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.

 

Prickly – Pearly Making It!

The late summer and good rains have brought a plenitude of Prickly Pear Tunas here at FCR!

PP bush

I have been trying to find as many uses as possible for this beautiful sweet fruit here on the ranch. You have to be quick though before the other animals get to them. I think the deer have been hitting it pretty hard.

eaten PP

I have had several faux pas with this little stickers! I picked them carefully with tongs the first time but still got a few stickers. My second time around I used gloves and tongs and this seemed to work a lot better. Be prepared, though, you will still get a few little stickers or glochids in your skin. They are easily removed however and are only a temporary “thorn in your side.”

 

The color of the fruit ranges from a soft pink to a deep purple color. There seems to be many different varieties here on the ranch. The color doesn’t seem to much affect the flavor. I have made my husband taste about 1000 or more and the sweetness is about the same in the soft pink ones (even better at times) and the deep purple. The thing that does seem to affect sweetness is the tenderness of the fruit, which is hard to tell with tongs but if your tongs break the skin of the fruit then it is usually really sweet. I am pretty good at squeezing them with my fingers now and not getting prickled to death. The sweetest ones are about the tenderness of a ripe plum when you squish it between your fingers.

PP angle

PP bucket

The first batch I made, I burned all the thorns off over an open flame burner. This was very cumbersome doing them one at a time. Prickly Pear is found all over Texas and into Mexico. I was talking with a friend who grew up in Mexico and she kinda laughed at me when I told her I was burning the glochids off each fruit. She said you only have to rub them on the ground and they will come right off. Voila, it worked! The only problem was when I rolled them on the ground with my boot gently, as my husband pointed out, I had cow manure all over my boots. He ate it anyway, BTW!  I found the second batch worked best if I just gently rubbed each fruit with a thick old towel. Still time consuming, but worked better than an open flame for me. Note: put the towel away so your husband doesn’t use it to wipe his hands off later! Uh oh, sorry!

The first batch I made with the skin on just cutting the ends off. They are full of tiny stone like seeds and the meat or mesocarp part of the fruit is relatively small so I thought peeling them would be futile.

PP inside

However, after my first batch of jelly I found out that it was really slimy. Doesn’t really matter that much with jelly because it just makes it come out a little more syrupy than usual. It was still usable for toast and such. It also had an amazing flavor and beautiful golden color when finished.

PP jelly

The second batch I was planning to juice and save for making jelly, syrup or margaritas at a later date. I did not want to have slimy juice, so I decided I would take the seeds out because I thought the slimy consistency was coming from the gel around the seeds inside, similar to tomatoes. While I was doing a little internet research on a way to easily remove seeds, I found a blog post from 2011 by The Pink Cowgirl: http://thepinkcowgirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/prickly-pear-juice.html. In the article she explained the sliminess was coming from the skins, not the seeds. Damn it! I have to peel all these tunas! I got a little overzealous and picked two five-gallon buckets and now I had to peel them all!! It turns out the handy-dandy potato peeler did the job pretty easily.

The next batch of juice was perfect with no slime at all. The juice was relatively easy to make:

  1. Pick fruit
  2. Rub off glochids
  3. Wash
  4. Cut off ends & peel with potato peeler
  5. Quarter fruit
  6. Place in non-reactive pot with small amount of water
  7. Bring to boil
  8. High simmer for about 5 minutes
  9. Mash with potato masher
  10. Strain through cheese cloth after cooled

SIDE BAR: My ex-mother-in-law used to give me vague cooking instructions like this when I was young and newly married. “Chasity- Gravy is just some flour, water and grease.” No measurements or time frames at all given. That is exactly what it tasted like too……. FLOUR……. WATER…….. GREASE! However, this juice is really easy and can be tweaked to meet your needs.

Then you will get this beautiful red juice to use for jelly, drinking juice, cocktails, syrup or any other type of fruit flavoring you need. It has a taste that is similar to a strawberry/watermelon/honeydew melon mix.

PP juice

I like to make treats for the holidays that are homemade so the jelly is a good gift because I think people rarely get homemade items anymore. I hope my family, friends and co-workers enjoy it! If not, I hope they lie and say they did!

