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Wordless Wednesday…

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First of all, let me start by saying that I would typically NOT consider making chili soup in March – I should be thinking spring and light and colorful and dreaming of asparagus and strawberries. Old Man Weather is NOT leaving me with much feeling of spring…yet!

So, on this VERY cold and windy day, when I thought I was heading down to the hang out with Matt (my husband) and the cows, he let me know he was bringing hay here and he would be here for dinner. Woohoo!!! So – chili and cinnamon rolls it would be. He had been having electrical trouble there and that meant water trouble for the cows and the house down there and that is never a good thing. He would be ready for some good “home” time!

We have plenty of ground beef in the freezer, but when I was looking around in there, I also saw a bag of leftover brisket. Hhhmmm….wheels started turning! I am sure there are plenty of you out there who have already done this, but I decided the meat in my chili, on this day, would be brisket. What I had on hand was a heat & serve, pre-smoked, pre-sliced, insanely delicious brisket that I could not believe we hadn’t eaten already! Whatever is your favorite smoked brisket would work just fine in this recipe.

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I diced up about 1/2 of an onion and put it in with the brisket as I heated it.

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These are all of the things I thought I would add in with the brisket and onion. ( I had no chili beans on hand, I have never done the whole dry bean thing, and so, I winged it with some canned baked beans. Turned out to be a wise choice!)

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This is what I ended up actually using. Left out the pinto’s, and added about 1T of the BBQ sauce. I probably used 2T of chili powder, 1/4 to 1/3 c brown sugar, and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.

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My mom taught me how to make a good pot of chili. This stuff, that I think I will call Smoky Ranch House Brisket Chili is an absolute sensation to the taste-buds! Next time, I would probably make cornbread to go with it rather than the cinnamon rolls – though the rolls, made with the bread recipe from this blog post, are so, very, yummy…

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Though I wish we had much different weather (warmer to be more specific) right now while the cows are having new calves, I am reminded that we are blessed with plenty of straw for bedding, a warm house to sneak into now and then, a tractor with a warm cab for feeding time, and the personal satisfaction of doing our part to raise incredibly nutritious and delicious protein…some 450,000+ servings of beef. Yep – it’s a pretty cool gig I get to be part of! Plus, I can wear fleece jammies pants under bib coveralls while we chore and check cows and no one knows!!!!

Quick after-thought….if you have a Dickey’s BBQ close to you, the brisket from there would be perfect for this!!!! Or, smoke one yourself :)  Stay warm my friends!

Why?…

A question I heard many times from the kids when they were little – and still do sometimes!  ~Why?~

OK - I admit...Matt and I probably promoted more than a little of the asking, "Why?"!

OK – I admit…Matt and I probably promoted more than a little of the asking, “Why?”!

Why do we have to go home and chore? ~ Why is it raining when I have a baseball game? ~ Why is that word naughty? Why can’t I say that? ~ Why can’t we have french fries with pizza? ~ Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do those people have white cows? And on, and on, and on…

Well, now I have a “Why?” for you…

Why do you choose certain types of food when you shop? I ask this because I have heard more than a few times lately the following statement, “I like beef, but I don’t want to buy what is in the grocery store.”

People often ask me if we eat our own beef. Well, of course we do! We also eat beef at restaurants, from butcher shops, and yes, even from grocery stores. I have to admit – I did a quick Google search on purchasing beef in grocery stores and I found very little (practically nothing) helpful, truthful, or objective. So – I want to help you feel assured if you do your shopping in a grocery store and don’t have a separate meat market to buy your beef at.

First of all – the beef from grocery stores comes from the same packing facilities as that in restaurants, butcher shops, and so on. And prior to arriving at the packing facility, it comes from the farms/ranches and  feed yards of people like myself and those who feed our cattle for us.  (I will qualify now – local meat lockers are WONDERFUL and if you have one nearby to shop at, consider yourself blessed!)  One place I would send you for advice is the Interactive Butcher Counter. There is a lot of helpful information there on how to choose a cut for a particular meal and then how to cook it properly.

Even though I have a freezer full of beef, sometimes I am in a hurry and the kids are really hungry for my hot beef sundaes. If I don’t have stew chunks thawed out, I grab a pack at the supermarket and we have a great meal done soon after I get home.  When I choose beef at the store, I like to look for some marbling (flecks of fat in the muscle portion of the meat – this helps assure juiciness and flavor); not much fat around the outside of a piece of meat; good color (a little brownness does not bother me, as I know that meat was just exposed to the air for a bit longer than a bright red piece & it is still safe and tender); and, I look for a good value for what I am buying.

All of this meat looks GREAT!

All of this meat looks GREAT!

