Life Is A Garden: Do you dig it?
EvoOutdoors Team Member
So you’ve gone out and harvested yourself some wild game. What pairs well with the fresh, “free” food you just harvested? That’s right…. fresh, “free” vegetables from your own vegetable garden in your back yard! What could be better than a meal prepared by yourself, from items you harvested yourself?
Growing up, I had the benefit of watching my parents and grandparents, year after year, grow a fairly large, successful garden. When it came time to do mine own, I began to do my research and realized there is a lot more to it than just throwing seeds into dirt.
A backyard garden can be the most rewarding or the most painful process, depending on the amount of effort and forethought put into it.
It takes the realization that gardening is more of a long term process than a weekend project to be successful. I compiled a list of a few things you may want to research on your own before starting your first garden.
What are you planting? This part should be fairly simple right?
- First take into consideration what do you like to eat. Think of the recipes you most commonly eat and what fresh produce it takes to prepare that meal. Does your family consume more venison spaghetti than the law allows? Plan on planting some tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and possibly fresh herbs.
- If you produce too many, will you have a way to preserve it such as canning, freezing, donate to more than happy to accept neighbors, sell at a local farmers market, etc?
- Do you plan on getting small plants from a local nursery or starting from seeds? If getting seeds please read the seed packet carefully for planting instructions. Some seeds need to be sewn indoors before being planted outside, while others prefer to be planted directly into the garden.
- Keep in mind there are hundreds of varieties of the most basic vegetable. Look at your local agricultral publications to find varieties that have proven to work best in your area.
- Some plants benefit from being grown next to certain plants while others when planted close by will cause problems for each other through disease, bugs, etc. This is called companion planting. Think its just by chance that basil pairs well with tomatoes in many dishes? Nope! Basil is often grown in the garden next to tomatoes. This pairing helps with repelling pests while attracting bees for pollination. In addition, it improves the flavorings of your tomatoes.
Where to plant?
- What kind of garden do you want to have? Old fashion rows in the dirt, raised bed, vertical gardening, flower pots, etc. I’ve also seen people plant directly into a bag of potting soil.
- How much of a space are you are willing to sacrifice from your yard? How much do you plan on planting? Are you feeding yourself, your family, or the whole neighborhood? Keep in mind a larger garden is a larger time spent tending to the garden. Also remember bigger plants (tomatoes, eggplants, squash, etc) need more space per plant
- Take into consideration you will need a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Also think about water drainage; you don’t want a spot that water collects in your yard. Most importantly you will need access to a water source near by unless you want to haul pails of water.
Get into your “zone”!
- What is a zone you ask? The USDA has established a map called the Plant Hardiness zone map. This map helps to determine minimum temperature ranges of your local area. When choosing your plants, look closely on the plant tag or seed pack and they will often tell you planting schedules based on this or similar zones.
- Each plant has a specific “growing season” in which they thrive. For example, tomatoes love warm weather and aren’t very cold hardy. Because I live in Louisiana where it warm for most of the year, I have a larger “growing season” for tomatoes compared to my friends further north who may only get warm enough weather for only a few weeks a year. All this information on the plants you chose can be found with very little effort online.
- Soil types, minerals, and pH vary from place to place. You should send off a sample of your soil to your local Ag center for soil testing. They should be able to tell you what needs to be added to your soil prior to planting. Either amend your soil according to their suggestions or chose plants to fit with your soil type.
- Warmer areas tend to have a larger bug problem. Have a pesticide plan in your mind. If you are choosing to go a more natural route with pesticides, research more organic options and ideas on companion planting to help reduce the bugs.
Use some common sense:
- Don’t “Go Big or Go Home”! Start off small and manageable. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at first and you can always expand next season. Also, you won’t need the fanciest of tools to get started. A simple, rake, spade, trowel, and pruners will get you far.
