What’s with all the exotic meats in my recipes lately? I know, I know. I’ve been feeling adventurous and curious about these healthier meat options. It’s been very fun so far and extremely successful. Just because it’s a meat most of us is unfamiliar with, doesn’t mean it has to be anymore complicated than working with something common like beef. It seems as though as long as you know the fat content, then you know when cooking it you may need more or less olive oil to prevent it from being dry. And of course, proper spices! If you’re all for trying new meats, you’ll likely love my Wild Boar Ragu which is to die for.
So with elk, I literally treated it like ground beef. And it was a huge success. It has a less greasy taste to it and more rich flavor. In a chili, it’s not so distinctive at all given all the spices involved. So, if you want to give elk a try this may be the best way to try it out! If you’re not about elk, feel free to use any kind of ground meat. There are no strict rules to this at all. Oh and last thing… you could throw all of this in a slow cooker on low for 8hrs if you’re strapped for time. Just leave the beans out of it until the last few minutes before serving and you’re good to go!
6 – 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can green chilies
1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 pound ground elk
½ tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/8 cup dark brown sugar (optional)
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
2 year aged sharp cheddar, shredded for garnish
In a large pot over medium-high heat drizzle the olive oil and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the green chilies and stewed tomatoes, stir for 2 minutes.
Then, add the ground elk, worcestershire sauce, chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper; breaking up the ground elk with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until the meat is mostly cooked through.
Lastly, add the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and let everything come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat to low so it can simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and add the kidney beans the last 5 minutes.
If you love stuffed cabbage rolls, then you’ll love this recipe! It takes the whole dish to a whole new level. I know some people are purists but you’ll be surprised to find there are many cultures including the Middle East that have their own variation of stuffed cabbage or some other kind of leaf. So I took the concept of the traditional Polish stuffed cabbage and used a more flavorful meat like ground lamb and complimenting it using the proper spices for it. Yet another fusion dish perhaps that is worth the prep work, I swear!
I’ll say though, it may sound like a lot of work but it really isn’t. You can make the lamb mixture the day before which is super fast. Then take care of the rest later. One major word of advice though is make sure you have a big, tall pot one you’d use to cook spaghetti in. Also, a hand held strainer that would fit a cabbage head in. This will make removing a piping hot cabbage head so much easier preventing burnt hands.
One last thing, the very end of the leaf can have a very thick spine which makes it difficult sometimes to roll the cabbage leaf. In the picture above you can see I cut an upside-down “V” to remove most of it off. It does make a big difference. Don’t worry about ruining the leaf! If you are confused and have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!
6 – 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped (1/4 of it set aside)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb
¾ cup jasmine rice, mostly or fully cooked
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cabbage head, bottom core removed
2 bay leaves
½ tablespoon garlic powder
Sea salt and pepper
1 cup tomato puree
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
¼ – ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
In a pan over medium-high heat drizzle the olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic, black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon together until the onions are softened, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Mix the ground lamb, rice, cooled onion mixture, fresh cilantro and salt thoroughly in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Place the cabbage head carefully into the boiling hot water using a large strainer with a handle for about 5minutes. You want the leaves to appear bright green.
Remove the cabbage head into a large bowl. Peel off some of the softened leaves and place onto a plate covered with paper towels. Place the cabbage back into the boiling water for a few minutes until the next layer of leaves are ready to be peeled. Do this a few times until you peel most of the leaves off the head. Save the damaged and/or outer leaves to cover the bottom and top of the baking dish.
Using a knife cut an upside-down “V” to remove the toughest part of the spine at the bottom of each leaf. This will make rolling the leaves easier. Place each cabbage leaf sideways, spoon about ¼ cup give or take of the lamb mixture onto the bottom part of the leaf. Roll it up and tuck in the sides before completely rolling it up.
Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with imperfect cabbage leaves, place the stuffed cabbage rolls into the baking dish and sprinkle the top with garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves and vegetable broth. Top the rolls with tomato puree, the remaining fresh chopped onion and feta crumbles.
Cover everything with remaining leftover cabbage leaves and aluminum foil. Bake at 350 F for about an 1h 15min to 1hr 30min. Everything should be boiling hot.
This is a very straight forward recipe that only takes minutes to cook. It’s so simple and so good for you. Most of the meal prepping I do is literally veggie dishes so I can easily heat up and only worry about the main deal. This recipe goes great with practically anything. Bake, pan sear/fry whatever it may be your favorite fish, or chicken breast, steak and lay it on top a bed of the Shredded Radicchio & Brussels. I’ve added a small handful of it to a rough chopped salad among whatever other random goodies I have in the fridge for a quick, lazy lunch or even dinner. BUT, my absolute fav is creating a circle of this in an oiled iron skillet, leaving a 4-5inch in diameter space in the center where I crack an egg or two in the center. Place the lid on top and let cook on medium-high heat for several minutes. Cajun seasoning sprinkled on top is divine! With toast and the oozing yolk, OH MY GOODNESS!
