real food

Make Your Own Ready-To-Go Burger Patties

I don’t know why we never did this before. Such a simple and yet ingenious idea. Make your OWN burger patties and freeze them for quick, easy dinners. (Instead of buying what someone else made for you and is loaded with preservatives and other additives.)

You can modify this any number of ways to make the preparation as easy and quick as you need; ours was a little more time-consuming because we used venison that we had to grind first but if you don’t want to take the extra time for that sort of thing (or don’t have an appliance that will grind your meat) you can just buy ground beef and add spices and flavors to your liking. Here’s how we made ours.

Ingredients
Servings: 12 half-pound patties

  • 2 lbs venison
  • 5 ounces of salt pork
  • 1 jalapeno
  • red onion
  • bell pepper
  • green onion
  • minced garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp tapioca flour
  • small handful of bacon bits

Sorry that I don’t have exact measurements on most items. This was Don’s brainchild and as many of you know, he’s not the measuring type. 

  1. We ground the venison and salt pork and mixed them well until they were fully incorporated. (It is important to add fat when using venison or even very lean beef because it helps hold the patty together and it adds flavor as well.)
  2. We diced and chopped all the other ingredients and mixed it all together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Using our handy-dandy kitchen scale we experimented with kitchen tools until we found a measuring cup that we could use to accurately measure out 1/2 pound servings that we then shaped into patties.
  4. Using parchment paper as a separator, we stacked them on a cookie sheet and placed them in the freezer until they were firm but not frozen and then we packaged them two at a time in food saver bags for quick, easy use.

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We have made two dinners since we made the patties about a month ago and they are everything we hoped for. Quick, easy, and delicious.

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Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
~ Buddha 

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Sausage and Black Bean Soup

Don threw this together on a whim one day and it instantly became a new household favorite. The photos below were actually hastily taken the second time we made the dish. We are calling it Sausage and Black Bean Soup but there are other beans in it as well. You could adapt this to incorporate different types of sausage and different types of beans to your liking.

We try to minimize our use of beans in dishes because but they do add carbs and not a lot else. This is just one of those dishes that we make the exception for and, knowing we’re eating a higher carb load in this meal, we make adjustments to our other meals in the day to offset the overall daily carb intake. Or we try to anyway. Nobody’s perfect. LOL

Sausage and Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sausage
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans of other beans
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or a tbsp of minced garlic)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • salt
  • pepper

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  1. Slice sausage into bite-sized pieces. (We slice the sausage in half then cut into half moons.)
  2. Dice onion and jalapeno.
  3. Use stick blender or food processor to mash/reduce the black beans.
  4. Combine all in crock pot.
  5. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or until onions are cooked to your liking. (You can also speed it up if you’re cooking on the stove and monitoring the temperature. We’ve made it in less than an hour on the stove. The crock pot is just handy for walking away and not worrying about it.)
  6. Enjoy!

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It’s just us trying to start a movement where everybody passes on a bit of cooking knowledge. We estimate that one person can potentially affect 180 others very quickly so we’re just trying to spread the word.
~ Jamie Oliver 

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Maple Banana Spice Bread from Primal Cravings Cookbook

My niece and her husband surprised us with a very thoughtful gift for Christmas – the Primal Cravings cookbook!

primal cravings cookbook

They certainly know their audience. 🙂 (Thank you Harmony and Nate!)

I don’t usually spring for cookbooks because Don tends to be a wet noodle about them, preferring to come up with his own recipe, and because the internet is so readily available to search when we do want to get ideas. I do love cookbooks though and I really love the way Brandon and Megan Keatley put together Primal Cravings. I’ve actually visited their website before, Health-Bent, and skimmed through their recipes online. (I can’t remember if we’ve ever made any before.)

Before I get to the recipe, I have to tell you about the book. As someone who still hasn’t been able to transition to e-reading because I simply love paper and love holding the real deal, I LOVE the binding choice and formatting of the book itself. The cover is thick and rugged yet muted in color which gives it a nostalgic, used feel. It reminds me of an old book I had as a child that was a hardback collection of stories.

As for the content, the recipes are straight-forward and easy to follow. They are all low-sugar, grain-free, gluten-free, and industrial oil-free. The Keatley’s included a lot of great information for beginners (and even seasoned gluten-free/paleo/primal eaters who need a reminder on a few things) on topics ranging from how paleo-style foods are good for you, how to stock your kitchen with the right foods AND utensils, metric conversions of measurements, and even nutritional information. The book is not text-laden and cumbersome. It’s like Goldilocks says, “just right.”

For my first recipe I chose to make Maple Banana Spice Bread.

banana spice cake recipe

maple banana spice cake
Couldn’t have been better. Simple yet elegant and full of flavor. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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Gluten-Free Dumplings for those comfort food moments

I have these wonderful memories from childhood of steaming hot stew with chunky hunks of beef, potato, carrot, celery, and onion, topped with a fluffy cloud of warm dumplings. Of course, back then, all I would eat was the meat, potatoes, dumplings, and broth. I still loved it. Because my memories are so swiss-cheesed with holes and gaps, I don’t know whether it was my dad cooking or my mom, whether the dumplings were from scratch or Bisquick. But whenever a cold or rainy day rolls around, that foggy memory rises up and I pine wistfully for the simple comfort of stew and dumplings. In the chill of the current polar vortex, I attempted another dumpling re-creation and I LOVE the results. 

