Chow Mein Hotdish

Have you ever noticed that some of your best memories of childhood revolve around food? There is a pretty good reason for that: We are what we eat.

picPlNmr5The other day, I was thinking about a recipe that my mom made for supper once or twice a month in my youth. We called it chow mein, but it’s not in the true sense of what the Chinese envisioned. Regardless, it was one of my favorite meals.

And after giving it some thought, I started looking through some of the recipes my mom had given me over the years and found hers for chow mein, which follows. It includes ground beef, rice, a couple of cans of soup, onion, celery, Worcestershire sauce and, of course, chow mein noodles.

Chow Mein Hotdish
1.5 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups celery, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 bag chow mein noodles
Cook ground beef until brown.
Add onion and celery, cook until almost tender.
Add remaining ingredients except chow mein noodles.
Put into a 2-quart casserole dish.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes.
Uncover and layer with chow mein noodles.
Return to oven, uncovered and bake until noodles are brown, about 15 minutes.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Wild Game Gumbo

Humans have been hunters and gatherers ever since they left the savannas of Africa, the cradle of civilization, millions of years ago.

venison-gumboAnd while game was abundant in the rolling grasslands of our ancestors, it certainly wasn’t as easy for hunters of yesteryear to be as successful in the field as their modern-day counterparts.

Therefore, it stands to reason they also ate a lot of fruits, nuts and yes, vegetables. But there undoubtedly were times when they all were consumed at the same meal.

Wild game and vegetables will be one of the topics I’ll be discussing at a session at this weekend’s Gardening Saturday event at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Here’s a recipe that I plan to share with participants. It’s a gumbo that’s rich in wild game as well as vegetables. Unlike domestic cuts of meats, some wild game may be a little tougher, so your gumbo may take a bit longer to cook than you might expect.

If you are not a hunter, you could use a combination of turkey legs and thighs, some pork shoulder, slab bacon or a ham hock, smoked sausage (andouille is perfect), and maybe some brisket. This also would cut down on your cooking time.

And as with other dishes such as stew and jambalaya, this gumbo is best the next day.

Game Gumbo
3 to 4 pounds of various game meats
1 cup vegetable oil, lard or bacon fat
1 heaping cup flour
1/2 pound bacon
2 minced green peppers
2 minced medium onions
5 to 6 minced celery stalks
6 minced cloves garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 to 2 quarts game stock, chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound okra, sliced into rings
2 tablespoons file powder
2 green onions
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped parsley per person
In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook the bacon slowly, remove and chop. Sear the game meats in the bacon fat. Take your time and do not crowd them. Do it in batches, and add some vegetable oil if needed. Remove the meat as it browns.
Add the cup of oil to the pot, and turn the heat to medium-high. Whisk in the flour, and stir this frequently until it turns the color of coffee with cream. You can go as dark as chocolate brown, but under no circumstances can you let this roux burn. Keep in mind that this takes time, maybe 15 to 25 minutes of frequent stirring.
When the roux is ready, add the peppers, onions, celery and garlic and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring often for 3 to 6 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
Meanwhile, combine the tomato paste with the stock. Mix all the dry spices together except the file powder.
When the veggies are soft, add the stock and turn the heat to high. Stir to combine, and add the meats and the bacon. Add half the dried spice, and a little salt, stir and taste. Add more if you want. Add some hot sauce, stirring and tasting all the while, until it is as spicy as you like. Bring to a boil, drop the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 90 minutes, but probably more like 3 to 4 hours. Check the status of the meats every half-hour after 90 minutes have elapsed. When the meats are about falling off the bone, fish them out and when they cool enough to handle them, pick the meat off the bones. Return the meats to the gumbo and add the okra. Cook for another 15 minutes or so.
Add the file powder, the green onions and parsley. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with rice or all by itself.
Yield: Serves 8 to 12.

Pheasant or Chicken Wraps

Vegetables go great with wild game, which has a more pronounced flavor than its domestic counterpart. Veggies can complement the meat without concealing its taste, which hasn’t been modified by centuries of breeding as is the case with barnyard animals.

