Venison Stew and Cooking with a Baby

Photo Nov 28, 6 00 11 PM

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Ours was smaller then normal, but wonderful anyway.  We had all our favorite dishes and Gavin even napped for a record 4 hours while I cooked during the afternoon.  Definitely something to be thankful for!

Photo Nov 27, 9 32 33 AMPhoto Nov 30, 9 28 02 AM

These days if you looked in my window you would most likely see me bounce walking around the house like a Native American woman at pow wow with Gavin strapped in the Ergo.  I am so happy I have one.  It’s the only way to keep him happy for longer then 10 minutes.  I just strap him in and within 15 minutes he is asleep.  If I am lucky I can take him out and put him in the swing where he will sleep for almost another hour.  At night there is generally a 50/50 chance that he is going to be awake (and fussing or hungry) during dinner prep time so I have had to find new ways to cook.  Here are a few things that have made my life easier the last few weeks.

1.  Do some dinner prep earlier in the day while baby is napping.  Learn how the pros prepare food hours ahead of time so that they can cook to order.   This week I learned that you can cut up potatoes 2 hours ahead of time and just store them in a bowl of ice water with a tsp of vinegar added.   They stay fresh and don’t brown!

2.  Enlist the help of family members to do the actual cooking if baby doesn’t want to be held by anyone else.  Gavin’s fussiest time is in the early evenings so Tom has had to pitch in quite a bit for dinner.  This has worked out great for us.  Tom cooks and I teach him what to do.  He has learned a bunch of new cooking skills.  Plus its a new fun way for us to hang out together.  Or if that’s not possible, you can very carefully cook in the Ergo, just don’t fry anything, pour out boiling pasta water or anything else that could burn your baby.

3.  Leave most of the cooking to the experts.  I have been buying a precooked rotisserie chicken at the store every week and making fajita or burritos with the meat and soup with the scraps and bones.  It cuts out a bunch of the work.  Frozen pizza is also very helpful for rough days and WAY cheaper then delivery.

4.  Use the slow cooker.  I get everything going when he takes his first nap of the morning and then I don’t have to worry about cooking dinner that night!

Hope some of those tips help you all out.  And please share your tips with me too!  We new mamas need all the help we can get!

Photo Nov 20, 12 31 20 PM

So, recently a friend of ours gave us some venison from a buck he shot.  I had never eaten or cooked venison before last month, but now I love it!  It tastes like very lean beef and can be cooked in similar ways.  One of the first dishes I made was a venison stew.  Its very similar to the beef stew I like to make.  If you can’t find venison its perfectly fine to substitute beef.  Oh and for those perceptive few, the below photo is the second time I made the venison stew and I added sautéed mushrooms and the last of the fresh tomatoes from my garden.  It was amazing!

Photo Nov 28, 6 15 43 PM

Venison Stew

Serves 4

  • 1/2 red onion, chopped into half moons
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 2 large red potatoes, cut into medium chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch coins
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb of venison stew meat
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried Italian oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 32 oz box of beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

1.  In a large stew pot cook the onions, garlic, celery over medium high heat in about 2 tbsp olive oil for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Empty into a bowl and set aside.

2.  Add more oil to the pan and sear the venison meat for a couple minutes on each side.  You will probably have to do this in two batches to get a good sear.  Crowding is bad.

3.  Add the thyme, rosemary, oregano, some salt and pepper and cooked veggies and stir until combined.  Add the can of tomatoes, beef broth and water.  Stir again scraping the bits off the bottom.

4.  Cook at a simmer for 1 1/2 hrs or until venison is very tender.  Add the carrots and potatoes.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

5.  Add the vinegar and peas.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with shaved Parmesan and toast.

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Protecting California’s Grapes with Raptors

Hanging grapes

We got up early Saturday morning to get Tom on the road before the morning fog burned off.  He’s leaving for 2 months to work on a vineyard with his falcons.  Yea, read that again.  Vineyard, falcons…  Pretty amazing right?

Harris Hawk on Farm

A few months ago our plans were just an idea.  A risk.  A leap we could take which may push us further along our list of goals, or throw us down a well of debt and unemployment.  We have normal average goals like buy a house, take a trip to Europe, build a savings, live life the way we want.  In our current situation those were never going to happen, so we decided to take a very planned and scheduled leap into fate.

Tom flying Hermes

What was the plan?  For Tom to transfer from one contract to another.  This means that we will have to move wherever the company puts us this winter.  Right now, I don’t know where that will be yet.  For now, he is living on vineyard somewhere in California scaring away all the little birds that feast on the grapes.  He absolutely loves to do vineyard work.  In Tom’s opinion its a falconer’s dream 8 week vacation and you get paid well too.

Grapevine in the sunRow of Grapes in the sun

So what is he doing exactly?

The company Tom works for is Airstrike Bird Control.  They offer bird abatement services to orchards, vineyards, farms, landfills, airports, schools and office buildings.  Pretty much anywhere you have too many pest birds like seagulls, pigeons or starlings.

GrapesTom Flying Gloria on vineyard

The sugar content in grapes begins to skyrocket during the last 6-8 weeks before the September harvest attracting all kinds of birds.  I have heard that more than half a vineyard can be eaten in a weekend.  Usually vineyard owners hire 5 guys on quads to shoot pyrotechnics all day, to the dismay of his non-vineyard owning neighbors.  Some companies even shoot them out of the air with shotguns full of bird shot!

The problem with these tactics is that pyrotechnics can cause fires and its late summer in California, the wildfire state.  Many agricultural towns in CA have outlawed the use of pyro to avoid burning the town and its thriving agriculture to the ground.  Not to mention the strict rules the ATF instituted this year.  Now you must have a special license through the ATF to buy and use pyro.  This pretty much eliminates pyro as an option for most companies as the license is expensive and time-consuming to obtain.  As for shooting the birds out of the air, that is barely legal and in my opinion irresponsible and immoral.

Tom flying Shirly on vineyard

To protect the grapes, and other crops/landfills/airports sustainably we use trained falcons and hawks, which hunt the birds and chase them away.  A flock of starlings, or any bird, will not understand what happened when a gunshot or noisemaker goes off.  They fly away because of the scary noise, but they don’t associate the noise with the location or understand what happened and why.  This means the same birds will keep coming back everyday to feed.

Harris on Hunting Perch

If you fly hawks and falcons on a vineyard or anywhere else, suddenly the little birds understand that bigger hungrier predators have moved into the territory and they had best move out before they become dinner.  Being chased off a vineyard by a hawk sticks in their minds.  It’s an ancient fear, to be eaten by a hawk, its natural for a prey species to avoid areas that are hunted by their predators.  In effect, they avoid the vineyards with hawks and gorge on those vineyards that don’t.

Vineyard row

As much as I will miss Tom I am excited for him.  He has worked so hard over the last 2 years that he totally deserves this.

If you would like more information about falconry-based bird abatement or Airstrike Bird Control you can visit their website at http://airstriketech.com

And be sure to tell them Tom and Melissa sent you!