So now I leave you with this – WHY don’t you go to the store, purchase some beef, take it home and fix it? Oh wait – what if is doesn’t turn out, you ask? Re-purpose it! More than once I have had a wreck in the kitchen or from the grill! We are all human and that makes it ok for us to make mistakes, right? Golly I hope so!!!! So – if a steak gets too done, chop it in tiny pieces and make steak and egg hash. If your hamburgers crumble, make spaghetti sauce or chili. It will all be just fine and you will still have something delicious and you won’t have wasted any money :)  And if you haven’t cooked with beef much – practice! It is SO worth it in the long run!  If you would like some amazing recipe ideas, go to Beef It’s What’s For Dinner.

Now I get my “Why?” …  Why do us girls say we don’t want flowers for Valentine’s Day when we really do? ~ Why do I procrastinate on certain things and rush others? ~ Why do I get to be so blessed to live in the country and ranch? ~ Why do men get SO giddy over cool vehicles?… And yes, I could go on and on :)

Gramps…

Grandpa George

Grandpa George

Gramps had a FULL life! He left us yesterday and I am sure will be very happy joining Grandma Ruby and Jesus for Christmas. (I believe that even with his excessive level of orneriness, he still maneuvered his way through those pearly gates!)

I wrote about Grandma a long time ago – you can read that post here. So, he was her choice of whom to look at across the breakfast table every day :) They were quite a couple. Not terribly affectionate in front of other people, but Gramps was an ornery flirt to her. They kept a nice farm, raised 4 very independent-minded kids, who are all wonderful people, and from that, there are 9 grandkids and 13 great grandkids. Their legacy definitely lives on!

If you read my blog about Grandma, you know I shared a bit of her wisdom that she was kind enough to pass along. Gramps had his talks with me as well. I know he had some influence on each and every one of us grandkids, but those of us who grew up a few miles up the road got LOTS of experiences! :)

I will start with what is just a fond memory, and that is riding in the combine. He kept it too cold in the cab and he didn’t have a buddy seat, so I had to sit on an upside down coffee can. But, I could ride for hours if I didn’t have to trade off with one of my brothers or sister.  His combine always smelled of Camel cigarettes and wheat chaff. I loved it!

I clearly recall a time after a wind storm. Grandpa and Grandma’s place has a LOT of trees – elm trees to be specific. They do NOT handle wind well. So, I got to pick up limbs and sticks with Gramps. He was pretty good about sitting down to rest if necessary and have a glass of water. While sitting, he informed me that the wonderful things married couples get to do don’t stop as you get older, it just takes longer. I laugh about that to this day! I was only in high school at the time – I guess he wanted me to know he and Grandma were still frisky, LOL!

One of my favorite stories from him was a few years ago. We were having Christmas at his house and I was going through old pictures. He spent nearly an hour telling me about hauling cattle to the stock yards in Omaha and Kansas City. He remembered vividly the buyers who came by the pens, who was in the truck line with him, how many head he had taken on different trips, and most importantly, how much they got paid for different loads. It was so interesting, I could have listened much longer! He has certainly done and seen so many different things – he was an avid hunter, loved to fish, pointed out to Grandma where she had missed when dusting, hated green beans, and loved laughing with his friends and family.

We all will have many memories of Gramps and I wish him nothing more than a peaceful, Merry Christmas in heaven.

Perspective…

   The older I get, the more I realize how different perspective on something can be based on where one is at the time, be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, and so on. This weekend I saw some amazing examples of differences in perspective and thought I would share them with you. Mostly because I had such a fun time and I want to tell about it! :)

Here is an all-but empty stadium from the staff and security perspective - 

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And a full stadium from the players’ perspective (or that of us flag holders, who are most essential for opening ceremonies to go as planned!)- 

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A little perspective from the seats, appreciating how well these guys wear their uniforms! - 

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And now, the absolutely amazing women being honored for surviving their fight – from the seats:

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And from up above:

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What an amazingly fun weekend to celebrate Emmet’s 16th birthday!

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And as always, to tie it back to food (you knew this was coming!)…

My perspective as a rancher is that beef producers are wonderful people and the product we raise is absolutely nutritious and delicious. Twice, very recently, I have heard people imply that hormones from today’s meat are causing young ladies to mature more quickly. I know that is simply not true – for at least a couple of reasons. First of all, we are just feeding our children much better these days and young peoples bodies are no longer lacking in nutrition that may have delayed puberty. Secondly, the amount of hormones in meat are minuscule in comparison to other foods that are, hopefully, consumed on a regular basis. A friend of mine did a wonderful blog post using M&M’s to show the comparisons of hormone levels in different foods. You can see it here

So, I say, GO, EAT BEEF WITH CONFIDENCE! YOU WILL NOT CAUSE EARLY BREAST DEVELOPMENT IN YOUR DAUGHTERS! 

