Game Time: Blueberry Bison Burgers with Pinot Noir Caramelized Red Onions

I got a text from my mom asking me about these recipes from Alaska and Hawaii, so I guess I better get to sharing!

Burgers. One of my favorite things.

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Well, sandwiches are one of my favorite things, but what is a burger but a fancy name for a sandwich. Amiright?

I mentioned yesterday how Alaska’s great white wilderness provides lots of raw, fresh and unique ingredients for the eating. Game meat being one. Wild berries being another. Let’s combine them, shall we?

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Alaska and Hawaii

Up next, Alaska and Hawaii!  On to the states!

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I got a last minute suggestion from someone on some awesome sounding scallops from New Zealand, so I’ll circle back to those next week. But, first, welcome back to the U.S. of A.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve cooked my own country and truthfully, I’m excited to see what the U.S. has to offer.  For as much as I’ve traveled, much of the western U.S. remains a mystery to me and I’ve yet to make it to the non-continentals.   Someday I’ll make it there, but for now, I have to settle for the food in place of the scenery.

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Sweet and Sour: Aussie Burger Chili

Saturday.  HOORAY!  I thought you’d never come.

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This week seemed to go by painfully slow. Maybe it was the unseasonably cloudy weather. Maybe it was because two weeks from today I’ll be sp-ahhhhing in Northern Virginia wine country with Lettuce and Yam, and you know how work is when vacation is on the horizon. Maybe it was just one of those weeks.

What made this particular one of those weeks bearable is that Apple Crisp and I had our annual fancy pants birthday dinner. About five or so years ago, we decided that rather buy each other birthday gifts, we’d doll ourselves up and go to a nice, more expensive than usual meal to celebrate. I mean, we both love food so much. One of the many ties that bind.

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Biscuits, No Gravy: Australia’s Favorite Anzac Biscuit

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It’s Wednesday. The BLAH day. What could make this better?

How about a cookie.

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The last week has been a blur. I blinked, woke up and it had somehow been almost a week since I made the Hokey Pokey. Part of it was that Orange was in town last weekend for her annual Chicago pilgrimage and the other part I have to attribute to nothing more than my own laziness.

So Oz and NZ have been pushed a bit, but I’m hoping to get everything checked off my list. The next thing up is the Australian favorite, the Anzac biscuit.

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Do This Hokey Pokey: New Zealand’s Honeycomb Candy

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I’ve been a long time obsessed with all things English. Even, shockingly enough, English foods.

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On that note, a funny story:  Before the U.S. became the land of plenty where we could get all of our favorite international goodies at the neighborhood grocery story, I used to have to bring things home from my travels. For example, you know McVittie’s Digestive biscuits and Hob Nobs? Well, I used to be obsessed, and one trip home from London I literally had 7 (SEVEN!) rolls of cookies in my carry-on bag. And of course, they searched me. Under the questioning glare of the Heathrow security guards, all I could muster was a red-faced response of, “I really like these cookies.”

I will seduce you with my awkwardness.

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Australia and New Zealand

The Lands Down Under.

Australia and New Zealand, you’re up.

I’ve slogged my way through Eastern Europe and it’s time to jet back East before I cross the Pacific into North America. Giddy up.

Now, I know nothing about these two countries except that I want to go to there. They’ve been forever on my long list of places to go but I just haven’t made it yet, mostly because other places tend to get in the way.

There are too many places to go! But I digress.

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Mulgikapsad, or Estonian Pork Stew

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Pork and sauerkraut seems to be a staple in the fall. For me at least. Kraut on brats, slow cooked ribs in the oven…it seems I can’t get away. And honestly, I can’t get enough.

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Actually, that’s not true. I take it back. I can get enough. Two weeks through Germany and Prague with Lettuce and Tomato a few years back taught us all that there is a limit to the amount of sausage and sauerkraut that one can eat. Thankfully, this early in the season I’ve not yet reached my limit and happily embraced my last Baltic dish from Estonia: Mulgi Kapsad, or sauerkraut with pork and barley, typically served with some sort of potato.

