Banquet in a Field: Telling our food story

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Dad and I had the opportunity to entertain for a unique event in Belfield, ND a few weeks ago for the Banquet in a Field event. Hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee, this event was focused on connecting consumers and North Dakota growers and producers. As cattle ranchers we were happy to have the opportunity to help support the idea that we need to find new and interesting ways to tell the story of our food, helping to bridge the gap and break down barriers in our industry.

The event was a great success, hosting 140 guests at Kessel’s Arrow K Farms, literally placing consumers where it all begins–right in our beautiful North Dakota backyard. The evening was not only a showcase of production agriculture, it was a first-hand look at scenic Western North Dakota.

As guests socialized and enjoyed appetizers made from local ingredients, dad and I played our old standards under the shade of tall cottonwoods that have likely stood as windbreaks for generations. The wheat field in front of us rolled in the much appreciated breeze and I felt fortunate to have my two world’s colliding in this special way.

It was even better that we were invited to the multi-course meal served by a local FFA chapter. My favorite part? The kids came around offering little shot glasses of milk–your choice of chocolate or white.

Below is this week’s column with a little more on the experience, but more about the importance of supporting and energizing efforts to tell our agriculture story. It’s why I do what I do, in a small way “opening the doors” to this place so that you might be able to see how important this land and these animals are to our family and the plates we help fill. Because we all know how food connects us, now let’s connect to our food.

Wheat

 

If we don’t tell our food story, who will?

We sit at kitchen tables, on blankets in the park, around picnic tables at street fairs and on tailgates after a long morning in the field. We crack eggs in our pancake mix while we tell our kids about the time their grandmother baked coffee filters in an early morning batch, her attempt at a legendary April Fool’s joke.

We flip our burgers on shady decks while our friends talk about the time they got lost in Mexico City. We scoop up spoonfuls of peas and choreograph a song and dance routine, complete with a jazz-hand landing to convince our toddler to open her mouth.

We grab a handful of dad’s caramel corn and remember the time spent with him in the kitchen. We’re grateful we paid attention to the recipe so he can live on in the sweet, sticky reminiscence.

No matter where you eat it, food connects us, it reminds us and it’s part of our story. But when was the last time you’ve thought about the story of your food?

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It was a muggy summer evening in western North Dakota and I stood next to my dad under the shade of a grove of tall cottonwood trees along the edge of a beautiful wheat field. We were strumming our guitars and singing about eating watermelon after a summer ballgame as a slow and steady line of community trickled into this farmyard from a makeshift parking lot behind the family shop.

They shook hands, made introductions and wondered what to expect as they walked past beautifully set tables next to grain bins and farm machinery, ready and waiting to celebrate food in a unique way — right where it all starts.

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We hear the phrase “farm-to-table” thrown around these days as a way to make us feel more connected to the food on our plate. On that evening, the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce took it a step further by inviting the community to meet directly with a local family who dedicates their life’s work to growing and caring for the land and the food we eat at their first annual Banquet in a Field event.

Over bites of mini cornbread muffins, lentil dip, sunflower toastettes, oven-roasted potatoes, beef picanha and honey apple cake served by kids from the local FFA chapter, a conversation, centered on North Dakota’s agriculture producers, began.

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And so did the celebration. Because our agriculture story is sometimes harder for us to tell than the story behind our grandmother’s recipe for award-winning chili. The fact that North Dakota is the lead producer of the navy and pinto beans it contains? Well, that’s something I know the Kessel family hosting us that evening was proud of.

And we should be, too. Because if we don’t spread the message and help the world understand that a tomato makes ketchup and that big, beautiful wheat field rolling in the breeze that evening is just a step on a long journey to appearing in the pasta you’ll be serving for your best friends as they reminisce about the time you all ran into the ocean naked, who will?

