Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This is the time of year that everyone loses their minds over pumpkin everything, particularly pumpkin spice everything.  But I think often underrated is the humble pumpkin seed.  Whether you are carving your pumpkins with your kiddos, canning pumpkin from your garden or baking a from scratch pumpkin pie, don’t throw out all those yummy seeds!

A favorite treat around here; they are packed with nutrients and oh so yummy.  Don’t waste a single seed!

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Here’s how it works:

As you are scraping out the guts/seeds from your pumpkin, drop the seeds into a bowl of water to soak (floating them in some water seems to help the process of cleaning them up.)  Rinse in a colander to make sure you’ve gotten all the bits and pieces off of them.

*Note: I recently heard that if you are not carving your pumpkin, that you can bake the pumpkin before cleaning it which makes the seeds even easier to separate but I have not yet tried this method.

Spread out the seeds on a cookie sheet (you can line it with a tea towel for quicker drying if you like.)  Leave the seeds to dry completely before attempting to roast.  (I just leave mind for a day or so.)

When the seeds are dry, transfer them to a bowl and coat with 1-2 Tbl of oil then add seasonings of your choice.  (I’ll share my favorite blend in a minute.)

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I love to use the silicone baking mats but parchment paper or tin foil will work as well.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 10-20 minutes until they reach the right color.  You will have to keep a close eye on them, they burn easily.

And that’s all folks, it’s that simple.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 pumpkin

1-2 Tbl Olive oil

1 1/2 tsp of sea salt of mineral salt

1 1/2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili

Instructions:

1. Scrape seeds from pumpkin
2. Soak/Rinse seeds and remove pumpkin “guts”
3. Dry seeds thoroughly
4. Toss seeds in olive oil & seasonings
5. Roast in 325 degree oven for 10-20 minutes (watching carefully)


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Happy Fall Everyone!!!

He was a bad, bad hound dog… and we loved him so.

Once upon a time, on a cold, winter’s night in Oklahoma, there was a tiny hound dog pup who had been abandoned on the side of the road.  Whoever had left him there didn’t care whether he lived or died, but God knew there was a home for him in Colorado.

Beau (Bo- we never could agree on how to spell his name) the hound dog was the cutest pup you ever did see, he made his way from Oklahoma to our home through some friends of ours who found him there.  We were newlyweds starting our life together and he made the perfect addition to our little family.  Not knowing his exact breed, my dear mountain man was super excited to have a hunting dog.  Visions of coon hunts and treed mountain lions were dancing in his head and in the beginning he really seemed to have what it would take.  We brought home his first coon in a live trap and the dog lost his mind.  Baying like a pro, he definitely proved that he was ready for the chase.  He even showed a lot of potential in tracking a scent but over time it became clear that he would never make a hunting dog.  His legs were just too darn short.  This hound was obviously part basset and was never going to measure up.  But there was no love lost on that account, we was our buddy and our first child.

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We started to research hound breeds to see what we were in for and learned these three basic things.

  1. Hound dogs are stubborn.
  2. Hound dogs’ noses rule them completely.
  3. Hound dogs smell bad.

We found all three of these things to be entirely true.

Beau was exceedingly stubborn and hard to train.  When learning basic commands, we got as far as “sit,” (resulting in him laying down) and for a short time he cooperated with “play dead” (but tired of that game quickly and gave up.)  There was no hope of teaching him to be quiet; his baying and barking were constant unless he was asleep.

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His nose, did, in fact, take over his ability to reason at all.  If we were on a walk, or camping and he caught wind of something interesting… he was gone.  And no amount of calling him or threatening him would bring him back.  He would come back in his own time, when he was done with the chase.

He also couldn’t resist the smell of “people food.”  Every night during supper, our meal was accompanied by the sound of incessant whining.  This whining would continue until we were done when he was given our plates to lick.  (Did you know dogs can count?  There are four of us, and if someone put their plate in the sink instead of giving it to him, he would harass me for the rest of the night because he knew that he only had 3 plates to lick instead of four.)