Sooo my point is, make a big batch of this ahead of time. Use it in all sorts of things. Make your life easy. Get your veggies. Be healthier, feel healthier. And life is good. Hey, feel free to add or replace ingredients too. I love it when you guys go outside the box, after all that’s the whole point of this food blog. Creativity and options is endless. Last thing though… To make life that much easier, I buy the bags of shredded carrot but by all means feel free to save some money by using the good ole cheese grater. You can do the same with the brussels sprouts. Personally, I prefer using a very sharp knife and making thin slices to each one. The radicchio though, you’ll have to use a knife to get the shredded effect. It’s about 1/4 of a radicchio head to get a solid cup of thin slices. Okay, I’m done babbling. Go make nowwww!
2 cups shredded raw brussels sprouts (about 20-25)
1 cup shredded radicchio
1 large leak, halved then sliced
½ cup shredded carrots
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ large lemon, juiced
Sea salt & pepper to taste
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil and add everything except the lemon juice. Stir frequently for about 5-7minutes or until the brussels sprouts turn a vibrant green.
Then, squeeze the lemon juice, add salt and pepper. Stir for about 30 seconds and remove from heat.
Here’s another peach recipe I recently went crazy over. Buying a half bushel of peaches from The Peach Truck over at the Nashville Farmers Market was one of the more fun things I’ve done this year. Shhh, don’t judge! I’m a simpleton. And I must say, cooking with bourbon is a new thing for me, which I’m loving! It must have something to do with living in Tennessee the last few years, hmm I dunno. I think it’s important to share that you don’t have to like bourbon to enjoy this dessert. The bourbon mixed with butter and sugar truly gives a very caramel-like flavor. And it just pairs so well with peaches. I wouldn’t want peaches any other way in a crumble!
You don’t have to be a baker to make a crumble. Trust me, I’m not a baker! You can easily put this together very quickly; in fact I think cutting the peaches is the longest part LOL. It’s so worth it though! So the fun part, you know… all the ways you can enjoy a crumble. Of course you can eat as is, piping hot. Yet it’s amazing straight out of the fridge too. Serve it over ice cream if you dare. I pretty much learned from my Father that you can put anything yummy on ice cream LOL. And I know this may sound strange but, this is good over toast or an English muffin. It’s not too far from a jam! All I’m saying is, this won’t last long when you make it. Prepare to have to make it again. Enjoy!
10 peaches, seed removed & cubed
¼ cup bourbon
1/8 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
FOR THE CRUMBLE
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup chilled unsalted butter, small cubes
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea sat
Place the peaches in a 9” x 9” baking dish.
Put the bourbon, vanilla extract, and butter in a small sauce pan, stir until it comes to a boil. Add the brown sugar, whisk while it simmers for about 3 minutes. Let cool.
In a food processor add all the ingredients for the crumble topping making sure the butter is cold and cut in small cubes. Pulse everything about a dozen times until everything resembles coarse meal.
Drizzle the bourbon butter mixture over the peaches and sprinkle the crumble on top evenly.
Bake at 375 F degrees for about 25 minutes or until everything is gold brown on top.
This is the ultimate special occasion recipe whether it’s for someone special or you want something easy and elegant for a group. I’m not going to try and deceive people with the idea that Bison filet is affordable. It is not cheap. You’ll probably pay around $34.99 per pound. But it is worth every damn cent. For a lesser expensive option you can go with beef filet instead. It wasn’t long ago I went to Whole Foods with the intention to buy two filets but they were all out. Grass-fed bison filet was my only filet option, um YES PLEASE. FORCE ME, TAKE THE MONEY! No regrets. Every bite was heaven. And that is why I’m sharing this with you. Because I don’t eat steak often, when I do it’s filet. And now, I prefer bison over beef every damn time. UGH damn foodies.
The recipe is very straight forward and takes no time at all to do. The finishing butter is to die for especially if you make Homemade Butter. Because there’s not a whole lot of time required to make this, you could make it extra special by making your own homemade butter in about 15 minutes. Some times putting a little more time and effort into something shows you care. People tend to appreciate that a lot. I know I do. The delectable side dish in the picture is my Maple Capocollo Wrapped Haricot Verts. It’s my absolute favorite to go with the bison filet because it also doesn’t take much time to assemble and you let the oven do all the cooking.
2 Bison filets (about 1 ½ inch thick)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
½ tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Sea salt & pepper
Cover a both sides of the bison filets with a generous amount of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Let the filets sit until they’re about room temperature.
Using the back of a spoon, soften the butter and mix in the fresh tarragon and chives with a pinch of sea salt. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle the bottom with olive oil and sear the bison filets about 3 minutes on each side. Then place the iron skillet in the oven at 400 F for about 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium.