Banquet

The Banquet In a Field Events were the idea of CommonGround, a group of women in agriculture who volunteer to engage and outreach with non-ag consumers. It was started by and continues to be supported through the soybean and corn checkoffs. One of the reasons CommonGround created this event was to build stronger connections between North Dakota consumers and the state’s farmers and ranchers.
Because Banquet In A Field was such a success, the Dickinson Area Chamber Of Commerce Ag Committee is already making plans for next year. The event will be a key community resource, going forward, for those who want to learn more about how agriculture impacts their daily lives. Find out more at dickinsonchamber.org/banquet-in-a-field/

Slow Cookin’

Did I ever tell you about the time I started my crock pot on fire?

No? Well, it wasn’t really as dramatic as that, but once upon a Sunday afternoon there was a big ‘ol spark followed by quick fizzling flame and that was the day the beef roast died in this house.

The slow cooker is one of those things you can live without, but it’s pretty handy to have for the wintertime staples like beef roast and chili, basically the only things I ever used it for in this house (and also things you can make with the good ‘ol oven and stove combo that comes with the house) So anyway, blowing up the crockpot didn’t seem like a really big deal until I realized I was mourning it.

For some reason it seemed like as soon as I dug its grave all of these awesome crock pot meals kept popping up on my news feed and in conversations with my friends about how they keep the bills paid, children dressed, driveways shoveled, hair washed, abs tight,  men happy and food on the table. Turns out it’s all because of the crock pot.

So it took me a few months of denial, but I finally replaced the old thing with a fancier version: one with a cover latch and a thermometer and more temperature control, perfect for the traveling casserole thing us Lutherans like to do.

And just like that the crock pot is back in our lives, shiny and new and with a big job to do, which is make my life easier.

Anyway, we all know this isn’t a cooking blog or a domestic how-to website in any way shape or form, unless you’re looking for examples on what not to do so you can stay out of the ditch/mudhole/bad nest of wood ticks, but lately after some well intentioned and totally flopped attempts at trying to spice it up in the kitchen and get supper on the table before 11 pm, I came across some really good and really easy crock pot recipes that even someone like me can handle.

These were not Pinterest fails. And if anyone’s going to fail at something on Pinterest, it’s me.

So thank you to the women out there who encourage us to keep on trucking in the kitchen by making it look so easy and pretty on your websites. You inspired me to slow cook some BBQ pork and put it in a taco shell for last Friday’s meal, thankful for a few moments to sit down and catch up with my husband before the evening turned into the third middle-of-the-night baby puking incident in a row.

Try it out here. Not the puking thing, the taco thing…(sorry, that right there is one of the many reasons I don’t have a cooking blog).

Barbecue Pork Tacos with Honey Mustard Slaw Recipe

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And tonight the online kitchen divas got me to put a whole chicken in the magic pot only to come back six hours later to find it juicy and damn delicious. I threw some Uncle Ben’s wild rice on the stove and damn if I didn’t turn into Betty Crocker herself.

So here’s the recipe for that. Thank you Julie from thelittlekitchen.net for reminding this  woman living in the middle of beef country that the  crock pot is for chicken too (and making sure I couldn’t screw it up.)

Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker Recipe

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So that’s that friends, maybe the only helpful thing you’ll ever find on this blog and it’s not because I’m particularly helpful, it’s just that I basically know how to Google stuff and use a crock pot.

Love you all and have a great weekend. We’re going to hang out with some of my favorite people and I can’t wait!

Peace, love and slow cooking,’

Jessie

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That’s me and my grampa, teaching me ’bout the most important things in life…

Making Memories. Making Pies.

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It’s a beautiful morning at the ranch, the wind is calm and the golden trees are sparkling in the sun, the baby is napping, the windows are open and I’m so happy to be home after six days on the music road.

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I’ve designated this day to unpacking and putting away all that was drug out in the name of traveling across the state with a ten-month old and my mother…which means we most definitely brought home way more than we left home with…

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Like maybe a few more outfits. And at least one new pair of shoes for each of us.

And maybe a giraffe suit for Little Sister?

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We sure have a fun and exhausting time when we’re out traipsing around the countryside. But we don’t get much napping in. And we don’t stick to a bedtime. And we try to cram as much fun as we can in between the gigs.

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Mini Merch Slinger

So we’re tired.

