Recipe - Wisconsin Brats


Having lived in Indiana for 20 years we had plenty of time to become proper Hoosiers.  That means we learned:  how to build and sustain a bonfire and throw a Bonfire event; how to play euchre; and how to eat and finally, cook brats.  Interestingly, after years of eating brats (bratwurst sausages) at the various Indiana homes of friends, when I finally attempted to find the perfect brat recipe for myself (for the 4th of July, 2010) I ended up in Wisconsin.

The Bratwurst Pages is worth a visit not only for the recipes but the bratwurst lore as well.  If you're a rule follower you will need to study the site well before beginning your preparations because apparently the rules of the bratwurst must not be broken!

Simmering brats in beer.

Wisconsin Brats

Ingredients

10 uncooked bratwurst sausages
2 or 3 cans of beer
1 large onion, cut into chunks
10 brat buns
condiments:  brown mustard, ketchup, chopped onion, holding sauce

Procedure

1.  Prepare coals for grilling.
2.  Put beer, brats and onion in dutch oven or stockpot.
3.  Add water to cover.
4.  Bring to a simmer.  This means heat the pot until steam begins to rise off the top.  Closely watch your liquid now because you want to maintain a simmer but NEVER let it boil.  Boiling will split the casings, which allows fat to leak and cause grill flare-ups.
5.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from pot and discard the beer and onions.
6.  When coals are ready (you should be able to hold your hand palm-down, 2 inches above the grate, for 4-5 seconds) place brats on the grill 7 - 9 inches above the coals.
7.  To prevent flare-ups handle the brats gently.  Use tongs to turn them often until they're golden brown on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.  Cover grill between turns.
8.  Serve on buns with condiments and beer.

We serve our brats with navy beans and pepper.  Beaver adds ketchup too.

Hope In The Garden


When we moved into our beach house last summer I found that the previous homeowners left behind a number of orchids.  A couple were still in their pots in a shady spot behind the guest cottage; some were tucked into the nooks and crannies of a nearby sawn-off palm tree trunk.  To my great disappointment, the landscapers removed the tree trunk before I could salvage the orchids, and the others were trampled or discarded in the cleanup.  You can imagine my surprise when I spotted this little beauty popping out from behind the fishtail palm the other day!  It gave me great hope and joy at a time in my life when my ability to have any kind of faith is wearing thin.

Christmas pot finally receives a plant.
I promised my readers a picture of my pretty deck pot.  I bought it last December from Sun Harbour Nursery because it was big and blue and I loved the mosaic design.  We finally got around to dumping in some soil and I found a plant that's supposed to be no-maintenance.  It's a philodendron called Hope.

Basil (foreground) and a penta for the butterflies.
Pretty spring container garden.
Little roma tomatoes doing well.
Something killed my serrano pepper plant but I replaced it with another and this one seems much stronger.  I added rosemary to one of the pots.  My cilantro is still going strong, as are the basil and tomato plants.  And to wrap things up, the following pictures are of some local Indian River oranges we bought the other day.  My friend Tomasso took me to the old Harvey's Groves store on U.S. 1 in Rockledge the other day and I was so impressed and entertained by the dinner-plate sized hibiscus they had growing there that I had to bring Beaver back so he could take some pictures.  He took lots and lots of photos without realizing his memory card was still in the card reader back at home.  Luckily I took this one with my iPhone.

A giant Harvey's Grove hibiscus blossom.
#2 oranges are $11.95 for a sack full.
Indian River Valencias perfect for fresh-squeezed juice.


Recipe - Chicken Pub Curry

Our son and daughter-in-law, Captain Morgan and Princess, returned from a recent trip to England and Wales with a few jars of Patak Madras curry paste.  The Captain just loves English curries and wanted to recreate the flavor fest that makes him so happy when he visits pubs over there.  He went through Beaver's The Hairy Bikers' Great Curries cookbook and found a recipe that was spot-on, and yesterday we were invited over to their house so we could enjoy the dish with them.  Based on "Chicken Curry For A Crowd," the Captain modified ingredient quantities to serve just the four of us, though we can eat a crowd's worth; and substituting chicken breast for chicken thighs.  The end result was so delicious that Beaver can't stop emoting today, babbling things like, "simple but exotic" and "taste experience of a lifetime."  Yes, it was that good.  Good job Captain!

