Don’t sweat the small stuff-ing, Get Half-Baked!

Preparing for the holiday season can get overwhelming! We have been preparing for the Thanksgiving Holiday for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to share a few preparations we have made to hopefully make the holidays a little less busy and less stressful!

I like to start by getting my kitchen organized!

I love the spice drawer because it helps me and my guests easily find whatever they need. I also use this time to take an inventory of what I have and what I need.

I also suggest recruiting some help to get everything cleaned and organized for your guests!

Not sure how much work I got out of her but she is fun to have at the ranch !

I try to buy everything I can that is not perishable well in advance because, #1 I don’t want to fight the crowds and #2 they run out of stuff so quickly! If you are early and prepared you can turn all this…

into these easy-to-make meals and partially prepared Thanksgiving dishes for your guests!!

Dressing (NOT STUFFING!) is my main dish and preparing ahead clears up a lot of room and time in the kitchen! Preparing ahead also enhances the flavor, to me!

Thanksgiving is only one day of the 4-6 days my family comes to visit for this holiday so I like to have other things prepared in advance for them! I have found making beef enchiladas ahead of time is perfect for family visits. I made several pans of enchiladas for my family. I also write the instructions for the dish on the top of the disposable pans or foil so everyone knows how to put it together just in case I get tied up with something else!

Planning ahead frees up my time to enjoy the company of my family and friends during the holidays, which is my favorite part! Here are a few suggestions for plan-ahead meals to freeze and also a “don’t make-ahead list!”

MAKE-AHEAD IDEAS to freeze:

1. Beef Enchiladas (recipe to follow)

2. Chicken Enchiladas

3. Lasagna

4. Dressing (NOT STUFFING)

5. Scalloped Potatoes

6. Breads: cornbread, biscuits, and rolls

7. Breakfast Casseroles

8. Breakfast Quesadillas (recipe to follow)

9. Soups and Stews (leave out rice or dumplings – those are best made fresh)

10. Fruit Pies

DON’T MAKE-AHEAD to freeze:

1. Custard or cream based pies

2. Chicken and Dumplings

3. Gravies of any kind

4. Salads of any kind (obviously)

RECIPES:

BEEF ENCHILADAS (Easy)

ENCHILADA PART

1.5 lbs ground beef

10 corn tortillas

1 medium onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

ENCHILADA SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons crisco

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 and 3/4 cup chicken broth

3/4 cup water

1 small jar diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease rectangular foil pan 13 x 9.

Brown ground beef with onion, chili powder, garlic, onion powder and salt and pepper. Add seasoning at the end of browning for best flavor retention.

While browning meat, heat tortillas in foil in the oven so the are easily usable and don’t break. Approx. 10 min.

Fill tortilla with meat mixture and cheese. Approx. one heaping tablespoon of meat and one heaping tablespoon of cheese. Roll and place in pan seam side down. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Place in freezer until ready to use.

FOR ENCHILADA SAUCE:

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until slightly brown. It will be consistency of a thin paste and bubbly. Then add chicken broth, water and chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 10 min. Allow to cool then place in freezer safe container.

When ready to use, set out enchilada sauce in fridge for 24 hours prior to meal (or make fresh the day of.) Remove frozen enchiladas from freezer remove foil and plastic wrap, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes covered; then uncover and bake 15 min.

Serve with corn or side salad.

BREAKFAST QUESADILLA

Flour tortillas

Eggs

Mix-ins

Butter

Breakfast meat

Cheese

These are super easy and very individualized. Scramble eggs. Shred cheese. Cook meat of choice.

Heat butter in skillet add flour tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, top with egg, choice of mix-in (mushrooms, pico, spinach, etc.), add meat, add cheese and then top with second tortilla. Flip until tortilla slightly browns and cheese melts. Allow to cool slightly. Then flash freeze (place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.) When frozen, add to zip lock bag for later use.

When ready to eat, heat in oven or toaster oven for best results! Or, simply place in microwave for 45-60 seconds.

 

Oh DEER!

Hunting season is upon us and we have been preparing FCR for hunters! We are looking forward to having our family here for this coming hunting season. I am also out of deer meat in the freezer and I have been craving fresh deep fried back-strap with mashed potatoes and gravy! YUM! (Not on my diet!)