- Ask plenty of questions. Online resources are there by the millions (just be sure to look up more area specific information) or go to a local nursery. Use local Ag center publications. They are often free and full on great information. Youtube is also a great tool to see other’s techniques.
- Recognize symptoms before they become a major problem and fix it before the problem turns into a disaster. For example, if you see a couple of bugs on your lettuce, look into a way to get rid of them before you come back to a half chewed up plant or they spread to others.
- Don’t forget some plants require a little extra support from trellises, stakes, cages, etc. Some require special pruning, fertilization, etc. Want free, easy, fertilizer? start your own compost pile from uncooked kitchen scraps. Anything from paper products, uncooked fruits and veggies, the fish you filleted for dinner, shellfish peelings, egg shells, etc. can be collected and made into a compost pile while cutting back on your waste.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. -Audrey Hepburn
Now that I’ve given you enough to get you a good starting point to begin your research, I will tell you how I started my garden last spring. I first decided I wanted a raised bed. This would help decrease my weeds, give me good soil drainage when we get our crazy spring monsoons, and I could personally keep better control of my soil type. I simply picked a spot, laid out my timber, and got to work. I first took my shovel and removed the top layer of grass (not a required step but it will definitely cut back on the weeds). I then screwed together my timber and I drove some heavy duty angle iron into the ground and screwed it into my timber for support. The angle iron step is not a necessity, but the weight of the soil can easily cause your boards to bow outwards. I then laid out a layer of flattened card board boxes and news papers as an additional weed barrier before adding my soil. I personally used a 25:75 mix of bagged topsoil and garden soil to promote good drainage and aeration. I also chose to go the “difficult route” and start all my plants from seeds. Yes, over the course of the growing season, I struggled with bugs and plant disease, but as i previously mentioned, it is important to make these observations early and correct them. After long weeks of drawn out anticipation but very little effort, I began to see my little seeds grow and turn into huge plants which then turned into vegetables that we were able to eat.
A few things that I learned along the way in my first year:
- Do not lose your cool when one plant seems not to be growing as hearty as the others, it may just need a little more TLC but will soon catch up with the others.
- Checking the buds every twenty minutes will not help them grow faster.
- Bees love the garden. They will pay little to no attention to you working in the garden and are not there to attack. Lizards are also a necessity to keep some of the bugs at bay.
- I needed stronger stakes for my tomato plants that got carried away and had the tiny metals ones nearly bent in half.
- Try growing something you’ve never tried before and it’ll force you to get creative with recipes.
- I just love my garden. Growing and hunting my own food gives me a true appreciation for what I’m putting in my mouth and how it affects the way my body functions compared to junk food.
Slow Cooker Venison Burritos
Scott Emerick, EvoOutdoors Team Member
Are you sick of the same old venison recipes you have been cooking for years? Try these delicious and extremely easy venison burritos and I guarantee you wont just cook them once.
This recipe wins no awards for being the fanciest but is by far my family and friends favorite.
-1.5 – 2 lb boneless venison round
-1 (16 oz) Jar salsa (hot if you like spicy)
-1 (15 oz) Can corn – (drained)
-1 (15 oz) Black beans – (half drained)
-1 (8oz) Package cream cheese (4 oz needed)
-1 Package of your favorite flour tortillas
-1 (8 oz) Package shredded Mexican cheese
Lets get cooking!
- Place your venison into the bottom of your slow cooker.
- Cover with the jar of salsa, drained can of corn and half drained can of beans.
- Set the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 6-7 hours or until the venison pulls apart easily with a fork. It is easiest if you remove the venison from the slow cooker and pull apart on a cutting board. Return the venison to the slow cooker.
- Cube 4 oz cream cheese and stir in until melted.
That is it, time to eat!
Place the desired amount on a tortilla, top with shredded cheese, along with sour cream and hot sauce if you prefer and simply enjoy!