Chicken Pub Curry on the stove with basmati rice.  Dig in!

Chicken Pub Curry

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ginger puree (from tube)
4 ounces (about 1/2 jar) curry paste
2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 packet chicken bouillon
salt
pepper

Procedure

1.  Cut up the chicken and onions.  In a large saucepan, heat oil, then add the onions and saute over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, until softened.  Turn the heat up and cook the onions about 6-8 minutes longer until they turn a rich golden brown.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, another minute.

Onions, garlic and ginger turn a rich, golden brown.
2.  Add the chicken pieces and fry them for 5 minutes, turning often until they are no longer pink. Stir in the curry paste and cook it with the chicken for 2-3 minutes, stirring until it covers the chicken all over and gently sizzles.

Frying the chicken mixture.
3.  Add the diced tomatoes and chicken bouillon packet.  Bring to a simmer, stirring regularly.  Cover the pan and simmer for about 1 hour, during which time you should stir occasionally.  Remove the lid and cook the curry down until it's thickened.  The chicken will be tender and almost at the shredding point.

Adding tomatoes.  The Captain had transferred the mixture to a crock pot.  He later put it all back on the stove after seeing that the crock pot wasn't achieving a simmer.
4.  When ready to serve, stir in the chopped cilantro and ladle the mixture into bowls or, if thick enough, onto plates.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with basmati rice and puppadum.

Chicken Pub Curry, ready to serve up.


Recipe - Spicy Hummus

Today we're crossing the lagoon to visit Captain Morgan and Princess for a fun afternoon of food and soccer.  They visit London a lot and have developed a taste for a particular kind of curry found in pubs over there.  When Beaver lent them his The Hairy Bikers' Great Curries cookbook, the Captain was able to find a chicken curry that he felt would replicate the exact dish they love so well, and today he's going to make this recipe for us.  Yum!  Arsenal's on the telly too -- the Captain will have the game on his wall mounted outdoor TV.  It will feel like a real pub, except for that it's warm and sunny and we'll be poolside.

The Captain requested that I bring hummus.  There are many hummus recipes out there and they're all basically the same.  I have no memory of where I got this one, but when I serve it I always get compliments, so it's the only recipe I use.  I always double the recipe.

Home made spicy hummus.

Spicy Hummus

Ingredients

2 tablespoons tahini
1 15-oz can chickpeas
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Procedure

Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Serve with pita or corn chips.  Also delicious with strips of red bell pepper.


Springtime In Our Florida Garden


March blew in like a Wildcat with the visit of our dear friends from the north, Harley and Harley's Babe.  After having a beautiful, hot, sunny end to February, Beaver and I envisioned a fun time at the beach and by the pool with our friends.  Instead, their visit brought on rainy skies and cool temperatures.  But compared to the winter they were having, 60s felt like heaven to them, and they were grateful to be here.  On Friday the sun came out and things warmed up a bit so that happy hour on our deck felt like Margaritaville ought to feel.  Harley and Beaver drank martinis and shucked oysters, then we sat outside for a nice dinner of grilled Carne Asada Tacos (I'll post the recipe later today).

Saturday behaved like proper Florida beach weather ought to:  warm, sunny, and breezy. We spent the entire day at the beach.  We did a little fishing, collected a few shells... but mostly we just sat.  I think our northern friends really needed some time to thaw their frozen bodies.  I was so glad they were able to have that day on the beach before heading back to the snow.

Lobelia, Geraniums, Kale and Lavender on my front porch.
Tiny blue lobelia flowers.
While my friend Babe was here I bought a few plants from my favorite Sun Harbor Nursery.  I replaced the poinsettias on the front porch with colorful spring geraniums and lobelia, adding lavender and kale for texture.  I also bought a tomato plant, at Beaver's request.

Growing herbs and vegetables in containers.
Cilantro, basil, a tomato and a pepper plant: that's my garden in 2014.  It's just a start though.  As I feel more confident growing things in Florida, I can expand my garden.  In Indiana I had a very small window of time to plant, grow and harvest, but here we have several growing seasons.