During the winter, when we had somewhere to go and it was too cold to leave him outside, we had to be sure that we “dog proofed” the kitchen because although he would never dream of dumping the trash or jumping on counters when we were home… once that car pulled out of the driveway, all bets were off.  He would dump trash cans, jump up on the counters (quite the feat for a 50 lb dog that was more than 2 feet long with 8 inch legs) and eat anything within reach, I mean ANYTHING.  At different times over the course of our almost 11 years together, he once ate an entire bunt sized pound cake, another time it was a 2 lb meat loaf, and his most recent transgression was about a 2-3 lb ham.  (It was my own, home raised pork, home cured ham… I really wanted to throttle him after this one but he was so sick from all the salt, I figured that was punishment enough.  The poor dog drank gallons of water over the next few days.)  Oh yes, and another time, he ate a gallon sized bag of homemade deer jerky that probably accounted for an entire shoulder of venison (again ending, with the homicidal temptation for us and gallons of water consumption by Beau.)  What he couldn’t consume while we were away, he would take and bury around the house. I would find, bags of hot dog buns behind the couch, bags of marshmallows under my pillow, and loaves of bread in the laundry basket.

And yes, hound dogs do in fact stink.  No need to go into great detail there, lets just say that long road trips with Beau in the car or truck were sometimes we’re very… very long.  But he loved to “go” so much that we couldn’t bare to leave him behind.  He also loved clean laundry.  If there was a pile of clean laundry, or especially a neat stack of folded, clean laundry, he would be found laying on it; leaving our clothes with just a hint of that lovely ode de’ hound dog scent behind.

All of these things add up to a very “bad” dog, and that is what we teasingly called him.  But he was our Beau dog, and we loved him so much.  He went on many adventures with us, backpacking, hiking, camping and picnicking.  His joy in life was getting to GO somewhere.  He knew, the moment I started to pack a bag or haul things out to the camper that it was time to go; and we would all be deaf by the time we left from all of the baying and barking he did while impatiently lunging at the door.  If we ever went anywhere without him, even for a few hours, he would bay and scold us for at least 10 minutes when we returned, for leaving him behind.

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But he loved “to go” a little too much and recently started “going” on adventures without us.  Whether it was sheer orneriness or his nose leading him away, he decided that staying in the yard was no longer a requirement for him and he would let himself out one way or another.  He would unlatch yard gates or push past the flexible siding on the house and adventuring he would go.  One week ago today, he left on an adventure and never made it home alive.  He may have been a bad dog on paper, but he was part of our family and our homestead and now we are one less.  There is no one to lick our plates after supper, no one for the garbage man to throw treats too, and no one to scold us when we come home.

Our homestead is a very quiet place now, but I will always hear his baying in my mind.

We love you, bad hound dog.  We always will.

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5 Embarrassing Things Homeschooled Kids Say

I love homeschooling my kids.  It is one of the key components to our “homestead” lifestyle.  Teaching kids that they don’t need a specialized teacher in order to learn is vital to raising self-sufficient kids.  Homeschooling teaches our children HOW to think, not what to think.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world but let’s be honest, there are a few problems with homeschool life.  One of these things is the constant battle with what homeschooled, tiny humans say to embarrass their parents.

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Here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. “We only do school one day a week.”  This is the one that they love to tell their friends (and the friends in turn tell their parents, and then you get the stink eye from the parents.)  The truth is that we have our CC community day (others often have homeschool COOP) and for some reason homeschooled kids seem to think this is the only “school day” that they have.  We do school at LEAST 4 days a week… most of the time… I SWEAR.   
  2. “No we haven’t done any school yet today.”  This is one they love to tell their dad when it’s 11:30 AM and he calls home from work to say “Hi”.  It goes something like this…”What are you doing right now?” kids inevitable response is “Oh, just laying here” (Translation: “I WAS just doing my copy work, but I laid down on my bed to talk to you.”)  Dad’s tone grows concerned “Have you done your schoolwork yet today?” “No, we haven’t done any school yet today.” (Translation: We haven’t done our math and phonics workbooks yet and apparently don’t REALIZE that all this other stuff we’ve been doing (ie. Bible story, memory work, copy work, read aloud time, science journaling) is “school work” leaving Daddy with the impression that we just rolled out of bed. (SIGH)
  3. “I don’t know what grade I’m in.”  This is their #1 favorite thing to say to strangers who are interrogating them in the grocery store.  And to be fair to the kids, we as mom’s don’t know how to answer that question either.  We know what grade they should be in by age category but the truth is that homeschooling offers us the freedom to work with our children according to their own ability in each area.  My 5 year old, should technically be a kindergartener… but she started Classical Conversations at four and insisted on starting to read the minute she turned 5 years old, so she’s closer to a 1st grade level in many ways but we are still doing kindergarten math.  In language arts my 7 year old is doing the second semester of a kinder language arts program because I felt the curriculum we used previously was lacking in some areas.  So although she’s reading at a 2nd grade level, we’re catching up on some fundamental phonics right now.  AND THAT’S OKAY!  So no, random lady in the grocery store check out, none of us really know how to answer that question.
  4. “We just watch TV and color.” Yet another thing they LOVE to tell strangers.  Yes, we use Wild Kratts to supplement our science and trace black line maps with dry erase markers to learn geography, but it sure would sound a lot better if they learned to tell people, “we’re studying biology and European geography right now.”  But no, we watch TV and color. 
  5. “No, I haven’t learned about ______ yet.”  (This one also comes in the form of a non-verbal blank stare.)  This comes as a response to someone asking, if they have learned something yet and as luck would have it, will always be something very basic that you have gone over many times.  The truth is we have no idea where this response comes from, maybe it’s because they don’t recognize the word “addition” or maybe because their little brain decided to go on recess break at that moment, who knows.