Place the filets on their plate with a dollop of the tarragon chive butter on top. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Don’t roll your eyes and runaway! Hear me out. I came up with this concoction of an amazing pizza crust alternative for many reasons. NOT because gluten free and low carb is a fad these days. I’ll explain.
You don’t have to be gluten free or low carb to be healthy or to eat healthy rather. Not everyone is gluten intolerant (not allergic, big difference). But there are benefits to avoiding wheat flours in general. Not entirely as it varies from person to person. Although, obesity is a huge issue in the U.S. and now many other countries around the world. Diabetes and heart disease tends to go hand in hand with obesity at some point in a persons life. Keeping your carbohydrate intake to a moderation is one of the single best things you can do for yourself to PREVENT the above mentioned. Monitoring it is also one of the better things you can do for yourself if you’re already obese and/or have other health issues that can be easily managed by dietary habits. So, because I’m all about moderation and compromising on this food blog, THESE are the reasons why I wanted to make this and share this. Okay, on to the good stuff…
This is actually a very easy recipe to make and you can make it ahead of time, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use. There’s no yeast involved and no hours of waiting for dough to rise, knead, rise yadda yadda. You can make many of these, freeze it until you’re ready to use. Win win especially with how tasty this is. You can use dairy-free cheese if you’re lactose intolerant or simply replace the cheese entirely with an extra egg. And just a heads up, you might have to eat this pizza with a fork… which I’m sure is the least of anyone’s worries so long as it tastes good. Most parts of Italy you’ll find eat their pizza with a knife and fork so it’s not a sin!
There’s no wrong way to dress a pizza. We all know this. If you’re looking for a good red sauce you can always use my go-to Homemade Marinara. If you like your pizza sauce on the sweeter side just add a little bit of sugar to the marinara when heating it up. Last thing, when squeezing the water out of the cauliflower be careful to start… it does retain heat for a long time so don’t burn yourself. And squeeze the heck out of it. You’ll be surprised how much water is in cauliflower. Have fun!
1 personal pizza
1 large cheesecloth
1 large cauliflower head
¼ cup grated Romano cheese
¼ heaping cup shredded mozzarella (low moisture)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Cut the florets off the cauliflower head, place them into a food processor and run it through until everything is riced super fine. Place everything into a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 5 minutes.
Fold the cheesecloth in half and place over a strainer, pour the steamed cauliflower into the cheesecloth and let it cool for about 15-20 minutes. Grab all corners of the cheesecloth and squeeze the cauliflower over and over until all the water is removed.
Toss the cauliflower back into the bowel making sure it’s not hot still. Add the egg, Romano cheese, mozzarella, garlic powder, oregano and sea salt. Mix everything kneading it altogether like a dough.
Place some parchment paper onto a baking sheet and spread the cauliflower dough in any shape you like to no thicker than ¼ inch. Bake at 450 F for about 15-20 minutes.
Top the pizza crust with any of your favorite sauces, cheeses and/or toppings and bake for about another 10-15 minutes.
There’s nothing quite like homemade jam using fresh fruit. With peach season in full swing I snagged several peaches from my half bushel I got at the Nashville Farmers Market and decided to once again incorporate bourbon with peaches. It’s part jam and part fruit butter that can be used on ANYTHING! I’ve used this on toast, on ice cream, as a glaze for wild caught Alaskan salmon that turned out incredible.
But I must confess, one of my weaknesses is cheese and crackers. Not just any cheese though, a great strong tangy cheese will go great like swiss, sharp cheddar, a little gorgonzola or a soft cheese like camembert. And since we’re on the topic of cheese, you could totally make a quick crostata or galette with your favorite store bought dough. A little cheese, peach jam and nuts. SO GOOD! You know, just some ideas for you to enjoy!
Yields 13 oz. (about 1 ½ cups)
¼ cup bourbon
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
1 lemon, juiced
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Make a very shallow cut like an “X” at the bottom of the peaches. Boil each peach for about 30 seconds. Remove from the water and peel the skin off. Cut the peach flesh off from around the pits and discard them.
Puree the peaches in a blender or food processor and set aside.
In a sauce pan melt the butter then add the peach puree, bourbon, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Let it come to a boil stirring frequently to prevent from burning.
Reduce the heat so it can reduce slowly while it simmers. Still stirring frequently, scraping down the sides from time to time. Do this for about 40 minutes or until fairly thick. Let it cool before placing in a jar.
NOTE: It will thicken more as it cools
I have to start off by saying, don’t let wild boar scare you. It’s just pork but unlike any other. It’s much leaner and has a richer flavor which works perfect for this ragu. A free range animal grazing on a wide variety of food gets more muscle enhancing movement, which generates a deeper, more flavorful meat than an animal confined and raised only on grain; and there are no antibiotics or hormone supplements to worry about with wild animals.
