Trick or Treat Has Obviously Become Passe

The fun has been sucked right out of Halloween, all in the name of “safety.”  Kids trick or treat in the middle of the afternoon on the weekend before Halloween, if it falls on a weekday.  Or they trick or treat at the mall – there were kids trick-or-treating in our local grocery store last week, for crying out loud.  Some parents take it even further, if Alton Brown was to be believed on Good Morning, America today, and don’t let their kids trick or treat at all – they have a party and call it good.

I’m certainly not in favor of letting kids eat twelve tons of refined sugar, given a boost by carcinogenic artificial food colors, but this is Halloween, for crying out loud – is it so wrong to let your kids trick or treat (chaperoned by an adult, of course) on the evening of the actual holiday?  I’ll be 50 years old in December, and neither I nor anyone I’ve ever met has ever received an apple with a razor blade in it, or been carried off by a psychopath.  In fact, with the single exception of a child who was poisoned by his own parent for the insurance money (and that happened many, many years ago), I’ve never heard of any of the bad things that people seem so frightened of ever happening while trick-or-treating.

At any rate, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Halloween, the scariest of all holidays, has been robbed of it’s bite, so to speak.  We haven’t had a child young enough to actually go trick-or-treating in many years and stopped giving out candy when we changed our diet two years ago.  But now there’s The G Man and his mom, who is VERY big on childhood traditions (and good for her!).  She, too, mourns the passing of the time honored tradition of trick-or-treating the evening of Halloween, so when she couldn’t find a neighborhood within driving distance that actually did it, she at least found one where they did it in the evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., even if it was the Saturday before.

We didn’t go – both of us are working on big projects, Beloved for the business and me on a personal one – but here is a pic of our little trick-or-treater, who stopped by Meema and Poppa’s house before embarking on his sugar-laden yearly tradition:

G Man and the Neverland Pirates
G Man and the Neverland Pirates

Yup – that would be our little rough-and-tumble bundle of joy dressed up as Jake from the Disney Jr. show, Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  (If you haven’t seen it, you don’t know WHAT you’re missing.)

With the exception of the time Meema made a gargantuan mistake and bought G a ring pop while we were out running errands one Saturday morning (you wouldn’t believe a kid could bounce off the sides of a moving vehicle while strapped in a car seat, but he managed it), we simply don’t give him crap.  We really don’t have to, because he loves things like fruit, cheese and nuts, so that’s what he gets as “treats” at our house.  Now, having said that, we did give him a handful of gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins when he stopped by to show off his costume, for what is a pirate without gold doubloons?

At any rate, we wish we’d gone with them, for Jolly told us that The G Man had a bit of trouble with the whole “trick or treat” concept.  Perhaps he simply thinks it’s rude, because instead of running up to houses and shouting, “Trick or Treat!” he held out his bag and politely said, “Please, may I have some candy?  Thank you!”

I’m buying him an ascot for Christmas.

For more Halloween Show and Tell posts, run over and visit Gretchen and the Spin Cycle at Second Blooming.  She may not have candy, but I hear she makes a wicked martini.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

Since I published it, Butternut Squash Pancakes has been my most popular recipe.  I’m not entirely sure why – well, except for the fact they’re delicious pancakes – but it is.  It occurred to me this past weekend that just about any squash would work in the recipe, including pumpkin.  And, lo and behold, I had a small pumpkin sitting on my counter, just begging to be roasted.

So I did.

And I made pancakes out of it.

And flavored them with pumpkin pie spice.

And topped them with buttered pecans.

And they were delicious.

Note:  If you don’t have a pumpkin on your counter with a delicious death wish, feel free to use canned pumpkin puree – not canned pumpkin pie filling, which contains large amounts of sugar and other questionable ingredients.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat; add the pecans and toast, shaking the pan frequently and taking care they do not burn, until the nuts are fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Toss them with the melted ghee and salt and set
  2. aside. Chop coarsely oncey they have cooled.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla until well-blended. In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the almond flour, salt and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the
  4. wet ingredients, mixing just enough to ensure there are no lumps.
  5. Lightly grease a griddle with your fat of choice (butter, lard, coconut oil, etc) and heat just until a drop of water placed on the griddle sizzles briefly before evaporating. Using a ladle or small measuring cup, pour the batter by
  6. the scant 1/4 cupful onto the griddle and cook just until bubble appear on the surface. Carefully flip and cook on the other side until the pancake is done, about one minute more.
  7. Place on a plate, cover and keep warm; repeat the previous steps until all of the batter has been used. Top with the buttered pecans and serve warm with additional maple syrup, if desired.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 283 calories, 22.3g total fat, 98.1mg cholesterol, 365.9mg sodium, 295.5mg potassium, 14.3g carbohydrates, 4.3g fiber, 8.5g sugar, 4.8g protein

