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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Carnival Cookies

So it's the Snowpocalypse and I couldn't be happier.  School's cancelled and we still have power.  That means a nice relaxing breakfast and coffee on the couch, followed by some quality baking.  So, I decided to try out a recipe from one of my cookbooks that seemed like it could be delicious while being healthy at the same time.  Carnival cookies is usually a name given to cookies that contain a mish mash of everything you have on hand.  Well, these are that, except there are no added sugars asided from bananas and chocolate chips and just a quarter cup of coconut oil.  The rest of the mish mash consists of oats, almond meal, peanuts, and popcorn.

I was very wary, but too curious to not try it out.  I like all of the ingredients, I was only nervous because I had tried out a recipe for cookies made solely of bananas and oats the other day.  I won't name the popular blog that I got the recipe from, but if you see a healthy cookie recipe consisting of only bananas and instant oats, rethink making them.  They were gross...let me rephrase...they were extremely gross.  Everything about them.  The consistency was rubbery and they only tasted like banana oatmeal.  They tasted bad right after they came out of the oven and they became worse as they cooled.  You could hardly call it a cookie.  I was so mad I wasted the bananas.  However, these cookies seemed like they had potential due to all the awesome extras, and although the awful taste still lingered from those other disgusting excuses for a cookie, I dove in anyway, and the result is fantastic.  They have the perfect amount of sweetness from the bananas and chocolate, the sea salt compliments that sweetness just right, and the peanuts and popcorn make for an awesome texture.  These cookies are strange but delicious...strangely delicious.  I can't stop eating them, so that's a good sign.  They aren't the prettiest cookie, but they were definitely more than worth the minimal effort, and if you're looking for a healthier cookie, this is a great option.

Carnival Cookies
recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday

3 bananas, mashed very well
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1-1/2 rolled oats
1/2 cup almond meal or flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of choice
2/3 cup shelled unsalted peanuts
1-1/2 cups air-popped popcorn

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the banana, vanilla, and coconut oil.  In another bowl, combine the oats, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Add this to the wet ingredients and combine.  Add the chocolate and peanuts and combine, and then gently incorporate the popcorn.  Form heaping tablespoons of the mixture into balls (I used my hands to get these together since the mixture is very loose) and place on a lined baking sheet about an inch apart from eachother.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  If using two trays at a time, rotate them halfway through the cooking time.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Venison Stew with Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Before I share the recipes for what has been the only stew I've ever truly enjoyed, as well as the best mashed potatoes I have ever made, please let me take a moment to explain why I have not been posting as much over these last few sure as hell is not because I haven't been cooking.  I am constantly cooking.

I have made many recipes over these last few months that I would have liked to share - and eventually I promise to dammit.  There has been the easiest black bean tacos ever (this has become a weekly staple in the Faulkner house), green enchiladas, spinach and feta pastry puffs, crispy waffles (I got a waffle iron for Christmas and have been breaking it in almost every weekend), crock pot french dip sandwiches, a new pomodoro sauce, delicious home fries under a perfect over easy egg, chocolate chip banana bread, and a major life changer - the first carbonara I have ever made - with crispy brussels sprouts leaves and pancetta.  I will one day share each and every one of these recipes with you.  The reason I have not yet is that many times I have finished cooking and either been too hungry, tired, or simply flustered to bother setting up a pretty plate and take some good pictures before I get to enjoy the meal.  Especially in the winter when I lose the light quickly, I truly don't have the energy to get out my external flash and a pop up umbrella screen.  It sometimes seems like way to much work for a hobby that I do for fun.  And...

Adrienne, although only four years old, seems to have entered into a stage of teenage adolescence in which she is able to throw the attitude of a fourteen year old at me.  Four going on freaking fifteen, I tell you.  Dinner time has not been pleasant to say the least.  The meal of love and sweat that I reluctantly deconstruct for her is usually met with derision nonetheless and a battle ensues in which the ultimatum of try it, don't try it, but just stop whining about it, or go to your room has become a staple around dinner time.  My only nonnegotiables are that you can't say you don't like it if you don't try it and if you want to cry about it, then do it in your room so mommy can have a tear and scream free dinner.  The battle is hard, and after a long week of this, I often wonder why I don't just comply and make her macaroni and cheese or hot dogs every night for dinner.  Then I remember that this too shall pass.  One day she will appreciate my cooking.  Maybe?  Hopefully?  Regardless, I will continue to fight the good fight, and no matter what, I will still take pleasure in knowing that I cooked a good meal whether she chooses to enjoy it or appreciate it or none of the above.

Besides, I think I am making progress.  Tonight, I took some carrots and venison from the stew and washed off the gravy, put the pieces separately on her plate, and, without complaint, she tasted both venison and carrots.  Of course she said she didn't like either anyway, but there was no crying.  Baby steps.  Anyway, this is total karma - a was even worse when I was her age.  So there you have it - in case you cared.  For all the moms out there that have gone through or are currently going through the same thing...I hope this makes you feel like you are not alone.  For all those moms who have no clue what I am talking about...I swear I'm not making this up,

The following venison recipe started with this Emeril Lagasse recipe, but ultimately I messed with most of the ingredients and ratios.  I left his "essence" spice blend completely in tact but halved the  cayenne - which is a good thing - even with less it had a kick to it.)  Also, I'm sure this would be awesome with any type of stew meat, but since we have about 50 pounds of venison left in our freezer (Jim bagged a deer this season), I won't be finding out myself any time soon.  The mashed potatoes are the best I have ever made, which is the result of all the trial and error that has come before.  I finally got it just right.  I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we (Adrienne excluded) did.  Make sure to have some crusty bread on hand to dunk in all the extra stew gravy.

Venison Stew

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne (omit if you don't want any heat)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 lbs venison stew meat, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 6 to 8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock

Heat half the olive oil in a large pot over high heat.  While the oil is heating, mix the next nine ingredients together and toss the venison with about half the mixture until evenly coated (save the rest of this mixture for later in the cooking process).  Add the venison to the hot pot and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, just to sear the outside.  You do not want to overcook venison.  It will continue to cook and will soften while stewing over the low heat.  Remove meat to a bowl, turn the heat down to medium, and heat the remaining oil.  Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the mushrooms, season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.  Now add the remaining flour/spice mixture to the pot and stir until the flour is incorporated completely and is no longer white.  Add the cup of wine and scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of your pot.  Add the sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, and beef stock and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the meat is tender.  Serve over the following mashed potatoes and some crusty bread.

Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche
salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a pot filled with cold water.  Bring to a a boil and contiue to cooke about 20 to 25 minutes.  Test the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done at the 20 minute mark.  While the potatoes cook, warm the milk and butter together in a small pot over medium-low heat until the butter is melted.  Once they are cooked, drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Stir them over low heat to get rid of as much water as possible.  Then lightly mash or rice (I use a masher since i don't own a ricer) the potatoes.  Add half of the milk/butter mixture and mix.  Do not overmash or overmix the potatoes - they will get gummy.  Add the crème fraîche and mix just until incorporated.  Taste and then add salt, pepper, and any more of the milk/butter mixture until it suits your taste.  Serve immediately.