Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe: Baked Penne with Deer Meat

I never thought I'd get to the point where I enjoyed eating deer meat. I am by no means a vegetarian, yet I cringe at the thought of something dying so I can eat. I just think I've become so disconnected from the animal and the actual food on my plate that it makes it easier to gorge on beef in all it's yumminess. I think society, as a whole, has too.

Thanks to PETA and the million books, videos and blogs out there exposing the meat industry and all it's disgusting cruelty, I've turned to appreciating deer season. Do I love that the hubs leaves before the owls have gone to bed and is dog tired in the afternoon when he gets home? No. Do I love the washer being full of wet camo but I can't touch it because it's been unscented? No. Do I love all our money going to Cabela's and Academy? Um, heck no. 

But I do like the freezer being full of free-range deer meat. And I appreciate my husband's true dedication to hunting properly and with respect to each animal, taking only as much as we'll eat during the year and leaving the best animals to produce for the herd. And honestly, when ground deer is added to recipes in place of beef, I can't even tell the difference. And my toddler? Loves it. For awhile, it was actually the only meat he would eat!

Here's one of my favorite dishes for cooking ground deer. It's adapted from an old Weight Watchers ground turkey recipe and tweaked by some Pinterest ideas and, ultimately, just became something I make without too much measuring (and using whatever I have on hand). I also use organic cheese when I can find it, and always BPA-free canned tomatoes.

{I usually let it melt longer and the cheese almost brown before pulling it out, but we were hungry!}

Baked Penne with Deer
  • 1lb ground deer meat
  • 1 large can organic tomato puree
  • 1 small can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 bag Italian cheese mix
  • 1 bag part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 box whole grain noodles (I prefer penne but ziti also works)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic and oregano to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 9x13 casserole dish
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Boil noodles according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, brown deer meat in a skillet using your oil preference. I add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the onion here if you want (my toddler hates onion so we omit it now).  
  4. Once meat is browned, drain the fat. Add in the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes. Add a dash of garlic and oregano. Stir, cover and simmer on low until noodles are ready.
  5. Drain noodles.
  6. Now it's time to layer your ingredients in the casserole dish. There's no real exact science to this, and you might have some of the noodles and cheese leftover. Start with a really thin layer of your meat sauce on the bottom. Next, add a layer of noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce. Sprinkle generously with the cheeses, mixing the Italian and mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano. Repeat! Add a nice layer of noodles, meat sauce, cheese, repeat until your dish is full. Sometimes I get two layers, sometimes three. 
  7. Make sure your final layer of cheese is a good one! Sprinkle with oregano.
  8. Bake in the oven on 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. I like mine almost browned on the edges :).
  9. Once done, let sit for 10 minutes or so, otherwise it'll fall apart when cut.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

I usually serve it with a salad or steamed broccoli, and we always have plenty of leftovers for dinner the next day (and sometimes lunch, too). 

Each time I make it, I do something a bit different and it always turns out yummy. Like I said, my kiddo hates onions so we don't use it now, but they are super tasty if added. Sometimes I'll find a can of italian spiced tomato puree and that's awesome, too. You could even add fresh minced garlic at the meat-browning stage.

If you're skeptical about ground deer, this is the perfect recipe to try it. Or, you could always substitute the deer for beef, just be sure to drain all the excess fat.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Unprocessed: Meal Plan 2

Welp, we're one week into the October Unprocessed Challenge, yahoo! J (the hubs) and I are down 4lbs each, feeling more energetic and getting into this whole "homemade" business. Sadly, though, I am soo tired of cleaning pans ~ where the heck is the dish fairy?!

This past week hasn't been without it's struggles, though. I hit a wall Saturday evening with all-over spastic muscle aches and feeling like I was going to pass out. From what others have said, it sounds like my body was going through a detox phase, which supposedly happens in the first week. All I know is that I felt like human crap. A pounding head and an energetic toddler do not mix well!

But today? Today I feel amazing. All day I've been thinking how wonderful to finally feel like my head isn't in a fog like usual. Hubs said the same thing at dinner tonight. And I thought I would miss my daily Diet Dr. Pepper, but I haven't... yet.  Starting to think it was more habit than something I actually enjoyed drinking.

The hardest part of the day is definitely breakfast. I've found if I don't plan well enough ahead ~ or get going early enough ~ then it's a scramble in the mornings between J trying to eat breakfast before work and me trying to get munchkin fed while fixing my own. I think baking homemade pancakes and stuff beforehand and freezing is going to be the best bet. Or making homemade granola on Sundays and eating during the week. Just not there quite yet!

Here's my plan for the week:

Again, I'll probably tweak it as we go along, but this is what I'm shooting for anyway. This challenge is definitely made easier with all of the Facebook support, Pinterest and the awesome whole food blogs out there. I have some recipes that I'll share too, some from my own mind and some from cookbooks I already had.

Happy Week 2!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Because We Need More Channels

The hubs has been wanting to add an outdoor sports package to our cable for awhile now, but I hated the idea of paying for more channels when we don't watch most of the ones we have. So last night, when I wasn't feeling well and went to bed early, he added it. He told me this morning and, before I could protest, he says: "But you were incoherent or I would have asked."

Well played, my friend.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Unprocessed: Meal Plan 1

Yesterday was the official first day of the October Unprocessed Challenge. Because I didn't make it to the store until after lunch, we didn't really start until dinner. But that's okay, baby steps!

Sat down yesterday and started our meal plans for the month. They'll definitely need some tweaking as we go along and get better with this whole unprocessed concept, but it's a great start. I pulled inspiration from many sources, including various Pinterest pins, 100DaysofRealFood, friends and others. If there's a recipe, it's pinned to my Pinterest board.

As I said before, we were already working toward eating cleaner at home, so I had the right baking goods, oatmeal, and some other things at home already. Made it soo much easier (and cheaper) when I went to Sprouts yesterday to stock up for the week. Interestingly, it only cost me less than $60 to get everything I needed! But we didn't need any meat or paper products, so that helps a ton. And, I bought from the bulk bins where I could, and it's soo much cheaper than buying prepackaged.

I did get a major headache at the store, though, trying to find everything I needed and reading every label for packaged stuff. I usually shop at Target, but figured I'd stay away from all the beautiful temptations this time around and focus on my list. If I couldn't find organic, I tried to at least buy local.

And the hubs is a total meateater, but didn't freak out too much at the veggie fajitas. I thought I'd wait to get meat until I can do a little research on the best kinds or get out to our farmer's market. Will be a fun outing for the toddler, too :)

Maybe this challenge isn't as crazy as it sounds after all!

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