It’s a TURKEY REVOLUTION!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Whoo-hoo!

That means people start calling the National Wild Turkey Federation looking for someone to talk turkey. And sometimes they end up with me.

Earlier this week I chatted with Jim and Trav on The Revolution — one wacky outdoor radio show. Click here to hear it. (Be patient. It may take a minute or so to load. And, yes, it’s a hour-long show, but I’m the first one up.)

They were searching for someone to talk about cooking wild turkey. Their first pick was James Africano, executive chef for Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. Chef James couldn’t do the interview, but remembered me from my hunt out there this spring … and that I’m working on a cookbook for the NWTF.

Basically, I was the consolation prize. But I’m not hurt, because I learned a couple things about myself during my 10-minute on-air stint.

1. I say “you know” WAY too much.
2. If you answer questions with enough authority, people believe you.

I’m not talking about the cooking tips. Those I have down pat. It was the turkey trivia.

I feel bad because some of my answers were, well, bad. And I won the trivia contest with these bad answers. So I’m here to set the record straight.

Turkeys CAN fly 55 miles per hour.

I wasn’t TOTALLY wrong. They fly 35 mph (which is what I said), but they do it in order to get to 55.

Now, I know. And you do too.

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 2

View from the Rhine River

Our group met at dawn for the first time at the Frankfurt airport after all-night flights. The good news was there was a driver in a big red bus there to meet us. The bad news we couldn’t check into our hotel rooms until 2:30 that afternoon.

As much as our bodies were screaming rest, our adventuresome spirits were chomping at the bit to explore. We chartered a boat up the Rhine River and were fascinated by the towering granite castles amongst the miles of well-maintained vineyards, both defying time and progress as the river rolled on.

No German dining experience is complete without a round of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

We had lunch in a quaint old villa near the river. Ancient grapevines adorned the canopies and open-air dining. I was enjoying the ambience, including other diners chatting in unknown tongues, when a rocking blast of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” spit out of speakers. The tune was the same, but the words were sung in German. How’s that for a hybrid culture?

It took me a long study of the menu to decide on what to order, mainly because I couldn’t read it. And if I could figure out the words, I wasn’t sure what it was. A “pig knuckle” sounded pretty wholesome, however I didn’t expect it to be the better part of a hog’s leg. Bill and I had enough pork to share with everyone.

Pig knuckles — enough pork to feed an army

I’m digging these German ways so far. Two-stepping music and pig knuckles, what else could a country girl want?

— Brenda

 

It’s a Turkey Palooza!

The NWTF is getting a little bit of an early start on July 4 fun with its first-ever Turkey Palooza this weekend. The NWTF campus will be buzzing with activity on Saturday — games, food, live music, auctions, culminating in a big honkin’ fireworks show. All the ingredients for an Independence Day-type festival, but we’re getting our turkey on instead!

So what’s a palooza anyway? I had to look it up myself.

Apparently, “palooza” is a term that came to be after I graduated high school in 1995. It’s nowhere to be found in the dictionary I received as a graduation gift — the days before you could Google everything.

I keep that dictionary in my desk drawer, because I still believe Mr. Webster over what I find online.

Palooza was not where it should’ve been in the “P-Q-R” section, after palooka (an inexperienced boxer), so I defaulted to Wikitonary.com. It says a palooza is an exaggerated event. That tells me absolutely nothing.

So I’m going to say a palooza is a big celebration, which is what I think is the intention of the events on Saturday. Add “turkey” before it, and it becomes a big NWTF party.

The Turkey Palooza began as a thank you to the Edgefield, S.C., community. The NWTF has called Edgefield home since 1973, employing folks from all over the Central Savannah River Area for nearly four decades. We love it here and want our neighbors to know it.

We also want them to get to know who we are and what we do for North America’s wildlife and hunting traditions. I’m not joking when I tell the story of a woman working in the McDonald’s drive-through no more than a mile or so up the road from NWTF headquarters. She actually asked me where we keep all the turkeys. Sigh…

Well, Saturday will be a chance for her to get the full NWTF scoop. Turkey Palooza participants can tour our Winchester Museum for free, typically a perk reserved for NWTF members.

Another bonus for NWTF members is an exclusive VIP area with its own games and made-in-the-shade seating area.

But anyone and everyone can enjoy the fun.

If you live within driving distance of Edgefield, you should totally join us. I’ll be there broadcasting live with WKSX (92.7 FM out of Johnston), giving away prizes, jawing about the day’s activities and trying to convince the show host to let me play some Def Leppard.

If you don’t live nearby, you can still get your palooza on too. Stay in touch here at Keepin’ Up With Karen and on my Facebook page for ways you can win prizes — even if you live in Idaho!

Oh, and click on the video above to get the skinny on what’s happening at the Turkey Palooza. (And make note of that sweet voice convincing you to stop by. It’s me!)

Treat your taste buds (and wild turkey) right, they deserve it

Nothing caps off a long day of hunting better than a heaping plate of stick-to-your-ribs food. Like meat, some kind of starch, with a vegetable or two thrown in to make your momma happy.

Chef James Africano, you had me at goat cheese. This picture just doesn’t do the dish justice (and tells me I need to upgrade my phone). Your eyes are feasting on root beer and jalapeno braised beef short ribs over goat cheese polenta.

If you ever make time to hunt at Vermejo Park Ranch, you’ll find mealtimes are more than pit stops to refuel for the next outing; they are part of the hunting experience. With a menu that includes bison, elk and local produce (including veggies from an onsite garden), Chef James Africano brings the outdoors to each individually crafted plate.

