October 31, 2010

Meal Plan 10/31-11/7

Halloween Chocolate Chip Muffins

Halloween really wore me out this year.  It was great to trick-or-treat with my son, because this is the first year he's been able to say, "trick-or-treat", but having to drive for an hour to get to the trick-or-treating is not fun.  Sometimes I do miss living inside city limits. 

This week we're preg-checking our cows and trimming their hooves.  Then we've got company coming for the weekend.  As usual, there's lots of slow cooking beef around here. 

10/31- Tacos
11/1- Busy Day Beef Stew
11/2- Beef Ribs, sauteed broccoli, corn
11/3- Beef Enchiladas (pulled from freezer), artichokes
11/4- Beef Stroganoff (in the Slow Cooker) served over mashed potatoes, peas
11/5- Salmon Patties, salad
11/6- Chicken and Spinach Lasagna (pulled from freezer), honey wheat bread
11/7- Roast Beef with potatoes, carrots

Building Bridges and the Story of Dead Man

During the winter we keep our yearlings in a little pasture behind the krell.  Every morning we have to ride out and herd them into the krell to eat.  This pasture is divided by Dead Man's Creek.  Legend has it a young cowboy who worked in this area was on his way into town.  He wore silver spurs and carried 6 silver dollars (his month's wages).  Along the way, robbers overcame him.  They shot him, but then they got scared.  So they buried the cowboy along a creek with his silver spurs and 6 silver dollars.  They planned to come back for the silver when it was safe.  But time passed and they never got a chance.  On his deathbed, one of the robbers confessed to the murder and the missing loot.   Folks started calling the creek Dead Man.  For years, people have searched for the dead man and his silver, but no one has ever found him. 

Here is Dead Man's Creek

Anyway, back to the yearlings.  When the cows get on the other side of the creek, we either have to go all the way around, or else we have to risk crossing the creek through the creek bed, which in the winter is usually full of snow and mud.  It is sooo not fun to be stuck in the snow.  Those 4-wheelers are surprisingly heavy.  Also, my father-in-law, Bud, likes to build things.  So he commissioned our hired man, a welder by trade, to construct a lightweight bridge. 

This is the spot they decided to put the bridge.  Pretty much impossible to cross with a vehicle.

Bud and his wife, Bertha, loaded the bridge on the pickup trailer.  Bertha drove the loader, Bud drove the pickup.

Bud backed up to the creek.

He kept backing up until the bridge rested on the other side of the creek.

Bud directed Bertha to drive the loader over to the front of the bridge.

He chained the bridge to the loader bucket.

Bertha lifted the bridge up, while I drove the pickup forward.  She let the bridge down, and it rested on the ground.

The baby and I tested the bridge (she was tucked inside my sweatshirt).  I'll be glad to have it this winter when I'm gathering those yearlings!

In the meantime, I'll keep my eyes open for those silver spurs and 6 silver dollars...

October 29, 2010

Simple Cookie Decorating Tip

I love to make sugar cookies once or twice a year, usually for Halloween, and always for Christmas.  I decorate them with icing, sprinkles, the works.  It's a tradition my mom started and I've carried into my adulthood. 

This week I made some Halloween-themed cookies.  While I was at the store a couple weeks ago, I spotted some black and orange decorating gel.  I purchased it on a whim.  This was the first time I used the gel, and I am so happy with how my cookies turned out:

Here's my new cookie decorating tip: outline your cookies!  Outlining the cookies with the gel really helped define their shape.  Compare the outlined cookies with the ones that aren't outlined, and you can see a distinction.  The outlined cookies really stand out.  It was also great for writing words on the cookies.  I love the little kitty that says "EEK!" 

From now on, I will always use decorating gel when I make my sugar cookies.

Special thanks to Bertha and Bambi for helping me decorate!

How do you decorate your cookies?

