Getting back in the game

The foodie in me has been reinvigorated lately. Between amazing eating in Italy, new fun cookbooks, reading good books about food/eating and the deepening of fall into the space with crisp cool air and vibrant leaves on the trees, I find myself wanting to do nothing but cook and experiment in the kitchen and run (preferably in the early morning cold air or the afternoon/evening dark). I am also reinvigorated by the opening up of my borders, that is, the reintroduction of myself to being an omnivore. Also, at long last, I finally have the results to my food allergy test. Turns out that I am allergic/sensitive to 3 things: eggs, lima beans and pecans. Add that to the gluten sensitivity (which is actually still a ? since the doctor didn't say anything about it in the test) and even then, I still have a whole new world of food open to me. It is nice to KNOW for a fact what things will and won't make me feel good. I do ponder if part of the reason I didn't have much trouble in Italy with the wheat I ate was because they didn't have eggs in them (such as pizza crust). Interesting to ponder.

After having an amazing lunch at Watershed restaurant in Decatur with my dad and being introduced to the some great organic liquors (no I wasn't getting smashed, we were sitting at the bar for lunch and were looking at the liquors behind the bar and discussing the interesting organic infusions and ones we had never heard of, when the bartender got involved and started giving us a tasting of his favorites), I decided to make the smartest move any omnivore (new or old) can do to ensure that you are eating top quality, free-range, organic, grass fed meats. I went and found a butcher. It makes me reminisce about my time in South Africa, which is the only other time in my life when I had a close personal relationship with my butcher. As Scott Gold discusses in the Shameless Carnivore, this is a very smart move because if you have a good relationship with your butcher then you can get the products and the kind of products you want to eat. The fact of the matter is compared to your local supermarket, even your whole foods, etc type the quality of meat is going to be better at a butcher. It is a specialty shop, so just as you get the best bread at a bakery, the best cheese at a cheese shop, the best wine at a wine shop....etc, you get the best meat at a butcher. Yes, you are going to pay more, but frankly, you eat less of the good stuff. Since I am not looking to glutton myself on meat, instead it maybe 1/3 or less of my meal, getting the good stuff makes the flavor and texture really pop without needing alot.

It turns out that unbeknowst to me there is a butcher shop that has been around for several generations about 6 blocks from my place here. In fact, I have been so oblivious, I didn't know that it shares space with a CVS that is on my daily running route (so I pass it twice a day on foot and many more going too and from work). Earlier yesterday I had bought another Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie at Home and selected a recipe for dinner: wild mushroom and venison stroganoff for two lucky people. Though it was just going to be for me, I figured I could make the whole recipe and have leftovers!. I headed to the meat market introduced myself and asked for some venison loin. They didn't have it but they uttered the magic words, "but we can get it for you". Nice. That is the thing about a butcher or a specialty shop, they will not just turn you away, they will find what you want. This makes me excited knowing that I can start dreaming big and crazy and they will be able to get me what I need. I decided to opt for some ground Buffalo instead. I also had the butcher order me some hangar steaks. Hangar steaks are known as "Butcher's Steak" as they are the part they usually keep for themself. I headed out satisfied with my purchase, but decided that I would check at whole foods to see if they happened to have venison when I was there picking up the rest of the ingredients. Surprisingly, they did in their cold case. I got some ground venison and decided that I would do a combination of the ground buffalo and ground venison. So for this recipe, I did about 6 oz of each. I used Lobster, Blue Foot and Chantrelle mushrooms and I highly recommend these rarer (and more expensive varieties) if you can find them. I threw in some organic white mushrooms as well to round out the flavor.

The result of the Wild Mushroom, Buffalo and Venison Stroganoff was amazing. Served over brown rice instead of white, as the recipe (linked above) it was the perfect end to an amazing fall day. It truly was a perfect day, the sun was shining in a way that only happens in the fall, it more glistens. The air was perfectly crisp, the sky whisped with little puff clouds. I took frog for a walk and just couldn't help but have a cheesy smile plastered on my face. I also went for an evening run and savored the seam of a fall night, which has the same crispness of the day, but a interesting and delicate silence. I brought my dinner together with a side of steamed brussel sprouts with earth balance and truffle salt and a quick salad of baby greens topped with my other culinary adventure for the day by Jamie Oliver, Cheeky Chili-Pepper Chutney. This was a fun and involved process. It took me an hour to find Mason jars! After that, I had a blast roasting the chilis and pepper and making this tangy, spicy chutney that worked brilliantly as a counter point to the Stroganoff. It is by no means necessary to the stroganoff, in fact, I just happened to be making it on the same evening. It makes about 3 full jars and will last for a few months on your cupboard shelf. Going back to the Stroganoff (which I can't help but do in my head over and over again), make sure that you top it with gherkin (pickles) and a cultured sour cream (creme fraiche), it absolutely absolutely adds a level of flavor you do not want to miss.

The final product

Massive amounts of chilis and peppers, pre-roasting.

All the ingredients for the chutney

Brussel Sprouts still on the stalk.

Lobster, Blue Foot and Chantrelle Mushrooms

Brussel Sprouts, Stroganoff and Salad

Makes me hungry just thinking about it

The perfect start to a lazy Sunday
This morning I woke up pretty early, just after 7 and hastened to the kitchen to revamp my breakfast "pie" recipe. I had done earlier in the year and indulge in some Moose Munch coffee from Harry and David, which is the best coffee I have tasted state-side. I whipped up the "pie" and sat at the kitchen table with the morning light shining through the window, sipping coffee and enjoying the smell as it cooked and filled the kitchen with the sweet flavor of baking fruit. It was nice to wake up on a weekend and laze about instead of heading out for a long run. While I love my long runs and will definitely run today, it is nice to have a weekend without the structure of training. It is a well deserved break.

Fall Breakfast Bake

for the bottom dough:
3/4 cup Pamela's Baking and Pancake mix
1/4 cup Buckwheat Flour
just about 3/4 cups water
just under a tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp baking powder

for the fruit middle:
1 bag organic frozen raspberries
1 bag organic frozen blackberries
1 bag organic frozen peaches
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
a few tbsp good maple syrup
a dash of cinnamon

for the granola top:
1 1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
a glug of almond milk
a few more tbsp of maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 11x14 baking dish with earth balance. In a bowl, mix together the bottom dough ingredients. It should have the consistency of pancake batter. Spread it out in the baking dish and use a spatula to make it even and completely across the bottom. In a clean bowl, mix together the fruit middle ingredient until the fruit is coated in the sweeteners. Once thoroughly coated, even distribute over the batter in the pan. It will sink right down into the batter, which is what you want since as it bakes the crust will rise a bit and up and around the fruit (yum). The granola top is made my mixing all the ingredients and then sprinkling it down over the top with your fingers. Press it down lightly, but not to hard. Put in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the bottom crust is cooked. You will be able to see some golden edges of the crust. Because of the liquid in the fruit, which produces the most amazing fruity syrup through the dish, the bottom won't get crisp, but it will get a good pancake consistency. The top will come out like granola and adds a good crunch. Basically, once it cools, you will be able to cut it into slices which are delicate but not falling apart. That is, if there is any left by the time it cools. It is amazing straight out of the oven (ok wait a few minutes so you don't burn yourself). I would imagine that it would be complimented nicely by a good greek yogurt. This could also be a healthy dessert idea. I helped myself to a hearty satisfying portion, to go with another cup of coffee. This breakfast is a bit different, but it is an awesome change from the norm and perfect for sunday brunchy bite.

20 minutes into cooking

5 minutes out of the oven, 2.5 seconds to my stomach