Friday, November 30, 2012

November Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

It's that time again, time to reveal the foodie pen pal stash of the month. YAY!

My pen pal this month was Robin Lourie - she sent me this fabulous box. You can check out what she got from her pen pal here. I sent to Anna, who doesn't have a blog but sent me this e-mail in regards to the goodies we sent her.

I hope you are doing well this day before Thanksgiving! I wanted to send you a BIG thank you for the great box of goodies!
I truly appreciate the thoughtfulness that you put into creating this package. The almonds were YUMMY!
The dark chocolate bars will be consumed post Thanksgiving! I can't wait to try the recipes you sent as well. The can of pumpkin is exactly what I needed!
The barbeque sauce looks so pretty! I think that will go great on tempeh for a vegan tempeh reuben.
Again thank you very much! It has been a pleasure exchanging emails! Thank you for reaching out!
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! I've got to get to the co-op to get my "turkeyless roast"

Here is what she got: 

So now on to what we got :) I must say that Robin was lovely and sent the most wonderful things.

Look at this haul! I mean seriously! Of course this arrived the day I was heading out to go to Mike's, the mailman freaked me out by knocking on my front door (mind you I consider my actual front door the back door so, this really does worry me when I hear a knock at that door). Come to find the mailman waiting there for me and handed me this loveliness which I immediately became quite excited about and began smiling. I don't think she quite knew what to do with me other than walk away from me.

First thing I busted open, even before Mike got to see it were these bad boys. Soo freaking delicious, they were gone in 3 days (would have been sooner had I not had will power or the need to share at least one pretzel with Mike). I will be recreating these for a Christmas treat to pass out, rather than bake a bazillion cookies like I normally do. Going easy this season with the baking.

Then we have enchilada sauce and smoky pulled pork seasoning sauce. Um, delish!!! Mike and I had to make pulled pork for sure. So bought a pork shoulder (couldn't find one unseasoned at Walmart so I bought a BBQ seasoned and slow cooker ready one). This is the result ----

Yes, it's as delicious as it looks, super simple too. Add 1 cup of water to the packet of sauce and one 2-lb pork shoulder and cook on low for 8 hours. Easy peasy and super delicious with some baked potatoes and green beans. Yummmm :) I still have leftovers hehe.

Then we have tea, Tazo Passion, Nature's Splash (a lot like Crystal Light) and then some green tea. I adore the Tazo passion tea - when I worked at Starbucks that was my go to drink. I haven't tried the green teas yet and have brought the Nature's Splash to work with me for my water - I use Crystal Light daily so this is perfect.

And at this rate I will never have to buy peanut butter again, I just have to ask that they include peanut butter in every FPP box I get haha!! I do love peanut butter A LOT. It's got to be my favorite food. I was also getting low on honey and this was a pleasant surprise. I prefer local honeys and this is just perfect. Actually used it for the first time last night in some oat bars.

And now for the adult side. She must have read that I like to make beer bread. :) So I received two cans of this Bombshell Blonde Ale. I drank one, was not overwhelmed or in love with the flavor, it's beer. But it made some fabulous beer bread, which I made the other night and have been enjoying since.

A big huge thank you to my pen pal for sending such a lovely box of goodies that I am still enjoying.

Wanna be a foodie pen pal? Check it out below.

The Lean Green Bean

Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:
-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
- Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!
***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at to get involved!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Redneck Coq Au Vin aka Goose Stew

Well here is our other delicious recipe. As you all have found out, Mike hunts. He hunted a lot this week. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. That's a lot for him in one week.

So Monday he went out with his buddy Cameron and went hunting for geese. Well they sure found them.

They got the daily limit each before 9 am. WOW! As you can see, he's a happy hunter. If you look really close you can see the lone duck they shot in between the middle geese. Cameron's connection paid off. In the end I also reaped benefits from this because I got to enjoy the food that comes from the hunt.

Cameron has a recipe for goose that he and his wife said was good. So if Jaime says it's good, I guess I can trust that because a lot of women seem to shy away from wild game.

From what I was told about this recipe, it sounded pretty good, it would marinate the meat overnight and then slow cook it for 8 hours. Simple and hands free. My kind of cooking as of late. I'm falling more in love with my slow cooker and bread machine. Makes cooking and baking easier.

So Tuesday night we enjoyed goose stew or as a friend aptly named it, after Mike and I had been calling it "Redneck Boeuf Bourguignon " "Redneck Coq au Vin" since it has a bird/fowl in it as the protein and not beef. Though i must say the meat looks close to beef than chicken when cooked.