BBQ Shrimp: A Quick Cajun Favorite
Sarah Fromenthal, EvoOutdoors Team Member
Do you love seafood, spices, butter, and crusty bread and want a quick weeknight meal (approximately 20 minutes total)? Well this is a meal that will quickly grab your heart by the tastebuds! Unlike the name suggests, this is far from your traditional ” BBQ” and requires no grill or BBQ sauce. Also, be warned in advanced that this is a finger food that is NOT meant to be neatly eaten, but instead, it encourages finger licking.
Now the original version that I have indulged in over the years contains an inordinate amount of butter, but I have knocked the butter content down from a pound of butter to under an individual stick of butter. Its also traditionally served with crusty bread to sop up all of the juice, but since we are going healthier I chose to use lightly steamed cauliflower.
You will need:
- About one stick of butter (my conscious only allowed me to use about 3/4 of a stick)
- One can of your favorite beer
- 1/2 Cup of green onion
- 1/3 Cup of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp of liquid crab boil (I use Zatarain’s)
- 1 Tbsp if cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes
- 1 Tsp of hot sauce (I’m partial to Louisiana Hot Sauce)
- 1 Tbsp of kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp of black pepper
- 1 Tbsp of dried thyme leaf
- 1 Sprig of fresh rosemary
- 6 Cloves of minced garlic
- 2 whole bay leaves (remove before serving)
- 1 Lemon
- Approximately one pound of large shrimp- de-headed but not peeled (the peelings enhance the flavor)
- Juice sopping option (crusty bread, cauliflower, etc)
Melt the butter on a medium heat in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the beer and allow to simmer until some of the beer begins to evaporate. Once the beer is slightly reduced, add the green onions, garlic, bay leaves, Worcestershire, crab boil, cayenne, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary sprig, and hot sauce.
Roll the whole lemon on the cutting board before cutting in half to release its juices, then squeeze the juice of the halves into the pan then drop in the whole lemon (don’t let the seeds fall in because it will add an unwanted bitterness).
Stir all the ingredients well and let them come to a low boil without allowing it to smoke. If for some reason you think it needs more liquid, add additional beer.
When ready, add the shrimp in but be sure they are laying in one flat layer to ensure they cook evenly. After approximately two minutes depending on size, flip them over and allow that side cook until shrimp is all evenly pink in color but not overcooked. Remove the bay leaves, then pour all this deliciousness into a large plate and serve with your favorite bread (or other option to soak up the juice) with a handful of napkins!
Going Greek: Venison Gyros
I still don’t know how to pronounce it however, no matter which pronunciation you decide, the Gyro sandwich has been deemed an American-Greek fast food staple. Served at festivals, carnivals and a select number of Mediterranean restaurants around the United States, the Gyro sandwich is a delicacy that I don’t often get to eat, but absolutely savor when I do.
According to Whats Cooking America the Gyro type of sandwich has been known, and sold on the streets of Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey for hundreds of years. Greek historians believe that the dish originated during Alexander The Great’s time when his soldiers used their knives to skewer meat that they turned over fires. Even today, a proper gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder of well-seasoned lamb or beef on a slowly rotating vertical spit called a gyro.
I don’t know about you but I don’t have a slow turning vertical spit in my kitchen. Heck, I barely have a kitchen! If you’re anything like us, you like to think outside the box when it comes to your wild game meat. After all, you worked hard to harvest the animal and what better way to honor your hard work than to experiment with different recipes.
Here is our own take on a venison gyro, or as Adam calls it a “Deer-ro”
2 lbs venison steak- any cut.
We used a package of deer venison steak at the very bottom of the freezer…you know, that package that is unmarked and questionable. The one that clearly you were either too tired to label during processing or didn’t even know what to call it. Any cut and type of venison meat will do, from deer to exotic game.
1 white onion
Salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, garlic and any other spice combinations you may like- oregano and mint would be good!
Typically you can buy tzatziki sauce in your local grocery store. Store bought has a very strong dill flavor and I like mine a little more diluted. Click on the link for an EASY TZATZIKI recipe which you can tweak to satisfy your pallet.