This dish couldn’t be easier. With 5 ingredients, my tweak on it was done in a little less than an hour, most of that time hands off. I changed the original recipe by substituting Arborio rice for the barley (a substitute to make it gluten-free), bone-in pork chops rather than Boston butt and the addition of caraway seeds because it felt weird to not add ANY flavorings at all.

Mulgi Kapsad
Serves 2
Pork and sauerkraut stew
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 bone-in thick cut pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper
  2. 1 pound jarred sauerkraut
  3. ½ cup Arborio rice
  4. About 1-1 ½ cups water
  5. 1 tsp caraway seeds
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. Sugar, pinch, if desired
Instructions
  1. Spread the sauerkraut at the bottom of a pot,and scatter rice on top. Add the caraway seeds and sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour enough water over to barely cover the ingredients.
  2. Cover with the lid and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pork chops, and bury in the sauerkraut. Continue cooking another 30-40 minutes until the pork is cooked through.
Notes
  1. There is no need to stir this until the very end.
  2. You may need to add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the sauerkraut
Adapted from Nami-Nami
Adapted from Nami-Nami
http://thehungarybuddha.com/

To be honest, while this dish was good, it didn’t blow me away. The flavors didn’t really have more than one dimension, and the lack of color on my plate was downright depressing. I’m not sure making it true to recipe with the pork butt or shoulder would have changed that.

At the end of the day, I’ll take my pork and kraut grilled in a bun with a little bit of mustard.

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Get Carried Away: Latvian Caraway Tea

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Happy Labor Day!

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I hope everyone is taking it easy. Mama Buddha paid me an impromptu visit and we’re being pretty chill- sitting around, taking a few leisurely strolls and not putting forth any effort to make big elaborate meals, which is why this tea is pretty much perfect for what should be the laziest day of the year.

Caraway tea from Latvia. Yup, sounds pretty weird.

Caraway is not a taste I’m all that familiar with on its own. Sure, I’ve had it in sausage, mixed in with sauerkraut, and plays pretty prominently in rye bread. But, as tea? I was skeptical to say the least.

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This recipe comes from a source I found thoroughly describing Latvian cuisine. Like Lithuania and Estonia, the foods of their ancestors were primarily rye, barley, millet and other grains and heavy meats of the game variety. Spices that I’ve come to know and love through my culinary travels out East are almost never used, and seasoning came from mustard, garlic, salt and caraway seeds.

After some prompting from Mom, I looked up the health benefits of caraway seeds and found they are high in soluble fiber, provide many digestive benefits, are a potent antioxidant and an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Good news all around.

This took less than fifteen minutes to prep and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, earthy taste. Served hot or cold, with milk or without, it may be the perfect mix-up for your next tea party.

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Latvian Caraway Tea
Serves 2
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Total Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tsp caraway seeds
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 4 tsp sugar
Instructions
  1. Add the seeds and sugar to boiling water and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. That’s it!
Notes
  1. Serve hot or cold, with milk or without
Adapted from The Cuisine of Latvia
http://thehungarybuddha.com/

Apples Baked with Prunes and Honey

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Saturday!

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How did that happen?  This week was both short and long. Long in the sense that Wednesday at work seemed like it should have been Friday, but short in that every night when I got home from doing whatever I was doing, it seemed like I only had an hour or so to get it together before it was time for bed.  Somehow my kitchen activities got away from me, so you can look forward to a lot of Baltic-inspired posts this weekend when I finally have the time to catch up.

Remember how I said it was almost fall?! Well, with Labor Day this Monday and this being the first weekend of college football madness, I hereby declare that it is, if not by date then most definitely in spirit.  With fall comes apples, and with apples comes gazillion and one ways to use these juicy little buggers, and I am here, in the Lithuanian spirit, to provide another.

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This recipe comes from my college friend’s sister, Carrot.  Carrot and I meet up every few years at football tailgate.  Through talking to her and from Facebook stalking, I learned that she is Lithuanian, and so I demanded that she provide me with some authentic Lithuanian favorites.

