Bear Carnitas

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Yes, you read that correctly. My son was gifted with some bear meat, so I volunteered to cook it for him (none of us had tried it). My mind usually goes to Mexican when I think of cooking meat and I was really leaning toward carne asada or colorado but I wanted to be able to taste the meat. So, I settled on this simple already-loved recipe.

Here’s the link (for those who do not know, if I post a recipe, I only post the ingredients. You have to visit the link to read their instructions).

http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/michoacan-style-pork-carnitas/

  • 18 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (skin-on picnic shoulder is a good choice, too), cut into 2-pound chunks
  • 1/2cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2cup salt
  • About 4 gallons lard or vegetable oil
  • If using vegetable oil: 1pound piece of slab bacon, cut it into 6 or 8 pieces

First: I did not have 18 pounds of bear meat. I had maybe two. So, all quantities were adjusted accordingly (just sprinkled with salt). Second: I used lemon juice because that’s what I had. I also cooked it in beef fat (with about a cup of bacon grease) because I just rendered a bunch a few months ago. Third: I used my crock pot on high for the first step of cooking. For the final step, I got lazy and just tossed the meat under the broiler to crisp up.

I let the meat cook in the crock pot for about 5 hours, until the meat broke apart with a little force. I drained it on paper towels, transferred it to an old pie pan and threw it under the broiler for a few minutes.

I was surprised by the flavor! Hank Shaw described bear’s flavor as beefy pork or porky beef and he was right! I love it! I did not add any other seasoning to this meat and it’s perfect. So, If I could eat all of this (it’s going home with my son after he gets off work), it would be in a bowl with grated cheese, salsa, diced onion, cilantro (see? Fruit AND vegetables), and sour cream.

Pre-Made Gluten Free Products – First List

I’ve been sitting here, keeping a list of the gluten-free items we have tried, their ingredients, and whether we liked them or not. My goal is to come up with a list of ingredients (and a percentage of each ingredient) so I can create my own gluten-free baking mix that we will enjoy. Then, I’ll basically use other people’s recipes (like Gluten Free On A Shoestring).

I originally was planning one long post on our findings (please keep in mind that these are just our opinions) but I keep finding new products to try. So, this will be my first post, reviewing what we’ve tried and whether we liked them or not.  I have added all the foods we liked (and would buy again) in my Amazon store (at the top of the page) but all the photos on this page link back to the companies websites.

I know that not only will tastes differ between nationalities but within regions of the United States. Let me preface this to say: I’m basically a displaced Okie (I just felt my Grandma smack me upside the head for using that term). Both sides of my family moved to California from Oklahoma. So, that is the family background on food. My immediate background revolves around being born and raised in California. My favorite types of food lean toward Mexican and/or Chinese. My husband is basically the same way (with more of an emphasis on Mexican food). His mother did more cooking with vegetables than anyone in my family has ever done but deep down, we are both “Meat and Potato” people, with a little bread on the side (oh, if we could find some San Francisco style sourdough bread that was gluten-free, we’d truly be in heaven). So, that’s my disclaimer. Keep this in mind when I review the following items.

The first gluten free product we bought was this:

Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust at Papa Murphy’s:

At first, it was great (not “Oh, this is just like pizza crust” great but edible). Then, the pizza started cooling of and it took on the texture of a flour tortilla that had been heated, then left uncovered (tough). So, as long as you eat the pizza really fast, it’s great.

Then:

Three Baker’s Gluten Free Bread

This bread was crumbly, dry, and tasted like binder paper. Now, to give them the benefit of the doubt, the freezer this was being stored in was bad. The loaf had ice crystals all over it, so that could account for the texture. The taste, however, was not of freezer-burned bread (yes, I have eaten such). The flavor was as if they forgot to add any salt.

The next one we tried was this:

Udi’s White Bread

This tasted just like plain old white bread (though the sliced are just so small). We loved it! One thing to note: the size of these loaves makes them extremely cost prohibitive to purchase for a family to eat. I still have not figured out how a gluten-free family could afford to survive financially on these pre-made foods.

Udi’s Whole Grain Bread

This was alright. The texture was great but the bread itself was a little sweet. If that’s what you like, this is the bread for you!

Next, our ultimate favorite thing yet:

Krusteaz Gluten Free Pancake Mix

OMG! This stuff right here is better than regular pancake mix! If I remember right, this is the only gluten free item (at this point in our tasting journey) that has sorghum flour in it. So, I’m thinking sorghum flour might be best reserved for sweeter mixes, like muffin and pancake (wow, I really want some more right now).