 

Honey-Mustard Venison Chops

It didn’t occur to me until I’d written the recipe and sat down to begin this post that this is the second venison recipe in a row I’ve posted.  I’d tell you I’m sorry but, well, I’m not.

One of the packages we were gifted read “venison chops.”  From the looks of it, I thought it was going to contain two rather flat pieces that were akin to a round steak; you can only imagine my surprise to find four gorgeous boneless chops, about 2-inches thick – more like filets than round steak.  A beautiful, deep red color without a speck of fat, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them, so it was to the interwebz for some sort of an idea.

Most recipes for venison are on, not surprisingly, sites for and about hunting, and are pretty straightforward.  However, I clicked on one link and found myself on a forum for video gamers – in fact, it was a site both Oldest Son and The Young One frequent, so I was familiar with it.  And, to my astonishment, there was a thread about how to cook venison chops, of all things – two very good preparations, too, from what I could see.

One called for marinating the chops in red wine and orange zest, but I didn’t have much time for that (don’t think I won’t eventually, though), and the other was a loose set of instructions for this preparation.  I thought it sounded interesting and tasty so I decided to give it a whirl.

“Interesting and tasty” doesn’t do this recipe justice – if anything I’ve ever made is restaurant quality, this is it.  I could just not have been more pleased.  The venison was tender, juicy, flavorful and perfectly medium-rare and the sauce complimented it to a T.  I served it over braised mustard greens and with an interesting version of Pommes Anna, for which I’ll post the recipe later this week.

I have to say, gamers and hunters are two of my favorite types of people these days. 🙂

Note:  If you can’t get venison chops, this would work quite well with beef tenderloin.

Honey-Mustard Venison Chops
Honey-Mustard Venison Chops
Honey-Mustard Venison Chops

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 six-ounce boneless venison chops
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. Season the chops lightly with salt and pepper; dredge in the tapioca flour and shake to remove any excess.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a heavy skillet over high heat. Sear the venison chops – tops, bottoms and sides – until a brown crust has formed, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Add the remaining ghee to the pan and reduce the heat to medium; add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the apple cider; bring to a boil and stir in the mustard and honey. Reduce the heat again and add the rosemary; simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Return the chops to the pan and spoon the sauce over the top. Remove from the heat; cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 310 calories, 10.7g total fat, 45.9mg cholesterol, 54.7mg sodium, 111.8mg potassium, 16.8g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 3g sugar, 37.2g protein

 

Venison Meatloaf

I mentioned earlier this week that we’d been gifted with some beautiful venison over the weekend.  Now, when I was younger, I disliked deer meat – the time or two I’d had it, it had a nasty, wild, gamey flavor.  It may just be that my palate has matured, but I suspect now that the animals had been poorly field-dressed and processed; these days, the venison I eat is provided by experienced hunters who not only know how to expertly field-dress their kill, but butcher it as well.

And it is delicious.

Part of the lovely package of venison we received was ground, and there was no question what I’d make with it, since I live with two meatloaf fiends.  I was going to just serve it plain until I saw this recipe from my friend Alex Boake for Kirby’s Maxim Tomato and Apple Ketchup.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I am going to make four thousand pints of this stuff and stash them away in my basement, it is THAT good.

Alex used fresh tomatoes for hers, but since I have more tomato sauce than I really know what to do with after the Month of Mad Canning, I used that; she also calls for Macintosh apples, but since I am still awash in Fujis that’s what I used.  Other than that, I pretty much made this as written, and I just can’t get over how delicious it was, and how well it complimented the venison.

We didn’t use all of the Kirby Ketchup on the meatloaf, but that’s okay because Beloved has been putting it on everything else he eats.