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I predict Edie will take the rest of the week to catch up on all of the extra time she spent kicking and clapping and singing along with her eyes wide open until the bitter end of the day when we plopped down together on the hotel bed, or the bed in my grandparent’s house, or the bed of our gracious hosts, and finally gave into the night.

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Sound check…

I’m contemplating crawling into her crib with her right now and the two of us could stay there all day. If only we both fit.

But not until I share this week’s column with you, a little story about the best part of this season change, which is most certainly more time in the kitchen with family reminiscing and making new, sweet flavored memories.

And I may be no Martha Stewart, as you all know, but this was my biggest attempt yet, getting as close as this non-pastry-making-family can get to pie perfection, thanks to the notes left behind from our grandma Edie…and maybe a little encouraging from above.

Happy season change. May the cooler weather inspire you to cuddle up and settle down a bit. I know that’s my goal this upcoming October anyway.

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Coming Home: Connecting with gramma’s memory over a slice of apple pie
by Jessie Veeder
9-25-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My mom keeps a small wooden box in her kitchen, tucked up in the cupboard next to her collection of cookbooks. On the front it reads “RECIPES” in the shaky, wood-burning technique of a young boy trying his hand at carpentry.

And the from-scratch buns she served with supper.

And the familiar casseroles that you could smell cooking as you walked up toward the tiny brown house from the barnyard after a ride on a cool fall evening.

Every once in awhile my mom will open that box on a search for a memory tied to our taste buds. She’ll sort through the small file of faded handwriting and index cards until she finds it, setting it on the counter while she gathers ingredients, measures stirs and puts the dish together the best way she remembers.

I’m thinking about it now because it’s sitting on my kitchen table, the one that used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen all those years ago acting as a surface to roll out dough and pie crusts or a place to serve countless birthday cakes or her famous April Fool’s day coffee filter pancakes.

And so they’ve met again, that table and that box, which is currently sitting next to a pie pan covered in tinfoil.

Because last week we pulled the box out on a mission for guidance on what to do with the 50,000 pounds of apples my little sister inherited from the tree in the backyard of the house she bought a few years back.

“Maybe we should make applesauce or apple crisp,” we said as Little Sister plopped the fourth bag full of fruit on my kitchen counter, my mom sipping coffee and my big sister entertaining my nephew beside her.

I reached up in the cupboards to dust off a couple recipe books because we all agreed then that apples this nice deserve to be in a pie, and Googling “pie making” seemed too impersonal for such an heirloom-type task.

Then Mom remembered the recipe box.

And that Gramma Edie used to make the best apple pies.

It was a memory that was intimately hers and vaguely her daughters’. We were too young to remember the cinnamon spice or the sweetness of the apples or the way she would make extra crust to bake into pieces and sprinkle with sugar when the pies were done, but our mother did.

And most certainly so did our dad.

So we dove into the recipe with the unreasonable confidence of amateurs and spent the afternoon in my kitchen, peeling apples, bouncing the baby and rolling and re-rolling out gramma’s paradoxically named “No Fail Pie Crust,” laughing and cheering a victory cheer as we finally successfully transferred it to the top of the pie using four hands and three spatulas, certain this wasn’t our grandmother’s technique.

Wondering how she might have done it.

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Little Sister carved a heart in the top to make it look more presentable. We put the pie in the oven, set the timer and hoped for the best.

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We fed the baby and gave her a bath. We watched my nephew demonstrate his ninja moves. We talked and poured a drink. We cleared the counter for supper. We put the baby to bed.

And then we pulled the pie from the oven. We marveled at our work. We decided it looked beautiful, that we might declare it a huge success, but first we should see what Dad thinks.

So we dished him up a piece. It crumbled into a pile on his plate, not pie shaped at all. But he closed his eyes and took a bite and declared it just the right amount of cinnamon, the apples not too hard, the crust like he remembered, not pretty but good.

We served ourselves and ate up around that old table. We thought of our grandma, wondered if she might have given us a little help and put the recipe back in the box right next to her memory and the new one we made.

And we closed the lid.