Not many leaves or flowers on this poor little tree but the butterflies love it.
I'm dreaming of having a butterfly garden on the east side of the house, near my vegetables.  There's a tree in front of our house that I can see from the office window, and it's always full of black swallowtail butterflies in the summer.  I believe it's called a Geiger Tree.  It's rather sparse looking, though prettily shaped, maybe because a Geiger Tree needs full sun and this one's in a grove of palms.  I think I'd like to put another one of these trees in my back yard as a focal point to my future butterfly garden.

The flower cluster on our Geiger Tree.
Now it's mid-March.  Mild and sunny with the occasional rainy day -- not too shabby.  I've been able to walk up to the beach nearly every day to fill my bag with shells to freshen the look of our rock-mulched beds.  Normally we don't have that many seashells wash up, but the last week or so the tides have brought a nice quantity.

I have one more plant to pot but I need Beaver's help with the dirt, so I'm waiting on him.  I'll post a picture when it's done.  I bought the pot at Sun Harbor as a Christmas gift to myself back in December.  It's a brilliant blue inlaid with mosaic tile, just gorgeous, and I have a large leafed philodendron to stick in there.




Fishing and Birding 101

This time of year Florida's typical high humidity is nice and low, so we really make a point to get out there on the beach and do some fishing on our days off.  We love to put fresh-caught fish on the grill and serve up fish tacos with homemade white sauce.  It's pompano season so now we're really on a mission.  This fish is one of the best in-shore catches you can bag, and if you've never tasted it, you really need to put it on your bucket list!
Morning on the beach at the end of our street.
When we go fishing I load up with my sand chair, binoculars, bird book, pen and pad of paper, three SPFs of sunscreen (15, 30 and 50), camera, ID, flip flops, hoodie, seashell bag and towel.  Beave wrestles everything having to do with fishing under his arms, in his hands, and over his shoulders.  We could walk to the beach but freighted as we are with gear, we drive the two blocks.  Our street has its own little parking area.  It's a shady, sandy spot with room for maybe four cars.  There are steps up over the dunes and then steps and a ramp down to the beach.

Gorgeous view.  Every shade of blue!
Beaver decides where we're going to set up.  If there's another fisherman or woman there, we make sure to stay clear of their area.  While Beave fixes his gear and prepares the bait and rigging, I smash my chair into the sand and sit down to have a look at the bird situation.

Beaver works on his rigging.
All shore birds sort of look alike to me.  They're all vaguely Great Blue Herons, pelicans, sandpipers, or sea gulls.  So while Beave hones his fishing skills I decided to upgrade my bird watching by trying to chronicle exactly what kind of shore bird I'm seeing.  This is where my binoculars really make the difference.  I can observe specific bits about the bird, as if it were a criminal and I was going to describe it to the police.  With the aid of my bird book I think I nailed the following birds on our last fishing morning:

Shore Bird List

Ring Billed Gull
Royal Tern
Willet (winter plumage)
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Great Blue Heron
Ruddy Turnstone (winter plumage)

Royal Tern does a stealth walk up to our bait.
On that particular day, there were pelicans flying about but they didn't settle down close by so I couldn't note their markings.  There were porpoises playing out in the ocean, a couple of small water craft sped by, there were two planes on their way to Miami, a couple of other fisherman bagging (and throwing back) whiting, and no sea shells of note.  Beaver's fish count was 5 whiting and 1 jack, which we gave back to the ocean even though three of the whiting were keepers.  We really just want pompano.





Recipe - Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry

While Beaver was having his travel year I was alone most of the time, so I was always on the lookout for yummy, healthy meals-for-one to break the Lean Cuisine monotony.  People dislike cooking for themselves because it's easier to grab something convenient or familiar.  I enjoyed cooking though.  In the past it was always a struggle for me to limit myself to tiny portions of the large meals I used to prepare for my thin husband and growing sons.  With the boys long gone and Beaver traveling I could make meals that were designed just for my needs.  It was cool.  I discovered some new tastes and products that I probably wouldn't have, I lost weight, and I felt happy about myself.

Beaver's travel year is over and I'm back to cooking for the both of us, but rather than go back to the old favorites I'm making meals my way.  He's enjoying the new recipes.  I keep stuff like almonds and his favorite horseradish cheese on hand so he can add in the calories he needs.

This recipe is based on one I got off the Weight Watchers website.  The original recipe calls for pork tenderloin but I make mine with chicken and don't add as much shredded cabbage.  Also WW says that this stuff can be served wrapped in lettuce leaves or served over rice.  I eat mine plain.  It's very filling!  And so easy, you have no excuse not to make it!


Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Ingredients

2 chicken tenderloins, cooked and cut-up
1 cup packaged coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
8 ounces button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
6 medium scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

FOR THE SAUCE:

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Procedure

In a small bowl whisk together hoisin sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, venegar and sambal oelek; set aside.  (I like to heat the sauce on the stove.)

Spray a non-stick skillet with Pam.  Set over high heat.  When hot, add the peppers and celery.  Cook, stirring, until they aren't crunchy any more.  Add the slaw mix and mushrooms and cook until the cabbage is wilted.  Stir in the cut-up chicken and add the sauce.  Cook, stirring, to heat the mixture through.  Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro.

Makes one small dinner (if served with brown rice) with some left over for lunch the next day.  The entire recipe is only 10 points.



Birding in the Wetlands

Last Sunday we drove up to Apopka to participate in an early morning bird watching field trip that was arranged in conjunction with the Old Florida Outdoor Festival.  I wanted to write about it immediately but we have had a beautiful week -- sunny, breezy, low humidity -- and we felt compelled to enjoy the outdoors while the nice weather lasted.

When I read about the festival online I saw that the birding tours were free with the festival ticket purchase ($15.00 each).  We haven't been birding in years, and rarely with a guide, so this seemed like a neat way to reacquaint ourselves with Florida wildlife.  Also, as former chili cook-off contestants, we wanted to attend the festival's Chili Cook-off.  We bought our tickets and signed up for the 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning birding tour which would get us back in time for contest.
Apopka is north of Orlando so we allowed a couple of hours to drive there.  It was hard getting up at 4:30 a.m.  Beaver drove through the dark as I struggled to stay awake in order to repel deer from the roadway (by way of thinking intensely hard about them staying off the road).  We arrived at our destination, the Apopka Sports Complex, and stood alone amid the remains of the previous days' festival.  Not a soul in sight.  Nothing to indicate that there might be a group gathering for a bus ride to the birds.
Deborah Green

Lorne Malo
Finally it all came together.  Much to our surprise we were the only two people who showed up for this particular field trip (there were two on Saturday and one more later in the day on Sunday).  Our guides were Deborah Green, President of the Orange Audubon Society, and Lorne Malo, Environmental Specialist at Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  Holy cow.  We were in for some high quality birding and I had no clue what the etiquette was.  I felt very nervous and thought, god, just get us through the next two hours, just get us through!

Beaver inspects his camera while waiting for the bus to leave.
While we drove to the site Malo filled us in on where we were going:  The Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area is a huge aquatic ecosystem that has suffered from agricultural fertilizers and pesticides since the 1940s, when dikes were built to create farmland from the lake bed. Under the direction of the St. Johns River Water Management District, the area is in the midst of cleanup activities which include marsh and floodplain restoration and the creation of a marsh flow-way system that filters Lake Apopka’s waters by circulating lake water through restored wetlands.

Green up front with binoculars ready.
Malo explained how the water-management district has already started turning the former low-lying farms that helped spoil the lake into new marsh that has attracted a phenomenal variety of birds to Apopka's north shore.  According to the St. Johns River WMD Recreation Guide, a 1998 Christmas bird count (CBC) identified 174 species of birds, the highest species total for an inland count in the 100-year history of the annual CBC. "Bird diversity is extraordinary in this area, and the bird list, which continues to grow, now includes more than 348 species. Other wildlife include alligators, turtles, otters and bobcats".  And coyotes.  We saw one!  He was off in the distance, in the middle of the road ahead.  We saw the coyote tracks and scat everywhere we stopped.  And as for alligators, well, they're there and they are the biggest alligators I've ever seen outside a zoo.

10-footer sunning himself at water's edge.
Once we were inside the locked gates the birdwatching began.  It was just as quiet and peaceful as you would imagine.  Both of our guides began finding birds in the brush and grass, identifying them for us and making sure we saw them too.  Malo had a scope on a tripod which was an amazing tool for identification.  The first time I looked through his lens and saw a close-up view of a Common Yellowthroat I thought, "What a picture this would make"!  Malo trudged from point to point, finding a bird and focusing on it for all of us to view, and I soon came to understand that the joy of birding is in the sighting itself.  Photographing the birds and wildlife is another sport.