Note:  Because venison is so lean, the meatloaf mixture is really moist and will spread some when you put in the pan to form a loaf, but I wouldn’t try to put it in a loaf pan because it’s going to give off a lot of that moisture while it cooks, which I drained off about halfway through the cooking time and again at the end. Of course, you can use ground beef if you don’t have venison, but it will be higher in calories.

Venison Meatloaf
Venison Meatloaf
Venison Meatloaf

Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • Meatloaf:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground venison
  • 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Sauce:
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 small apples, peeled and shredded
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients for the meatloaf together in a large bowl; the mixture will be wet and loose. Gently form a loaf shape in a 7″ x 11″ glass baking dish (it will spread slightly). Bake for 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160 F. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
  3. While the meatloaf is in the oven, combine all of the sauce ingredients except the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the apples and onions have cooked down.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly. Transfer to a food processor, or using an immersion blender, process until smooth. Add the olive oil and blend again. Serve over the sliced meatloaf.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 246 calories, 7g total fat, 66.9mg cholesterol, 3687.3mg sodium, 697.7mg potassium, 18.8g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 11.7g sugar, 29.5g protein

 

Ferments

Kimchi and Cranberry-Orange Chutney
Kimchi and Cranberry-Orange Chutney

Aren’t those jars just lovely?   They’re delicious, too – I’m in love with the fermented cranberry-orange chutney.

But why five quarts of fermented fruits and vegetables?  One word:  probiotics.

We’ve all seen the commercials of the lady showing up on airplanes and at town hall meetings, asking people embarrassing questions about the state of their digestive systems before handing out boxes of (expensive) pills.  We’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis shilling for yogurt guaranteed to fix those same embarrassing digestive issues in just two weeks.  But just what are probiotics?

Well, we all know what antibiotics are:  medicinal products that either kill bacteria in the system or keep them from reproducing, allowing an infected body to heal by producing its own defenses and overcome the infection.  When antibiotics were isolated in the mid-twentieth century, they were widely hailed as ‘wonder drugs’ and indeed, formerly life-threatening infections could now be easily cured within a few days.

We’ve become quite dependent on antibiotics, in many cases to the point where some, like penicillin,  are no longer very affective; many people have also developed penicillin allergies.  Another undesirable affect of antibiotics is that in addition to killing off or halting the spread of “bad” bacteria, it also does the same thing to beneficial bacteria that our bodies actually need (hence the term probiotics – they’re literally the opposite of antibiotics.)

Most of these beneficial bacteria live in our gut – our digestive system.  When they are not sufficiently abundant or the balance of the different types of beneficial bacteria are out of whack, we often suffer from a host of irritating, if not downright unhealthy, digestive issues – the famed constipation, gas, bloating and diarrhea the lady with the pills carries on about.

Why not just take the pill or eat the tiny little container of yogurt?  Well, for one thing, as I noted before, this can be expensive – those pills the lady hands out so liberally can cost me and you upwards of $20 for 30 tablets (the recommended dosage is often 2 pills – or more – a day, depending on the severity of the symptoms).  As for the yogurt, it is made from pasteurized lowfat milk and contains added sugars or artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavors, and thickeners (modified food starch and guar gum) along with the probiotics – which don’t come from natural fermentation but are added afterwards.  There are also often only 2 or 3 types of beneficial bacteria in such products; far more live in your body, and an imbalance of probiotics is not a whole lot better than an absence of them.

Fermented foods contain more than just two or three types of beneficial bacteria.  As an added benefit, fermentation makes the nutrients in the foods more available to our bodies and easier to digest.  Making ferments is easy to do – the cranberry-orange chutney came together in all of 5 minutes – and is far less expensive than pills or tiny containers of yogurt.  Those five quarts will literally last us months – vegetable ferments especially improve with age (fruit ferments should be consumed a little more quickly) – and cost less than one bottle of probiotic pills.

Traditionally fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, and the commercial versions (sauerkraut and cucumber pickles immediately come to mind) are sad, pale bastardizations of what can and should be delicious, healthful additions to our diets; most are preserved with vinegar and pasteurized, which sort of defeats the purpose of them in the first place.   Not that I don’t enjoy a good canned pickle – I have over 20 jars of them in my basement – but they are not a replacement for the traditionally fermented kind.

If you haven’t eaten a true, traditional ferment, why not give them a try?  This kimchi recipe – spicy, tart, salty, crunchy and delicious – is a good place to start.