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The truth is that homeschooling is a unique journey and it rarely looks like a public school setting around here.  (THANK GOODNESS)  But that, especially if you are new to homeschooling, can lead to anxiety over social judgment. Learn to laugh at your kids when they say these things and relax into the arms of grace.  That lady in the grocery store checkout has no business interrogating your kids but maybe rather than elbowing your kiddo into silence and running away as quickly as possible, take a moment to explain to her the hidden translations to your kids’ answers.  Most who are opposed to homeschooling don’t understand it or are working off of a narrow stereotype.  It would do a lot for our cause if we took the time to joyfully share how penmanship and art are connected to science in nature journaling and how that fuels their desire for more knowledge.  Who knows, she might just walk away with some new light shined on an old stereotype.

Pinto Bean Spice

Pinto Bean Spice

1/2 cup granulated garlic

1/4 cup onion powder

1/4 cup chili powder

1/4 cup Cumin

2 Tbl Salt

1 Tbl Paprika

1 Tbl Pepper

*Note: This recipe makes a bulk batch to season Pinto Beans with at any time.  You will have to experiment on your own to reach the desired flavor you want but I would say that I use approximately 1/3 cup to a large pot of beans.

Homemade, Traditional Refried Beans

Who doesn’t love refried beans?  Especially true, homemade, traditional refried beans.

I grew up in the Southwest so I was surrounded good, traditional Mexican food and my favorites are those that are simple and classic with no frills or fusion flair added.

Traditional refried beans definitely fall into that category.  They are simple, stick to your ribs, comfort food that can be dressed up or down as needed.  So although this recipe is beyond simple, it is a great tool to have in your toolbox to whip out any time you need it.  It is the perfect filling for burritos, the base for a fantastic bean dip or a simple side for fajitas, tacos, or even steak!

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So lets talk beans.

You will want to start with cooked pinto beans.  This can mean that you start your beans from scratch earlier in the day, use leftover pinto beans (which is what I do) or you can also use canned pinto beans, but I’ll be honest, unless they are home canned beans,  they just won’t be as flavorful as home cooked or canned beans.

Now, before we start, let me make this disclaimer: not everyone agrees on the issue of rinsing and draining beans.  Some will tell you, you MUST… others that it isn’t necessary but the truth of the matter is that it depends on your own family.  If someone in your family has… ehem… digestive issues… (my Grandma Hilda would smack me for even referring to such things) due to eating beans, then soaking and rinsing your beans is the best thing you can do.  I never bothered with this step for a long time and my husband would be miserable for 24 hours afterward.  When I finally gave in and started rinsing the beans, it made a big difference!  So for us, we soak & rinse.

If you are not used to cooking your own pinto beans from scratch, here are two easy methods that you can use.