We have been filling deer feeders with corn and antler max since the summer and we are looking for a good harvest this year.

 

We have also been adding some new stands this year. We have three new stands this year and two old ones from previous years. One we have had on our original place and an old one on the new property that we will slowly turn into Chasity’s She Shed for hunting! Because that stand has the best view and they biggest deer on the game camera! LOL. Popi and Baby Seydi have been checking the cameras pretty intently!

game camera photo

This is the new “Big Pond” stand when it was still under construction! It is just up this year! It’s going to be a cozy little hunting spot for someone!

Big pond stand

This is the beginnings of the “Creek Stand” that is now also completed! It is just past the “Willie Nelson Pond.” You know the one you have to get back on the road to get to! Right now we are calling it “1982 Willie Nelson” because the pond is over flowing after all this rain! This summer it was “1990 Willie Nelson” cause it was all dried up and broke!

creek stand

I can’t STAND it when he does dangerous stuff… or worse, makes me do it!

The mesquite stand below was the least dangerous to construct and it turned out great! Can’t wait to see it in use!

mesquite stand

All the hard work seems to be paying off, though. We caught this nice buck on the game camera!

bigbuck2

Hunting and fishing have always been a part of our lives. I remember learning to fish on Lake Murvaul in East Texas at my grandpa’s lake house. My job was to climb the catalpa “catawba” worm tree and throw the larvae down to my grandpa so we could use it as bait. The catawba worm (certomia catalpae) is actually a yellow and black looking caterpillar that turns into a brown looking moth called a hawk moth and the fish love it! Here is a little info on the catawba worm if you like:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratomia_catalpae Although, I am not sure what they are talking about pulling the head off and turning them inside out. We just put them on the hook and BAM!

My husband and I both hopefully have instilled a love of hunting and fishing in our children. I was speaking with one of my step daughters this summer and I asked her if she actually liked hunting. She said “I liked spending time with my dad, he would always make me coffee when we would go.” I then asked my own daughter if she liked hunting with her dad she said “yes, we would eat snack cakes in the deer stand.” LOL. Ok, our kids love their coffee and snacks!

I remember the excitement in the kids’ faces when they would get something! There were so many great memories with the kids.

rabbit

Hunter with his first rabbit. He was so excited! I think he killed it with a bb gun? All I remember was I had to pretend I knew how to cook rabbit because you have to eat it, right?! This was before we had internet at home and you just had to “hop” to it or call someone who knew!

Abby's first deer

Abby’s first deer was a little button buck when she was 10 years old. She had been hunting for a few years before she ever killed one. She was so excited! Now she had to help clean the deer.

Now, she had some “skin” in the game!

Tori fished all day with worms to catch this giant!

tori fishing

We do all these things to be able to get the big buck or big fish but really it isn’t about the size of the deer or fish or whatever, it is about the memories made with family and friends. It is about spending time together with your mom or dad or grandpa or uncle or aunt or whoever. I am so grateful for all the memories we have made! I look forward to making many more memories for years to come. With the recent loss of my grandfather, I hope that one day ALL our children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews will all look back at their time with us and remember the memories we have made both at the ranch and away from the ranch! I want them to remember what they learned from us and what they enjoyed with us.

Hot Damn! I can!

Well the garden is in full swing! We are collecting the fruits of our labor! We have more stuff than we can eat! So, it is time to start canning it up!

I really feel like canning is a lost art and skill! I feel a little nervous every time I do it because I am hoping no one dies from eating this if I don’t follow the step exactly! I am about three years into this and everyone is still living so that is a good sign! This week I worked on canning peppers! My husband likes it hot! Hotter than hot actually.

Last years peppers:

Me: Bryon are they too hot?

Bryon: NO!

(( I look over and he is sweating with hiccups ))

Me: Bryon? Really?

Bryon: What? they aren’t too hot. I just need to remember to use less of them next time!

My son-in-law also likes it hot too! So, I made a batch for him as well! I also threw in some banana peppers for my oldest daughter.

My advice on canning……. 1. Do it! Its a great skill to have! The food taste great fresh and it is so beautiful going into the cans! 2.Research it, we don’t want people getting sick! 3. Be careful and don’t always trust those pinterest recipes for this type of stuff.

 

-Chas

Lettuce Begin…..