Roma tomato, sliced
Romaine lettuce, shredded
Hot sauce- Because we live in the South y’all
3. Using a cast iron skillet, heat and coat pan with olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add. venison and onion mix. Sear venison on both sides, making sure not to overcook but letting a crust form on the edges of the meat (that will give it the true gyro texture!). Add more olive oil/butter as needed. 4. Assemble sandwiches by heating pita bread. Layer tzatziki sauce, meat and onions, lettuce, tomato, feta cheese.
5. If you are feeling really creative, wrap your Gyro sandwich in foil for that real street food feeling. Enjoy!
This is my second spring in the great state of Texas and I love watching our garden grow at the Czech Out Ranch. Every day there is something new to report. A new blackberry blossom, a bean stalk, an onion trying to push up from the soil. When it comes to cooking I am inspired by our garden and love to take a walk through it prior to dinner.
My husband and I love Thai food and anything that accompanies a spicy palate is a plus. I was craving Thai lettuce cups one day when I forgot to go to the store for chicken. My husband Adam suggested using venison instead- genius! Since this is South Texas and all, Thai lettuce tacos seemed more fitting a title. Here’s how we made this simple dish.
**If you want to serve with rice I suggest starting your rice based on an hour cooking/prep time commitment. We use a rice cooker so we always start the rice prior to any cooking. In this case we used jasmine rice which classically accompanies Thai food. White rice, brown rice or any sort of starch would work just as good.
Thinly slice roughly two pounds of defrosted venison steak (we wanted leftovers for the following evening). Marinate in a bowl with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Salt and pepper. A little goes a long way and I don’t measure. This is why Adam does all the baking. Any type of venison will work (deer, elk, exotics) but in this case we used black tail deer harvested by Adam in Oregon.
Slice/chop your veggies and toppings. We used a variety of peppers, onion, cilantro and crushed peanuts. I added a little bit of chive, basil and parsley from the garden. In addition, the garden peppers were calling my name so I added a few Serrano peppers for an added kick. Choose whichever veggies you enjoy!
Add a touch of olive oil to a pan and sear the venison steak in batches. We do majority of our indoor cooking in a cast iron skillet. Don’t overcook the venison. A minute or so on each side and the venison will be ready. Transfer to a dish and cover with foil to keep warm while you sear the rest.
Sautee onions, peppers and cilantro. You can either do this combined with the venison in step three or afterwards.
Prepare lettuce cups. Traditionally in Asian food restaurants lettuce cups are served with iceberg lettuce because they provide a good vessel for all the goodies. I don’t readily buy iceberg lettuce so I used some romaine which worked just as well. In the garden I mostly grow micro-greens which aren’t sturdy enough but certainly would make a good warm salad version of this recipe. To prepare, tear off each romaine leaflet from the stem to be used as your “cup” or “tortilla” to hold the cooked mixture.
Put it all together and enjoy.
There are many different ways you can put this concoction of ingredients together. We first placed a spoonful of jasmine rice on each romaine lettuce taco. Then added the meat/veggie mixture and uncooked toppings. I added extra cilantro as well as chive, basil, parsley and crushed peanuts for crunch.
Nut allergy? Bean sprouts work just as well. Caution: The more ingredients you add the messier the bite!
My first job in college was at a Hawaiian restaurant where sesame seeds were sprinkled on top of every dish. Therefore I have been trained to have toasted sesame seeds on hand. I buy them pre-toasted but you can easily toast them yourself. How to toast sesame seeds.
For spice Adam and I like to indulge with some hot chili sauce or you can make any Asian inspired vinaigrette. I am obsessed with Korean BBQ sauce. There is room to mix ethnicities for variation so have fun with it!
As hunters it is always fulfilling to know that you played a crucial part in the making of your meal. I also find that when you cook your own wild game it sparks a retelling of the hunt, the animal and the memories made. In a way, cooking your own wild game is a way to honor your harvest.
