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Venison Jerky

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so deliciousI always thought that making jerky was a long and difficult process.  When you look up recipes on line, most of them call for a dehydrator.  Then I received an abundance of deer meat and decided to give jerky making a go.  I am so glad I did!  This really was very easy to do.

Some tips:  

  1. If your meat is already marinaded, and you find that you just are not going to have the time to sit around the house while the oven is on, you can freeze the mixture until the time is right.
  2. This recipe is also interchangeable, I am looking forward to trying it on a london broil cut next.
  3. Feel free to play with the flavoring, I am thinking about my next marinade containing ginger, orange juice, garlic and soy to create a tangy flavor.

the marinade Cutting the venison the whole mixture in a bag laid out on a rack into the oven after 3 hours of dehydrating done!

Ingredients:

Venison loin, partially frozen (it is easier to cut that way)

1/2 – 1c. Soy sauce

1/2 garlic head roughly chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp onion powder

1 splash white vinegar

1/2 tbsp kosher salt

Filtered water if needed to boost liquid content

Method:

Slice the venison on a bias, against the grain, aprox 1/4 – 1/2in thick.  Mix soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, honey, onion powder, vinegar and salt in a bowl.  Add venison, and transfer mixture to a ziplock bag.  Allow to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 150.  Place meat strips on a rack so that they do not touch each other with a pan lined with aluminum foil on the bottom to catch drips.  Allow to dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours in the oven, or until desired consistency is achieved.

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Hitting My Wall On The Delaware River

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Jayne: “Is that a dead end up there?”

Me: “I don’t think so… I hope not.”

Jayne: “oh man, I think that is a dead end, we can’t go through.”

Me: “Ugh! Your right! We are going to have to turn around and go back.”

I turned my kayak around and started to dig into the water, my arms were burning, and I began to realize that we were not going anywhere. The current was holding us in place as we attempted to paddle up stream. We were in a small alcove off the Delaware River, behind us was a dam we could not get through. A half mile ahead was the river and we just couldn’t seem to get to it. Not far from where we were on the river, was the dock we had decided to disembark from, and where Jayne’s truck was parked.

18 miles and 3 hours ago, we had entered the river. We had a great time talking, and laughing. We spied a bald eagle, and an osprey with a large rodent dangling from its talons. We sat in silent awe at the mountains around us, and screamed with primal joy while shooting down a section of rapids. The whole time we had maintained a good paddling pace; and here we were going nowhere. At this point, my mind is starting to turn dark. It begins to tell me that we will never make it, it begins to want to give up. Hello, wall. In most situations when you hit the wall, it’s easy to give up and walk away. Those times are easy because your life isn’t in danger, there is no good reason to try to break through that wall, or so you think. While we were not in mortal danger, we were stuck. The banks on either side of us were near vertical. However on the left above the 6ft high bank was a tow path.

Me: “Let’s get out and walk the path back to the river”

My arms were screaming. While carrying our kayaks to the river was not going to be a fun journey, we could be encouraged by progress. We pulled up to the bank, I got out of my kayak and my feet sunk into the soft ground, above was hard red earth with little vegetation to hold onto. I tossed my paddle up onto the path, gritted my teeth and hauled the kayak out of the water and up the bank. Every step was a half step back as I sunk and slid. Yet the wall was gone, this had to be done, there was no turning back. Finally, my kayak was on the trail. I turned back to help my friend who was struggling with her kayak at an awkward angle. This woman is no slouch, she runs half marathons, she goes to spin class, and swims on a regular basis. If you want to meet pure energy and laughter, you need to meet Jayne. While she was struggling with her kayak, she was also struggling with her wall. I could see it in her face, she was battling her own dark thoughts. I slid down the bank, and grabbed her kayak and together we hauled it up to the path.

Our journey was not done there, we still needed to get back to the river. With my jaw set I grabbed the front ends of the kayaks, while Jayne grabbed the back ends, and headed down the path to the river.

Jayne: “Wait! I think that if we head toward the dam, we will be where we need to be.”

I turned around and saw the Visitor’s Center. It hits me, we had arrived at our destination, just on the wrong side of the destination. We turned ourselves around, and carried our boats up to the parking lot. With relief rushing through our bodies, we walk up to a sign that read “Employee Parking Only”, my muscles were screaming, we put down the kayaks and enjoyed a good laugh.

Here is what I can take away from this adventure: Accomplishment is the long refreshing drink that you get to enjoy after the struggle. Even days later, I am still riding the waves of that accomplishment, it has motivated me to start this morning off with 25 jumping jacks, 25 squats, 4 pushups and a good hour dedicated to practicing Tai Chi.

The next time you hit your wall, remember, that flimsy wall is all that is standing between you and that gulp of accomplishment. Busting through it is much easier than you think.

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Fruit Cake, Redefined

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Fruit Cake, redefined“Do you think we can make a cake out of watermelon?”

This was the question that was posed to me this week.  It had never occurred to me – stepping outside of the world of flour, eggs and sugar, to make a cake.  Yes, in culinary school, we did learn how to sculpt food;  I have made the obligatory apple bird, and roses out of beets.  Yet, a whole cake, made of fruit?  This is a fantastic alternative for anyone with a gluten allergy, on a raw food diet, or simply looking for a healthy way to please everyone.