  1. Slow Cooking – Start by pre-soaking your beans overnight.  In the morning, drain off the soaking liquid, rinse the beans and replace the liquid with fresh water.  Add your spices to the pot and cook on low for about 5 hours.
  2. Pressure Cooking (my personal favorite) – Put your beans in the pressure cooker  and fill the pot 2/3 full of water.  Bring up to pressure, then vent your cooker until all the steam is released.  Drain off the cooking liquid, rinse the beans and replace the liquid with fresh water.  Add your spices to the pot and bring back up to pressure.  Pressure the beans for 18 minutes.  *IF you are using the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker and if you do not intend to rinse your beans then you can just do a quick soak for 15 minutes or so and then use the Beans/Chili button which will pressure for approximately 30 minutes.

Moving on to the good stuff.

The frying part.  (insert dreamy SIGH here.)

Isn’t everything just tastier when it is fried?  Now before you go judging me with your low fat, low calorie gavel, that trial was thrown out long ago.  Now I’m not talking about deep fried twinkies here people, but incorporating some good ole’ butter or bacon grease in your cooking is, in fact, healthy.  Recent studies have also shown that a high sugar diet is the real culprit for cholesterol and triglyceride issues.

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100420/high-sugar-diet-linked-lower-good-cholesterol#1

As a matter of fact it has also been proven that our bodies cannot properly absorb the vitamins in our foods unless there is at least some animal fat in our diet.

Okay, I’ll step down from my soap box now.

Start by adding your lard or bacon grease to a non-stick type pan.  (I use well seasoned cast iron.)  Add finely diced onion, garlic and jalapeno or green chiles (all optional but will add great flavor; I suggest at least adding the onion.)  Saute veggies until translucent and very tender.  In the mean time, strain most of the liquid off of the beans and reserve the liquid for later.

Turn heat up to a moderately high heat and add your beans.  Mash well with a potato masher and then let the beans cook down and “fry” on the bottom.  After 5 minutes or so, stir the beans, scraping the bottom of the pan and allow to cook down and fry again.  Repeat this process until your beans have reached the desired consistency.  You can add the reserved bean liquid (or plain water if you don’t have enough) to moisten the beans, you can also do this with red enchilada sauce which will take the flavor over the top.    Keep the beans just a little more wet than you want your final texture to be.  As the beans cool, they will dry up a bit.  Add salt if needed.

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Traditional Refried Beans

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 cups cooked pinto beans

2-4 Tbl lard or bacon grease (you can use olive oil for vegan option)

1 small onion, diced

Garlic & jalapeno or green chiles (optional)

Grated cheese (optional)

  1. Add lard or bacon grease to a non-stick type pan.  (I use well seasoned cast iron.)  Add finely diced onion, garlic and jalapeno (all optional but will add great flavor; I suggest at least adding the onion.)  Saute veggies until translucent and very tender.  In the mean time, strain most of the liquid off of the beans and reserve the liquid for later.
  2. Turn heat up to a moderately high heat and add your beans.  Mash well with a potato masher and then let the beans cook down and “fry” on the bottom.  After 5 minutes or so, stir the beans, scraping the bottom of the pan and allow to cook down and fry again.  Repeat this process until your beans have reached the desired consistency.  You can add the reserved bean liquid (or plain water if you don’t have enough.)
  3. Add salt if needed.

*If you really want great flavor, you can season/moisten the beans with red enchilada sauce.

If you would like the recipe for my Pinto Bean Spice you can click HERE.

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Pork Fried Rice

Sometimes, the best things come from collaboration.  This recipe is one of those things.

My best friend and I rarely get to hang out and neither of us are “phone” people either so we end up going way too long without talking.  She only lives 45 minutes away but trying to overcome that distance and our schedules sometimes becomes nearly impossible.  So when we do have a day that we can make it work, we banish the kids to play in the other room, grab a cup of hot tea and debrief.

We never even make it to the couch, we just end up hovering over her kitchen island where spend the next 4 hours downloading all of our parenting struggles, crazy stories and random questions like “what have you been making for supper lately?’

This recipe came from one such conversation where we had both been making a fried rice style stir fry and I ended up combining the best of both versions to make something that my family LOVES.  It is an easy “go to” meal that really doesn’t even require a recipe or much thought at all but is a home run every time.