Happy hunting, gardening and eating!
Venison steak- 2lbs
Your favorite peppers- 1-2
Chive, basil, parsley (or whatever added flavor you’d like)
Salt and black pepper
White wine vinegar
Optional: Toasted sesame seeds, chili sauce, peanuts, bean sprouts
-Kristin Parma, Evo Media Coordinator/ProStaff
-Adam Parma, ProStaff
- 2-3 lbs of desired meat sliced (deer,Elk Moose,Beef)
- mix following ingredients in a large bowl
- 1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup of soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons of Honey (sweeter 1/3 cup)
- 1 Tablespoon of ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1-2 Tablespoons red pepper flake (To desired heat)
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 1 teaspoon of jerky dust (Not Needed) But Awesome
Take the sliced meat out of the fridge and place meat flat, in a single layer, on the dehydrator racks. Once the meat has all been laid out, turn the dehydrator to 170 degree F. Let the meat dehydrate for 8-10 hours Check frequently for desired dryness, as the thinner pieces will finish first. Once the jerky is to your desired dryness remove from the rack and enjoy.
As many of you know, I am ALWAYS on the go between working full time as a Medical Technologist and being an outdoors obsessed woman. Although I do not always have a large amount of free time, cooking a home cooked meal using the game and fish that I have harvested/caught is always preferred over a fast food burger or boring salad. So here are a few of my favorite “quick” meals that I throw together when in a time crunch.
Crock Pot Wild Game Spaghetti:
2 Large onions, 2 bell peppers, and garlic (chopped)
Wild game meat of choice (my personal favorite is to use green onion seasoned ground deer and deer stew meat together to have varying textures)
Can each of tomato sauce and tomato paste
2 Cans of stewed tomatoes
Mushrooms (canned or fresh)
Seasonings: Italian herb blend, garlic powder, “Tony’s” Season All, Salt and Pepper
Large Slow Cooker and a Large Skillet
Before bed, brown your wild game thoroughly and saute the vegetables until tender. Throw this along with the cans of stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, mushrooms, and two cups of water into the slow cooker and stir well. Season to taste using the above seasonings (for added spice I throw in cayenne also). Set the slow cooker to low and get some rest it will be there waiting for you after the morning hunt!
**CAUTION: IT WILL BE HARD TO SLEEP WITH YOUR HOUSE SMELLING SO AMAZING**
Grilled Fish with Creamy Crab and Mushroom Sauce
Fish of choice ( my favorites: redfish “on the half shell” or scaled whole bluegill)
Can of low fat cream of mushroom soup
Lump crab meat
Onion (chopped) , Garlic (minced), and Mushrooms (now is a good time to use the morels you’ve been collecting)
Butter and Lite Italian Dressing (I prefer using the Olive Garden Light dressing)
Seasonings: Garlic powder, Louisiana hot sauce, “Tonys” Season All, Cayenne, Lemon juice
The fish: Marinate the fish with the minced garlic, hot sauce, Tony’s Season All, Garlic powder, lemon juice, and a little Italian dressing. Make a basting sauce of softened butter, Italian dressing, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and Tony’s/Season All. Grill until fish is thoroughly cooked basting regularly throughout the cooking process.
The Sauce: Saute onions and garlic until tender, then add cream of mushroom and a half a can of water. Toss in crab meat, mushrooms, and desired seasonings then simmer on low while you grill your fish.
I like to serve the fish and sauce along with fresh vegetables from the garden such as squash and zucchini which are delicious grilled on the pit or cut into “noodles”.