Next:

Food For Life Gluten Free English Muffins (Multi-Seed)

Yuck. These were not only bland but gummy. Have you ever tried making a yeast bread and something messed up and you ended up with something that resembled rubber? Well, that was these, even though they were toasted and drowned in butter.

Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzel Twists:

These are harder than Rold Gold pretzels but not as “break a tooth” hard as Snyder’s typical pretzels and they are good! You can tell they aren’t gluten pretzels but they are close enough to make us happy.

AND last for this list (though we just bought some more gluten-free snacks at Rite Aid Drug Store yesterday):

Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic Crackers

Have you ever had a water cracker? You know, those round almost bland crackers you typically eat with brie? Well, add some garlic to them and that’s what these taste like. They are good (if you like those kind of crackers). I bought hubby some deviled ham and that was really good spread on these crackers.

I hope this list helps a little in your search for gluten-free alternatives. I know the search is helping us and we have been pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of products out there that are gluten-free (I sure wish there was this wide of a variety for low carb foods).  Remember, I have added all the foods we liked (and would buy again) in my Amazon store (at the top of the page) but all the photos on this page link back to the companies websites.  This will make it much easier for me to remember what I have already posted about (and what products I still have to share with you).

Until next time,
Brenda

Third (and Final) Amazon Store

Alright!  I have now setup my third (and hopefully final) Amazon store.  This one is woefully lacking in items listed.  This is my oldest blog and I have used so many various resources throughout the years to get to where I am today that I’ll be surprised if I remember them all.  I will continually add to the list as I remember (and scour my brain, computer, and bookshelves to jog my memory).

As of this moment, it has a list of all the store-bought gluten free items we have tried (and liked).  I have a list going of what we liked, what we hated, and the ingredients of each item.  My goal is to take all that information and figure out the right mix of gluten-free flours that we will like.  Right now, it seems as if there will be two (can’t remember if I’ve already typed that or not in my last post): one for quick breads/pancakes/muffins, etc. and another for bread like foods (you know, white bread).  I discovered that with each product link, I can add my own notes (so, of course, I did with all the products so far).

The other things I have listed are all the knitting and crochet books I have.  Those I also know are not complete lists but I’m pretty sure I’m only missing a few.  I have cookbooks listed and yes, that is not a complete list.  I will also include a list of books on gardening/homestead but my brain’s a bit fried right now so that list is empty.

The link to the store is to the right and along the top of the page (I figured doing a store like this would be easier than a links page, where we know web sites tend to disappear over time).

Also, here’s the link: My Amazon Store.  I won’t be posting an update every time I post something new to the store.  Just know that it’s there: a constant reference list of all the things I have enjoyed and learned from over the years.

I hope everyone is having a great Monday!

Brenda

Naan Bread (or How To Make Your Dog Hate You)

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: I know nothing about real naan bread.  I’m pretty sure I’ve only had real Indian food once.  That was at a restaurant in London, with a friend standing next to me saying, “Try that, not that” as he steered me away from the really spicy foods (I couldn’t handle those at the time).  I really can’t recall if there was anything there that resembled a bread product.  So, why am I making naan?  My husband.  He bought some at Costco (La Brea Brand) and really loved them.  So, I thought, how hard could they be to make?

Well, they aren’t very difficult to make.  It’s really the cooking that is tricky.  I will explain that in a bit.  First, I tried two different recipes.

The first was this one: How to make the perfect naan bread. She basically took a few recipes apart and put a new one together, with hers calling for water as the liquid and yogurt. She said it’s the perfect one, right? Well, maybe it was the cooking method I used (which I read about on another web page) but I doubt it. I placed two rimmed baking sheets in the oven and turned on the broiler. Once the sheets were hot, I placed the naan on the baking sheets and watched them carefully as they cooked. These had a fantastic flavor but didn’t have … not sure how to describe it, but they weren’t as elastic as they should have been.

These were still warm.

These were still warm.

The second recipe I just finished is this one: How to Make Naan Bread {Step by Step Instructions and Pictures}. She used milk as the liquid with no yogurt. The texture was fantastic! They were elastic and the dough behaved wonderfully BUT there’s little flavor. So, this is where I thought I saw my dog pack a bag to leave me: I cooked these as described in the recipe. I placed those same rimmed baking sheets in the oven and set the temperature to 500 degrees F. Well, when I opened up the oven door, a lovely cloud of smoke engulfed me and spread like a lethal fog throughout the house. My dog, who hates being outside alone, actually went to the back door and would not leave it until I let him outside. Take a look at how these turned out compared to the first batch:

These were still warm also but look at the difference in texture/density.

These were still warm also but look at the difference in texture/density.