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This is a quick meal for a busy night.  It is on the table in 45 minutes or less.  Most of that time is in the oven, so you have time to get out plates, fill drinking cups, and cut up some fruit or veggies to go on the side.  If you are really pressed for time in the evenings, you can make the dough earlier in the day and refrigerate it, covered, until you're ready to bake it.  Keep some cooked chicken in your freezer and you can whip this up in no time!  I never measure the toppings. I just keep adding stuff until it looks right (although I did measure them tonight to give you an idea of how much you need). 

For crust:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
cornmeal (optional)

3/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1 cup tightly packed fresh spinach leaves
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. 
2.  Stir in flours, salt, and oil.  Knead until smooth.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Clean off your countertop.  Put some foil on your pizza pan and dust it with cornmeal or olive oil.
3.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface (your clean countertop works great) and pat or roll into a round.  Transfer crust to pizza pan. 
  4.  Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes.  Assemble your toppings while it's baking.
  5.  Top with sauce, cheese, chicken, and spinach.  Bake 12 minutes longer.  Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

October 28, 2010

A Girl Could Get Used to This...

My son has become quite the little charmer!  For the past couple of weeks, he's radomly been saying, "You're beautiful Mama" (except it kind of runs together, like, "yerbeauifullmama").  It is so sweet!  Just in the past few days, he's started to add, "You're amazing Mama" ("yermazingmama")!  It's lots of fun to be a parent when your kid thinks you are Beautiful and Amazing!

My son at about 9 months.
Linked to Finer Things Friday.

Big Sky Country

Bath Talk

So the past two nights, as I've drained my son's bathtub, he's been telling me, "Don't dump me down the drain Mama.  Might get lost."  Where in the world did this come from?

October 26, 2010

More Meal Planning Tips- Theme Nights

If you missed the basics of meal planning on the prairie, click here.

    This summer I made a few goals for my family that involved meal planning.  First, I wanted to incorporate a little more structure into our week.  When you live out here, the days kind of run together, and many a time I've said, "It's Wednesday?  I thought it was Tuesday!"  I was hoping that by setting specific days for eating specific foods, we would have less of that confusion.  Second, I wanted our family to start eating more bone broth, since it is so healthy.  Finally, I wanted to include more fish in our diet.  

enchiladas ready to bake

    To accomplish these goals, I decided to try a little trick I'd read about: Theme Nights.  You pick a theme, such as, "Mexican", "Soups", or "Casseroles", and assign that theme to a particular night of the week.  Then, when you're making your meal plan, you pick something that goes with that night's theme.  So, if Monday is Mexican night, you might make tacos. 

Here are some examples of themes I've seen around the blogosphere:

Soup, Stew, or Chili
Ground Beef
Slow Cooker
On the Grill

    Some people use a theme night every night of the week, but I have found that doesn't work well for our family.  Also, I really don't need to have a theme every night to meet the goals I set.  Instead, I have 3 theme nights.  Mondays are Soup, Stew, or Chili, Wednesdays are Casseroles, and Fridays are Fish.

    So how are we doing with these goals?  Well, we have been eating more fish and soups, but not necessarily on the designated day.  And I'm okay with that.  Having these three theme nights does make it easier to plan the week's meals, since I have some guidelines on those nights.  I try to stick with the plan as much as possible, but some Sundays are Soup days, and some Mondays are steak days!  As with everything in life, there are times when you have to flex a little.

Do you plan your meals

Linked to WFMW

October 25, 2010


I really enjoyed these beef, cheese, and cabbage-filled buns.  I was surprised how mild the cabbage tasted.  I think they would freeze well.  They are great with ketchup and spicy mustard.  You could also cook the filling the day before assembling these, like I did. 

Runsas (makes 8)

Adapted from Cook's Country, April/May 2007 (p. 7)

3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 TBSP sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 TBSP finely minced onion
3 cups chopped cabbage
salt and pepper
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Make well in center of dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, and mix until shaggy dough forms.  Turn dough out onto heavily floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Place in large, greased bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap or dish towel and let rest in warm place until doubled in size (anywhere from 1 to 3 hours).