Back Strap Salad
Whole Deer Back Strap (or for the brave… same recipe can be used on deer heart)
Baby Spinach or Spring Mix Salad
Red onion and garlic
Feta cheese and Parmesan cheese
Beer or wine (or for the non alcoholic version… Italian dressing)
Seasonings: (I think you get the hint by now that I put Tony’s, hot sauce, and garlic in everything)
Marinate the back strap with garlic and seasonings along with beer/wine/Italian dressing. Sear the back strap in a skillet until cooked medium/ medium rare. Set strap aside and DO NOT CUT until the meat has rested 5-10 minutes to allow for the juices to soak back into the meat. In the same pan, add a handful of chopped onions and some garlic and cook down until tender then add any remaining marinade and more of the beer/wine/dressing and reduce by half. Mix together your salad, cheese, and raw red onions. Top with the sliced back strap and the reduced pan mixture.
Although fishing (especially redfishing) is a huge love of mine and I live in South Louisiana where there is water at every turn, I don’t get to go as often as I’d like to since my dad sold his boat a couple of years back. So when I got an invite for a quick early morning saltwater trip, I was more than thrilled.
With no sleep, we headed down the bayou and made it out to the launch just in time for daybreak. It was a lovely, although windy, morning in Pointe Aux Chene. We fished in a few known areas, areas that we saw sea gulls diving for bait, and even site fished some reds in secluded ponds mostly using live minnow under a cork.
After spending a few hours on the water, we finished up the morning with a nice haul of both redfish and speckled trout and a slight sunburn.
Of course, because I love to experiment with cooking what I catch / hunt just as much as the actual act of catching / hunting it, I couldn’t wait to cook up some of the reds. So after some brainstorming and a quick trip to the grocery store, the experimentation began. I decided to cook redfish “on the half shell” with a shrimp cream sauce with a side of grilled veggeis. I have to say, it is one of my new favorites.
What is redfish on the half shell you ask? It is what I call a filet of redfish with the skin and scales left on. Perfect for grilling!
- Redfish filets with the skin (and preferably scales) left on
- 1lb of peeled, de-headed shrimp
- 1 cup of fat free half and half
- 1 cup of part skim mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/2 stick of butter
- Minced garlic
- Veggies of your choice for grilling (I used squash, zuchinni, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and red onions)
- 1/3 cup White wine
- Seasonings: lemon juice, garlic powder, “blackening seasonings” ( I recommend Chef Prudhommes), Tony Chachere’s, cracked black pepper, cayenne, and salt
You will also need foil and a veggie grill basket (or do what I did and use a disposable aluminum pan and punch holes in the bottom).
Prepping the Food for the Grill:
- Place the each redfish on foil (should be about 5 inches longer than the fish) and sprinkle garlic powder, blackening seasoning, a little tonys, and a few squirts of lemon juice. Place on top, 2 to 3 thin slices of butter and fold foil over the top of the fish making a steamer bag.
- Chop the veggies of choice into large chunks and toss in about a tablespoon of melted butter, black pepper, garlic powder, and about a tsp of lemon juice.
- Grill veggies until tender (larger veggies can go directly on the grill, but i recommend the grill basket for everything else).
- Place the fish on either low or indirect heat and cook until almost done. (should be almost to the point where it is flaky) Cooking time depends on size of filet.
- For the last few minutes of cooking, open up the foil and allow it to finish cooking on a high heat to get all the flavors from the pit integrated into the meat. When done, the meat of the fish should be flaky yet moist.
Shrimp and Cream Sauce:
- Season the shrimp with minced garlic, garlic powder, blackening seasoning, Tony’s, cayenne, black pepper, and seer in a hot pan. Once a good sear is achieved, add wine and continue to simmer until shrimp are fully cooked. Once shrimp are cooked, remove pan from heat and allow to cool.
- After the pan and shrimp have cooled, return to a low heat and add the half & half and cheese then simmer on an low heat for about 15 minutes. Be sure this does not bubble because that will cause the cream to curdle. Over this 15 minute span, slowly add the shredded mozzarella. Season to taste.
- Cornstarch may be needed to thicken the sauce to the desired texture (Remember to mix it well with cold water prior to adding it to the sauce to prevent clumping)
- Pour sauce and shrimp over the finished redfish and VOILA dinner is served!