BBQ3000ChickenWrapsI’m a big fan of combining vegetables with wild game, which is the topic of one of my sessions at this weekend’s Gardening Saturday event at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Most recently, I’ve combined peppers and onions with some leftover baked pheasant breast (warmed in the microwave), all wrapped up in a flour tortilla and topped with a buffalo-style sauce.

Here’s another recipe that combines vegetables and game in a wrap style, courtesty of Penzeys, the spice people. It’s quick and tasty-perfect for a light lunch or for tomorrow’s lunch with grilled chicken leftover from today’s dinner.

BBQ 3000 Pheasant or Chicken Wraps
2 whole chicken breasts (4 breast pieces, boneless/skinless)
2 red bell peppers
1 orange or yellow bell pepper
1 small red onion
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons BBQ 3000 or barbecue spice
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 soft tortilla wraps
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 to 1 teaspoon BBQ 3000
Rinse chicken, pat dry. Cut onion in rings, quarter bell peppers. Brush chicken and veggies with oil and then sprinkle with BBQ 3000. Grill over medium heat, 4 to 6 minutes per side. The vegetables need to be off the direct heat so they don’t burn, for about the same amount of time. Remove from grill, let cool. Shred lettuce and warm tortilla shells if desired (5 minutes at 350 degrees wrapped in a kitchen towel works well). Whisk together sour cream, ketchup and BBQ 3000. Slice chicken and bell pepper, dice onion. Spoon about a tablespoon of sauce down the middle of each shell, layer with chicken, peppers, onion and lettuce, wrap and serve. A little dab of sauce is quite useful to help the shell stay shut if you are placing the wraps on a platter.
Yield: 12 wraps.

Hermann’s Tater Tot Hotdish

There’s nothing like good comfort food when the weather gets nasty. And in the case of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains regions of the country, there’s been plenty of that to go around this past winter, which as been lingering into spring.

rep-walzs-hermann-the-german-hotdishOne dish that’s been a very popular comfort food over the years is hotdish or casserole, and just about everyone has their favorite.

In our family, it’s Grandma’s Hotdish. Therese has been making it for years, and our grandkids just love it. The easy-to-make hotdish contains a pound of ground meat (usually bison, elk or venison), a can of tomato soup, a can of green beans, a little onion and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

Another hotdish that’s proved popular among many families is one that’s made with tater tots. I’d written about one on my blog several months ago, and it proved to be very popular.

So, here’s another tater tot hotdish recipe for readers to peruse. It comes from Tim Walz, who represents Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Walz’s “Hermann the German Hotdish” recently won the Third Annual Capitol casserole contest hosted by Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian. The secret ingredient in Walz’s hotdish was bottle of Schell’s beer, which is brewed in New Ulm, Minn.

Hermann the German Hotdish
1 package of brats
1 bottle Schell’s beer
1 onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chopped celery
1 can cream of cheddar soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese
1 package tater tots
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add beer, onions and garlic powder. Submerge brats into the pot and reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Butter the casserole dish. Combine remaining ingredients into a separate bowl, minus the tots. Chop up the brats into bite-sized pieces and add to the other ingredients. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, top with tater tots and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with cheese for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking.

Baked Barbecued Chicken

There are more ways to prepare chicken than you shake a stick at, and that’s not surprising, since Americans buy more of the affable bird than any other food.

Oven_BBQ_Chicken_BreastsRoast chicken and fried chicken are two of the most popular methods to cook chicken,  and they’re both very easy. I can attest to that, since at least once a month — and sometimes more — we dine on our Hutterite chickens that are prepared those ways.

Another way to fix chicken that doesn’t require a cook to spend a lot of time in preparation is barbecued, which I’ve made in the past but not since Therese and I have been married.

So, Sunday, we decided to try our hands at barbecued chicken, and our collaborative effort was definitely worth it. Our grandson, Rakeem, gobbled down three or four pieces of chicken and then took the leftovers home.