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First, begin by browning your choice of meat.  We typically use diced pork (because pork is something we tend to have a LOT of) but chicken works equally well.  This time were running a little low on pork chops to dice so I grabbed some pork sausage and it was fantastic.  Seriously people, use what you have on hand.  Don’t make an extra trip to the store.  This recipe has so many potential variations from the meat you can use to the vegetables that you choose.  Even your choice of garnishes are optional.  (Although the pistachios are pretty fantastic.)

Season your meat with a little salt and pepper and some granulated garlic, (but go easy on the salt, as you will be adding soy sauce or liquid aminos later.)

While your meat is browning, chop your vegetables, nuts and herbs.

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When the meat is done, remove from the pan and cook your veggies in that same pan (leave out the nuts and herbs.)  When the veggies are finished, add your meat back into the pan with rice and stir well.

*Note: I like to keep some extra, cooked brown rice in the freezer so that this recipe will come together easily. 

Add soy sauce or liquid aminos to taste and garnish each bowl with chopped pistachios and cilantro (or chives.)

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Pork Fried Rice

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 lbs Pork (diced or ground)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 oz mushrooms, diced
  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped small
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Brown your meat and season your meat with salt and pepper and granulated garlic, (but go easy on the salt, as you will be adding soy sauce or liquid aminos later.)

While your meat is browning, chop your vegetables, nuts and herbs.

When the meat is done, remove from the pan and cook your veggies in that same pan (leave out the nuts and herbs.)  When the veggies are finished, add your meat back into the pan with rice and Stir well.  Add soy sauce or liquid aminos to taste and garnish each bowl with chopped pistachios and cilantro (or chives.)

*Potential variations:

You can use pork, chicken, I’m sure that even shrimp would be fantastic.

In place of the peppers, mushrooms and zucchini you can use a combination of peas and carrots (or really any other combination of vegetables you like.)

Another fun addition to this dish is 1 egg, scrambled, to be added at the end.

Trust me, this is simple meal that won’t disappoint.  I would love to hear about your variations and how it turned out!

Zucchini and Eggs Breakfast (THM S/Whole 30/Grain Free/Paleo/GAPS friendly)

I decided this morning that I just HAVE to take a few minutes and share this breakfast with you.

It just wouldn’t be fair to keep this one to myself.

As I have said before, one of the most important keys to developing a “homestead state of mind” is be reclaiming your health by the means of homeopathic remedies and nutrition.  I have also shared with you that in my own health journey with Hypothyroidism, a breakfast made up of Protein/Fat/Fiber is super beneficial.  On that note, one day I was trying to come up with a breakfast that contained those three things and this is what I came up with.

It’s totally cheating for me to even call this a “recipe.”  It is so crazy simple but SOOOO very good.  The tiny humans and even my mountain man LOVE this breakfast.  I mean really, when you tell your kids they are having vegetables at breakfast and they literally cheer… you have struck gold my friend.

So let’s break it down.

Melt butter, (ghee or bacon grease for Paleo/GAPS) in a cast iron skillet.  Saute diced onions until the edges start to brown (if your kiddos just can’t do the onions, you can omit but the flavor is really awesome so try it.  Seriously.  Keep trying.  My kiddos have come to LOVE cooked onions in their food.)  When the onions are starting to brown, add in your sliced zucchini and more fat if needed.  Season well with mineral or sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a good amount of garlic powder.  Continue to saute the zucchini and onions until the onions are soft and brown and the zucchini are beginning to brown as well.

(When it comes to flavor, just remember, “brown food is good food.”)

You can complete this dish with either poached or fried eggs but you really want those yolks to be nice and runny.  

That’s all folks.  Super simplicity, super deliciousness.

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Chopped Challenge 2017 – All wrapped up?

Okay folks, I know that I owe you all an apology.  I haven’t ever finished this mini-series of blog posts that I began back in January here.

But things have been busy around here to say the least.

SO, after spending the month of January on a grocery shopping fast, I suppose that I ought to be here and tell you I now have it all figured out, that my cupboards minimalistic and I will never return to my cluttered, grocery hording ways…

Not exactly.

But I did learn a lot about myself, really branched out some days to use up ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, and tried some new recipes that my family LOVED.

The truth is, that my one month grocery shopping fast barely made a dent in my over stuffed cupboards.  However, this experiment gave me the motivation to declutter and throw out a lot of stuff that I just wouldn’t use, or combine things that I shamefully had MULTIPLES of.  (Like 3 open jars of molasses, 4 open jars of homemade strawberry jelly and 2 jars of sorghum– all because by cupboards were so cluttered I had no idea what was really in there.)  My cupboards are now cleaner and more organized which is such a huge relief and lets be honest, the savings from not shopping for a month was totally worth it.

