Cooking takes more than a good recipe, it also takes a Ninja Foodi, common sense and a good sponge. 

For many years I did most of the cooking in our home. But when my work often kept me later than Chip’s work, he began doing most of the cooking. Chip is a wonderful cook, and everyone loves his cooking, just ask our camping friends. But when it is time to cook deer cube steak, it is me who is in charge of dinner, and tonight was that night.

I had my grocery list and was heading out the door when Chip came home. I told him I was going to the grocery store, and he asked if I needed him to go with me and I said, um no, I am pretty sure I can buy groceries on my own. He laughed and said he didn’t want me to get lost in the store. You guessed it, he does most of the grocery shopping so yes he knows the store like the back of his hand and I end up going up and down the aisles and crisscross the store multiple times to get what I need, but I do find my way out, and in record time, as I was trucking it up and down the aisles just so I wouldn’t be gone long. If you saw me, you would have thought I was in some type of speed shopping contest. I was trying to impress him on how quick I could shop, but it didn’t matter as he was already in the deer stand by the time I returned home.

Since Chip had gone deer hunting, and Bailey was asleep in the recliner, I was happy to be cooking. I like it when I am alone in the kitchen, that is unless I can’t accomplish a task, which is often. Chip and Bailey are forever putting lids on too tight and then I struggle to open them. If there was a video following me around I swear I would win some kind of weird contest for stupidity or maybe one for being ingenious, as I definitely have done some stupid things that I am lucky I didn’t end up in the emergency room and other times I was pretty ingenious on how I accomplished the task.

I decided tonight to try a new recipe for deer meat in my Ninja foodi. Oh, how I love my foodi. The last recipe for deer meat in the foodi used a cream-based sauce and since deer meat is the only red meat, I can eat, I really wanted a simple recipe I could eat which means it could not contain flour or dairy. I found what appeared to be an easy recipe and started cooking. The recipe called for a can of French onion soup. When did can food makers quit making old fashioned cans? You know the kind that you use a can opener to open. A lot of cans today are the pull tab, which is convenient if you are strong, but for me, they are a challenge. I had to use a spoon to get it started and then use the opposite end to try to pry the tab off. As usual, I was not able to get the can all the way open, but could get it open enough to pour the soup out, good thing it wasn’t a thick cream-based soup, or I would still be trying to get the contents out instead of writing this blog.

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The directions called for setting the foodi on steam for four minutes with a natural release. I set it to start and was busy doing other things and noticed it was releasing the steam and thought, “that was quick” and let it go for a while and then it hit me, I forgot to close the valve and it was just setting there releasing steam. Thankfully it did cook and was very tender, so disaster averted. See this is why I like cooking on my own because when I do dumb things, I don’t like Chip to know about it. The next step of the recipe called for putting the Foodi on sauté and add two tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the gravy mixture. I know how to cook, and yet I did exactly what the recipe directed and added it right in. I knew as soon as I did it that I had made a mess, but I kept whisking away as if the small blobs of cornstarch were going to magically dissolve. My mama taught me years ago how to add flour into hot liquid, but I failed to do as I was taught and followed that recipe. Well, as you know the blobs of cornstarch did not cook down so now the goal was to get it strained before anyone saw my mess. I could not find the small mesh strainer and I was scrambling to find something to use. I found my handheld flour sifter and thought it would work perfectly, well it didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but something was better than nothing. I finally got frustrated, decided there was enough gravy to work with and washed the rest down the sink. There were a lot more cornstarch blobs than these I show here.

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This time I did what I knew to do, to begin with, I mixed my cornstarch in a small bowl with a little water and made a thin paste and when I added that to the gravy it worked perfectly. The gravy was thick with no lumps, well there were a few small ones that I may have missed, but hopefully, no one would notice. The deer meat and gravy were poured into a glass dish, the foodi washed and ready for its next task.

The second part of dinner was to try a new macaroni and cheese recipe. I found one for the foodi that was a copycat of Panera Breads macaroni and cheese. Now, I personally have never had their macaroni and cheese, but I love Panera bread and surely it must be good. I read the directions; did I tell you Chip fusses at me that I never follow the directions on recipes? Well, he does, so I made sure I read the directions and followed them to a “t” as I really wanted this to be perfect. It called for 16 ounces of elbow macaroni and two cups of chicken broth. I knew when I added the chicken broth that there was not enough liquid to cover the macaroni and my gut told me to add more but I was trying to follow the directions, so against my better judgment, I closed the lid and turned it on. When it beeped, I was hoping for the best and found what I had expected, half of the noodles were cooked, the ones in the liquid, and half were not cooked. See I should have followed my gut and used common sense knowing noodles needed more water. I added more water, worried that the cooked ones would get mushy but after a few more minutes it turned out perfect. It called for Dijon mustard, hot sauce and two cups of cheese. I thought I had all the ingredients as we have always had Dijon mustard in our refrigerator, but of course, not the night that I am trying so hard to follow the directions to a “t.” I googled the ingredients in Dijon mustard as I had a cracked pepper brown mustard and wanted to see if it was close enough. The ingredients weren’t the same, but close enough for me. I couldn’t taste it as it had all the ingredients, I am not supposed to have, including milk, butter and lots of cheese, so I would have to wait to see what Chip and Bailey thought. I could only hope for the best.

The last couple of items were easy, green beans and biscuits. Everything was ready just in time, as Chip arrived from hunting.

With plates prepared, it was time to eat. “What is this?” Bailey asked poking her fork at a small white blob of something on her cubed steak. I told her it was flour from the gravy, just eat it, it will not hurt you. She said it looked like an insect egg and she just wanted to make sure. If they had only seen how many small white blobs, it had in it earlier. It did look like an insect egg once she pointed it out, thank goodness I knew it wasn’t. I accidentally ate a ladybug that had fallen in something I was cooking a few years ago and just in case you don’t know, they taste awful. I still remember it as if it was yesterday and I am leery with anything open in the kitchen when my house has so many ladybugs around. The cubed steak was a hit with both Chip and Bailey saying how good it was. The response on the macaroni and cheese was that it was good, but not good as what I usually make. I guess the moral to this part of the story is if you have a good recipe, that most people love, why waste your time trying something new. Thank you to my friend Dana who shared her macaroni and cheese recipe with me over 20 years ago. I will not waste my time ever again trying a new macaroni and cheese recipe.

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In our house whoever cooks gets to sit back while the other cleans, but somehow tonight that didn’t happen, and I did the cooking and cleaning. It wasn’t too bad though as cooking in the foodi really cuts down on cleaning as you just have one pot. The only problem was this was the creamiest macaroni and cheese I have ever seen and there was a lot of cheese in that pot. I instinctively grabbed my favorite mesh sponge and quickly cleaned the pot but unfortunately, my favorite sponge has cleaned its last pot.  All the cheese would not come out of the sponge no matter how much hot water I attempted to clean it with. I reluctantly threw it in the trash.

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I will have to wait until the farmers market opens in the spring and hope the sweet little older ladies, I purchase my sponges from are still making them. If you have not tried them, trust me they work wonders and are very inexpensive.

Thank goodness we only eat deer cubed steak occasionally and I can go back to being in charge of cleaning the house, and not cooking since it never seems to work out for me. Cooking is not like riding a bicycle, as when you don’t do it for a while, it doesn’t always go so smoothly.

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