So what did we do to create such a dish? Well Mike took the meat and marinated it in Jack Daniels and Worcestershire sauce overnight (flipped once). Then the next morning my job was to mix the packets and beer and add the goose to the crock pot and set for 8 hours.

So I took one packet of brown gravy mix (like McCormick's) and one packet of onion soup mix (that recipe starter stuff that can make onion dip too) and then whisked into a large (thinking 24 oz bottle) of Budweiser beer.

Mike said he wanted to use Guinness but couldn't find just A bottle/can of it, so he went St. Louis style and got Budweiser.

I then whisked the ingredients together and then added the goose meat and discarded the marinate. Set the crock pot on low for 8 hours and promptly drove myself to work while Mike was out duck hunting that morning. (No real luck Tuesday for hunting - got 2 ducks which he let Andrew have since he hadn't been out until Tuesday for the season).

So when I got home, Mike had literally JUST gotten back from hunting, still had Goose (the dog) with him.

He was starting to work on potatoes and onion. Of course I walked in and had a bit of a sinking feeling about this "stew" we were making. It smelled a lot like our botched attempt at boeuf bourguignon that we had done in the crock pot a few months ago (it was absolutely TERRIBLE). It smelled the same and was a bit worrying to me. It smelled good but smelled the same. So when it came time to eat, I was, understandably, a bit leery about the taste. Come to find, it tasted fantastic - to me. It was good. It was not gamey tasting at all to me, didn't taste like chicken folks. It tastes like goose. Mike had cut up some onion and potatoes and we placed that in the crock pot, after taking the meat out - leaving the juices, and cooked those for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours while we ran around and took Goose - the dog - back home.

We served the goose and potatoes and onions with homemade white bread that was buttered. Mmmm perfect for sopping up the juices.

Of course did I take a picture that night? No, grr. I just ate some for lunch too and forgot to take a picture, so here is one I took when I got home.

So go out and cook something new guys. You can use this recipe with any protein source you like, quite honestly. It doesn't have to be duck or goose, though I am thinking I will thaw some duck meat and do this with that.

Goose Stew aka Redneck Coq Au Vin

1/2 goose breast or whole breast, sliced - can't really tell you how much he used - was plenty
1 cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Marinade meat in whiskey and Worcestershire sauce overnight, make sure to flip at least once.

1 pkt onion soup/french onion dip mix
1 pkt brown gravy mix (like the kind by McCormick)
1 (24 oz) bottle Budweiser beer/Guinness

Add packets and beer to crock pot, whisk to blend well. Add meat, discard marinade.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

You could put the potatoes (we used red) and onion in the crockpot at the same time and not worry about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chicken Vegetable Soup

So Mike and I have actually had 12 whole days together - well he worked for part of that and went hunting, but I still got him :)

So we actually cooked this week, novel idea right?

So first we made chicken vegetable soup - delicious right? right

I had chicken in the freezer and Sunday we pulled that out and went and bought some veggies to go with.

I had spinach in the fridge that also needed using since it was starting to wilt in places...eek! Gotta get those greens in.

So we went to Hyvee and picked up zucchini, mushrooms, canned diced and seasoned tomatoes, corn, and some chicken broth.

It's super simple to make soup folks. Make sure you have some stock of some sort (veggie, beef, chicken, hell - duck stock will work too). Whatever floats your boat right?

So we took some onion, and spinach and cooked that down. Then added in mushrooms, zucchini, corn, and diced tomatoes. We didn't need a lot of stock since the tomato juice and corn juice worked pretty well as the stock. We added Italian herbs and some southwest spice that I have sitting around in my spice drawer.

It ended up tasting pretty great, had it with homemade white bread, from my Bread Bible recipe book. I can't say this white bread was my favorite, the traditional bread machine white bread that I made last week was way better. Less funk in the aftertaste, that makes no sense ha ha. Has a similar taste to Mighty Melt bread though, just wrong texture - getting closer maybe?

Mike went hunting, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings. By Tuesday he was tired, but he got the time in and was able to hang out with some friends too. All in all, that's time well spent. Of course, it's strange to have him pass out by 8 pm every night when I'm used to him staying up till at least 10 or 11. That's what early mornings do to you.

So guys, go out and cook. Make some soup for sure, since it's chilly out there now. Will warm you right up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let hunting and holidays begin!

It's that time of year again where we all get terribly busy. Mike and I haven't been cooking much - if anything we have become lazy and been eating out - even I, the penny pinching queen has come to only want to break out a box of cereal and call it a meal.

