Trying something new — yes, at your age — and venison Stroganoff

Two-thirds of a cup of sour cream, reduced-fat if you like, ready to be stirred into your Stroganoff.

After I committed to spending five-six days a week at the Y at the end of last summer, people want to know if I feel just fabulous. No, but I don’t feel as bad, and at 72-1/2, that’s probably the same thing. My knees no longer hurt 24/7. I can hike briskly across a big parking lot. I must have more energy because I’m working two jobs now — a secretary two to three days a week and a Silver Sneakers Classic instructor three times a week.

I definitely feel more present in my life, and I’ve said before I think that’s a function of lots of oxygen. Yesterday’s Restorative Yoga class focused on intentional breathing, as well as relaxation. I’m not sure my Silver Sneakers students will understand the idea of intentional breathing, but we’re (all) going to work on it. Most of us breathe badly — rapidly and shallowly like bunnies. Deep breaths held for just a second for focus and then explosively exhaled while we pull in the arms are invigorating and healthful, even if they don’t leave us sore the next day.

I tried a 30-minute Core class last week, and that, too, was a revelation. Perfectly doable workout of lots of muscles — fore and aft — that almost never get enough attention. And there’s a world of hurt you can put on your “front core” (your abs) beyond the tiresome crunch, although, sadly, that will always be with us. It felt just a bit exhilarating to discover I can “walk” my hands out into a plank from a stand and then “walk” back up. Feeling strong feels good.

Many people of a certain age need more than a nudge to try things beyond their comfort zones, but it’s so good for us physically and mentally. I’m trying to explain to my participants that if they feel no resistance with their weights or their bands, they need to try heavier ones. Also, that as we age, we need to challenge ourselves more and not less. If this Silver Sneakers class no longer feels like a workout to you, try Pilates or Body Pump. Tell the instructor it’s your first time, and she’ll keep an eye on you, offer you modifications for your fitness level. I’m asking you to test yourself, not hurt yourself.

I can’t think of a segue into Jamie Oliver’s lovely, simple Venison Stroganoff recipe so I’m not going to try, other than to say that venison is the only red meat my doctor approved at my recent physical. And thanks to new and different cooking and butchering methods (from the ones of my long ago childhood when it tasted like rubberized Bambi), you shouldn’t be able to tell this Stroganoff meat is anything other than beef tenderloin.

You make it with a tiny venison tenderloin (or backstrap), sliced so thinly you can read through it. You find, in Oliver’s words, “exciting” mushrooms and a drink-worthy brandy. You can serve your Stroganoff on parsley-sprinkled buttered noodles or an exotic grain mix like brown rice and quinoa. This recipe makes 4 generous servings.

Jamie Oliver’s Venison Stroganoff

Extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion (I used yellow)

1 big garlic clove

11 ounces venison backstrap, sliced thinly**

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon paprika (not smoked)

9 ounces “exciting” wild mushrooms (I used button and baby bellas), cleaned, stems discarded and sliced

A bunch of parsley, leaves minced

A knob (don’t you love his British measurements?) of butter

A “good splash” of brandy

2/3 cup sour cream

A few baby gherkins (sweet), also sliced thinly

** If you slice the venison while it’s mostly frozen, you can make thinner pieces.

Rub the venison with the salt, pepper and paprika and let it sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms and the brandy and cook the mushrooms, tossing occasionally, until they give up their liquid. Remove the cooked vegetables to plate and increase the heat under the skillet. Add the meat and stir fry until you no longer see any bright pink (this takes only a few minutes). Return the vegetables to the skillet, lower the heat, add the butter and sour cream and minced parsley. Stir and warm but do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Serve garnished with gherkin slices.

I’ve never been much of a pickle fan either but this gherkin garnish is inspired.
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