I used my juice that day to make an excellent prickly pear margarita. I figured I was owed it after all that hard work. It was delicious and super easy! I just placed the following ingredients into a shaker with ice and poured over a salt-rimmed glass:

  1. 2 oz. gold tequila (ok, 3 oz!)
  2. 0.5 oz. prickly pear juice
  3. 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  4. 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  5. Garnish with lime wedge

PP margarita

Despite all the work involved I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the prickly pears on the ranch. Prickly Pear, I love you too!

PP heart

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

Love the Soil You’re In

In life, people and plants often get transplanted. It can be an opportunity for them to flourish to grow and to be even more magnificent. There will always be some obstacles to overcome. One of those is the soil in which we put down our roots and our little seedlings.

I grew up in deep East Texas and still have a family home there. I now spend most of my time in the Northern Hill Country. The soil types and experiences are polar opposite. They each afford different opportunities and barriers to growing.

The eastern part of Texas is known as the East Texas Timberlands, according to the Texas Almanac, with soil that is acidic deep sandy loams with scattered clay pockets. It is easy to grow there and make deep roots but the hidden clay pockets can make it hard for you to navigate times. It is often not what it seems. You start digging with your shovel and it seems easy to remove the dirt, but then you hit a hard red clay loam that is harder than a rock. You dig and you dig but it will not budge. If you put your plant there the heavy clay will suffocate the root and it will die. Navigating the clay in life is the hardest part; none the less, it is absolutely possible. So many wonderful things near and dear to my heart have grown from Eastern Texas soil. I specifically love and miss my all grown and tall pine trees.

Sometimes, I just have to peak through the Pine Curtain to see how things are growing along or withering away. So, I am grateful to still be able to split my time between East Texas and the Northern Hill County.

Most of my time now (67% to be exact) is spent at Farnash Creek Ranch in the Northern Hill Country of Texas. We are in a soil type call the Grand Prairies according the the Texas Almanac. We are just south of the Western Cross Timbers and just north of Edwards Plateau. The soil is alkaline with shallow dark-gray clumpy loams over rocky limestone which means it is difficult to cultivate. Growing has been much more difficult to get started. It is hard to penetrate and we often have to get inventive with growing strategies. A mere shovel will not do the trick for our seedlings.

shovel

We have to do much more preparation for the soil. But we are learning when we prepare and work our soil for the roots we want to plant, they will flourish. We remove the rocks or obstacles for growing and the soil becomes a soft fluffy bed of growing gold. The rains will come again and attempt to harden our ground but we will keep working it back to downy again and again. Nevertheless, I have no doubt once people get their roots to take hold they are there to stay. For me, this is unlike the Piney Woods where over time heavy downpours, cutting down or logging, and the compacted slippery clay minds cause things to wash away. And honestly, sometimes things need to wash away from our gardens- it is Mother Nature’s way of keeping balance.

I’m learning to love my Grand Prairie’s soil and grow in it each day! I am finding gratitude in all things these days because life is too short and precious to waste time complaining over bad dirt! Dirt let life’s ups and downs soil your whole garden!

– C

Gettin’ ReFarnash’d

britt and luke.jpg

Last week we had some visitors on the Ranch. My sister and her family came out to get ReFarnash’d! The Ranch is a great place for everyone to get rejuvenated and back to nature. Our family has had a particularly hard 2017 and we all needed to get renewed!

2017 was a season of sorrow and loss for us but we try to remember it is just a season of life that will pass. Our hearts will always be heavy for the losses we all share but we are grateful to still have each other.

My sister and our #4 daughter (Abby) share a birthday on March 13th which is usually spring break for us here in Texas. We have been so lucky to share those birthdays in such wonderful places such Ben and Jerry’s in San Francisco! But, this year we spent it on the ranch. We needed some ranch R&R or ReFarnashing! We started the day with breakfast in bed at the Frankston home before heading out to the Ranch! Lyla (my niece) and I decided she needed a big breakfast since it was such a BIG birthday!

breakfast

Then, we headed out to the Ranch. My sister and her husband did some detouring but Lyla and I headed straight for the antique stores (my choice not hers)! We had to make a few stops to get ready for the birthday celebrations. Once we arrived on the ranch we had a quick little candle blowing for the birthday girls……

abby bday.JPG

before we headed out on the new “little red wagon”!