This cake was so much fun to make.  It allowed me to really step into the role of artist for a moment, and it was easy to lose myself in the world of possibilities that opened up.

First, let’s gather the tools needed to create the “cake”:

  • A sharp flexible knife, preferably a boning knife, or a thin slicking knife
  • A pairing knife
  • Skewers or tooth picks
  • Cookie cutters
  • Fruit; I would not recommend fruits that brown like apples, bananas and pears.  You want to choose fruits that will hold their shape. For this cake, we chose watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, grapes, and strawberries.
  • Simple syrup.  This is where it gets fun!  The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavored simple syrups.  Ginger, lavender, mint, basil or even jalapeno can all work very well for this project!  A simple syrup consists of 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Bring the mixture to a simmer until the sugar dissolves and then remove from heat and cool.  If you are going to add something to your simple syrup add it in the very beginning, and allow it to steep as the syrup cools before straining.

The first thing to do when making the cake is to cut the base (watermelon) When shaping the watermelon, begin by cutting off the ends to create a flat surface so that it won’t roll around and then slice down the skin with the boning knife.  Once all of the skin has been removed, you can work on rounding the sides by shaving off the rough white edges.  All scraps can be set aside for your enjoyment later, or even frozen for a smoothie!  When the watermelon is ready, place it on cooling rack on top of a sheet tray so that it will catch the juice from the watermelon.  That way, your cake won’t be sitting in a pool of juice by the time you serve it.

After the watermelon is secure, the creativity really begins!  I began by slicing a pineapple as thin as possible, brushing on some simple syrup on the pieces to act as glue, and then attaching the pieces to the base of the watermelon.  After that, I added the cantaloupe balls to the top.  I sliced the leftover cantaloupe very thin and cut out flower shapes using a cookie cutter.  Thinly sliced kiwi cut with a small round mold were used to make the center of the flower.  These flowers were affixed to the cake with the syrup, similar to attaching the pineapple.  Then, the strawberries were added to the top and the base of the cake as accents.

When the primary cake was assembled, I then brushed on some simple syrup to act as a glaze and to brighten the colors.  This cake was then allowed to settle in the refrigerator overnight.  When the cake was ready to be presented, I transferred it to a platter, adding the skewers on top and the garnish of grapes and blueberries at the base.  When the cake was set out, everyone was in awe of the “cake”. It didn’t last long after that!  We cut into it, and everyone enjoyed their slice!

cutting the cantaloupe IMG_6942

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

assembling assembling 2 top view adding the simple syrup

Happy Fourth of July!

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fireworksSometimes during a fireworks show, I find myself wondering if the display can be seen from space.  What a sight North America must be on the 4th of July, if that were the case.  Town after town setting off their cannons, bursting patterns of color into the sky.  When I was a kid, fireworks terrified me.  I would hide behind the couch with our dog, Lucky, who also didn’t like fireworks.  My fingers plugged into my ears, waiting for my family to come back inside.  Once the sound of fireworks ceased to scare me, I would join my family, on the roof of our home, and sit enthralled.

Last night I witnessed one of the best firework displays, ever.  A concert in the park, with a symphony, and when they began The Overture of 1812, the fireworks began.  Last night, it struck me, that 237 years ago, 50 miles away from where I was standing; Thomas Jefferson was asked by Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, to pen the Declaration of Independence.  Often I can become so involved in the small everyday complains of my life, that I forget how fortunate I really am.  The foresight, wisdom, hopes and dreams of ancestors, have paved the way for us to enjoy a concert under the stars, on a beautiful June evening, without the fear of our human rights being violated.  With a display of sound and color, bursting over my head, I felt my heart open wide, and all my little worries melted away.

My friends, I wish you a safe and happy holiday.  I hope that you feel, for even a brief moment, the spirit of unity and change that inspired this country.

Cheers!

Heading into the concert under the stars Plums and apricots setting up sound check our veterans the sun sets little girl with lantern candelabra the overture of 1812

Garlic Scapes

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Garlic ScapesGarlic scapes, the herald of the garlic bulb.  These long spindly sprouts shoot out of the ground in the late spring.  Leaving the scapes on the plant usually result in a small bulb that can be used to cultivate more garlic the following year, although it will take 2-3 years to produce large bulbs.  However scapes divert many of the nutrients from the head of garlic, so they are generally cut away, to produce a plump bulb.  Some farmers and gardeners will toss their scapes into the compost pile, others will give them away to friends like me, or sell them at farmers markets.

 

With scape season nearly ending we have no time to loose!  Luckily a friend of mind gave me a large amount of garlic scapes.  First things first, with garlic scapes, some of the ends may be tough to cut through, I will bend the scape at the bottom, like asparagus until I find that spot where tough meets tender.  Unlike asparagus you will not receive a satisfying snap, however you will also not be wasting a lot of the tender delicious parts.  At the “breaking” point, just cut away the tough part, and discard.