So one evening some girl friends and I went out to Noodles & Co. for dinner - got the Med sandwich and a tomato onion salad thingy - quite tasty. My friend Kristy, who is 7 months pregnant, indulged in the most delicious looking bowl of macaroni and cheese I have seen in a while - so jealous LOL. Then went to Michelle's to hang out - we talked wedding since Michelle was getting married in the next week.

Mike and I took off to the wedding and Mike totally photo bombed in the car. I love this picture.

So Nov 10, 2012 my friend Michelle married her best friend Jake. They are cute, aren't they? Mike went with me, the sweetie. Neither of us are big fans of Catholic weddings and neither of us are Catholic - we don't judge though. Was a good wedding. Michelle was gorgeous and it was well done.Got a good workout with standing and sitting too.

So the best part about weddings is the party after the ceremony. Even better is when you go to a Catholic ceremony and then they have an open bar at the reception. God bless the Catholics :)

We enjoyed ourselves, the food was good, great mashed potatoes and veggies, the turkey and gravy to me were good too. Mike had the roast beef. He said it tasted good. They had hors d'oeuvres before the bridal party arrived, those were pretty tasty too. Little mini quesadillas and quiches. Yum, took forever to snatch any of the chicken skewers, but we got some.

He really is sweet...also has a sour side, kind of like a sour patch kid candy. :) I love him all the more.

So that is where Mike and I were that weekend.

We also went and saw the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall." Can I just say, AH-MAZE-ING! You must see this movie if you are any type of Bond fan. Of course I'm a bit fanatical and know too much, but in my opinion, it's better to be Bond obsessed than Twilight obsessed. Sorry ladies.

Then I was at Hyvee and found this magazine. DONE! Bought that and now know even MORE information about the movie than I did before.

So Mike also went hunting last Monday and got some delicious ducks. He does that a lot this time of year so that's another reason we haven't been blogging nearly as much. I should have him blog about hunting and share some of his pictures from the hunts here. Of course he told me one day, I was looking at dogs. LOL, yeah neither of us can afford let alone keep a dog at the moment. But I am all for getting a dog for pet/hunting purposes. We are dog people for sure. We both say, cats are evil. I mean really, think about it. At Halloween  cats are decorations. You don't see dogs being a scary decoration or considered evil. So yeah, dogs are better.

I have an armband for my phone,
this is what happens after 4 miles
While Mike hunts, what do I do? I run, run for what? For fun, health, and training for any and all upcoming 5k/10k/Obstacle races I have and will be signing up for. I'm excited for Warrior Dash in April - hoping I can sign up for Color Run in June, and then in September there is Tough Mudder and in October there is Rugged Maniac again, not sure I want to be that cold again though. Let alone go up that crazy hill at Snow Creek Ski Resort...that's insane!!!

So Mike loaned me his hunting hat one day for a run in the cooler weather. I think he prefers this look to my normal running hat (which can be seen in darker conditions at least ha ha, I'm not trying to hide on runs)

This is my normal hat, yes that's Tigger and it has ears. I love this hat. You can see it at night and it makes me and others smile. :) That's the point.

I finished running one day and this song started as I was walking to cool down, I felt pretty bad ass walking to this song. I love it. Makes you feel like you have accomplished something.

It is also hockey season for the CHL, at least. Since NHL is still in a lock out I have to get hockey somewhere and it's a good thing some friends of Mike and myself have season tickets that they are willing to share on occasion with us. :) I couldn't commit to season tickets this year. Just no. But I do enjoy a good game now and then.

We have cooked, at least a bit, we have to eat ya know. I have been making bread in my bread machine that I finally dusted off. That bread there is homemade, delicious, old school, white bread. Then I made eggs over easy with some spinach and cheese. Simple dinner but delicious and balanced. Then there was the frittata thing that sounded better than it tasted. Not by best attempt at dinner.

So then we have a beautiful sunset happening after work. Mike doesn't see the sun while at work due to working graveyard shift. So here is a beautiful sunset outside the office as I head home for a run.

Mike and I have cooked recently. Since neither he, nor I, will be really participating in Thanksgiving festivities (he has to work and I'm just not really participating) we made turkey breast and sausage stuffing the other night. OMG YUM YUM YUM!!!

Bought a turkey breast and Mike injected it with a jalapeno butter type sauce that kind of oozed out a bit but it definitely did linger in the meat. Then it was seasoned on the outside with seasoned salt. The stuffing was the Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing based with chopped celery, carrot, onion and mushroom and moistened with chicken stock. Then we got some Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage that was flavored with sage. We mixed up the stuffing, placed it on the bottom of the roaster pan, placed the turkey on top and roasted at 325 degrees F for about 2 hours, until the turkey was 165 degrees. Then we placed the stuffing back in for about 20 more minutes to crisp up. This was a delicious hit, totally hit the spot. Much like the sloppy Joe's and mac and cheese we had made Saturday. YUM!!