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Full, but not crowded or cluttered

 

And after a few months of going back to a normal routine, my husband and I have actually agreed that we should do it again…and again… and again..

You may be thinking to yourself, “You can’t clear your cupboards out!  Shouldn’t you be prepared for disaster?  Aren’t you “preppers”?  All of those groceries could feed your family in case of an emergency!”  (Well, you might not be asking yourself that, but it’s what I was asking myself throughout this journey.)  And  the truth is yes, we are “preppers” to an extent yet here is a fine but dangerous line between being prepared with long term storage foods that could sustain us and hording/cluttering our lives with a surplus of random ingredients that will #1 go to waste if unused and #2 rob you of your sanity if you don’t even know what you have. (because it is so cluttered you cant see it all!)

So yes, I will continue to keep our root cellars stocked with long term storage food.  If properly organized and rotated this is one of the smartest things that you can do to protect your family in case of emergency.  But as far as the jumble of random ingredients cluttering my cupboards?  I am going to work very hard to keep that clutter down by continuing to focus on using up what we have on hand and only buying the minimum of extra ingredients that will act as the glue that binds everything else together.

So now that I’ve shared my take-a-way from it all with you, here is a little more about what the rest of our month looked like and what we were eating.  If you are interested in any of the meals mentioned, let me know and I will TRY to write something up to share with you.  (I use the word “try” here because the truth is that I rarely ever use recipes and it is a challenge sometimes to put on paper the madness under my chef hat.  😉

Here are some of the more fun/adventurous suppers that we made while cleaning out the cupboards.  If you didn’t get to see my previous posts in this series for some of our other meals you can see them here 2017 “Chopped Challenge” and here Chopped Challenge – Week 1.

(Remember, I only allowed myself to purchase fresh fruit and veggies- no meat or packaged ingredients for the entire month of January.)

  • Barley Soup
  • Salmon Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (we turned the leftover sauce into salad dressing a few nights later)
  • Minestera Soup
  • Grilled Steak Kabobs
  • Bangers & Mash
  • Pancit & Egg Drop Soup (The Pancit was something completely different from our norm and the whole family went CRAZY for.)

Of course on nights that were super busy and I didn’t have time to stretch my brain, there were a lot of our regulars, but always only using ingredients on hand.

  • Posole
  • Hamburgers
  • Spaghetti
  • Jalepeno Popper Soup
  • Tacos
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Pizza
  • Fajitas
  • Elk Roast

I highly recommend trying a grocery fast.  We saved  money, decluttered our cupboards and freezers, stretched our culinary tastes and really shined a light on some bad grocery buying habits.

 

5 Tips to Better Bear Meat (or any other wild game)

Many people claim that bear meat is disappointing at best, and inedible at worst.  This has NOT been our experience.  (And here’s my Mountain Man’s explanation on why.)

So here it is folk’s, the first post written by the Mountain Man himself.

So 2016 Colorado bear season was awesome!! Jodi and I hiked 4.5 miles into one of my favorite bear spots, and spent all day sitting over a pond.  It was early September and HOT, and we just knew the bears would need a drink eventually.  So we sat there from first light into the afternoon, enjoying the beauty, and throwing acorns at each other in our sock feet. About the time I was getting tired and losing interest (sitting is very hard for us both), Jodi’s eyes popped open wide and she nodded towards the pond. I about came out of my skin!!!  The bear was about 40 yards away, right where we expected to see her.  I told Jodi it was a good one and she downed her!  The bear dropped like a rock and Jodi whispered loudly “I shot a freaking bear!!!!!”

Bear Hunt

Then the work began.  We cleaned it out, skinned it, and started packing what we could into our day packs so we would hopefully save an extra trip with the frame packs (late in the afternoon as it was, we would only have time for one trip that day.) Sorry we didn’t get any pictures of breaking the animal down, but as hot as it was we needed to concentrate on cooling it out and not on pictures. Our day packs had to have weighed 60+ pounds when we were done, and if any of you have packed 60+ pounds in a daypack, you know the suspension in these packs ARE NOT made for that kind of weight, at least the ones we use. We didn’t have belly straps, so all the weight was on our necks and shoulders. To top the 4.5 mile hike out, the hike in that morning had caused some serious blisters on Jodi’s feet because her new boots were not broke in. No worry though, the nut just took her boots off and hiked her 60 pound pack out in her SOCK FEET!  (Crazy girl.)