I experimented with an Almond Flour Dumpling recipe two years ago, which is ok but I didn’t love it enough to make it more than once, and yet it ironically has been my most popular post over the life of this blog. (Quickly being surpassed by our recent Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Stuffed Pork Tenderloin post. 🙂 ) If you’ve tried the old dumpling recipe, you’ve GOT to try this one. Delicious. Easy. Just plain wonderful. 

Gluten-Free Dumplings, can be used for chicken or stew soups

Ingredients – makes 6-8 dumplings depending on size

  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda (this was a happy accident since I meant to use baking powder but the soda seems to work just fine IMO)
  • 1/4 cup broth from your soup

I combined all the ingredients in my food processor and blended it well. Then I simply dropped spoonfuls into the top of my stew. I put the lid on and let the dumplings cook for 10-15 minutes (until plumped and firm.)

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The dough was too thin and sticky to shape into balls which was why I opted for simply dropping spoonfuls in the stew.

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It firmed up quite well to my surprise and delight. (You know me, always a little afraid when trying something new. I’m always worried about the waste if something doesn’t turn out well.)

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Ta-da! Try it. Seriously. Good eats.

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.
~ Sheilah Graham

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Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

We found these great stuffed tenderloins at our local grocery store a month or two ago. We’ve bought them a couple of times and enjoyed the flavor combination immensely. So when it came time for Don’s annual “guys” hunting trip he decided he wanted to bring some for his meal contribution. (All the meals are split up between the guys so each contributes a particular item for one day’s meal. It’s a system that works out really well.) Unfortunately, our plan to simply buy a handful of prepackaged tenderloins went awry when the grocery store had none. Doh! So we bought 5 packages of tenderloin, a handful of jalapenos, and cream cheese to make our own.

First, let me tell you, it’s WAY cheaper to do your own! We were paying $17.99 for the pre-made ones; these were about $6 each when all was said and done. HUGE savings. Lesson. Learned. Make your own. 🙂

We needed to prepare enough for about 12 guys so we bought 5 tenderloins, planning to add a 6th from our freezer (pre-made) so that he would have 6 to take, estimating that each loin would feed about 2.5 people (we usually have some leftover when we make one for just the two of us.)

pork

But lo and behold, the 5 tenderloin packages held 2 tenderloins each! Bonus! We made 6 for hunting and kept 4 for us. Sweet.

We didn’t know how much cream cheese and jalapeno mix we would need so we went all in with three packages of cream cheese, about 10 large jalapenos, and a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic. We only removed the stems from the jalapenos, roughly chopped them, and then pulsed them into bits in the food processor. Then we combined it all in a bowl and hand mixed it together. (With semi-hard cream cheese it takes a little muscle. Let it soften before you start if you have the opportunity.)

jalapeno butter

To prepare, simply butterfly a tenderloin, rub the jalapeno butter (as we like to call it) onto the loin, fold it back over, wrap it in bacon (oh yea), and sprinkle with a little extra spices. We used a blend of chipotle pepper spice, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, and a little sugar.

cream cheese spread

Gloves were a good way to go.

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cream cheese jalapeno pork

bagged pork

Previously, we have followed the instructions on the prepared packages which indicated to bake the tenderloin in the oven at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes. This is a good option if you’re cooking inside. It does come out good. I’ve heard others like to cook them at a higher temp, say 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. We haven’t tried that yet.

At the ranch, the boys wanted to use the smoker. Now, I must apologize in advance, I didn’t take any pictures. I should have. It. Was. Amazing. And I don’t normally like smoked meat. I smoked the loins for a little over 90 minutes at roughly 300 degrees. But let me tell you, managing the temp in a smoker is not easy! That darn thing dropped below 200 while waiting for the right time to put the meat on and then I had to fiddle with it to get it back up to 300. Once I figured out the mechanics I managed to keep it fairly consistent around 300 but it did take a lot of monitoring, adding wood, opening or closing the vent. I guess for my first time ever operating a HUGE smoker I did a pretty good job. Even if I did come out of it smelling like I’d jumped in a campfire.

Yes, I WAS at the guys hunting ranch during their man time but that’s another story. Thankfully they were very sweet to me and allowed me to crash the last night due to extenuating circumstances. See…proof I was there! 🙂

Ranch 2014

So, if you’re looking to smoke your loins, 🙂 which came out heavenly if you missed that part, aim for 300 degrees and adjust your cook time based on what happens with your temperature. Above all, aim for an internal temperature of 160. (Although some sources say the standard minimum has dropped to 145; the old standard of 160 just sticks out in our minds when cooking.) Mine was to temp at about 90 minutes but the guys were not back from hunting yet so I closed the smoker down to reduce the heat and let them sit at about 200 for another 15 minutes or so, then took them out to rest.

We still have 4 loins in the freezer. We look forward to an opportunity to share them. I’ve already had requests to have guests for dinner. 🙂

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.
Sai Baba