wagon.jpg

Just kidding….. the battery was dead. So, we all headed out on the old “green mule”! Loaded with our usual Ranch Ramblers and the company of each others laughter! The next day we enjoyed a day at the Farmer’s Market picking up plants. We all spent the afternoon working in the garden getting ready for spring.

britt and chas.jpg

Lyla especially loved planting! More than anyone expected!

lyles in garden.jpg

That sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? We all know families are not fairy tales but they are what we make them. We all have a story but we can all choose happiness and love! We can blend families and try to help each other mend old wounds. It will take time, patience and understanding! It will take looking inside yourself and seeing things from others point of view. Nearly every visit there is a misunderstanding but on EVERY visit we are extremely grateful for the love of family and a feeling of belonging. I am so thankful to have such a beautiful and temperamental family! I guess I am the only one to blame! I would not have it any other way! Re-Farnash’d for 2018!

-C

It Takes a Village

You can’t always do everything yourself. It’s taken me a awhile to figure this out (mainly because I don’t listen.) Being out here on the Ranch has really opened my eyes to see that it really does take a Village to raise a family. Raising children, building fences, growing gardens, working cattle, and mucking horse stalls has honestly made me think about life in general, and how I want my daughter to be raised. We aren’t all perfect, but we are all perfect in our own way and when we come together to show our children how to be successful people, we become better ourselves.


I can’t teach my daughter everything, but I am blessed to be able to provide her with such a great support system that can teach her what I can’t. Luckily, Poppi can teach her to rope and Gramita(Leelee) can teach her to BE roped!

Sometimes you need your Gramita teaching you to ride…

And other days, you need your Poppi holding your saddle so you don’t fall!

It takes a village to build a fence in 20° weather with an 18 month old.

My point is, if you’ve got a village, keep them, and if you don’t, find one! Even if they’re a little off the beaten path, it’ll be okay! As long as the love is there you’ll have a child raised happy, smart, and LOVED!

I’ll be doing a monthly update from now on! Thanks for reading! **Sorry about the video, but if they’re gonna flaunting it, I’m gonna show it!!**

Transgender calves….??? 

This week at Farnash Creek Ranch we noticed one of our male calves sucking on a heifer’s titty. We DO NOT allow breastfeeding in public so we  immediately figured that he was sucking that titty because he really wanted to be a female calf instead of a male. We grabbed our gloves and equipment as fast as we could and threw him/her into the chute! Popi grabbed the scalpel, I grabbed the leg, and Gramita held the tail.  Popi then cut off his/her’s testicles! It seemed painless for him/her! We could see the happiness in this calves eyes, because finally he was a she! 

We have decided that at Farnash Creek Ranch our cows will tell us what gender they are and we will respect that 100% and do our best to accommodate our cattle! This coming up week we are doing at least 5 more ‘gender reassignment’ male to female! (Would be 6, but but one calve licked a ball and we guessed that meant that he wanted to keep his!)

It’s a hard life for cattle these days, but we feel that our herd will be happier picking there own genders! 

For everyone that is still reading: We did our 1st castration this week! Hopefully everyone got that I was joking throughout this post! We named him Cookie!

Follow our Instagram @farnashcreekranch

Sunrise on the Ranch

It’s been a long week on the ranch. Popi has been recovering well, but we can’t keep him in the bed. We find him in the barn piddelin’ or looking for stray metal in the yard. It’s a full-time job looking after him, but we are grateful that he is doing better! 


Gramita has been taking control of the ranch this week. She rearranges the barn constantly, wakes up at 5am daily to feed and grain the horses, and started making cherry jam. She mows daily and we count the cows and calves every evening. 

Seydi has been very sassy this week, but she loves helping us water the dogs and horses (as long as she gets to play in the water!) she can’t wait until Popi gets to feeling better so they can play together! She doesn’t like seeing him in pain! 

We are waiting for the apartment in the barn to be ready. It was suppose to be finished last week, but they are a little behind. It will be finished soon, then we can start working on bigger projects. We have our rainwater collection system set up and are only waiting on the tank now. Next we will build a greenhouse and bigger chicken coop! Our project list goes on and on, but if you stick around I’ll update everyone on our newest projects and ideas.  

Follow us on Instagram: farnashcreekranch 

Subscribe 👍🏼

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