Being the sweetie that she is, she happily obliged, and even had a Lithuanian cookbook her great grandmother helped edit. Talk about going straight to the source!

Due to its location, the raw ingredients that come from Lithuania are those suited to colder climates such as potatoes, barley, beets and mushrooms, and heavier meats such as pork, and these simple ingredients combined with the influence of its neighbors (Russia, Eastern Europe) comprise Lithuanian cuisine.  Carrot noted that many of Lithuania’s traditional dishes could be time and labor intensive, but gave me a recipe for simple baked apples that took little time at all to prepare, and, as a bonus, made my whole apartment smell like fall.  Now I really don’t want to leave.

I loved the apples cooked this way. It reminded me of the baked Korean pear of yore, and the prune center was a welcome little “surprise” (even though I knew it was there). Also, because I usually “bake” my apples in the microwave, I realized that all along I’ve been missing out on the crispy crust that the oven provides.  As breakfast or dessert, this recipe will surely be on repeat this fall, and for falls to come. 

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Apples Baked with Prunes and Honey
Serves 2
Tart apples baked with honey until tender and sweet
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 firm, tart apples, cored
  2. 2 pre-soaked or ready to eat prunes, pitted
  3. 2 TB honey
  4. sprinkle cinnamon
  5. water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Places apples in an oven-proof shallow dish. Into the cavity of each apple, put two moist prunes and 1 TB honey. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish, about 1/2 inch deep. Bake for 1 hour or until apples are tender.
  4. Serve hot or cold
Notes
  1. Level the bottom of the apples to help them stand upright.
Adapted from Popular Lithuanian Recipes
Adapted from Popular Lithuanian Recipes
http://thehungarybuddha.com/

You Can’t Stop the Beet: Beety Bloody Marys and Adventures in Juicing

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My name is Chrissy,
 
and I’m a produce-a-holic.
 
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It all started when I lived in London and became addicted to farmers markets. Every Saturday I’d walk one hour from my tiny flat near Regent’s Park to the Portobello Road market in Notting Hill, early enough to beat the tourist rush, drop off my wares at home and head out back to the other side of town to hit up the Borough Market before it closed for the evening. After about 6 hours of walking I’d come home to find more produce than any one person can eat in a weeks’ time, but everything looked so pretty! And was just so cheap! I could not help myself.
 
I moved to Chicago and while the farmers’ markets in the summer are neighborhood events, and places to see and be seen, I don’t find myself drawn to them in the same way. The impulse buying of produce subsided a bit until I discovered Stanley’s Fruit and Vegetables…and it became a problem again.
 
If you live in Chicago and have never been to Stanley’s, you’re SO missing out. They always have a weekly steal and often times I come home with produce not on my list, and in quantities that shift my creative juices into gear.  Two weeks ago I bought a CRATE of strawberries for $1. ONE DOLLAR.  I am not even kidding. I ate a lot of strawberries that week. 
 
This week, I walked in to find crates of vine-ripe tomatoes for $1.50. They just looked so pretty that I bought one, and then as I schlepped my groceries up stairs, I surveyed the damage and wondered what I’d be doing with a whole crate of tomatoes, and how I could tie it all in with the Baltics…an area not necessarily known for tomato dishes.
 
When taking a look at the typical ingredient list for that region, the pickled theme came up time and again, as did some similarities with Russian cuisine. Given these two facts…and my abundance of tomatoes, an idea emerged.
 
Bloody Marys.
 
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I’m a huge fan of brunch, and breakfast being my favorite meal to eat, brunch is most definitely my favorite meal to host.  Despite having about 20 go-to favorites for the food, I’ve so far failed to come up with a go-to brunch cocktail and THAT was a problem that needed remedying ASAP.  While I am pretty savvy at tweaking, inventing and manipulating recipes for baked goods or other dishes on the fly, that skill does not extend to cocktails, so I got by with a little help from my friends.
 