2.  Brown beef in large skillet.  Add onion and cabbage and cook until cabbage is slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.  Working on lightly floured work surface, roll each piece of dough into 7-inch circle.  Place one dough round in deep cereal bowl and top with 1/4 cup cheese.  Spoon 3/4 cup filling over cheese and pinch edges of dough together to form bun.  Transfer bun, seam side down, to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough, cheese, and filling, placing 4 buns on each baking sheet.  Cover buns with plastic wrap and let rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

4.  Bake buns until golden brown, about 20 minutes, switching and rotating positions of baking sheets halfway through baking time.  Brush buns with melted butter and serve.

October 24, 2010

Weekly Meal Plan 10/24- 10/30

This week the goal is to get rid of some random foods that need to be used up, so that's why some of the menus for the week might look a little strange.  I still have a quarter head of cabbage leftover after making Cabbage Casserole and Runsas, so I'm going to make some Roasted Cabbage Wedges.  If they turn out well, I'll post the recipe.  I found some artichokes in the in-laws' cooler, at least a week old, which I'll steam and serve with butter.  My husband is so not a vegetable eater, and he loves these.  It's a great way to get kids to eat some veggies too.  I also found some beef fat in the in-laws' deep freeze, which I'll use to make fried potatoes.  Yummmm.  I guess I am kind of spoiled, having that extra deep freeze and cooler that I can ransack from time to time. 

Sunday, 10/24- Beef and Vegetable Soup
Monday, 10/25- slow cooker fajitas, roasted cabbage wedges (new recipe)
Tuesday, 10/26- hamburger gravy, mashed potatoes, spinach
Wednesday, 10/27- cheesy beef and rice (new recipe), fresh fruit
Thursday, 10/28- steaks, potatoes fried in beef tallow, steamed artichokes
Friday, 10/29- Baked Salmon Fillet, Sauteed Broccoli, Honey Wheat Bread
Saturday, 10/30- leftovers

Be sure to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more meal plans.

 The days are quickly growing shorter.  I guess fall really is here. 

October 22, 2010

You know you're in the country....

... when your mother-in-law determines who to vote for based on what kind of cows the candidate raises. 

No kidding.  In our last gubernatorial primary, my m.i.l. said, "Well, I'd like to vote for that guy, but he raises Herefords." 

(We raise Pure Black Angus.) 

I myself prefer to vote for candidates that raise Longhorns, 'cuz I'm from Texas ya'll!

Hey there, uh, you got some milk on your, you know, uh, never mind.

October 20, 2010

Shipping Day!

Yesterday we shipped our calves to their new home- the feedlot.  This was the third time I have experienced the chaos of shipping calves.  Like everything on the ranch, if all goes smoothly, it can be fun, but if something goes wrong, it can take hours to correct the problem.  We had a couple of snags, but we got all the calves onto the trucks, so I'd say it was a success.

By 7:30 we were on our way to the north corral ('krell' is how they say it up here).  It was cold but clear.  First we had to gather the cows and get them into the 'krell'.

The cows came in (to the krell) pretty easily, but they did not want to be sorted.  The in-laws had quite a hard time.

A cowboy on his cell phone, moving calves into the scale area.

My mother-in-law and our hired man sorting calves.
Baby liked the fresh air.

Having fun with Baby and the camera.

After sorting, we weighed them and loaded them onto the trucks.
We weigh about 10 cows at a time.

It takes four trucks to haul all the calves.

The excitment proved too much for some.

I guess I should have cleaned that donut icing off his face before he went to sleep.

The kids and I went home about 2 so we could properly nap in the bed.  My husband got home around 6.  It was a long, hard, dusty day, but it's how we make our money.

You Know You're in the Country.....