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Anyway, the next day we finished the pack out (Jodi didn’t have a second pair of boots, so she decided to make the second pack out in her flip flops because we were several hours from home, (WOW!)  We were extremely careful caring for and cooling the meat out, and it is outstanding, nearly indistinguishable from beef. I hear people say all the time that bears make good dog food. I say BS, they make excellent people food if you take care of it and harvest it in the mountains on the berry patch instead of the local trash dump.

The least we can do for the animals we harvest is to put their meat to use!!

5 tips for caring for game meat, so it’s excellent people food, and not just dog food

  1. Cool the meat out quickly!! Immediately after pictures, get the skin off, and get the meat broken down, and off the bone.  Hang the smaller pieces in the coolest place possible. Preferably the shade or a North facing slope. There are arguments to leave the meat on the bone, because less dirt can be introduced. I prefer to de-bone in order to prevent the bone souring issues. It’s up to you, just cool it out as fast as you can.
  2. Cleanliness is king. Put the meat in game bags after carefully de-boning. Take care in keeping all foreign matter off of it. Don’t overstuff the game bags, which will cause the meat to hold heat and spoil.
  3. Get it off the mountain and back to the homestead, or the meat processor, as quickly as possible. The less exposure to air and temperature fluctuations the meat is exposed to, the better.
  4. During processing, be very careful not to leave anything on the meat that you don’t want to put in your mouth. Remove ALL dirt, hair, striffin, glands and excess fat.
  5. During packaging, remove all air from the package that is practical. We like to stuff the meat in a fold top sandwich bag, press all the air out, then wrap it in a single wrap of white butcher paper. Freeze as soon as possible.

I know there is a lot of “as soon as possible,” “quickly” and “as fast as you can” wording in these tips, but it is mandatory to get your meat off the mountain and into your freezer as quickly as possible.

*Note (specific to bear meat) You want to remove as much of the excess fat as possible, bear fat can be rendered separately into lard, but the meat will taste much cleaner when it is not cooked in it’s own un-rendered fat.

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Irish Stew with Colcannon & Whipped Horseradish Cream

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I love all things Celtic, It’s in my blood and I always love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with my favorite Irish Foods.  But a few years ago, things in life had gotten really crazy and I realized MID-DAY that it was actually St. Patrick’s.  GASP!  How had I let this sneak up on me without notice? 

I was in a panic.  I had NO CORNED BEEF in the freezer.  (And I wasn’t about to load up in the car and drive to town with two small children for 1 item.)  So I hopped on Pinterest for inspiration and realized that there are a LOT of options for delicious Irish fare besides my beloved Corned Beef and Cabbage.  I realized that a traditional Irish Stew is much like my own stew recipe so that would be a piece of cake.  But I needed something more, something celebratory that wasn’t on my typical monthly menu.  And then I discovered….

Colcannon.  A yummy concoction of mashed potatoes, bacon, cabbage and leeks. 

And not JUST Colcannon… but Irish Stew served OVER Colcannon. 

The next year, I decided to add a little extra flare and added whipped horseradish cream. 

Irish Stew OVER Colcannon TOPPED with whipped horseradish cream.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Comfort food in it’s most glorious form.

So I am here to share the glory with you today, and it goes something like this…

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The easiest way to start any recipe is “mic en place” (or for us down home cooks, “get yer stuff together”.)  This recipe has many components and the best way to simplify is to get all of your ingredients chopped, sliced and ready to go. 

Slice your leeks, shred your cabbage and chop your bacon, carrots and onions (and stew meat if needed.)

Starting with the stew…

This stew can be cooked on the stove, in a Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker) or in a crock pot. (see cooking times/methods in the recipe below)

Beef would be the most traditional meat choice of course, but you can use venison or elk, here I used bear stew meat.  Whatever you keep on hand is fine.