Finally, a quick, weeknight recipe for ya…
Stuffed (with whatever you like best) hamburgers!
You will need: 
enough ground beef to make nice size patties for your family
bacon
cheese
Peppers (pickled banana is what I used)
Salt and Pepper
Anything else you think sounds amazingly delicious

Just take the portion of meat for each person and divide equally in half. Make a large, thin patty out of each half. Place the desired stuffing ingredients on top of one side (as shown)
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Cover with the other half and pinch the sides together so the cheese doesn’t leak out into the grill.
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Grill to perfection.
And – enjoy the juicy, flavorful, nutritious, deliciousness…
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I don’t feel old – at all! I really don’t! Help me out here – I am using that theory that if you tell yourself something enough, you will believe it! Yet, I look in the mirror and my stomach is not as hard and shapely as it used to be. And my husband, bless his heart, was watching some kind of he-woman competition last week and pointed out that my legs USED to look JUST LIKE one of the gals who was in the lead – I guess I was in pretty decent shape back in the day… At least he still “checks me out so he can compare. :)

And now, I am old enough to have one bird gone from the nest. Those of you who have already passed this stage know already, but I have found that it is just an odd feeling to describe. Oh, there are times she is missed at the supper table and I know Emmet misses trading off chore duties with her. But she has blessed us several weekends already with LOADS of love – I mean laundry! LOADS, I tell you! In fact – we are on our way to get a new washing machine this week. 20 years I got out of the old Maytag. Can’t complain there!

Emmet is always really excited to have Kaydee there for his games on Friday nights!

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Kaydee is always glad to eat some good, home cookin’! And yes – Emmet LOVES that I cook more when she is home, too!

This weekend we made taco soup since it was cool and blustery outside. I know there are dozens of delicious ways to make taco soup, but here is what we concocted with what we had in the freezer and pantry:

Brown 2# of ground beef (Kaydee wanted a LOT of meat – she doesn’t think she gets nearly enough in the dining hall!)
Diced onion – as much as you like. We used about 2/3 of a sweet onion; add it to the beef just as the beef is getting done
Chili pepper – lots of it
Taco seasoning – about a pack (I keep a big can of it and just dump)
A can of baked beans (I didn’t have any chili beans or great northerns or black…we were really making do & it tasted great!)
A can of pork & beans
A can of stewed tomatoes chopped to small pieces and undrained
A can of Ro-Tel
1 1/2 pound Velveeta
What was left of a tub of sour cream (probably a cup or so)

Get this all heated through and the cheese all melted and enjoy with some Frito’s on top. YUM!!!! Our family really likes chili, but this is a nice change-up. We made a batch of sopapillas for dessert and it was a perfect meal on a Sunday night.

Kaydee is back at college this week and Emmet is back to having me help him fix a lunch every morning because the school lunches just don’t cut it for farm boys playing football.  And me, I just keep working and buying LOTS of groceries!

Have some FUN!…

I realize “fun” can be a very relative term, but I also realize after this summer full of all sorts of events, both planned and unplanned, it is super important to have fun EVERY DAY! I have actually noticed that guys, in particular, are very good at this. I know that I (and I think the case is the same for many gals) have a bit to learn from them! I know – it is rather distorted thinking to say that we gals could learn something from the guys. But seriously, I think they are way better than us at enjoying the day to day! Matt only needed $50 worth of spray paint and an old pickup and he had way too much fun – but I have to admit, it turned out pretty cool! It makes for all kinds of fun conversation on a fence job & it can dual purpose from a fenching rig to a mobile deer blind!

Matt had all kinds of fun creating this beauty!

Matt had all kinds of fun creating this beauty!

Ladies, we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to please others – be it making favorite meals, making sure certain clothes are clean, keeping the house just so, and then helping out at church and community events. There is absolutely no reason more fun can’t be had while doing all of those things! There is a fish store in Seattle where everyone absolutely has FUN all the time! You can visit their website here. I encourage you to check it out. Who knew selling fish could be so much fun?

So, if you read my blog, please comment back with how you have fun in your day to day. Hopefully, the comment conversation will give all of us plenty of different ideas and we will all reassure one another that it’s perfectly fine to turn the hose on the kids, or the spouse, or the cat or dog when we are out watering flowers. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with jumping in the pond to cool off when we have been out cutting cedar trees or chopping thistles and it is a super hot day! And yes, it is certainly o.k. to dye dozens of Easter eggs and then take them out for a little target practice with the family! Live it up, ladies! Life is too short to be so serious and diligent every second of every day!

Ok – I have to add a bit more here. I have promised myself I will always tie food into my blog posts. (I guess I did mention Easter eggs, lol!) As we head into fall and cooler weather – I am really excited for weaning calves and choosing replacement heifers for our herd. This is a big time of year for us. Not only do we take in the dollars we have been working all year for, & a fair chunk of our grocery money for the year, but we also choose the heifers the kids will spend the rest of the year showing. All of the calves that are not kept as females to go back into the herd or as bulls to sell to other breeders go to a feed yard. Our goal with our cattle is ultimately a wonderful beef-eating experience for whomever ends up with the end product of our animals. It is kind of sad to think about, but it is also very rewarding to know that we are supplying many people with one of the most nutrient dense proteins available, not to mention the protein that is SUPER DELICIOUS off of the grill!

Happy fall, ya’ll!

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