....when your two-year-old says "John Deere" instead of "green". 


Me: "What color is this stuffed alligator?"

My son: "John Deere!"

Sometimes when he is unsure of the correct color's name, he will say, "Not John Deere."


Me: "What color is the lid of the tupperware?"

My son: "Not John Deere!"

October 19, 2010

Fresh Eggs

  My favorite breakfast food is the egg.  There are just so many ways to cook it.  Scrambled, hard boiled, fried, over-easy, poached, baked, the possibilities go on and on!  In her book, Real Food for Mother and Baby, Nina Planck says that eggs are the next closest thing to the perfect protein for humans, right after human breastmilk.  We eat at least 5 eggs most days at our house.  This is how we are able to eat so many eggs....

  One of the great things about living in the country is it's really no big deal to have some laying hens.  You already have the space, so they're not right in your backyard.  In fact, I'm not really sure how city people can raise chickens in their backyards, since the chickens will destroy the grass.  They either need to be closely managed, a la Joel Salatin, or have lots of space to run around so they don't cause so much destruction: 

  We feed our chickens table scraps, corn, and leftover creep feed.  Creep is what we put out for the calves to munch on, to get them started weaning.  We also make sure they have water.  The chickens always run to us when they see us coming near. They flock around the vehicle, waiting for some tasty vegetable scraps!  Here they are running to greet me (and trying to get to the food before everyone else).

  That little shed on the left side of the photo is the chicken house.  We keep the door on the front part closed all the time.  The front part has a window, a light to keep them warm in the winter, some bunks for them to lay their eggs in, a rack for them to perch on, and a little doorway (only big enough for a chicken to fit through) that leads to the exposed part of the house.  The exposed part is a big cage.  It also has a ladder-type rack for them to perch on.  We keep the door to the cage open all day.  The chickens usually go inside at night without any coaxing.  If we are outside at twilight, we try to remember to lock the cage so predators can't get to the chickens.  Dogs, cats, coyotes, foxes, and weasels are all threats to the chickens, but the most prevalent chicken killer is the " 'coon" (raccoon).  In the winter, the chickens like to stay inside for warmth.  We keep the chicken house lined with straw.  I am usually the one who cleans it, although I do it less than I care to admit!  Fortunately they have plenty of fresh air and wide open space to run around and do their business.

  In the picture to the left, the chickens and our two turkeys are scrambling to eat every last tasty morsel of table scraps that I just dumped on the ground.  Notice there is no grass on the ground.  That's thanks to the chickens! 
  I always try to bring some food for them when I come to collect eggs.  Then they are distracted and don't get underfoot while I'm gathering the eggs.  Most days they produce 12 to 18 eggs. 

  Ah, fresh chicken eggs, washed and ready to cook.  I've read you're not supposed to wash your eggs until right before you cook them, but I prefer to wash enough for a week at a time so I'm not doing it every day.  And yes, I think you do have to wash your eggs, unless you like a little chicken feces in your breakfast burrito. 

  Yummm, delicious fried eggs.  Notice how vibrant orange the yolks are?  That's because they come from chickens that run around outside, eating green grass and bugs.  They live the way they were meant to, not cooped up in some overcrowded cage.  The bright orange color means our eggs have lots of vitamins and good fats.  After eating these nutrient powerhouses day after day, I am shocked at the dull, sickly looking things that pass for eggs in most peoples' homes.  I am so thankful for our laying hens!

Do you know where your eggs come from?

Linked to WFMW.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

A few days ago I roasted some pumpkin seeds for the first time.  Pumpkin seeds are supposed to be a very healthy snack.  They were pretty tasty, although next time I might try seasoned salt.  I am proud to say I used a pumpkin from my garden (instead of letting it get really really old and too far gone to use and then just giving it to the chickens, which I have done maybe once...   okay, alot).  I also roasted the pumpkin halves and froze the flesh to use in bread or pie!  Yum!

