Pulled Venison (or Elk)

(Fair warning, this is somewhat of a novel-length post.)

In case you are overwhelmed with posts for cookies, fudge, egg nog, hot chocolate, and gingerbread houses, here’s a nice healthy entrée to get you through the season. Better yet, it’s made in the slow cooker so you can continue your holiday baking extravaganzas knowing there’ll be a savory dinner at the end of the day.

With M’s prolific hunting seasons, our freezers (yes, plural) are not often empty. Even in light years he harvests an ample amount to last the next year, and more often than not we are eating meat from a couple of seasons prior. Last to go are always the roasts. Although I do enjoy pot roast, it is something I tire of relatively quickly and as a result, the occasions M makes it for dinner are plenty for me. As a result, we typically have more deer and elk roasts on hand than I really know what to do with.

Pulled Venison {{Baking Bytes}}

Pulled pork is possibly one of my favorite meals, and I’m thrilled every time it shows up at a barbecue or on a menu. However, as many of you can probably guess, I never make it myself because we really don’t buy meat beyond bacon and the occasional sausage (although with this year’s experiments and an extremely fun class from Chef Nic of Grotto Meats, sausage will likely become our own too.) As such, when a potluck this summer had pulled elk as an option, I made a point to seek out the cook for some tips and tricks. Even better, he was more than willing to share his methods with me.

Having previously tried pulled elk once or twice, it just never quite got to the “pulling” stage as well I’d have liked it. Given how much less fat is in an elk or venison roast, I was pretty sure there was something extra required to get it to work. Potluck guy shared that he slow cooks it in “a lot of lime juice, and some water, but really a lot of lime juice” and that acidic component helps to break down the meat. He then pours out that liquid, shreds the meat, and carries on with a sauce as normal. With my mind officially blown, I set off to try my own version.

pulled_deer1

I mixed “a lot of lime juice”, some apple cider vinegar, and water into the slow cooker and then added my roast. Slicing the roast into 2-3″ chunks gives it more surface area to cook, and I think results in a more even texture. After letting that go for eight or ten hours, I poured it out and added my own chipotle concoction. A short simmer later, and my Mexican-inspired pulled elk was delightful atop salad, tacos, or scrambled eggs.

While this method does require an extra step compared to your standard pork options, it is a wonderful way to use game meat and requires less than twenty minutes of active cooking time. Even better, you can easily double it and make more than one sauce (transfer one flavor to a saucepan to simmer together) giving you multiple options in the same amount of time.

pulled_deer3

As a side note: I also discovered that, for me, slow cooking during the day is too long because I’m often gone for 12 hours on weekdays, especially in the summer. Instead, I do the first cook overnight, let the sauce simmer while I’m getting ready for the day, and then store it in the fridge. That way it just needs to be heated for dinner since it’s all cooked and ready to enjoy.

This method works equally well with either venison or elk roasts, and as mentioned it’s easy to increase the amounts for extras. Either make multiple flavors (as shown from my pictures) or just shred one of them and store it in the freezer. Then you can simply pop the shredded meat into some sauce and you’re ready to go once it’s warmed through.

pulled_deer2

This would be a great holiday dinner, either for the big day or for one of the days after when the excitement wears off and the exhaustion sets in and everyone is like “holy crap where did 2018 go?” I don’t know where it went, but I do know I can enjoy some tasty dinners while I try to figure it out.

Pulled Venison/Elk

Makes one 3-4lb roast1

Ingredients

3-4 lbs venison or elk roast
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice (or lemon, but I prefer lime)
1 – 1 1/2 cups water

Chipotle sauce (great for tacos!)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2-4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Apple cider sauce (great for winter salads!)
1 bottle hard apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (for a little kick)

Directions

  1. Turn slow cooker to low and mix together vinegar, lime juice, and 1 cup of water.
  2. Slice roast (the short way) into 2-3″ wide chunks, and gently place into the liquid mixture.
  3. If necessary, add additional water. The meat does not need to be completely submerged but it should be mostly covered.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until it shreds easily.
  5. Remove meat from crock, and pour out the liquid. Be sure the outside of the crock is wiped clean then return it to the heating element.
  6. Shred the meat and put it back in the crock.
  7. Mix the sauce ingredients (use a blender for the chipotle sauce) and then stir into the meat. (Or use 8-12oz of your favorite sauce.) If it’s too thick, stir in additional water; mixture should be loose but not super watery.
  8. Continue to cook (can bump it to high if you are in a hurry) until the sauce is heated through and most of the liquid is heated through, at least 30 minutes.
  9. Meat is great for sandwiches, tacos, salads, toast, scrambled eggs, or just straight out of the pot. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers.

Notes

You can easily double the recipe to feed a crowd or put some in the freezer for later. Start with one recipe of liquid and twice the meat first as you may not need fully double the amount of the initial cooking liquids.

