Things, Uncategorized

 

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Oops!

Please disregard (temporarily) the much anticipated muffin recipe that I inadvertantly posted prematurely. It is suspected that the Russians and Wikileaks have leaked the information. Sorry for that.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Dove Breast Crostini

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I take pride in having more whitewing recipes than the average Doveslayer’s wife.  Every dove hunter loves dove breast with a slice of jalapeño and wrapped in bacon and tossed on the grill.  It’s the pretty much the gold standard.  Everybody loves it. When I talk to people about dove recipes, many of them will look around sneakily and almost whisper,”Have you ever tried slipping a jalapeno in the breast, wrapping it with bacon, and grilling it?”

“Yep, I’ve tried it. Yes, it’s a great way to eat doves.  But there just have to be more ways to enjoy these tasty morsels,”I would say to myself.  That’s why I started experimenting with whitewing recipes.

We end up with lots of doves in our freezer every year.  When Deerslayer/Doveslayer goes out for a hunt, he usually comes home with doves that other hunters have given him, probably because most people only have one “go-to” recipe.  I needed more recipes.  So I started with Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with Gravy, which I received from the matriarch of the Deerslayer Clan,  Roasted Corn and Poblano Chowder with Whitewing Breast,and  Chilaquiles Verdes with Dove Breast, both are variations of recipes we’ve enjoyed from favorite restaurants, and  Dove Ravioli in Browned Butter, a concoction of my own design.

As I worked on the ravioli recipe, my daughters were my taste-testers… to the point that I almost ran out of filling for the ravioli!  It was suggested that the ravioli filling would make a fantastic appetizer on crackers or toast… so I tried it.  Huge hit! Try it and let me know how you like it.  There are few recipes out there for dove appetizers.  I think you’ll like this one.

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  • a big splash of olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves,coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
  •  dove breasts (from 10 doves)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ¼ to ½ cup dry white wine ( a glug)
  • ½ cup parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
  • small toasts or crackers
  • chopped parsley for sprinkling

In a hot skillet, sauté onion in olive oil until almost caramelized. Reduce heat.

poblano soup, tomato cream sauce, bruni 008

Add in garlic,  dove breasts, chopped red bell pepper (or not), dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and a ¼ cup of white wine. You may need to add some more  wine during the food processing to get a good, spreadable consistency.

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20 breast fillets from 10 doves

 

Toss about until combined and dove breasts are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.

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The dove breasts are not quite done yet.

You can cut into the dove breast to test for doneness. Remove from heat.

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The breasts are done!

Allow the ingredients to cool before you add the parmesan or it will melt and create a large glob.  You don’t want that.

Transfer mixture to your food processor, in batches if you have a food processorette like I do, and process until everything is finely chopped and holds together. This is when you can add more white wine if the mixture is too dry to be spreadable.

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Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve at room temperature with small toasts.

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