Our first early morning stop in the wetlands.
Just inside the gates we stopped and got out of the bus.  It was still misty and cool.  Green and her husband walked off a ways.  I gawked and tried to figure out what our role was in this mission.  Everyone was looking through binoculars except for Beaver who was taking all these lovely photographs.  I heard a lot of bird calls but only saw a few black birds flitting around.

Marshy foliage hides a lot.  You have to be patient.
Our guides taught us to hear the call of the Red-winged Blackbird, which we would see in abundance throughout the entire tour.  "Male Red-winged Blackbirds do everything they can to get noticed, sitting on high perches and belting out their conk-la-ree! song all day long. Females stay lower, skulking through vegetation for food and quietly weaving together their remarkable nests." (from The Cornell Lab or Ornithology)  


I'm Napoleon!  Check these epaulets!

The first bird we saw through Malo's scope was a Common Yellowthroat.  He was busy doing nothing in some bushes.  I wouldn't have seen him without our guides.  Both Green and Malo made an effort to announce what kind of bird they spotted, and where it was.  Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, sparrow, Palm Warbler, some sort of duck (they flew off before we could identify them in the dim morning light)... I began to see the pattern of our field trip and relaxed as we got back on the bus for the long drive throughout the preserve.

Foamy Spanish Moss in the Florida wetlands.
We stopped three or four times before heading back to the festival grounds.  Each stop exhibited a different kind of vegetation and therefore, possibly, different wildlife.  For instance, along the road through the marshy area well away from the lake in an area with huge palms, oaks and willows freighted with spanish moss, we spotted Red-bellied Woodpeckers and nesting boxes set out to encourage the growth of the Barn Owl.

Barn Owl nest box in the Lake Apopka North Shore Wetlands.

One of our two tour guides, Lorne Malo, had been on the previous day's field trips.  He said that they had been fortunate enough to spot the female Vermilion Flycatcher, a bird that has taken up nesting in our neck of the marsh despite the fact that it is native in the American southwest and southward into Mexico.  It made me smile because I thought of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  How did the Vermilion Flycatchers get here?  Were they carried by swallows?  I kept my weird sense of humor to myself though. We got out of the bus at the spot where people had seen the Vermilion, and after fifteen minutes of quiet searching, there she was!  Malo said that she could usually be found in one of three clumps of bare willow so he knew where to look.  Upon finding her he trained his scope on her and we all had several nice long looks.  Beaver even got a (slightly blurry) photograph.

Female Vermilion Flycatcher in the Lake Apopka wetlands.

Looks are deceiving.  We spotted the Vermilion Flycatcher here.

Our last stop was the pump house.  I walked across the boardwalk and came upon two interesting men on bicycles.  Each of them had several long feathers stuck in their caps and one of them was looking through binoculars.  I thought at first that they were bird-watching but it turned out that they were Harry Robinson-watching.  Robinson is a celebrity in the birding community, and apparently these men find him notable as well.  They told me that he walks the Lake Apopka trail every morning.

Pump house picnic area, at the end of a four mile trail from Magnolia Park.

In the picture above, the signs says "Do Not Feed The Alligators".  That would have been real cute at the start of our trip but after seeing the 'gators we saw, I'm telling you:  Do NOT get near one of those critters.  Step away from the alligator.  They are HUGE.

Bird List


Lake Apopka North Shore Wetlands

(not in order of their appearance)

Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Phoebe
Red-tail Hawk
Red-Shoulder Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Vermilion Flycatcher
Common Gallinule
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
Great Blue Heron
Common Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
[Either the Wood Ibis or the Wood Stork]
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Harrier (Marsh Hawk)
Glossy Ibis
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Common Merganser
Red-winged Blackbird
Little Blue Heron
American Coot
Common Snipe
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Boat-tailed Grackle


Plant List

Deborah Green taught me that if I had to eat, I could eat:


Wild Cabbage (Brassica) 
Elderberry









Shucking Raw Oysters

 Beaver loves raw oysters.  He thinks it's a real treat to go to an oyster bar and order a dozen for supper.  They can be pricey though, partly because it's a lot of work to shuck an oyster.  If they're super delicious it's worth the money.  Beave's eaten oysters at several reputable establishments in town but he says that by far the best he's ever had were at D'Jon's in Melbourne Beach, Christmas Eve 2013.