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[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever

As the weather warms there is a tendency to put the slow cooker away in favor of barbecues and chilled salads. While I am 100% in favor of both those items, I also think summer and winter can share the slow cooker equally well. Hawaiian meatballs and enchilada quinoa are both delightful summer meals and the slow cooker not only presents its usual ease of use, but also saves you from standing near a hot oven or stove.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

This week we can add a recipe to your summer repertoire with another Mexican favorite: fajitas. Possibly my favorite dish at Mexican restaurants, fajitas are consistently delicious and even more consistently rarely contain ingredients I don’t like. As someone with a strong aversion to raw tomato and cilantro, and a mild distaste for avocado, dishes from south of the border can be a bit challenging. (You can only tell the waiter to leave so many things off your tacos before they give you The Look.) Fajitas and enchiladas are my go-tos there, and these are a new go-to at home.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

With just a few simple ingredients and most of the prep time involving slicing meat and veggies, this recipe comes together in minutes and can be left to its own devices all day long. Up the heat with additional peppers or spices, or leave them out for an extra mild version. I like to use a variety of bell peppers to add some flair, but any of the colors will do. Make a batch of this DIY fajita season or use a store-bought version – whatever makes sense to you. I like to whip up my own so I can up the garlic and lower the salt, but any fajita or taco seasoning will do just grand.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

Tender meat and plenty of peppers fill out a tortilla with lots of flavor – I like to use a corn/flour blend but any fajita-size tortilla is great. These are perfect just as is, but I like to add some spinach, salsa, and sour cream for a few toppings. Sprinkle with hot sauce for an extra kick!

These make a lot which is great for a crowd or for meal prep. M liked these so much for lunches he requested them two weeks in a row. For a man who rarely gives me feedback beyond “it was pretty good”, this is praise of the highest order. As a bonus, they are super easy for me to throw together while I prep my own lunches for the week. Pack a container of meat, whichever toppings you like, and a couple tortillas and you are set for an easy lunch to reheat. For the low-carb crowd, serve over a bed of cauliflower rice and greens for a fajita-bowl instead.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

Slice up some meat and veggies and all you have to do in the morning is stir it and go. Plus, coming home to pre-made fajitas gives you plenty of time to blend some margaritas on the side – Fajita Friday anyone?

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever

Adapted from Fit Slow Cooker Queen
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

15 oz can tomato sauce
2 jalapeños, diced (or two, 4 oz cans)
2 Tbsp fajita seasoning (below, or use your own)

3 lbs steak, thinly sliced (I used deer)

3 bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Fajita seasoning
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp onion powder

Directions

  1. In your slow cooker, stir together tomato sauce, jalapeños, and fajita seasoning.
  2. Add steak and stir until well coated.
  3. Top with onion and bell pepper (or leave out until 1 hour from serving if you prefer them crispier.)
  4. Cook 6-8 hours on low (or 3-4 hours on high.)
  5. Serve hot with fajita-sized tortillas (I like a corn/flour blend), with plenty of salsa and sour cream for topping. (And a handful of spinach is never amiss!)

Teriyaki Meatballs

Like many teenagers, I rarely packed a lunch for school. Possibly unlike many teenagers, this was mostly because my objectively large lunch group was typically so annoyed at my exceedingly slight build they would just hand me food to eat. Albeit a little annoying in its intent, my laziness won out over my dignity and I happily accepted nearly anything people were willing to share. At some point during my high school career, a place next door started a lunch business serving bowls of Asian-inspired cuisine, like General Tso’s chicken and sweet & sour pork. They were all $5 per bowl and came with white rice, so my favorite teriyaki chicken bowl became somewhat of a staple food in my life. I was much too cheap to fork over my own money very often, but would delightedly finish off other’s leftovers or graciously accept a gift if one of my extremely generous friends felt so inclined.

These days I nearly always pack my own lunch and try to aim for healthier options, but my love of teriyaki has not waned. I rarely eat it, for reasons unknown, but when I saw these teriyaki meatballs on Damn Delicious I knew I had to give them a try. With a freezer full of venison, antelope, and elk, I did not opt to buy the ground pork advised in her original, but I thought my all venison version was exceptional. With this in mind I believe nearly any species of ground meat would suffice, but if you prefer the mixed meat combinations then by all means please do so.

Moist and flavorful, the meatballs are pretty excellent all on their own but also obviously improved by a delicious teriyaki sauce. I made the original version as directed the first time, but found it far too sweet for my personal taste. Although it was delicious, it was more along the lines of a sweet & sour profile than a savory and tangy teriyaki. As such, I’ve made some alterations, mostly cutting the sugar in half, which resulted in just the right amount of sweetness for me. If you like a sweet teriyaki sauce, you can certainly increase the sugar along the way.