Baked Barbecued Chicken
1 4- to 5-pound chicken, cut up, skin removed
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 dried cayenne pepper, cut up
1 tablespoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Next, cut up the chicken and remove the skin. Place pieces in an 8-by-11 baking dish, covered with tinfoil, and bake for 45 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil in a saucepan until translucent. Add the rest of ingredients and bring to a boil. Sauce is ready when it starts to thicken.
When the chicken has been in the oven for the prescribed time, remove the covering and baste pieces with about half to two-thirds of barbecue sauce. Return to oven for 30 minutes and then turn pieces of chicken and cover with remaining sauce. Bake for another 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until sauce sticks to the chicken.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Easy Pheasant (or Chicken) Paprika

Preparing entrees with creamed soups have become quite popular over the years. They save time in the kitchen and can come in handy for casseroles and the like.

campbell-s-kitchen-easy-chicken-paprikashBut there are some drawbacks. One, they contain a lot of sodium. Another ingredient in the soup that is favored by food manufacturers is MSG (monosodium glutamate), which some people have trouble digesting.

I have to admit, we use creamed soups occasionally, but a recipe that was given to me years ago by a licensed registered dietitian at Altru Health Systems in Grand Forks is a great substitute that eliminates the aforementioned concerns.

I got to thinking about those store-bought soups recently after mentioning a pheasant recipe to a friend, Marc Messmer, who said he hoped the dish didn’t contain cream of mushroom soup. I told him the dish was made with the substitute, and it turned out fantastic.

Here’s the recipe, which is very simple to make. (Chicken could be easily substituted for the pheasant.)

Easy Pheasant (or Chicken) Paprika
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.25 pounds skinless, boneless pheasant or chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup (regular or 98 percent fat-free) or cream of soup substitute (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt (regular or Greek)
2/3 of a 12-ounce package medium egg noodles (about 4 cups), cooked and drained
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt to taste
Heat the butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms, garlic and celery. Saute until translucent. Addhe chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well-browned on both sides.
Stir the soup, paprika and red pepper in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Stir in the sour cream or yogurt and cook until the sauce is hot and bubbling. Serve the chicken and sauce with egg noodles.
Soup Substitute
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken bouillon granules
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
For a condensed cream soup substitute (1 10.7-ounce can), whisk 1/3 cup mix and 1 1/4 cups water in a small saucepan until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Cool.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

There’s no shortage of restaurants that serve authentic Italian food these days. That’s especially true in large cities. Even smaller ones such as Grand Forks in North Dakota and East Grand Forks across the Red  River in Minnesota are no exceptions.

9970b91e-b379-4a52-9a29-f292b637a067I have to admit, good Italian food is a favorite of mine. Whether it’s a vegetable primavera, lasagna loaded with spicy sausage or a pasta with seafood, Italian cuisine  is something I could eat everyday.

My most recent foray in search of Italian food led me to Mamma Maria’s in the downtown mall in East Grand Forks, where I had a spicy shrimp and pasta dish that was simply scrumptious. Therese also was quite pleased with her spaghetti with Bolognese sauce. And Diane Amiot, who along with her husband, Ron, dined with us, thoroughly enjoyed her homemade lasagna.

As mentioned earlier, I could eat Italian on a daily  basis, so you shouldn’t be surprised that we had spaghetti with a homemade meat and tomato sauce for dinner, just two days after our visit to Mamma Maria’s.

The recipe, which follows, is one I’ve perfected over the years. It can vary from time to time, depending on what kind of ground meat we have available. Our most recent spaghetti featured ground beef and pork sausage. (I often use ground bison, elk or venison.) To give it a little more of a taste of Italy, I ground up some fennel seeds.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound pork sausage
2 6-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
1 pint whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 to 2 tablespoons Lawry’s Mediterranean Herb Salt
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil
Saute onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms, pepper and carrots in olive oil until translucent. Add tomatoes, sauce and paste along with sugar, salt and herbs. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Serve over spaghetti.
Yield: Serves 8.