Friday, February 25, 2011

Venison Tacos with Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce

We're big fans of Mexican food at my house and since I have a freezer full of deer meat, I came up with a quick and easy recipe for deer tacos.  And since I can be seriously lazy in the kitchen, all the magic happens in a crockpot so I'm not slaving over a hot stove.

Now listen up and listen up good.

-If you don't have venison you can use beef.  I've done it thousands of times.  (Slight exaggeration there.) A chuck roast will do nicely.  Or a cheaper cut of steak.  Just change the name to beef tacos and don't worry your pretty little head about it, okay?

-The seasonings are completely adjustable.  Do what you like.  Like what you do.  That's what I always say.

-There is no need to add any liquid to the meat in the crockpot.  The venison gives off enough juice to baste in while it cooks.  I wouldn't put the crockpot on high and go spend the day at the mall, though.  The juice will eventually evaporate out.  I speak from experience.

-I like cilantro.  Do you like cilantro?  I just don't understand the people who say cilantro tastes like soap.  I don't get that at all.  To me, it's not a taco unless it has cilantro on it.

-The sauce can be processed in a food processor which is how I prefer to do it, but my mini food processor bit the dust the other day and I had to throw it away.  Note to self:  spend more than $8.00 on a mini food processor next time.  Also, I put my sauce in a squeeze bottle to make taco assembly move a little faster.

-I strongly recommend squeezing a wedge of lime juice onto your taco.  In fact, I demand that you do.

- I prefer corn tortillas for a more authentic flavor, but they can tear easily, so I usually use two corn tortillas per taco and double wrap them.

Venison Tacos with Creamy Cilantro-Lime Sauce

1 1/2 pounds venison ham, shoulder, or backstrap
2 heaping teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Cilantro-Lime Sauce:
1 heaping cup sour cream
3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup very finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Warm flour tortillas, and/or corn tortillas that have been lightly fried in vegetable or canola oil just until soft
Shredded cheese (I like Monterey Jack), finely chopped red onion, chopped cilantro, lime wedges for topping

Cut the venison into very small cubes.  Place in a slow cooker.  Add the chili powder and next five ingredients; stir well to combine.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until tender.

To make the sauce, whisk together the sour cream and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Refrigerate until needed.  The sauce can also be processed in a food processor.  (I like to transfer my sauce to a squeeze bottle.)

Fill tortillas (use two tortillas if using corn to prevent tearing) with meat, then add cheese and sauce.  Top with chopped red onion and chopped cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

Think small when you're cutting up your deer meat.  It will shrink quite a bit during the cooking process, but it needs to fit nicely in a tortilla.

Sprinkle the seasonings over the meat, then give it a stir.  Easy.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Decadent Double-Stuffed Strawberry and Chocolate “Makin’ Whoopie” Pies in Strawberry Pools

Happy Valentine's Day!  I entered a recipe contest last week and even though I didn't win, they're sending me a strawberry tea kettle for being a runner-up.

Now I have no excuse not to start drinking tea. 

The contest was sponsored by California Strawberries and the theme was romantic strawberry recipes.  Take a look at the other recipes on their site.  There are some real beauties. 

So...drum roll please... here are my "Makin' Whoopie" pies. ;o)

Decadent Double-Stuffed Strawberry and Chocolate “Makin’ Whoopie” Pies in Strawberry Pools

Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces mascarpone or cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
Strawberry Sauce:
3 cups chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Sliced strawberries for garnish, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.  

Combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and flour in a large bowl.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating on medium speed until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides several times.

Drop the dough by a 1/4 cup measure ice cream or cookie scoop onto the baking sheets spacing about 3 inches apart.  

Bake for 15 minutes, until they're set and firm to the touch. Remove from oven, and cool on the pans

Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla on high speed in a medium bowl until firm peaks form; set aside.  In another bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese and marshmallow cream until smooth.  Fold in the whipped cream, then 1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries.  Refrigerate until needed. 

To make the sauce, place 3 cups of chopped strawberries, 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, and the lemon juice in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat just until sugar is dissolved and juices are released, 2-3 minutes, stirring often.  Pour the mixture into a blender and process until smooth.  Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer discarding seeds and pulp.  Keep sauce refrigerated until needed.

Spread the flat side of all the cakes with a thin layer of chocolate hazelnut topping (about 1 tablespoon). Place a large dollop of filling on half of the cakes, then top with the other half of the cakes, flat side in, pressing down slightly.

If desired, cut a heart shape out of a piece of paper and place on the top of each cake, centering the heart in the middle.  Dust with a little powdered sugar to create a heart shape decoration.

To serve, spoon some of the strawberry sauce onto a plate creating a pool, then place a filled whoopie pie in the center.  Garnish with sliced strawberries, if desired, and serve with a fork.  8 whoopie pies.

*Heating the chocolate-hazelnut spread in the microwave for just 10-15 seconds, then stirring until smooth, makes it easier to spread on the cakes.

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