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How to make wild raspberry dessert

How to make wild raspberry dessert

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Step 1:
Wake up in the morning to a happy husband, a well-rested niece and a smiling baby. Snuggle the baby. Play and roll around with her on the floor. Put her in her high chair so she can feed herself blueberry puffs. Hear your husband say, “Man, it would be nice to have a blueberry muffin right now.” Remember you have blueberries in the fridge.

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Step 2:
Locate a blueberry muffin recipe with the help of your niece. Preheat the oven and read the directions while your niece mixes up the ingredients. Think that maybe bacon and eggs would go good with fresh blueberry muffins. Because you always have bacon in the house.

Step 3:
Proceed with the bacon cooking while blueberry muffins bake.

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Step 4:
Crack and fry some perfectly over easy eggs. Find a double yolker. Declare it good luck.

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Step 5:
Pour some orange juice, put the baby in her high chair, make a plate and gather around the table. Declare that Martha Stewart has nothing on you.

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Step 7:
Hear Pops say something about all the raspberries out in the pasture. Decide that they can’t all go to the birds.

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Step 6:
Put the dishes in the sink pull on your jeans and boots. Strap the baby to your chest, douse skin in bug spray and sunscreen and head out the door with your niece and the dogs. Declare it a beautiful morning. Declare that it’s sort of hot though.

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Step 7:
Peel your eyes for raspberries. Locate raspberries in the thorny brush below where the juneberries, bullberries and chokecherries grow. Watch the dogs disappear in and out of the brush patches chasing phantom rabbits and birds and taking a break from the heat. Find it funny.

(Chicken dinner for you if you can spot Dolly down there…)

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Step 8:
Send the niece in to the deep brush to get the fat berries.

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Check your back pocket for the baggie you brought along. Realize you dropped it somewhere. Take off your hat. Decide that will do.

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Step 9:
Pick a berry. Eat a berry. Put a berry in the hat. Swat a fly. Pull a thorn. Pick a berry. Eat a Berry. Put a berry in the hat.

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Step 10:
Repeat Step 9 like a hundred or so times.

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Step 11:
Check to make sure the baby strapped to your chest isn’t eating the berries too. Pick up the toy she dropped in the thick brush for the third time.

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Step 12:
Wipe the sweat. Pick a thorn out of the niece’s hand. Eat a berry. Check your stash. Wonder if that’s enough to make anything. Declare it officially hot out now. Eat a berry. Climb the hill to the teepee rings to catch some breeze.

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Step 13:
Realize the baby dropped the toy again and now it’s out in the wild pasture to be found 100 years from now, along with all Pops’ missing gloves and tools.

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Step 14:
Head back to the house, noticing the beautiful wildflowers along the way.

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Step 15:
Strip off your clothes and check for ticks. Strip off the baby’s clothes and check for ticks. Put her on the floor to play.

Step 16:
Rinse the berries.

Step 17:
Eat a few more

Step 18:
Look up some recipes online for raspberry dessert, trying for the perfect concoction that doesn’t interfere with the integrity of the raspberry.

Step 19:
Eat a couple more raspberries.

Step 20:
Deny every suggested recipe found…

Step 20:
Decide that there is no dessert you can make that tastes as good as a wild raspberry itself.

Step 21:
Eat more raspberries

Step 22:
Have lunch. Put the baby down for a nap. Putz around the house. Wait for Husband to get home..

Step 23:
Give the baby a bath. Put her in her robe. Decide she looks like an adorable old man. Feed her something yummy. Rock her to sleep.

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Step 24:
Grill brats. Eat on the deck.

Step 25:
Leave the dishes for the husband.

Step 26:
Go Riding

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Step 27:
Declare it a beautiful night.

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Step 28:
Listen to your niece tell you stories and wonder where the time went and when she grew up so quickly.

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Step 29:
Head back to the barn. Let the horses out. Walk to the house. Strip down. Check for ticks.

Step 26:
Eat some raspberries.

Step 27:
Declare it a good day.

Step 28:
Sleep tight. Good night.

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Sunday Column: Husband’s Homemade Garden Tomato Soup

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The weather’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing and the tomato crop is ripening. Fall is in the air and that means sweaters and boots and soups for supper.

