Monday, January 31, 2011

A girl and her horse

Seems to be a familiar occurrence on a ranch that shows a girl is growing up into an adult when they get to help break their new colt. Our oldest daughter who turned 13 last November has just started that journey. Her horse Scooter is her baby. She got to see him born one summer morning and has been his companion ever sense. So it was no surprise that when it came time to start breaking him Bibble wanted all in. Not too sure that Mom was as ready, but I think that is just the nature of mom's.

This past Friday was a perfect day, warm and the ground in the barn yard was finally dry enough. So after schooling for the girls and Dad was on his way back to the house Bibble went down to get Scooter ready for his first time with a blanket and saddle. She had been working with Scooter over the winter getting him use to a halter and being able to catch him and both her and her horse where ready for the next lesson.

Everything went well, Scooter took to the blanket after a few sniffs and a couple of starts but in the end Bibble could get the blanket on and off with no problems.

Then Dad brought out the saddle for a try. I'm not sure who was more surprised; Bibble, me or Scooter but he just stood there as polite as could be for that saddle to be put on and cinched up. He tried once or twice to jump around, can't really call it bucking, but that didn't last and by the end he was content to just walk around with Bibble in the lead, talking to him all the time.

I think that horse would follow her anywhere as long as she was talking to him!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sometimes you just need to cry

Life is funny sometimes and sometimes not so much so. Spent the day today putting out with the herd two of the last three bummers we had down at the barn. Now the only one left is my little Dot, who is not so little anymore at 300 lbs. I'm just not ready to let go of her. You see I have been momma to her from the moment she was born back on May 18th. Yup even know her birthday, just like any proud momma does. Her momma had gotten stuck in a mud tank a few days before and just did not have enough energy after getting her out and delivering a baby, so Dot became mine. She slept in the house in a dog crate for the first few weeks until the weather turned warmer and she was a little more stable on her feet. Then she graduated to the back yard and there she would stay until fall came and the hubby decided she was big enough to graduate to the barn yard. I was not all that happy having her that "far" away, but knew it was the next step in her life as a ranch cow. Now the next step will be to turn her out with the herd and let her grow-up and have babies of her own in a few years. But I'm not ready for that step. Not yet at least and the hubby, taking a soft heart for me has allowed Dot and I a few more months together.

Why is it so hard for me to let go of this one calf? I have bottle raised others before, turning out the heifers and seeing the steers go to the sale with no tears shed or heavy heart thinking about not seeing them again. Dot is different because of what happened before I was given her as a precious gift. You see last winter was a hard one for me, as it found me having to help with my first c-section and first birth. Drying off that little heifer calf and helping her stand only to have her stop breathing in my lap a few moments later just about broke my heart. No amount of CPR, and I tried my best, would bring her back. I cried like a baby that day sitting in the mud and snow on the side of a dirt ranch road, wet and shivering myself just holding on to that calf and wishing there was something I could do. The hubby was good enough to not argue when I wanted her buried under a tree so that I could visit her from time to time and so I would know that she was taken care of.

That was why when the hubby called the house on that Sunday evening in May and told me to bring the vet bag, blankets and towels I gathered the girls and headed out the pasture with a heavy heart and a great deal of nervous feelings. All I could think was please let this one go better, I don't want the girls to see this, not yet in their lives. While the girls know that not every birth ends happily I just was not ready for them to be there to see it first hand. I was at least lucky with the last one that the girls were in school that day and not there, but this time would be different, they were right there with me. I am happy to say that May 18th turned out to be a very different day than the previous experience. Dot was trying to get up almost from the moment she hit the ground and she has not stopped since. What I lost that first time with the other calf had been given back to me ten fold with Dot. There were tears shed with Dot's birth also, although this time in joy and not sorrow. Dot is not just part of our ranch she is part of my heart and that part is hard for me to let go of just yet. So I go down to the barn and visit with her, we play and spend time together and I try to prepare for a time when she is not down there for me to play with anymore.

