White Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Pretty in pink.

Better Half was up north at our “farm” enjoying pond building and pond blitzing with buddies (for you not in the know, pond blitzing is visiting as many ponds as you possibly can and fishing the heck out of ’em).  As for me, I enjoyed ME time!  Saturday night my dear friend R came over with her knitting and a delicious shrimp and corn salad.  I provided wine and appetizers for our girls-night-in, which is how I came up with this delicious White Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip.

Before sharing this simple recipe, I must tell you that R and I cracked ourselves up that evening.  My sweet friend J (with whom Better Half stayed part of the time) sent me a text/picture of her cooking for the pond blitzers.  I cheekily sent her a picture of R and I toasting each other with our wine glasses.  J replied with a picture of her chugging a bottle of wine.  Hilarious!  However, she’s messing with a master.  I grabbed two antique “hooch” jugs and sent back a picture of us drinking out of the jugs.  Then, we took a picture of us with straws drinking out of 5-gallon carboys.  To finish the fun, the final picture was us drinking out of a spigot from a 5-gallon vat.  We were being so silly, but we were busting our guts. We’re not done. . . .  Dear J, we wish you had been here with us instead of taking care of the fishy-smelly guys!

White Bean & Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil is best)
1 T capers
2 cloves garlic (or more if you like)
Dash of red pepper flakes
1-2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine first five ingredients in food processor and pulse until well blended.  While processor is running, drizzle in olive oil and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with fresh veggies, crackers, or fresh baguette slices.

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Simple Marinade for Deer Loin

I like love game.

And I’m not afraid to say it.  I grew up with very few relatives, particularly of the male species.  When I say few, I mean, I can count them on one hand.  What the heck are “cousins”??  I most definitely was not subjected to hunting, except for one bizarre time when I was about 6 .  My dad went squirrel hunting with friends, and it was quite the occasion because it had never happened before, and never happened again.  I never had the opportunity to eat game until I was an adult.  I can’t believe I married a hunter.  Seriously, even my parents were freaking out about what I was getting myself into.  Imagine their response when their southern daughter, who loved high heels, announced she was marrying and moving to Alaska, all in one fell swoop.  Hum. . . .   I keep trying to forget the reactions.   Oh, I also don’t wear high heels anymore!

I respect those who do not hunt, and all I ask for is respect in return.  Our freezer is filled with all kinds of game, none of which contains hormones, is clean and fresh, and tastes better than anything I’ve ever purchased in a grocery store.  I am filled with incredible gratitude toward the trout that live in the river below our house.  The fact that I can crave trout and in a few hours be eating something people would pay big bucks for, is thrilling.

Whatever you choose to eat, enjoy it with gusto!

Simple Marinade for Deer Loin

¼ cup soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 t olive oil
1 pinch Chinese five-spice powder
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk together all ingredients in a small pan and marinate deer loin (turning meat over occasionally) for at least 6 hours, or (preferably) overnight.  Delicious  grilled as kabobs alternated with onion and served with sautéed kale.

French Baguettes

Mmm, I love me some homemade bread.

Yes, it’s true; I have a yeast love affair.  When I was a child (seriously, a kid, not a teenager) I would bake amazing bread for my family every week.  I have no idea what kind it was, only that it was from a starter that my mother received from a friend.  I baked bread every week until finally I rebelled.  No more bread.  I needed time to torment my little sister and bread making was getting in my way!

Now my house is quiet.  Other than Better Half and our cat, I have no one to torment, so I bake more frequently.  Better Half adores bread, homemade pizza, etc., so I try to do something yeasty at least once a week or so.

Last night we had dear friends over for wicked card playing and Frogmore Stew (OMG-love shrimp and tators!) so I baked two trusty lovely, crunchy baguettes.  My baguette pan holds two loaves, therefore, that’s the recipe I devised.  Two lovely fresh loaves.  Enjoy!

French Baguettes (two)

3½ cups KAF Artisan Flour (or all-purpose)
2¼ teaspooons active dry yeast
½ rounded teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup warm water
Optional for shiny crust: 1 egg white beaten w/ 2 teaspoons water

In mixer (again, I’m using my trusty KitchenAid), mix together 1 cup flour, yeast, and salt.  Add water, honey, and olive oil and beat for approximately 2 minutes.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Switching to kneading blade, add remaining flour and knead on low speed for approximately 6 minutes (scraping side of bowl to incorporate flour, if needed) until the dough is stiff, smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning dough over to coat.  Cover with clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled (approx. 2 hours).

Lightly oil baguette pan.  Punch down dough and knead by hand for approximately 30 seconds.  Divide dough in half and roll each half into a long rope almost the size of your baguette pan and place in pan.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).

Preheat over to 375°.  If you would like a shiny crust, brush the egg white/water mixture lightly over your dough.  Using scissors or sharp knife, cut slashes into dough.  Bake loaves approximately 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and does not yield to pressure.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Or in my house, remove from pan, break open loaf, slather with butter and place in pie-hole.

For more yeast love, check out the über cool blog: YeastSpotting!

Mediterranean Orzo

Simple dinner.  Better Half got home and while he wasn’t feeling too well, I still had yummy fresh lamb chops in the fridge and I wasn’t about to let those lovelies (which I had to buy out of state) waste away.  Also, unfortunately again for Better Half, he is not a big fan of basil or oregano so while this might not have been his cup of tea, too bad because I’m the cook, and I loved it!  The lamb chops were delicious; a simple rub of oregano, pepper, salt, garlic and then grilled approximately three minutes on each side. The orzo was nice and cool; perfect on a hot summer evening.

Mediterranean Orzo

(serves four)

8 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh diced tomatoes (I used yellow because that’s what I had fresh)
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh (homemade!) feta cheese
Salt/Pepper, to taste
Good
balsamic vinegar

Prepare 8 ounces orzo per package instructions and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.   Toss cold orzo with remaining ingredients, except balsamic vinegar.  Prior to serving, drizzle small amount of balsamic vinegar over top.

It would even be tasty with chopped artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes.  Or, ooh, what about nice, chunky tuna mixed in….  Enjoy!

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Protein, must have protein.  This morning at 2:00 (yes, 2:00 in the morning) I was up with a spoonful of peanut butter in my pie-hole.  I don’t like peanut butter that much.  But the last few days I’ve been really lax in eating which, given my love of food, my body probably appreciated the break!  Nonetheless, I’m not up to cooking a huge meal since Better Half isn’t home, so beans and rice it is.  In honor of Better Half’s imminent arrival home and since he’s not too far from Cuba, I’m cooking Cuban Black Beans and Rice.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

1 pound black beans (cooked per package instructions)
4 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 cup chopped green pepper (mixed colors are great)
1 cup chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 lime, cut in half
½ tablespoon cumin seed
1 jalapeno, sliced crosswise
Salt/Pepper, to taste

About 15 minutes prior to beans and rice being fully cooked, saute onion, peppers, and garlic in olive oil until just soft; add ground cumin, cook for one more minute, and combine mixture with beans.  Stir vinegar into beans.

Plate rice and top with beans.  Squeeze lime halves over entire dish.  Sprinkle cumin seeds and jalapeno slices on top.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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