First I cut the pumpkin in half.

Then I scooped out the seeds.

First rinse.  I manually separated the pulp from the seeds.

Laid them on a kitchen towel to dry.  Picked out remaining pulp.

Second rinse.

Laid them on another towel to dry overnight.  Went to sleep.

In the morning, I put the seeds on a baking sheet.  While making breakfast, I drizzled some butter and sprinkled some salt on the seeds.

I stirred the seeds with my handy spatula.

I baked them at 300 for about 45 minutes.  Stirred them again.  Baked another 5 minutes. 

Here is the final product:
My husband and I ate these in a day.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:


1 pumpkin
a couple teaspoons melted butter
a few pinches of salt


1) Cut pumpkin in half.  Scoop out seeds into a colander.
2) Rinse seeds.  Pick out pulp and discard. 
3) Turn seeds out onto dish towel.  Pick out remaining pulp.
4) Rinse second time.
5) Turn seeds out onto clean dish towel.  Let dry 8 to 24 hours.
6) Spread seeds on baking sheet.
7) Drizzle with butter and sprinkle with salt.  Stir.
8) Spread seeds into single layer.
9) Bake at 300 for 45-55 minutes, stirring once.
10) Store in airtight container.

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

October 17, 2010

Meal Plan week of 10/17 to 10/23

This week we are shipping our calves.  That means the next few days will be very busy, and not much time inside to cook. 

Sunday, 10/17- chili, cornbread, grapes
Monday, 10/18- Runzas, butternut squash gratin
Tuesday, 10/19- lasagna from freezer, salad (lettuce in garden)
Wednesday, 10/20- steaks, fried potatoes, peas
Thursday, 10/21- beef tacos, refried beans
Friday, 10/22- salmon fillet, broccoli, homemade bread
Saturday, 10/23- leftovers

Check out I'm an I'm an Organizing Junkie for more meal plans!

Morning Slump

Ugh.  When my kids woke me up at 4:30 (baby to nurse, toddler to have his diaper changed), I willed myself to stay awake.  It wasn't too hard, since I was kind of excited about having some quiet time to exercise.  I had set my alarm for 5:45, but decided this would be sooo much better.  Yes, I did exercise (woohoo!) and worked on my new obsession (this blog) and read other blogs (I am addicted to blogs).  But then, I baked and ate some delicious cinnamon rolls that I mixed up last night in a fit of homemaking mania.  And even though I subbed some wheat flour for the white flour, cinnamon rolls still mean sugar, which means blood sugar spike and then blood sugar drop.  So now I am super tired, and shall remain so until promptly 5 pm, at which time I shall get my second wind.  The end. 
Happy Sunday!

October 16, 2010

What a Cattle Drive Looks Like

I love going on cattle drives.  The fresh air, wide open spaces, watching the cows run, checking out the scenery and wildlife, I just love it all.  So much so that I've even been known to bundle up my babies, slip them in the baby carrier, and go! 

Laugh all you want, but that hat is VERY warm, and the big glasses cover lots of surface area on my face, protecting my eyes from the wind.  (Yes, my in-laws laugh at my glasses).

To get them to move, we yell, "BOSSES", but we pronouce it, "BOOOHHH ZEHS."  My husband also likes to yell, "Yeoooohhhhhhhh  Nellies!"  (Actually, he really likes to yell curse words, but I'm trying to wean him off that now that we have kids!)

 Cattle on the move!  That big guy in the midle was watching me!

Ollie likes to watch the cows too.  He prefers to ride on my 4-wheeler instead of chasing the cows.

My son prefers the motorcycle to the 4-wheeler.

Bet you thought all ranchers rode horses and wore cowboy hats!

That's my husband.  I love watching him ride the dirtbike.  He makes it look so easy!

While waiting for the cows to all get through the gate, we usually recap the cattle drive.

Last one out.  Git 'em Silas!