Although, if you prefer to not use wild boar or cannot find it, feel free to use beef, or pork we’re all familiar with. You can also use other wild meats like venison and rabbit too which is commonly used in some parts of Italy. The key is to use a flavorful meat so I wouldn’t suggest ground turkey or chicken. Save those two for something else instead. I typically give it a good four hours to make this at least. Most of that time is letting it simmer down. I’ve used a slow cooker and it works great but at certain points you may need to leave the lid cracked open.
Before I let you go, in case you didn’t notice; this recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms. Don’t forget you will need that mushroom broth, not just the mushrooms so set it aside. This brings out the earthy rich flavor of the dish entirely. You don’t have to use it but in my opinion it’s a must to pull everything together as one incredible dish. If you happen to tweak the recipe and something amazing came of it, please share!
Makes 6 – 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped super fine
1 large carrot, chopped super fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound wild boar stew meat or ground
1 ounce dried porcini, reconstituted in 1 cup hot water and finely chopped
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup pork broth, beef broth or veggie broth
1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 pound bucatini pasta
Grated Romano cheese for garnish
Add the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat with the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stir everything frequently for about 7 minutes until the onions are translucent and softened. Then, add in the chopped porcini mushrooms and tomato paste, stirring often for about 4 minutes.
When the tomato paste turns a dark brick red color, add the meat, the porcini broth and pork broth. Bring everything to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low allowing it to simmer and reduce. Once most of the liquid has evaporated add the wine, stir. Let it reduce again.
When that has mostly evaporated, add the milk, nutmeg, pepper, and stir well. Bring it back to a simmer, add sea salt to taste. Bring the heat down to low and cook it down until it’s the consistency you like.
Serve over bucatini and a garnish of Romano cheese.
Making homemade butter is quite possibly the most easiest thing you can do in the kitchen. Don’t let the idea of having to go buy cheesecloth and use it scare you. In fact you can find them at pretty much any grocery store. Or you can find better quality ones that you can use over and over again on Amazon.com; which is what I do. It’s extra rewarding to make your own homemade butter especially when it only takes 15 minutes start to finish.
If you have access to heavy cream from a dairy farmer, then even better. You can save a decent amount of money especially for large families if you make your own butter especially if you’re buying a good quality block of butter at the store. Usually I buy grass-fed butter at the store. It has a lot more flavor, it never gets super hard so it’s easy to spread on bread and it softens very quick to room temperature when you want to bake. It’s also a lot healthier for you containing healthy fats because the animal is eating grass (what it normally would in the wild), not grain etc. You really are what you eat.
When you don’t have a punching bag to let out some aggression, you can squeeze and knead the liquid from the butter. It really is a great stress reliever LOL! I mean, it does help. Anyways, making homemade butter doesn’t have to end at just plain butter. You can control the amount of salt you put into it, which is perfect for those who like salted butter but have to watch their sodium intake. And the best thing of all, making different flavors for all sorts of purposes like melting on top of your favorite cut of steak. I’ll be sharing some flavor ideas very soon. So be on the lookout!
Makes about ¾ cup
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
Sea salt (optional)
Fold the cheesecloth into two layers.
Whisk heavy whipping cream on high speed with an electric stand mixer for about 10 minutes until the pale yellow butter starts to separate from the liquid.
Transfer everything into the lined strainer. Gather the cheesecloth around the solids and knead the butter to form a ball and squeezing out the excess liquid.
Rinse well under cold water. Remove from cheesecloth and pat dry with paper towels.
Season the butter with sea salt and use the back of a spoon to fold it in until everything is well incorporated. Taste a tiny bit to gauge the salt contents to your preference.
This is a super quick approach to making a fresh tomato sauce. I wouldn’t give it the credit of a pomodoro sauce but if you love the fresh flavors of tomatoes and basil, this is a great go-to recipe for all sorts of dishes. This will always taste better the next day just like most sauces do. Sure canned tomato sauce is great, but some companies add so much sugar and other crap in it that’s completely unnecessary. Not only that but you really can’t compare quality from fresh to canned. It’s a matter or preference and what you plan to make with the sauce.
One of my favorite quick meals to make with the sauce is slicing a smoked chicken Italian style sausage like Aidells, saute it in a large pan with some leeks and simmer the fresh tomato sauce in it. Serve over pasta. You’ll have tons for leftovers too. Feel free to add any other of your favorite fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, marjarom and rosemary. It’s that much more yummier!
serves well with 1lb of pasta
7 Roma tomatoes (or 5 vine ripe tomatoes)
5 garlic cloves
¼ cup fresh parsley, packed tightly
12 large fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Put all ingredients into a blender and run it until everything is well combined. Pour the sauce into a pan over medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more salt to taste.