I'm sure that when we turn her out with the herd in March that there will be more tears shed. I will worry over her when she gets ready to have her first calf and when the time comes that she is too old to go on more tears will be shed. But if I have learned nothing else during my time as a ranch wife it is that sometimes you just need to cry.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two meals for the work of one

Okay here is the next recipe. This one is not fixed using beef, elk or deer but chicken instead. The beauty of this recipe is you fix once and have to different meals from it in the end. One meal for the first night is a warm and creamy, cheesy chicken soup and the next meal is green chicken enchiladas. The core to this recipe is a whole chicken boiled until cooked and then shredded to use in the recipe. A nice side benefit to this is the extra chicken broth that you can put in the freezer to use another time.

Cheesy Chicken Soup

One whole chicken cooked and shredded
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 - 3 roasted and peeled green chilies chopped or 2- 4oz canned green chilies
1/2 cup onion chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded cheese (can use cheddar, colby or your families favorite)

1) Cook the onions in a little oil in a dutch oven until clear. Add shredded chicken, soup, green chilies and enough of the broth to create a creamy consistency but not too runny. If you do add too much broth you can always thicken the soup with cornstarch at the end.
2) Cook the soup until it is hot through out. Add the cheese slowly and stir until melted.
3) Serve with extra cheese on top, sliced green onions and sour cream. You can also top with corn tortilla strips and your favorite Mexican toppings.

This soup makes enough for dinner for 6 or 1 hungry cowboy, two growing girls and a mom, with enough left over to make the second recipe of Creamy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas.

Here is the second recipe to make with the left over soup later in the week. The soup will thicken while in the fridge during the week to make a great filling for enchiladas.

Creamy Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Half of the chicken soup made earlier in the week
1 can green enchilada sauce (you can use red if you prefer)
8 oz of your choice shredded cheese
12 corn tortillas

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and heat up the tortillas. I like using an the open flame from a burner on the stove top, but you can use the microwave also.
2) Fill each tortilla with enough of the leftover soup and roll-up and place in a 9x13 baking pan. Repeat until all the tortillas are used. If needed to use up all the filling make another pan.
3) Pour the enchilada sauce on top of the rolled-up tortillas and top that with the shredded cheese. Cook covered 15-20 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted.
4) Pull from the oven and let sit for a few minutes and then serve with rice, beans and your choice of toppings.

Hope you enjoy. Nothing I like better than cooking once and getting two meals out of it, each one different from the next!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beef and Mushroom Casserole

Okay here is the next recipe in a series I'm starting on cooking with beef, elk and deer. Just to be clear I have nothing against pork, chicken, lamb, or seafood. It is just this time of year I seem to focus on beef, elk and deer because that is what is fresh to the freezer but have no fear I will post recipes that include other meats as winter melts into spring.

If you look back at the other recipes I have posted here you will see that I'm not one for complex ingredients or lots of time in the kitchen. I much prefer a fix it and forget approach to cooking. There are nights that is probably the only reason why dinner got cooked and the kids were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! This recipe is no different, all in one pot and ready to go at the end of about 30 minutes.

Beef and Mushroom Casserole

1 lb ground beef (this works just as well with ground elk, deer or even turkey)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 cups mushrooms sliced
6oz can of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups long grain rice (if you are even more pressed for time you can us minute rice and cut out about 20 minutes)
3 cups water (check the rice package if you are using instant rice for correct amount of water for the rice)
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese ( I like extra sharp for this recipe)

1) Brown the ground meat and the onion. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.
2) Stir in the tomato paste until completely mixed with the meat, onion and mushroom mixture. Add the rice and the water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat , cover and let simmer until the rice has absorbed the water and is tender. For long grain rice this will be about 20 minutes or 5 minutes for instant.
3) Top with cheese, let melt and serve.