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”- Audrey Hepburn

Our garden at Farnash Creek Ranch (FCR) has started to produce and we have began harvesting several of our meals. We love this time of year when you can go out to the garden and pick your dinner. The spring garden is in full swing. We have a total of four garden patches this year so we can beef up our rotational gardening program. Garden #1 is planted in peas and beans primarily to replace the nitrogen depleted by last years crop. Garden #2 is coming along nicely but not producing, yet. Garden #3 is where the action is happening right now and the one I will highlight  today. Garden #4 is still in progress but I better hurry up and get my stuff in the ground because it is getting late.

First, I would like to give a little props to that fall spinach plant that produced for us all winter even through a few pretty good frosts. It was still growing when I was planting for the spring. For a new gardener wanting to try out a few plants – spinach is easy to grow and is very versatile. We eat it raw in salads and also cook it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It grows well in containers and keeps growing after it is picked. I would suggests when planting in pots to use good quality potting soil such as miracle grow potting mix. I bought the cheap stuff one year and it turned into rock soil in the pots. Secondly, speaking from experience, there is a big different between potting mix and garden mix but the bags look exactly the same. Make sure it is potting mix.

The spring garden has really took off well after much planning and cultivating. Garden #3 has lettuce, cabbage, kale, yellow squash, cucumbers, few interspersed onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. The garden is flagged by dill and marigolds in an attempt to ward off pests.  The first thing produced was a ton of lettuce. Literally, one ton! Ok, almost a ton. This year we really concentrated on companion planting and staggered planting to keep a steady harvest and minimize pests. The lettuce loves it. I have had zero damage (knock on wood) to my lettuce from pests. I planted marigolds at the ends of the rows which I think was very beneficial or maybe our pests haven’t found them yet. Shhhhhh……. We planted butter lettuce and romaine lettuce. The butter lettuce was from seeds started in the ground and it is loving our alkaline soil! I think it is the softest most palpable lettuce I have ever put in my mouth! The romaine lettuce I started in pots and it is growing but slowly- I think my pot selection may have been too small. Luckily, we will be eating butter lettuce until the cows come home. Well really longer than that since the cows are home actually. Note, if you have not invested in a salad spinner please do so. The little device allows me to keep lettuce up to 2 weeks.

lettuce

Lettuce move on to another lettuce like plant. The Kale! The Kale has been the beauty of the garden! It is so vibrant and colorful with burst of deep green and purples. We have a little Dinosaur Kale and a ton of Red Russian Kale. This plant is also very versatile, healthy and has multiple uses. We eat it raw or cooked. This week I experimented with Kale Chips! They were delicious. This is a good healthy snack for us late night snackers! Even my son liked them. Maybe he is turning over a new leaf (he he he) since he has a brand new baby boy. May I introduce, our newest grandbaby at FCR. Holden Harrison:

Holden

Now, back to Kale. This too is an easy plant for beginners. We planted in the ground this year from seeds and they have done really well. They grow fast and are low maintenance. I have also planted some in pots and they have done really well. Although, this year the plants in the ground seem to be doing better. I have had problems in the past with not having enough to last us throughout the season. However, this year I may have over planted. So, tell me if I can send you some Kale! Also, the salad spinner works well for this too or a lettuce keeper.

LET’S GET TURNIP! These turnip greens are out of control and I love it! I have thinned them twice and was able to have a huge harvest just from thinning. The leaves were young and tender which tasted amazing. The turnips were small and I haven’t decided yet if I will roast them separately (found a delicious recipe on pinterest) or add them in with the greens. I froze the turnip part for now until I can decide. Just a side note, the turnip leaves or greens will have prickly points on the leaves so I don’t eat them raw but once they are cooked they go away and you never even knew they were there. I could eat greens at every meal. My only problems is that you can’t eat greens without cornbread and I probably shouldn’t have so much cornbread in my life. One pan won’t hurt, right?

 

We also enjoyed a great cream of broccoli & cauliflower soup & modified shepherds pie from the garden harvest! Finally, I will close with this wonderful cocktail made with fresh mint from the garden. I call it a “Barbara Bush” in honor of the recent passing of FLOTUS # 41.

Barbara Bush

It is muddled lemon juice and mint with one part Blanton’s Bourbon and one part gingerale. I know I shouldn’t mix that Bourbon with anything but i was living on the edge!

-Chas

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