A crummy Valentine’s Day… Thursday, Feb 14 2013 

I am hopeful that all of you are out enjoying the romance, building on your relationships or blessing others in some amazing way. Me? Can’t…I’m stuck in bed with whatever thing my husband and son suffered from earlier this week. I kept thinking that “it” had passed me by. Until late this afternoon when I should have been starting on the lovely supper I had planned to prepare. Instead, I was not able to play in the kitchen, which just really sucks!

However, prior to my being attacked by “it”, I had the chance to experiment with quite a few recipes in the last few days (in and around taking care of the sick ones)…Just didn’t have time to write about them. Stay tuned for coming posts about some really cool recipes, including the Cook the Books challenge post on Asian Dumplings, a book by Andrea Nguyen, as well as a post about my stomach-soothing Chai Spiced Milk. Thanks for being so patient.

Happy Valentine’s Day — Hug someone and share the love!

~Mary

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Venison Gravy Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 

I know, I know — I said I don’t really eat meat. Not many varieties and not very often. Well, I truly don’t. However, I also mentioned that I do cook it up for my awesome famly. I throw in enough fruits, veggies, grains and legumes every week though, so I don’t really mind cooking up something they want once in a while…

My husband, Les, has been hunting for the majority of his life. That doesn’t mean he always gets anything. In fact, there were quite a few “dry spells” over the last several years. My father-in-law lives in the home he grew up in, located in a somewhat remote (ie, not built up yet) area in south-central Pennsylvania. The little house sits at the base of a ridge, which is where my father-in-law, my husband and several of my children learned to hunt. Behind the house is a little patch of woods, with a field breaking the space up a bit before another stretch of woods dots the ridge. Somewhere amidst all the trees is a tree stand that Les built back when he was a teen, and which my oldest son patches up from time to time so it can still be used.

I’m not really sure what the statistics are for the number of deer in Pennsylvania, but I do know that the number of hunters who descend upon our state every fall has got to be pushing a million, as license sales for 2011 totaled around 933,208 (from: http://www.outdoornews.com/August-2012/Pennsylvania-lags-in-sales-of-hunting-licenses/). I know a lot of people have issues with “killing Bambi”, but hunters in this state are more active in conservation efforts than in many other areas, and hunting really does control the deer population. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, so I’m not too experienced with hunting overall…I took the hunter’s safety course with my now 14 year-old daughter. I’m honestly more of an “indoor gal” — as evidenced by most of my favorite past-times: writing, reading, sitting at the bookstore, cooking, baking…!

Anyway, no one in our immediate family had gotten a deer in the last several years, but this year we were blessed to have Les get two — in one day! He shot a doe at first light, then got a nice buck later in the day. What this means is that we will have meat for our freezer, and it’s a more healthful and compassionate option than, say, buying bulk meat in the grocer that came from questionable means! I have seen many documentaries on slaughterhouses and I am convinced that hunting is really the less evil way to get meat. Les and the kids out-voted me to have a good portion of the deer turned into deer bologna, which I am not really a fan of…I had hoped to try my hand at making deer jerky. Maybe, but doesn’t seem terribly promising this year. Anyway, I am thankful that the family now has various cuts of meat for some hearty winter meals like stews, roasts and the like, as well as some ground venison for miscellaneous dishes.

Not a gal who really loves wild game, I have to say that my mother-in-law coud cook a really tender, really amazing venison steak. Unfortunately she is no longer with us, having lost a battle with lymphoma in June 2009 the day after her 60th birthday. Les will often reminisce about some of the things she could do with food, especially with the cuts of meat that hunting provided for their family. I was kind of honored when he said that the meal I made last night replicated one of her meals…it was one of the highest compliments I have ever gotten.

So without further adieu, here’s my recipe for a venison gravy. I served it over boiled pierogies last night for a quick, filling meal, but you could easily serve it over pasta or rice, or just over top of toast in an open-faced sandwich kind of way. I also tend to add extra mushrooms or broth to make this meal stretch to feed my 8+ usual dinner crew!

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Brown 1 lb. ground venison in a stock pot with 1/2 cup chopped creimini mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter on medium. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add one pinch crumbled dried rosemary and lower temperature slightly so as not to scorch the bottom (maybe this is just my old stove…?).

Add 1/4 cup beef broth and simmer til liquid is mostly absorbed, then add another 1/4 cup beef broth and 1-2 tsp of cornstarch to thicken. (I continue alternating beef broth and cornstarch in the above increments until the gravy is as thick as I’d like). Re-season to taste and serve warm.