I fix a dark multi-grain bread with this hearty casserole and steam fresh spinach for a side dish, but your families favorite veggie will work just as well. I will post the recipe for the bread in the next few days.

And as always enjoy with family and friends.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some new Recipes

Well the freezer in our house went from sadly empty to full this past weekend as we finished up processing our steer. Every year we keep back one steer and then in the late fall early winter normally we butcher and process him to feed our family the next year. Well this year the weather was not cold enough for long enough and we were later than normal getting the process started so our freezer was empty other than our elk and deer meat waiting to be made into jerky come spring. This ended up being a good thing since I needed to defrost the freezer since it is an old one and did not come with a defrost setting.
In honor of our full freezer of meat I thought I would share some of my favorite beef, elk and deer recipes over the next few blogs. I also thought if any of you are wanting ideas or suggestions for a particular cut of meat or type of meat let me know in the comments section and I will put up a post answering your questions or requests for recipes.
For the first recipe I'm picking one of my favorites for this time of year Elk Stew. Now this can work for deer or beef but if you need a recipe for elk and not sure what to do with the meat this is great one for you to start out with.
This picture was taken after the pot got raided by everyone. It does make much more than just that little bit

Elk Stew

2-3 lb rump roast of elk cut into bite size pieces
3 carrots sliced
2 medium potatoes cut into pieces
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 small parsnips cut into pieces
1 can chopped tomatoes undrained
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper, and your choice of spices to taste
2 cups beef broth
Enough water to cook the stew and have broth in the end

1) Cut up the meat into bite sized pieces and brown them in a Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and cook until clear and soft. Add celery and carrots cook for about 3-5 minutes.
2) Add broth, canned tomatoes, potatoes, parsnips, salt, pepper and your spices. You can add more water if needed at this time or through out the cooking process. Once the water comes to a boil turn the heat down to low and just let this slow cook until the meat is tender and the potatoes and parsnips are soft.
3) Sit back with a cup of coffee and a good book and wait until the stew is done. I have found that it takes around 3 hours to cook on a low slow flame.

Serve with a good piece of bread and good company!

Hope your family enjoys this dinner as much as we do.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm still here, I think!

Okay, I know it has been a while since my last post. No I did not fall off the planet, just got buried under snow and paperwork, which really looked like snow from the bottom of the pile.
I have managed, I think, to dig myself out of the paperwork pile that comes at the end of the year when you are the bookkeeper and office manager for two business, plus end of semester grades for the girls and my own school work. Heaving a huge sigh of relief right now.
So what does the new year have planned for us right now? In a week a freezer full of fresh grass fed beef! Yummy! That however was not always my reaction to grass fed beef.  When we first moved to the hubby's family ranch and butchered the first time, I was not sure what to make of it. I was city raised and meat came from the grocery store, I was wise enough to know that it came from animals that had been raised and processed to feed me, but they were corn fed. Now if you have never eaten grass fed beef, let me tell you that it does taste different than corn fed beef from a store. I have no words on the difference, but once you try it you can tell the difference in one bite.
Much to my husbands dismay that first year was pretty slim on the beef end of meals, as I did not care for the taste of the beef.  Then on one of our rare trips to the big city we stopped at a steak house and I ordered a steak, looking forward to my corn fed processed beef again. Well I will tell you that was the last time that I have eaten willingly corn fed beef. I could not get over that the taste was so different from what I had become accustomed to with our beef and did not know it!
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against those who raise their beef cattle on corn and we sell our calves every fall to buyers who are sending them on to feed lots to finish out on corn and grain feed. All I'm saying is that our steers we keep each year that are only raised on grass taste so much different that it is amazing. If you have never had a chance to try grass raised beef, give it a chance if you can. It is like eating a steak for the very first time all over again!
I just can't wait until the week is over and we can start to process the beef and get that first new steak of the season on the grill. I don't even care if it snowing outside, that baby is going on the grill!