 

What do you do with garlic scapes?  You can use them just like garlic.  Slice them them nice and thin and toss them into your stirfry, or use them in a marinade, toss them into your salad, you can grill them too!  Use them in a fritata, add them to your soup, showcase them in a salad dressing, or pickle them.  If you have too many scapes, and don’t have enough time, you can freeze them for later.

 

This week I made a pesto with the scapes.  Bright, garlicky, delicious, and a sauce that I like to have around for all occasions.  I had a hankering for some sweet potatoes fries, so I thought using the pesto to make an aioli would be a great way to cure that craving.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto with Sweet Potato Fries and Pesto Aioli

garlic scapes, spinach, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil

garlic scapes in the food processor garlic scapes, spinach, basil in the food processor making garlic scape pesto garlic scape pesto

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

6 Garlic scapes roughly chopped

1 good handful of spinach

20 basil leaves

2 tbsp lime olive oil (this is a speciality item that I received as a gift.  If you don’t have or something like this, don’t worry, you can substitute preserved lemon or freshly squeeze 1/2 lemon or lime)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:

In a food processor or blender combine the scapes, spinach, basil, lime olive oil, or the substitution, salt and pepper.  Start the food processor and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you reach a smooth.

 

Sweet potato fries:

sweet potato fries uncooked sweet potato fries cooked

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato (cut into logs like a french fry)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 375.  Toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out over a baking sheet.  Place in the oven and allow to roast for approximately 30 min, or until golden brown.  You will notice that the smell will begin to fill your kitchen as they begin to approach being done.

 

Garlic scape pesto aioli:

sweet potato fries with garlic scape pesto aioli

Ingredients:

Garlic scape pesto

Mayo

Method: 

Mix equal parts of pesto and mayo, combine well.

 

Mapping stress: placing awareness on the source

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ImageThe move is over!  Next comes the unpacking, the making this new space my home.  This move has revealed and uncovered a lot about myself.  I began to notice that many of the good habits that I had cultivated, were becoming compromised.  I noticed that I was not treating myself well.  Not just nutritionally, but emotionally and physically as well.  I was not being careful with my health.  The obvious culprit was stress, but I wanted to understand my stress.  So I mapped it out.

I started with asking what was I stressed about.  On the surface, it was all about time management.  Because of my stress, I felt like I did not have the time to treat myself right.  Time is relative, the time that I have, I spend worrying, complaining and obsessing about what I am not doing right.  Hours would pass by heavy with guilt.  Then I would feel overwhelmed by all the things that I “had” to do, and then not do them because of that pressure.  Logically non of this makes much sense, but I am sure that we can all relate to this.  Stress is a crushing force.

Stress is a vicious cycle that continues to feed itself, and I wanted to derail that speeding train, take a deep breath, and face the world with a clear mind.

My map

What I was really upset about:

I wasn’t making the time to cook good food, for outside activity, for my spirituality, and for my daily writing.

Why wasn’t I doing those things? I began listing things like work, moving, people, etc.  Then I realized that those things are always in my life, they aren’t the real reason why I stop doing the things I care about.  The real reason was pain.  For me, physical pain.  When I am at my best, I fit everything in, because those four activities fulfill me.  When I am in pain, I stop everything and invite the guilt to settle around my head, and thus enter the cycle of stress.

When my back is hurt:

I stop cooking as much, because it hurts to stand

I stop being active, because I can barely walk

I stop exploring my spirituality and writing because I can’t focus on much

Once I enter the cycle of stress I:

Go to sleep late

Sleep in

Don’t stick to a routine

Binge eat

Don’t eat

Eat late

Watch tv

Isolate myself from my friends

All of these things are just fuel for the fire.  Once my back is healed and I could go back to my routines, I have already immersed myself into the cold pool of stress, and am sinking.

Not all pain is physical!  Suffering comes in many different textures.  Be it mental, physical or emotional, pain is the root of the vicious cycle of stress.

What breaks this cycle?  Awareness.  Mapping out my stress took away the story, it took away the attachment that kept me anchored to that boat of misery.  Without a story, without the attachment, I was free to stop guilting myself into thinking that I was not taking care of myself.  When we are in pain, emotional or physical, we need to honor that, we need to rest and allow ourselves to heal.  Even in pain, we can still treat ourselves like we are sacred.  Because we are sacred.  If I am in pain and can not run a mile like I want to, I don’t need to invite stress into my life to dole out the punishment.

My friends, what does your stress map look like?  What would your day look like, if you treated yourself like the sacred being that you are?  Obviously a little stress to push our limitations and reward us with accomplishment is a great and necessary thing to create progress.  You know what kind of stress I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the suffering and torturous maze of stress that we get lost in.  Just a little awareness can give a whole new expansive perspective.

Hiatus

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Dear Friends, I did not come to this decision easily, however I will need to take a two week hiatus from here.  I am currently in the process of moving, and while I thought I would have the time to maintain Hearth’s schedule, I did not take into account that my ability to focus would be significantly compromised.  While I have begun writing on some topics that I am excited to share with you, I really want to give them the time and attention they deserve, instead of slapping them together for the sake of keeping a schedule.

 

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather.  Treat yourselves well my friends, I will see you on June 16th, with a new post!

 

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