Oysters are not pretty.
For his latest project Beaver decided he wanted to learn to buy and shuck oysters himself.  You can get oyster knives at general goods stores and fish markets.  The one we saw at Walmart was rusted in its package; not very appealing.  He ended up ordering two from Bass Pro Shops for less than five dollars.  We picked them up at the store, saving postage and allowing us a fun afternoon browsing stuff like deer urine, M16 barbecue grill lighters and state of the art tackle boxes.

We got the oysters from Indialantic Seafood Company. They cost around 50 cents a piece -- not bad!  They were all gnarly and barnacled, not real inviting looking, but it's what inside that counts.  Around supper time we fired up the propane deck heater (it was less than 70 degrees), put Margaritaville radio on the outdoor speakers and set up the shucking event.

The shucking begins.
Step one was to figure out which was the hinge end.  You're supposed to find the hinge and insert the knife on either side of the hinge, creating a break in the seal, and then work the knife around until you separate the top, flatter shell from the bottom, more cupped shell.  We decided the pointy end was the hinge.  The first oyster Beaver picked up wouldn't cooperate so he put that back and tried another.  And it worked!

Got it!
After that it was relatively easy.  The hard part is keeping the oyster level so you don't spill the live oyster and its salty water inside.  We had a tray lined with ice cubes ready so Beave could put the half shell in a safe place while getting them all shucked.

This one looks like a classic oyster.  Many of the others were weirdly shaped and covered with barnacles.
Placing the half shells on a bed of ice helps keep them steady until eating time.
Almost done!
Now it's eating time.
When the oysters are all shucked it's time to eat them.  Beaver sprinkles lemon juice all over them first, then dabs a little cocktail sauce or Tabasco sauce on each one.  Slurping raw oysters is easy to learn.  Basically you find a lip-friendly span on the rounded edge of the shell and tilt the shell up as you slurp the contents - oyster and juice both - into your mouth.  Swallow it whole.

Ta da!  The home shucking experience was a success.  Beaver tested and approved.  His next project is to find the best raw oysters in town.  If anyone knows of a particularly outstanding supplier in our area, please let us know!


Recipe - Chunky Meaty Tomato Sauce



While the north has been all about sub-zero temperatures and snow, snow, snow, we've had our share of yucky weather too!  Okay, so sticky, humid, rainy days aren't that horrible but when you live in the Sunshine State you feel gypped when you have a blah day.  Beaver and I bought a propane patio heater with our Christmas money and had really expected to have toasty times on the back deck this winter, but those evenings have been rare.  It's just been very rainy.  Is there even a dry season in Florida?  I do not know.

During these tough weather weeks, a hearty dinner is in order.  I followed a very vague guideline for making homemade spaghetti sauce and built it around a pound of ground (oooh I'm a poet!) buffalo meat (aka bison) that I had ready to use in the refrigerator.  So you know what?  The sauce was awesome!  How awesome was it?  It was so awesome that I'm sharing it with you now.  If you do the math you'll see how wholesome this sauce is too.  Also under 300 mg sodium, for those of you who are counting.  You're welcome.

Beaver's rocket-arm serving technique whips that pasta up and right onto his plate at lightning speed.

Chunky Meaty Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1 can Hunt's diced spicy red pepper tomatoes, drained
1 can Hunt's diced basil, garlic & oregano tomatoes, drained
4 plum tomatoes. seeded and cut into large chunks
1 small onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 bell pepper (red or green), seeded and cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 pound ground buffalo meat

Procedure

Set your burner to medium high and preheat your pan a minute or two.  Buffalo meat is very lean so you may want to spray with Pam first.  Brown the meat, breaking it up with a fork, until mostly cooked.  Leave a few bits of pink if you can because the meat will continue to cook in the sauce.

For the sauce: 

Put the garlic clove in your food processor and pulse to mince it.  Pour in the diced tomatoes and pulse a few times until they are pureed but still chunky.  Add the cut up tomatoes, onion and pepper and pulse until they are diced.  

When the ground buffalo is finished cooking, pour the sauce into the same pan (there shouldn't be any fat to drain off) and bring to a simmer.  Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over whole wheat pasta.

Serves 4.


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