So, what is my conclusion? I think the next batch, I will just add 5 Tablespoons of plain yogurt (have a little bit left so I will be making some more) to the second recipe After really looking at both recipes, that won’t work.  So, after looking long and hard, this recipe has everything: milk, yogurt AND butter, so this is the recipe I’ll use: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/onion-naan AND possibly buy a couple of baking stones (or brand new baking sheets). I’m not sure my dog can handle another day like today. 🙂

I just did this recipe (February 27, 2015) and cooked the bread on the charcoal grill. FANTASTIC! The flavor was perfect and the texture was fantastic! We learned the hard way NOT to roll them too thin or immediately put them over the coals (we ended up with a giant burned cracker). Here’s a picture of how we cooked them, followed by the recipe.

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http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/onion-naan

Onion Naan

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface and hands
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
2 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil plus more

Challah

The first loaf of bread I ever made was challah.  I had to be … maybe 12 years old?  I don’t remember the exact age but do remember where we were living (so that narrows down the time frame a bit).  I also remember that beautiful loaf of bread.  It was gorgeous and HUGE!  I was so proud!  Well, until I cut into that dark golden crust to find raw dough (just about an inch of the dough had cooked … the rest was raw as can be).  That was also the last time I made bread until I was an adult.  I’ve made bread that resembled a chunk of concrete to bread that resembled a dried glob of glue but I was determined.  It’s taken me many years of trial and error to figure out exactly how long to knead and  how much flour/liquid to add to obtain the right consistency.   I’m very happy with my bread making skills (I’ve worked hard for them 🙂 ).

So, while trying to figure out a way to pay back my neighbor for finishing off the front yard that we started whacking on Valentine’s Day, I decided on challah.  I have been wanting to make it so long and this time (yes, this was the first time I had made it since that day too many years ago) it was beautiful (and edible)! I used a recipe I had written down and stuffed in my binder of recipes.  I have no idea when I wrote this down or who it was who originally shared it (may have been a friend who lives in Israel) BUT I discovered (while doing my favorite activity … searching the internet) a woman who pretty much uses the same recipe on You Tube!  The recipe she uses makes 4 huge loaves.  The recipe I have makes 6 standard loaves (so, just cut the dough into 6 pieces instead of 4 and you are good, unless you have a large family or are making this to take somewhere).

So, here is the playlist of her videos, plus a couple more.  The first video is an amazing demonstration of various ways to form/braid rolls and loaves.  I just sat there with my jaw open, in shock that there are so many different ways to manipulate the dough!  The second is a woman demonstrating the various braiding methods for loaves: from 3 strands up to 9 strands.

AND here’s my bread:

I cut the dough into 6 sections and made 4 loaves.

I cut the dough into 6 sections and made 4 loaves.

See that ugly loaf?  That’s what happens when you forget to grease your loaf pans!  Here’s a close-up:

The bottom of the loaf stuck like crazy to the pan.

The bottom of the loaf stuck like crazy to the pan.

So, those took care of four of the dough chunks and this is what I did with the other two.  I cut each of them into 6 sections and made sandwich rolls out of them.  Now, these look beautiful but I cooked them way too long.  That’s what happens when you turn the timer off (because they weren’t quite brown enough) and then proceed to talk to the neighbor about how her grandson is doing.

3 of these large rolls is the equivalent to one loaf.

3 of these large rolls is the equivalent to one loaf.

And here’s the recipe I used:

Challah

  • 3 Tablespoons Yeast
  • 4 cups warm Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt (reduce if you use salted butter instead of oil, like I did)
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil (I don’t use vegetable oil nor canola oil.  I used melted butter because my olive oil supply is currently limited and I forgot I had peanut oil)
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 12 cups Flour (approximate)

For Egg Wash:

  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Sesame Seeds (optional)

In a large bowl (remember, enough dough for 6 loaves of bread), pour in the warm water (How warm?  I test on my wrist: if it doesn’t make me flinch, it’s good.  For more specifics, check out this web page: Yeast Is Fussy About Temperature) and whisk in the yeast and sugar (I use Saf-Instant.  I don’t bake a lot  so once opened, I store it in the freezer.  I have had the most consistent results from this yeast even when it has expired).  Let sit in a warm spot until it looks like a layer of foam is across the top of the liquid.

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In a smaller bowl, break the eggs into it and whisk in the salt and oil.  Once the yeast is ready (proofed), whisk the egg mixture into the yeast until everything is well incorporated and you can’t see chunk of egg.  Now, for the fun part: adding the flour.

Using a large spoon, stir the flour (1 to 2 cups at a time) into the liquid.  Keep doing this until it feels like your arm is going to fall off (I tried making large batches of dough like this when I had a working Kitchen Aid mixer … it wasn’t pretty and is probably what lead to it dying).  Then, on a large surface (counter top, kitchen table, whatever will work as long as it is sturdy) sprinkle about 1/4 cup or so of flour and turn your dough out onto the floured surface.  Time to knead in more flour.