Chef James comes from Colorado but settled in as Vermejo’s executive chef in 2007. He takes traditional ranch meals (meat and potatoes) and turns them into delicious scenery, worthy companions to the amazing peaks, lakes and canyons of the surrounding acres.

He changes the menu weekly, with different specials each night. It’s the perfect plan, because you have the option of digging into the featured item without feeling like you’ll miss out on any of the other ridiculously yummy dishes. It simply gives you something to look forward to the next evening.

Here’s his New Mexico treatment for wild turkey — fajitas! Try it around the campfire or take your skillet inside. It’s a wild fiesta for your mouth!

Grilled Colorado lamb rack. Pan roasted arctic char. Doesn’t sound like your typical hunt camp fare? Tell that to your tummy when you’re finished. I think it’ll beg to differ.

Campfire Wild Turkey Fajitas

Ingredients
1 wild turkey breast (about 1½ pounds)
cut into ½-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion cut into long strips
1 red bell pepper cut into long strips
1 green bell pepper cut into long strips
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 fresh garlic cloves
juice of three limes
10-inch tortillas (about eight)

Now get cookin’

After cutting the turkey into strips, place in a large container and pour soy sauce and Worcestershire over them. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and add to the soy mixture along with the lemon juice. Refrigerate for four hours.

Warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet over the campfire or medium high heat. Add vegetable oil and wait for it to just start smoking. Remove half of the turkey from the marinade and carefully add to the hot skillet. Brown the first batch of turkey well, remove from the skillet and add the second half of the turkey strips. Repeat the browning process, and add the first batch of turkey back to the skillet along with the pepper and onion strips. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes, until the turkey is cooked through, and the vegetables have begun to soften and brown.

While the turkey and vegetables are cooking, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven or over coals from the fire. Sprinkle in the cumin, chili powder and cayenne and stir through. Season the fajitas with salt if necessary. Serve immediately with the warm tortillas and condiments of your choice.

Your wild turkey deserves more than an Old El Paso taco kit in a box. Try this campfire fajita recipe by Vermejo Park Ranch’s executive chef. After dinner, you’ll already be in the perfect spot for sharing the story of your hunt.

My condiments of choice? Sour cream, cheese and a boatload of pico de gallo! Sounds great, chef! Thanks for sharing.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I need your camp favorites for my cookbook project. Hey, if Chef James Africano thinks it’s a cool idea, then it’s a cool idea.

So send them to keepingupwithkaren@nwtf.net.

Huntin’ for food

Nothing tops off the end of a hard day of hunting than a stick-to-your-ribs meal.

(A hot shower comes in a close second for me, but that has nothing to do with this blog post.)

I’m talking ranch beans, some kind of meat with sauce on it, pies with crusts made from lard. You know, the kind of food you’d feel guilty eating at home. But for some reason, after a full day of quietly walking, sitting, calling and possibly shooting, you’ve earned a 2,000-calorie meal.

Can I get an AMEN?

Hunt camp food is traditionally hardy, simple, designed to feed a crowd who wants seconds. In a single word — yummy.

Joni Sanderford (right) and I toast her yummy garlic cheddar biscuits.

Here’s a recipe from Joni Sanderford, who operates Croton Creek Ranch in Cheyenne, Okla., with her husband, Scott. Joni keeps the kitchen fires burning and hundreds of bellies full each year with tasty treats like her …

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Dough ingredients:
2½ cups of Bisquick
4 tablespoons of cold butter
1 heaping cup of grated cheddar
¾ cups of cold milk
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

Topping ingredients:
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
¼ teaspoon of parsley flakes
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
pinch of salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the Bisquick and butter, without mixing it too well. (There should be chunks of butter in the mixture.) Add cheese, milk and garlic powder. Mix by hand until all ingredients are combined. Using an ice cream scoop, drop ¼-cup mounds of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Brush each biscuit with the topping mixture as soon as they’re out of the oven.

Every hunt camp cook has a favorite, go-to recipe. Your mission this spring is to yank it out of them and send it to me for my NWTF cookbook project. Be sure to give credit where it’s due and tell me a little about who made the dish and where you had it.

Having trouble convincing the cook to fork over the 411 on his or her prized dish? Just tell them they may very well be immortalized along with Joni in the MOST. AWESOME. NWTF. COOKBOOK. EVER.

Until the next camp meal is served, please pass the Tums. I’m going to take a nap on a full stomach, happy as a tick on a hound dog.

 

The sweetest deer meat

I’m an occasional deer hunter. As in I’ll hunt deer on the occasion that someone scouts a spot, hangs a stand for me and volunteers to babysit my kid. I enjoy it but rarely make the time to do anything but pull the trigger.

My husband, CJ, on the other hand, is an avid deer hunter. And his most recent passion is traditional archery. It consumes his brain in the fall. If he’s not hunting some other state in the name of work, (CJ’s a PR guy for some notable companies in the industry.) he’s at one of his leases.

And before he gets on to me for making him sound like a deadbeat dad during deer season, he’s really good about sharing parenting and household responsibilities — before and after shooting light sets in.

Take this year, for instance, something clicked in him to start processing and cooking his quarry himself. Two does down already this season, and our kitchen-turned-butcher shop has seen more deer parts than the local taxidermist.

The best part of his recent camo culinary exploits is that he WANTS to cook dinner. We’ve had venison Sloppy Joes, deer roast, grilled backstrap and other carnivorous cuisine.

All I have to do is answer a few text messages about the crockpot during the day and tuck a napkin in my shirt collar when I get home from work.

So I say, hunt away, husband of mine! I’ll take care of the kid and the laundry.

And if any of you have venison recipes for CJ to try, send them to me. I’ll be sure to pass them along.