Start by cooking your onions and garlic directly in your stew pot or pressure cooker.  The only need for an additional pan here would be if you are going to use a crock pot to cook the stew.  In that case I much prefer cast iron for the browning process.

When the onions are cooked, remove from pan and turn you heat to high.  In batches, start browning your stew meat, seasoning with salt and pepper during the browning process.  *Note- Browning the stew meat in smaller batches is important.  You don’t want to over crowd your pan when browning meat.  If you do, the meat will essentially steam rather than getting that nice dark sear that you are looking for.  Give the meat some space and room to breathe.

After your meat is browned, remove the last batch and deglaze the pan with a bottle of Guinness or other dark beer, scraping the bits from the pan as you stir.  Add in your beef stock, tomato paste and all of your meat and vegetables.  You can tie your herbs into a bundle with kitchen twine or if you aren’t fancy like that, just place them on top and kind of “smoosh” them down beneath the level of the broth.

See the recipe below for cooking times & methods.

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Now, let’s talk Colcannon.

Add your bacon to a skillet and fry until crisp.  Remove from pan and add cabbage and leeks to the bacon grease and cook until tender (fresh garlic is a nice addition here too, but I was out today.)

While that is cooking, you’ll need to start some basic mashed potatoes; I won’t be going into that this time but will in a future post.

When your potatoes are mashed and seasoned the way you like, fold in the cabbage, leeks and bacon.  That’s it, Colcannon is done. 

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Now the third (and most epic) feature of this recipe, the whipped horseradish cream.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Well, maybe it’s not a secret but I didn’t catch on to this until about 2 years ago so it was big news to me.  So here goes… if you want a great punch of flavor from your horseradish you need to add… wait for it…

Sugar.  Sugar makes the flavor of horseradish really pop. 

Anyways… begin whipping your heavy cream in a stand mixer with a pinch of sugar and some freshly cracked pepper.  When the cream is whipped to stiff peaks, fold in your grated horseradish.  (Freshly grated horseradish is light and folds in nicely here, but if you are using horseradish from a jar, I suggest adding the horseradish during the whipping process. 

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So now you have all your components and all you have to do is pile it up!

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Colcannon, Stew, Horseradish Cream.  It’s a beautiful thing.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or Tuesday, any day really will be a happy day when this is in your belly. 😉
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Stew:

  • 2 lbs Stew Meat of choice
  • 1 lg onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen green beans
  • 6 lg carrots, chopped
  • 1 lg bottle (mine was 1 pint 6 oz) Guinness or other dark beer
  • 1 qt Beef Stock
  • 2 Tbl tomato paste
  • 4 sprigs fresh herbs or 2 Tbl dried (I prefer rosemary and thyme for this recipe)

Saute onions and garlic until translucent, remove from pan and brown stew meat in batches (careful to not overcrowd.)  Season meat with salt and pepper while browning.  After meat is browned, deglaze pan with dark beer, scraping up any bits from bottom of the pan.  Add beef stock & tomato paste and adjust salt to taste.

Crock Pot: Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low 8 hours.

Instant Pot: For tender meats such as elk or bear – Add all ingredients to pot and pressure for 2.5 minutes. For beef stew meat or chuck – Add meat to broth and pressure for 25 minutes, quick release pressure and add vegetables, pressuring for another 5 minutes.

Stove Top: For tender meats such as elk or bear – Add meat to pan and simmer for 1 hour, add vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.  For beef stew meat and chuck – Add meat to pan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, add vegetables and simmer for another 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Colcannon:

  • 8 oz diced bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (green onions will also do in a pinch)
  • 4 medium potatoes, mashed and seasoned to taste
  • Crisp bacon in skillet.  Remove from pan and saute cabbage and leeks until tender.  Fold bacon and vegetables into mashed potatoes.

Whipped Horseradish Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 Tbl grated horseradish (to taste)
  •  pinch sugar
  • freshly cracked pepper

Whip heavy cream in a stand mixer with a pinch of sugar and some freshly cracked pepper.  When the cream is whipped to stiff peaks, fold in your grated horseradish. (Freshly grated horseradish is light and folds in nicely here, but if you are using horseradish from a jar, I suggest adding the horseradish during the whipping process.)

To Serve:

Fill bottom of bowl with Colcannon, ladle stew over the colcannon and top with a dollop of the horseradish cream.

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