This is where I used to mess up.  When a recipe called for X-amount of flour, I used it all.  The amount of flour you use depends on so many factors from the humidity in your house to the size of the eggs you use to what kind of flour you are using that you need to pay attention to how the dough is behaving to determine how much flour you really use for a certain recipe.  I typically add (to the bowl) all but the last two or so cups, then add more flour while I knead.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

When the dough is ready place in an oiled bowl (I don’t have one large enough so I used my stock pot), cover with plastic wrap or a towel (I usually wet a towel with hot water, wring it out, and cover the bowl with it if I’m using a container that doesn’t like plastic wrap) and let rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is).  Once it is risen, punch the dough down and place it onto a very lightly floured surface.  Knead just a bit so you can form a nice ball, then separate into sections to make loaves or rolls.

Now, get the egg wash ready.  In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and vanilla (if you are using it).

Each one of the loaves I did a 6-strand braid and the rolls were two strands each.  You can shape the dough however you want. Once shaped, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).  Let the loaves rise until nearly doubled (1 or 2 hours).  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves are a deep golden brown.  Each one of my loaves were baked for 25 to 30 minutes and, because I got distracted, the rolls probably went for about 40 minutes.

 

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

So, do you have canned carrots (or you could use older fresh carrots) that turned to mush and you don’t know what to do with them?  How about make a carrot cake!  I’m also thinking this may be good with canned pumpkin and/or canned sweet potato.

Update: I just made this (muffins instead of cake … baked for 15 to 20 minutes) and they are amazing!  They aren’t spike-your-blood-sugar sweet and so flavorful!  This recipe is a keeper.  I made some changes that I will note here:

  1. Replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with almond flour
  2. Replaced the remaining flour (1 cup) with 1/3 cup of wheat germ (Why?  Because I had some)
  3. Reduced the milk to 1/4 cup due to the excess liquid in my carrots
  4. Reduced the total added sweetener by half (so, 3/4 cup total), then replaced 1/4 cup of the brown sugar with Splenda
  5. Substituted all-spice for the nutmeg (Why?  Because I didn’t have any nutmeg)

Note: I had one quart of thickly cut home canned carrots and ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of mashed carrots.  I adjusted the recipe accordingly.

I may or may not make the frosting but if I do, it will be with mostly Splenda with a bit of powdered sugar (I have come to the conclusion that Splenda tends to get bitter if using a lot … mostly because I kept trying to slip some in hubby’s coffee and he immediately noticed).

http://www.daringgourmet.com/2014/02/18/old-fashioned-carrot-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

For Cake:
½ cup walnuts
1 cup pureed carrots (boil just under a pound of carrots until soft; drain and cool, then puree in a food processor.)
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (be careful to avoid the white pith of the orange, it’s bitter)
½ cup raisins

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Nut Loaf Bread

I know this is a bit late (should have posted this around Thanksgiving when all the canned pumpkin was on sale) but this looks like the best Pumpkin Bread recipe out there (like on my mom’s friend used to make).

http://www.food.com/recipe/old-fashioned-pumpkin-nut-loaf-bread-184460

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Now, if you don’t have evaporated milk, here’s a substitute:

To produce 1 cup of evaporated milk, simmer 2 1/4 cups of regular milk down until it becomes 1 cup.

In many recipes, evaporated milk may also be replaced with a combination of whole milk and half-and-half. For 1 cup of evaporated milk, use 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup half-and-half.

And:

Mix 2/3 cup non-fat dry milk with 3/4 cup water.

Cranberry Mousse – Debesmanna

HA!  Something to do with Cream of Wheat aside from eating it “as is” for breakfast!

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Debesmanna-Cranberry-Mousse

INGREDIENTS
3 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
½ cup sugar
½ cup farina or cream of wheat
Milk, for serving (optional)

Mushroom Barley Soup

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Mushroom-Barley-Soup-993

Ingredients
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
    1 pound mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2 large carrots, chopped
    2 large celery stalks, chopped
    1 onion, chopped
    1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed

    2 tablespoons all purpose flour
    8 cups canned vegetable broth
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dillweed

Winter Three-Grain Soup

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/winter-three-grain-soup

3 medium leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and chopped
    2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 teaspoon thyme
    Fine sea salt
    One 14-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed, juices reserved
    6 cups cold water
    1 head of garlic, separated into peeled cloves
    1/3 cup brown rice
    1/3 cup dark green Puy lentils
    1/3 cup wheat berries
    Freshly ground pepper