Pomegranates… Monday, Jan 14 2013 

I have recently discovered this tangy, juicy fruit, thanks to quite a few cookbooks featuring some mouthwatering recipes I’ve come across. So far the most unusual has been for pomegranate fudge, which I have in my “to try” recipe file. I enjoy cooking with the already-sold-in-a-bottle juice, but I am learning to use the actual arils, which are the “seeds” pictured below. You can find some interesting information and a plethora of recipes at http://pomegranates.org/

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Do you have a favorite way to use this vibrant fruit?

Cooking Magazines… Friday, Jan 11 2013 

So tonight I picked up a few cooking magazines for inspiration…These are just a few of my “favs”. Believe me, I have a long list of publications I regularly check. These are just the lucky few that made it home. I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes. Stay posted!!!

031So — What magazines inspire you in the kitchen??

What’s Cooking? Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Hi friends! I’m so excited to be kicking off the year 2013 with a new blog to address one of my passions in life — food — while utilizing one of my other passions, writing!

So here’s a quick bit about me — I am a certifiable gourmand, or foodie. At least I would say so. There are not many foods — except meats — that I won’t try. That’s not to say I don’t cook meat. I do, for the family – just not as often as I used to, both for financial and health reasons. Speaking of family…I am a wife and stay-at-home mom of six (yes, six!!!!) children. And that doesn’t include all the “extras” who find their way to my house whenever I am making supper or baking! I love to do redwork stitching, card making and a few other things in my “spare time” (haha! what’s that??!). My other passion is reading, and I mainly love to read cookbooks. I am especially drawn to cookbooks or magazine articles where the food has some kind of story behind it. It just makes it more interesting and intriguing to me.

So yeah, a lot of foodie things going on in my mind most of the time. I love to take a recipe and experiment if I can, or try to plate it in a way that gives it a new look. And I like to try to recreate dishes or things I enjoyed, such as chocolate covered candied orange slices (still perfecting the coating of chocolate). I also like to collect recipes from friends or other foodie blogs to try too. I made the best pitas ever that I found on a blog from my friend in Israel. Truthfully, sometimes it isn’t possible to keep up with my list of things to try in this crazy house, but I do dream of one day owning a bed and breakfast, or a quaint cafe…something like that where I can still play with my food!

The neighborhood kids always seem to end up here during the supper hour, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t flock here on a baking day. One of the things I’m known for in our little (ever-growing) circle is a special recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I inherited from my husband’s side of the family. For years we always called them “Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”. But I just found out over the 2012 holidays from my father-in-law that he found out the recipe was actually bachelor Uncle Dutch’s recipe. I believe it! The stories about that man are just fascinating! One story that I find…interesting…tells of Uncle Dutch and an exploit involving fishing. This is the way my hubby told me, and he got the story from someone else, so any errors in the story are sooooo his fault! (Sorry, Les!)

Any die-hard fisherman knows that sometimes a fish will shrink just a tad after it’s pulled from the water and sits a while. Here in Pennsylvania, there is a limit to how many trout you can catch at one sitting. Not sure how long the rule has been in effect, but they actually do tend to enforce it. Well, the fish warden came upon Uncle Dutch, who was trout fishing. He had one fish that the warden thought was just a tad under legal size, so he took him to court. The judge heard the case and fined him. Well, Uncle Dutch was a bit angry…the size difference was so miniscule that he was irritated with the warden for making such a big deal over it. So he asked the judge what the fine would be for punching the warden in the face. He was told $25, so he promptly paid the fine (which was $25) plus the $25 — and proceeded to punch the warden. Yep, right in the face! (Yeah, he was a bit of a character, for lack of a better word!!!)

So here is the tried-and-true recipe for Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (I really am too used to the name by now!). They are not flat and crisp like other chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve tried. Rather, they have a cakey light quality which makes them one of my favs. I should also note: my father loves these cookies! I have to set aside 1-2 dozen for him every time I make them! The yield really depends on the size you make them. I usually end up with around 5+ dozen, but that’s just me. Also, please excuse the lack of photos…I can’t keep these cookies around long enough to take any!

* Preheat oven to 375*F.

* Mix 1 tsp baking soda with 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 4 cups of flour. Set side.

* Cream together 2 cups light brown sugar with 1 cup butter-flavored Crisco (plain is fine too). Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate.

* Add in 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

* Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix well.

* Stir in 2 12-oz. bags chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional).

* Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or til lightly browned.

ENJOY!

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