Thursday, January 24, 2013

Primal Elk Chili

Roland came home one day and announced that we were buying 1/3 of an elk. As a girl raised in a non-hunting family, I was excited for the new experience, but a little intimidated by the prospect of what to do with elk meat. So, I have been on the hunt (pun intended) for new recipes and uses for our freezer full of elk. Some have been terrible, others acceptable, but this one turned out delicious. Which is a good thing since I made enough to feed us for 4 nights in a row. I'm sure somewhere, Martha Stewart is cringing.

I adapted this recipe from one I found over at Civilized Caveman. Check out his site. He's got some great recipes.

Primal Elk Chili
2 lbs ground elk meat
4 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (14.5 ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 T garlic salt
2 t cayenne
2 t oregano
2 t black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
3 T butter

In large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onions and saute for about 10 minutes. Add in zucchini and peppers and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Add elk meat and all spices and mix well. Continue to cook, stirring often, until meat is no longer pink, approx 10 minutes.

Add in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and whole cinnamon sticks and stir to combine well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and serve hot with shredded cheese if desired.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Homemade Eggnog

This is a delicious recipe perfect for your winter parties and celebrations. We made a batch for New Year's Eve and invited friends to stop by for a glass before heading out to their various get togethers. It is smooth and mild, which is my preference. You could easily make it stronger if that is your taste. Or, if you prefer a non-alcoholic version, just leave out the rum. This makes a great tasting eggnog either way.

Homemade Eggnog
4 cups milk
5 cloves (whole)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla, divided
1 tsp cinnamon
12 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups light rum
4 cups half and half (or cream)
1/2 tsp nutmeg

In a saucepan over low heat, combine milk, cloves and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Heat on lowest setting for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-low and slowly bring mixture to a boil.

In large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return new combined mixture back to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow to boil. Strain to remove whole cloves and allow to cool for 1 hour.

Stir in rum, half & half, remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla and nutmeg. Refrigerate at least 6 hours (or overnight) before serving.


At this time of year we tend to focus on traditions; those we continue and those we hope to put in place. What are your traditions?

I believe traditions are essential in our lives. They create a foundation for our values and also provide a way for us to connect with those we love and create memories for future generations. In a way, our traditions are what keep us connected to loved ones that came before us and those that will come after. Everyone wants leadership. Often, the person willing to uphold the tradition will serve as that leader. Knowing that certain activities and gatherings will happen each year provides a sort of comfort and certainty for our families and friends. I have found that even traditions that seem "silly" are held as important to those involved. While you might expect people to grow out of some traditions, they often look forward to the event and find ways to involve their children or growing families.

Growing up, my family's traditions around Christmas are many of my best memories. My mom made sure to be consistent in activities and even foods that are now an integral part of what I consider "the Holidays". She always made sugar cookies which the kids would decorate together. After we grew older, we still would come together as teenagers to ice the sugar cookies (though our designs became less child-like and more competitive). After moving out of the house, this tradition faded and I found that I missed it. A few years ago I decided to revive this tradition in my own home. Not having kids, it seemed a little unnecessary, but I determined that if the activity and memory make me feel good, it is worth doing. I invited my step-daughters and siblings over to participate. Some years they came, other times they didn't. This year, I convinced myself that I was the only one interested in continuing the sugar cookie tradition, so I planned to just do it alone. I was surprised to have a couple of people ask me about it and whether or not I was hosting it again this year. This goes back to my point that people feel good being involved in traditions. They may not go out of their way to plan it, they may not be as attached as you are, but if the opportunity is presented to participate in familiar family-oriented activities, they will jump at the chance.

In our home, Roland and I have made it a point to create and continue traditions. It is easy to get discouraged when others choose not to participate sometimes, but over the years we have learned that if you provide the consistency, they will always come back. Our families know that we are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While their lives take them out on many paths full of excitement and stress, eventually we all seek out that familiar comforting place we fill with traditions.

So, what are your traditions? I love looking for new ones to share with my family or maybe even good ideas to expand on some of our existing ones. A few of ours include:

  • Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner on St Patrick's Day. We recently turned this into a dinner party to invite friends over for the evening.
  • Lamb Dinner on Easter. Our families always join us for a lamb roast and mint jelly.
  • 4th of July Parade. We meet up at about 4:00 am to go stake out a spot at the local parade. We always stop for Krispy Kreme donuts and then follow it up with a BBQ.
  • Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt. This was a new one for us this year (thanks to Roland's sister for the idea!) but it was a lot of fun and I think we will continue this in years to come. We handed out a scavenger hunt list a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving and invited everyone to collect their items and bring them to Thanksgiving dinner where the winner would receive a prize. The competition was fun and it created an opportunity for family members to work together to help their team win.
  • Sugar Cookies at Christmas. I love to make my mother's recipe and invite the family over to help decorate and take home a plate of treats.
  • Homemade Ornament Exchange. Roland's mother and sister started an ornament exchange a few years ago. They were nice enough to let me join in. Each year the women make a homemade ornament for each of the others and we exchange. The photo at the top of this post was the ornament I made this year.
So, what are your favorite traditions? Do you think tradition plays an important role in your home?