I looked at Mike at one point in the kitchen and said "holiday meals are going to be a big deal at our house aren't they?" He just kept cooking and said "Yes."

Man we rock at cooking. :)

I will end on an even warmer and fuzzier note. Mike and I are quirky, to say the least, and sometimes he does things that make me giggle uncontrollably in the car. Like this:

I am a bit nerdy, in comparison I guess. :) But it's the little things in life to be happy about and be thankful for.

So I know you all will go out and cook this week. Share what you will be having for Thanksgiving.

Are you trying any new dishes? Is this your first Thanksgiving cooking? Are you traveling? Share, we want to know.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Flavors of Fall: Homemade Apple Butter - In your slow cooker (crockpot)

Since we received the foodie pen pal box and since the day of Rugged Maniac and eating at Cracker Barrel with mom I have been dwelling on apple butter.

Our lovely foodie pen pal was gracious enough to make apple butter and send it our way - sorry honey, I didn't share.

Hers was smooth and creamy. Delicious too. Cracker Barrel tends to have a more grainy texture to it, not much though, still delicious.

I've always enjoyed apple butter but can never really justify the cost to buy a small jar of it. Well no need to try and justify the cost now.

Find apples on sale - like 88 cents a pound from your local grocer (or local apple orchard) and use ingredients you already have in house probably (ground cloves, apple pie spice, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla) then add to your fabulous crock pot and fo-get about it! (done in my best Brooklyn accent I can muster).

So to google I went to find a recipe. I searched and searched to find one that didn't contain 10 bazillion cups of sugar or required me to buy applesauce, I mean, that's cheating right? I want to make it myself not use Mott's applesauce to help me. Gosh, I will buy the apples - especially during apple season and when they are dirt cheap. Of course I'm that anti-box mix baker usually (not that I don't use boxed mixes on occasion).

So after searching and still modifying I found one over here at My Baking Addiction. A lovely blog if I do say so.

I still ended up modifying her recipe, which you will see here shortly.

First I had to go buy some apples - and by some, I mean about 15.

Then I had to prepare to peel, core, and slice. Of course do I have an apple corer? No, so old fashioned knife and wood shop made cutting board (from high school days) it was.

That's my apple army if you couldn't tell. They were taking over my counter space (what little my kitchen has - I hope to one day have a big kitchen with more room than I know what to do with. One day)

I ended up using 5 different types of apples - I wanted variety and something more than just a monotone flavor. I wanted depth, sweetness, tartness, and appely. Yes, appely - it's a word now.

So after peeling - which seemed to take forever and a day - my father called while I was doing so to congratulate me on my costume win at work.

After peeling for forever I finally was able to slice them up into pieces and add them to the crock pot.

Then it was time to cover in the cinnamon, cloves, spices, and sugars.

At this point it looks like I'm making apple pie filling.

So in all it took about 14 hours to make. You have to stir a few times, no biggie really - this turned out fine without excessive stirring (I slept through the first 10 hours of this cooking).

The recipe is as follows:

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
6 1/2 lbs apples - peeled, cored, and sliced (about 15-16 medium apples)
1 cup granulated sugar (I only used 1/2 cup)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (I only used 1/2 cup)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract (pure tastes best)

1. Place apples in slow cooker. In a medium bowl combine spices and sugars. Pour mixture over apples and mix well.
2. Cook in slow cooker for 10 hours, stirring occasionally (or like me only stirring AFTER 10 hours because I went to bed), until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
3. Use an immersion blender (if you have it - or use a potato masher like I did) and puree apples until smooth.
4. Spoon mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze.
5. Serve on whatever suits you - breads, muffins, sweet potatoes, pork chops, or even just eat straight up with a spoon (like I do)

---I cut back from 1 cup of each sugar to 1/2 cup of each due to the variety of apples I used. If your apples aren't as sweet you are more than welcome to add more sugar.
---My apples included, 3 gala, 3 braeburn, 2 golden delicious, 4 granny smith, and 3 Fuji. You are welcome to experiment with whatever suits your fancy.

And here is the final product, I used cans that I have collected from foodie pen pals and friends who can. I do not. I don't have the materials to can quite yet, though Mike and I would love to have a garden and do so.

Yum! This is a bit grainier due to not having an immersion blender to use to smooth it out. Oh well, tastes great anyway even when mashed with a potato masher.

That is all my friends. This proves you don't need to buy most things, you can make just about anything you find jarred, canned, or packaged at the store.

Now go out and cook!