I paired mine with my favorite wild rice mix and a side of roasted broccoli, which rounded out into a lovely dinner. The meatballs and sauce would also be excellent as an appetizer (don’t forget the toothpicks!) or as a fun twist on a meatball sandwich or wrap (I’d garnish mine with sprouts.) I like lots of sauce so I made a large batch; if you have leftovers, it’ll be great drizzle over veggies or salad, mixed with scrambled eggs, or paired with grilled chicken or salmon. I never worry about extra sauce, but if you’re not a big sauce person or are serving these as an appetizer, you could likely cut the recipe in half.

 

This is a great summertime meal, and to cut down on prep time just roll the meatballs ahead of time and store in the fridge till you’re ready to bake. If you have a second baking sheet you can roast your veggies at the same time while you make your sauce and cook the rice, and within 30 minutes dinner will be ready. The whole shebang also reheats great so look forward to those leftovers tomorrow.

Teriyaki Meatballs

Adapted from Damn Delicious
Makes about 2 dozen meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs
2 lbs ground meat of choice (or combination; I used venison)
1/2 cup Panko (bread crumbs)
2 large egg yolks
2 green onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or 1/8 tsp ground ginger)
1 tsp pepper

Sauce1
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water

Optional toppings: green onion, sesame seeds, parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with olive oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add all meatball ingredients. Use your hands (yes it’s messy) to mix together until completely combined.
  3. Roll 2 Tbsp into a ball and set on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining meat mixture, leaving at least 1″ between meatballs.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through (165*F on an instant-read thermometer).
  5. While the meatballs are baking, add soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, ginger, and garlic powder to a small saucepan.
  6. Heat over medium until sauce reaches a simmer, then taste carefully (don’t burn your tongue!). For a sweeter sauce, add additional brown sugar and return to simmer.
  7. Whisk together cornstarch and water and slowly stream into the pan, whisking constantly.
  8. Continue to heat over medium, whisking often, until mixture thickens to desired consistency (for me this was 5-10 minutes, I like it thick).
  9. For an appetizer: pour some sauce into a shallow bowl or serving dish and arrange meatballs inside. Drizzle additional sauce over the meatballs and sprinkle with sesame seeds or other garnish.
  10. For an entrée: serve atop your favorite rice or grain; roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts make an excellent side.

Notes

If you’re serving these as an appetizer, you can probably make half the amount of sauce, but I don’t consider extra teriyaki sauce to be a burden so really it’s up to you.

Broccoli Beef

Two days until July – I’m so excited! Why? You may ask. Well, for the month of June my challenge to myself was to give up bread (tortillas and pasta included) and peanut butter. Mainly to see if I could do it, because these items are basically life staples, and to help me branch out into different food.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

I did end up having to make some exceptions (I traveled a fair amount this month which makes it a lot harder to avoid bread, especially since I really don’t like to waste food unnecessarily) but overall it was a successful challenge. I am *super* looking forward to being able to use tortillas again for wraps, and to have peanut butter on a waffle, but it also helped me come up with some new favorites: quinoa bowls, baked sweet potatoes, and this broccoli beef dish.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Super easy since it’s made in the crock pot, this broccoli beef is just as good as takeout and not much more work. You could easily prep it all the night before and store it in the fridge (use a separate bowl, not your crock pot container), and dump it into the slow cooker in the morning. Add the final ingredients right when you get home, turn it to high, and you’ll have dinner ready to go within the hour while you unwind or do some chores or whatever else you need to do in the interim.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Amazing sauce, thinly sliced beef (or elk in my case), and veggies galore. Traditional broccoli beef is just that, broccoli and beef, but I like to add a bell pepper for extra veggies, extra flavor, and extra color. Although in full disclosure, I add bell peppers to basically all my entrees where it wouldn’t be weird. A double batch just fits in a 6-quart crock pot, so you can feed a crowd or put half in the freezer for another day.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Goes great with a side of rice, quinoa, noodles, zoodles, or just enjoy it solo. It reheats well and is just as delicious on day 5 as it is fresh from the cooker. And if you finish the meat and veggies before the sauce, it works great as a condiment for rice or quinoa bowls.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Note: I have a hunch you can add the corn starch slurry at the beginning, and assuming it’s cooked on high for at least one hour near the end it should thicken as expected. However I have not yet had time to test this theory. Once I do, I’ll update here.

Broccoli Beef

Adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb
Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

1 cup beef broth (or 1 bouillon cube + 1 cup boiling water)
1/3-1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1.5 lbs steak, slightly frozen

3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

1 lb broccoli
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

  1. In a crock pot, whisk together broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper flakes.
  2. Thinly slice meat (this is easier if it’s still slightly frozen), and cut into 2″ pieces.
  3. Gently add meat to crock pot.
  4. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or high for 2-3 hours.
  5. 1 hour before serving: Vigorously whisk or shake together corn starch and water. Stir into crock pot. Add broccoli and bell peppers, turn heat to high, and cook for another hour.
  6. Serve solo or with rice, quinoa, pasta, or your favorite grain.
  7. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Make a double batch if you like to have lots!