Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dear Deer&Moose Goulash With Prunes&Walnuts

So Kevin, co-worker of Wil's dad and a passionate hunter gave us a whole bunch of moose and deer meat the other day.
With all that game in our freezer I decided to make one of my all-time favorite winter dishes.
My mum gave me this recipe years ago, and she got it from one of her colleagues. Originally it is made with venison, but really any deer-like game can be thrown into it.
I decided to mix deer with moose for this.
One thing you should know: Moose can sometimes be a bit too 'gamy'. Buttermilk usually takes care of that. just soak the raw moose meat in buttermilk for an hour or longer and it should be less extreme.

I was so busy cooking that I totally forgot to take any pictures in between. Sorry about that.
anyway, here is what you need:

600g/22oz. deer/moose/venison/elk etc. (lean or with a bit of fat on it) cut in goulash cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium-sized onions cut in thin rings
1 tsp garlic finely chopped
2 tsp flour
250ml/8.5oz. red wine (preferably cabernet sauvignon)
60g/2.2oz. prunes (pitted)
2 bay leaves
3 slices of bacon, coarsly chopped
275ml/9.5oz beef broth (preferably home made)
2tsp butter or margarine
100g/3.5oz walnuts, coarsly chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped in slices
salt, pepper


On a stove heat up olive oil in an oven-proof casserole.
Add the meat in small portions and sear each portion over high heat for about 1 minute.
Remove the browned meat from the casserole.
Reduce heat.
Add onions and garlic to the remaining meat juices and sautee for about 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
Stir in the flour and cook for 1 more minute.
Remove from stove and slowly stir in the red wine.
Add meat, prunes, bacon, bay leaves and broth and bring everything to a boil again.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Put the lid on the casserole, or aluminium foil if you don't have an appropriate lid for it.
Cook everything in the oven for about 1.5 - 2 hours at 170°C.
A few minutes before serving melt butter/margarine in a pan, add walnuts and cellery stalks and sautee at medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and toss over the goulash.

Serve with potatoes or mashed potatoes and a glass of red wine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Buttermilk Muffins...with snow and Stevia

We had a snow storm the other day. The temperature dropped from 15-20C to -5°C, and we had about 15 cm of snow. I love snow, so I have no reason to complain. Even the fact that we spent most of the past few days at home doesn't bother me at all. I finally set up my blog, did some research, cooked and cleaned the house. Just like a proper housewife, I know. But it certainly helps making this new place our new home.

The first mission of my day off was to make pumpkin puree.
Here most people prefer the canned ready-to-use version. 
I was curious if it is really that much effort to make it yourself, also because I think homemade is always better than canned.

And, surprise: It was pretty easy. The hardest part is probably to cut the pumpkin 
and to pull out all the seeds and the strings (I recommend a big sharp knife...). 

It is actually pretty easy and not as messy as it may look like.
All you need is a good sharp knife.

You cut the pumpkin shell in equal sized pieces, then brush some oil on the skin part and place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some water, so that the tips won't burn and bake for approx. 20-25min. at 200°C. Remove from oven and let cool down for ten minutes. It should be quite easy to scoop out the softened pulp and remove it from the harder skin part now. Throw everything in a blender and mix until you have puree. 

You may wanna add some water if it is too dry. But be careful not to make the puree to liquid. 
Should that happen, just strain it through a cheese cloth afterwards.

Et voilà: homemade pumpkin puree! So much better than out of a can!

This leads me to my second mission of the day: Baking with Stevia.

Back in Berlin I was asked by Lisa from to test the new natural sweetener Stevia. 
So one of my first baking-in-new-home tasks was to test how Stevia compares to conventional sugar.

Here are a few excerpts from what I found on the internet about this ancient/new miracle sweetener:

Liquid Stevia

...The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose (ordinary table sugar)...
The plant was used extensively by the Guaraní people for more than 1,500 years, and the plant has a long history of medicinal use in Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten local teas, medicines and as a "sweet treat"...
...native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.

...Stevia has been said to have many health benefits, such as: weight control (it controls cravings), can be used during pregnancy, it is known to be beneficial to the pancreas, does not contribute to tooth decay, can reduce high blood pressure, assists digestion, and so on. 
Unlike most artificial sweeteners, Stevia does not break down and can withstand high temperatures while cooking and cold temperatures when frozen. It is also compatible with salt and organic acids and natural sweeteners such as barley malt, honey, fructose and sorbitol. 
Stevia can be used safely and effectively as a substitute for sugar in all recipes where sugar and low calorie sweeteners would be normally used.

Having made all that pumpkin puree I decided to bake pumpkin-buttermilk muffins. One batch usually makes twelve muffins. Therefore I decided to divide the ingredients in half and bake six muffins with regular sugar while I used liquid Stevia for the others. 

I used following recipe: 


2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar*
1/3 cup granulated sugar*
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
a dash nutmeg
1/2 cup butter melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • *according to the Stevia conversion chart, you replace one cup of sugar (ca 200g) with 1 teaspoon of liquid concentrated Stevia.


PREHEAT oven to 400° F. Grease or paper-line 12 muffin cups.

