Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Food Day: Better Than Nuthin'

My dear mother is many things (teacher, thrift shopper, gardener, reader, homeopathic practitioner, philosopher, earth steward, Sunday school teacher...) but a gourmet chef she is not. Based on this common understanding, the news that she had won a recipe contest made everyone in our family raise our eyebrows and lean forward on the edge of our seats. As we sat around an extra long table at Christmas, she told how she had submitted a venison recipe to the local paper, and her recipe won! It is a well known recipe in our family, and always a crowd pleaser. For those of you who get lost in long posts, I will post the recipe first and the whole story afterward. Here's the recipe (and Elizabeth, it's gluten free, I think :)!

Chinese Savory Beef (or Venison)
2 lbs. lean meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares (may use very tough cuts of meat) -or- 2 lb. roast
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves pressed garlic
4 slices fresh ginger
1/2 c. soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 T. brown sugar
1/8 t. pepper
2-3 c. Water

Saute meat in a skillet or dutch oven. Add vegetables and saute. Add soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and water and cover. Simmer over the stove for 3 hours. Serve over rice or noodles.
***This recipe also works well just thrown in a crock pot for several hours***
serves 8

Now for the newspaper article in which my mom was interviewed. I know that my girls would love to read this when they are older, so I am going to post the whole thing here. I think it gives an interesting and accurate snapshot of my mom (and dad) in their early years together.

Award winning recipe came from "better than nuthin' " cookbook
by Becky Glander

A recipe out of the "better than nuthin' ' cookbook won Beth Knudtsen-Spears first place in a recipe contest.
Knudtsen-Spears, a homeopath who deals in complementary and alternative medicine as a trade, won the Isanti-Chisago County Star's $100 holiday recipe challenge with a venison recipe that originates back to the beginning of her 32 year marriage.

"It's an adapted recipe from the cookbook called, well what my husband, Don calls 'better than nuthin,' " Knudtsen-Spears chuckled. The cookbook is actually titled, "More with Less" and is put out by the Mennonites.

When they were first married, Knudtsen-Spears moved to West Germany where her military husband was stationed. She didn't bring much with her. The apartments over there at the time came furnished with linens and other household items, so she took only what she could fit in her suitcase- only what she thought a new bride may need. "I took one cookbook, I took two cookie sheets and some knives."

The cookbook, a wedding gift was a "crossover" cookbook - not fully vegetarian, but the recipes contain less meat, a little less sugar and promote healthier eating. Her plan was for her and her new husband to become vegetarians. The challenge: he had grown up on a beef farm.

"That first year we didn't know each other very well- like many newlyweds- but we probably knew each even less well," she laughed.

Knudtsen-Spears' lifestyle plans weren't quite working. The commissary refused to carry soy beans because "soy beans are for pigs" according to the commissary manager. She had little access to other vegetarian meat substitutes such as tofu.

Knudtsen Spears said she would use the Mennonite cookbook and adapt recipes out of it depending on the ingredients they had available.
"Many times, they were not edible," she said. "So Don would say "umm... good cooking." And I would say "yeah this is a great recipe." He would say "yeah... better than nuthin.' So that's how the cookbook came to be named."

When her husband got out of the army, they moved to Colorado. Both of them were going to college, basically living on the G.I. Bill. They actually did become vegetarians at that point. "Beans were cheaper than meat," Knudtsen-Spears said.

One day, her avid hunter husband shot an elk. "We had 800 pounds of meat, " she said. "So I learned how to fix meat."

She started to adapt the recipes in "better than nuthin' " for game. And so the recipe 'Savory Venison' was born which one day became a clear- almost unanimous- contest winner by Isanti-Chisago County Star staff judges.

Knudtsen-Spears lives in Cambridge and woks at WillowBridge Center. She could choose any place in town to put her $100 winnings toward in the form of a gift certificate. She chose WillowBridge Center, where she plans to use it to help pay for Total Wellness Coaching fitness boot camp.


Anonymous said...

Tell your mom "Congratulations" on the recipe contest! What a special memory that came from that 'Better than Nuthin' recipe! I remember your mom and Grandma Knudson were so healthy and they ate and prepared such good nutritious foods. What wonderful role models you have and now your girls can follow in your footsteps with healthy eating. :) Thank you for sharing this recipe!!! I love trying any recipe that doesn't contain gluten/wheat...this one sounds so delicious and so healthy for you!!! Thanks again, Becca. Oh and by the way, I tried your Spaghetti sauce and my husband and I loved it. It tasted so much better than out of a jar. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! This was such a special story. You have a gift for writing, Becca! God bless, Rebecca -- Anna's sister :)

Liz and Paul Holton said...

I hope you don't mind, but I just did a post on a pizza I made recently...I used your Spaghetti Sauce on it. I called it "Becca Patenaude's Spaghetti Sauce." :)

Sara said...

Too funny! I checked out the More With Less cookbook from the library this very year. That was a cute story. Thanks for sharing.