However, before I could start the mixology part of things, I had to take care of these tomatoes and for that, I had to juice them.  
Much like shucking oysters and scaling fish, I had no idea how to go about this, so I ran to the internet for help. One article I found outlined three methods for making homemade tomato juice: 1) grind into a paste and add water 2) smash and strain with a potato masher and 3) use a juicer.
I’m not sure how you all feel about the whole juicing movement that’s going around, but I haven’t really jumped on that bandwagon, partly because I don’t really drink juice. However, my friends have, and because of this I was able to secure a juicer for the Bloody experiment.  The model I used was a Waring Pro juice extractor which worked very well, and if you’re looking to buy, Williams-Sonoma has a great juicer selection.  For reference, about 30, medium sized on-the-vine tomatoes yielded a little over a liter of juice.
Before the tomatoes can be juiced, they have to be prepped. Give them a rise, and remove the middle, watery, seedy part and the remaining fruit is the part tossed into the juicer.  About halfway through cleaning my crate of tomatoes I started to wonder:  Will using fresh tomatoes for these Bloody Marys make a discernible difference in taste compared to using V8 or canned tomato juice?  Not that I was a tomato juice aficionado, but I tend to find the canned, and even bottled varieties, have a very metallic taste, and perhaps that’s the reason that I veer towards mimosas at brunch time.  Obviously using fresh tomatoes would eliminate that but was that reason enough to make all this work worth it?
  
Yes.  Yes, it was.
 
Once I got the juices flowing, I took a sip and the taste blew me away.  Besides not tasting like a tin can, it just tasted…FRESH…and actually like tomato juice (alleviating my concerns about it tasting like little more than tomato-flavored water given its paler color).  To be honest I’m not sure why I was surprised since we all know that freshly-squeezed orange juice or lemon juice is always so much better than anything from concentrate.   Why should tomatoes be any different?  The one difference we all noted from a texture perspective is that the fresh tomato juice didn’t suspend the other ingredients as well as a prepared variety would, but that is nothing that a stir or shake won’t fix.  I’ll take it over whatever chemicals come in the can. 
 
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The tomato part sorted, I then worked through a traditional Bloody Mary recipe to incorporate other elements of Baltic cuisine, namely substituting pickled beet juice for pickle juice, and complementing that flavor by adding some freshly squeezed orange juice and Grand Marnier in addition to vodka.  Finally, to add some smoke and depth, I added Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika, just because I find it intoxicating.  I tried to incorporate some juice from some fresh beets I had roasted as well, but the consensus from the peanut gallery was that the beets overpowered the tomatoes, so I stuck with pickled beet juice alone.  After constant pressure to keep adding MORE HORSERADISH! MORE HOT SAUCE! MORE PEPPER! and MORE PAPRIKA!, I ended up with what I think would prove to be the perfect Baltic Bloody and a tasty cure for that Sunday morning hangover.
 
Beety Bloody Mary
Serves 2
A Baltic-inspired twist on a classic brunch cocktail
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups freshly-squeezed tomato juice
  2. ½ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  3. ¼ cup pickled beet juice
  4. 2 TB and plus 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  5. 4 TB horseradish
  6. 2 TB plus 2 tsp Cholula chipotle hot sauce
  7. 4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  8. 2 TB plus 2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  9. 6 shots vodka
  10. 3 shots Grand Marnier
To garnish
  1. Parsley
  2. Olives
  3. Pickled beets
  4. Fresh orange wheel
  5. Smoked paprika and coarse black pepper, for the rim
Instructions
  1. Pour some smoked paprika and coarse black pepper onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of an orange wedge along the lip of a pint glass. Roll the outer edge of the glass in the paprika and pepper until fully coated. Fill with ice and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake gently and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an orange, olives, picked beets and parsley.
Notes
  1. Adjust all the spices and add-ins according to your taste.
  2. Shaken and strained is not necessary. Feel free to stir.
http://thehungarybuddha.com/
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Special shout-out and thanks to my taste-testers and peanut gallery: Fava, Legume, Lima, Grape, Mango, Vert, Meatball and Lemon.