COMBINE flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and ginger in large bowl.* 
Combine butter, pumpkin, eggs and buttermilk in medium bowl. Add to flour mixture, stir just until moistened. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

BAKE for 15 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

*In order to replace the bulk of consistency that sugar normally would add, I mixed more pumpkin puree into the Stevia batter.


Front: Stevia-muffins, Back: sugar-muffins
You can clearly see that the Stevia batter didn't rise as much... 

Both muffin versions weren't as fluffy as I hoped, but I blame that on the higher altitude (Calgary is 3500ft/1066m above sea level) which is known to have quite an effect on baking...
However, the Stevia-muffins were certainly more dense than the sugar-muffins.

The texture of the Stevia-muffins was kind of rubbery. Whether it was the lack of sugar or the pumpkin replacement, I found that quite unpleasant. 

3. Both muffins had a nice pumpkin spice flavor. The Stevia-muffins weren't as sweet as the sugar ones. For people who don't like their treats being so sweet, that's probably ok. I thought the Stevia-muffins were too bland, whereas the sugar in the sugar-muffins rounded out the flavor. The other downside to the Stevia-muffins was that they coated the back of your mouth with a lingering aftertaste.
This aftertaste seemed more extreme to Wil than to me, though. It's comparable to what licorice does
(my husband Wil hates licorice, I love it. So there is that). 

My opinion

Although the results with the Stevia-muffins weren't that great, Stevia is an interesting alternative for people who want to or need to watch their diet, like diabetics for example. 

What I find people underestimate when replacing sugar with alternative sweeteners is, that sugar is not just a sweetener. It adds volume, it feeds and reacts with yeast and other baking-involved bacteria and cultures. Last but not least, when sugar melts in high temperatures it caramelizes, and that also adds flavor to any baking goods.
Therefore when using Stevia I would highly recommend to not replace the whole amount of sugar with Stevia, but maybe only half or a third.

I will definitely stick with sugar, though...


On a Stevia- unrelated note: 
I also roasted the leftover pumpkin seeds. 

before                                                                               after

Try to remove the major chunks of  strings and pulp attached to the seeds. 
Toss pumpkin seeds in a bowl with some melted butter or oil and salt. 
In a single layer spread seeds on a baking sheet.
Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Welcome to the prairie!

Yes, meat&chocolate is still alive. It just went through a hibernation and metamorphosis process.
New home, new plans, new name!

A little more than one month ago Wil, my pet rabbit Beule and I moved from Berlin to the Canadian prairies. We traded our little tiny apartment in the vibrant capital city of Germany for a life on the countryside south of Calgary.

As you can probably imagine, this is a huge change for us, and quite an adventure.
There are tons of things we need to learn and have to get used to.
For example, we are now completely dependent on a car. The town of Okotoks is 5km away and it takes us about 45 minutes to get to downtown Calgary. I didn't drive for over 12 years  because I always lived in big cities with a good public transport system. Now I have to drive in order to buy groceries or to get to work, and I have to practice being a hoarder buying enough food in advance.
So that's definitely a little challenge, because I'm used to just popping downstairs to the grocery store next door for some spontaneous wine, chocolate etc.

But there are also a lot of good things about living on the countryside. Rather than listening to drunk party folks yelling in front of our house at 4am in the morning, we get to fall asleep to coyotes howling in the fields, and wake up to deer eating the crabapples in our garden. And then there is wide-open space, beautiful sunsets and a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains.

Here are some impressions of our new home:

Our little house on the prairies, including our temporary
but mandatory pick-up truck. 

Our property with the big red barn!

Our future vegetable garden - photo taken from our kitchen window

The view we wake up to every morning. I love the rockies!

We even got a little barn cat. We named her Schröder, after my maiden name.
She is still a kitten, but very hungry and growing quickly.

 Schröder, the kitten

And yes, before you ask, my rabbit Beule arrived safe and sound and is enjoying his Canadian home....

The rabbit loves Canada!

...especially his new favourite spot in front of the fireplace.

With so much space and freedom we made tons of (food-) related plans. 

But first of all we need to build up our lives here. 
A few days after our arrival I took on a part-time position at the Kensington Wine Market to learn more about wine, beer and whisky. I've also been helping out as a production assistant at photo shootings for HeroImages. The last time I worked for them I was asked to do some spontaneous food styling for one of their "Christmas"-shoots.

Food styling for HeroImages...The Christmas Ham

So two jobs within the first two weeks of being here...I guess that's not that bad!

You see, I've been quite busy the last couple of weeks and I'm still pretty overwhelmed. Therefore cooking and blogging didn't really happen, also because we didn't have well-functioning internet.
Well, we cooked, but not really anything new...

One of our standard meals for the past four weeks:
scrambled eggs from hutterite eggs with tomatoes, chive from our garden
and maple bacon.

This is going to change very soon! I'm so excited and motivated to try out new recipes and get to know our new kitchen a bit better. But I also want to focus more on the self-sufficient aspect of living on the country side. Wil and I want grow our own fruits and vegetables, hunt, forage, make cheese, smoke meat and maybe have livestock of some sort.

Hibernation is over, my friends. I'm awake and ready to throw myself into new food adventures!
Welcome to Our Little House On the Prairie!