It’s perfect timing for the last few months of this pregnancy. I might as well load up on cream based broth and hearty ingredients accompanied by thick slices of bread or cheese sandwiches while it’s perfectly acceptable for my waistline to be thickening and my wardrobe consists of plenty of stretchy pants.

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So we’ve kicked soup season off right around here by visiting the garden and revisiting the homemade tomato soup recipe Husband concocted during the first fall  back home.

After a few years I think this September soup is a tradition now. I’ve shared the step by step, photographic journey documented in the tiny kitchen of the old ranch house on my blog every year, but this year I thought it was time I put it in the papers so the whole state would get a chance to do something really great with their tomato crop.

And last night we made it again, just shifting the ingredients a bit (celery salt instead of celery seed and skipping the dill weed because I couldn’t find it in the mess of my spice cabinet) and it turned out just lovely, just like it does every year. Little Sister was over to help me with a project, we called up mom and Pops and Husband started making up some sort of spectacular ham and cheese sandwich with like four different cheeses and we had ourselves a little Sunday feast.

And now I’m going to have to have him make those sandwiches again so I can follow him around and write that shit down, because well, we all need more versions of the grilled cheese in our lives…

So cheers to growing babies, waistlines and tomatoes. I hope you give yourself a chance to stir up this soup and sit down and enjoy it with the people (and a sandwich) you love.

Coming Home: Husband’s kitchen skills and
heavy cream make most of tomato crop
by Jessie Veeder

9-27-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

There are many things I like about our new season — more cool days, changing colors and cozy sweaters, and less bugs, lawn mowing and sweat.

Also, recently, fall means cool air coming in from the open windows at night and more reasons to steal my husband’s big flannels from his closet on my way out the door to take photographs before the sun sets on this quickly changing season.

Yes, these longer nights have their benefits. Like, my husband and I will be seeing a little more of each other across the supper table these days because supper time isn’t being ignored while we’re out in the barnyard or in the pasture somewhere squeezing every minute of sunlight from the day.

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And more time at the supper table means more time spent in the kitchen with the man I married who happens to be really good at cooking things like homemade noodles and casseroles and German heritage dishes and other things that require a large dollop of butter and an even bigger swig of heavy whipping cream — a requirement, I guess, if we want to pad up our rear ends in preparation for a long cold winter.

And it’s no coincidence that soup season comes rolling at the same time the tomato crop starts turning red, which only means that the man has been forced to come up with a delicious way to celebrate them.

And when I say forced, I mean “gently” persuaded by a growing pile of ripening tomatoes on the kitchen counter and a pregnant wife declaring that she’s starving over here.

So to honor it all, the changing season, my tomato crop, unwavering appetite, affinity for heavy whipping cream and my husband’s kitchen skills, I would like to share a recipe he concocted during our first autumn spent back at the ranch.

After finding me in the kitchen stomping, whining and nearly losing an eye to a jalapeño pepper after my first attempt at the age-old-tradition of salsa making, only to clean it all up, put my hands on my hips, reach for my goggles and declare that I was now going to attempt tomato soup — 8 p.m. — I think he felt the need to run interference.

And so I ditched the goggles, picked up a pen and followed him around the kitchen as he whipped up a little piece of heaven right there on the very same table where I was nearly murdered by that jalapeño pepper.

And I’m so glad that I did, because the thing with my husband’s cooking is that it’s all in his head, like a story or a song. If it’s not written down, the melody might change a bit or the plot might thicken sooner the next time around.

But I captured it in its original perfection and now we make it a tradition year after year.

‘Tis the season! May your tomatoes never be stranded again. Enjoy!

Cowboy’s Garden Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup (about 3 medium carrots) diced
  • ¼ of a large purple onion, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 12-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream (room temperature)

Directions

In a large soup pot add the diced tomatoes, carrots, onion and garlic to ¼ cup water and simmer on low for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the tomatoes start to gently boil. Stir in the tomato sauce, butter, seasonings and bouillon cubes and simmer the soup on low, allowing the onions and carrots to cook, about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are cooked through, slowly stir in the heavy whipping cream and say “M’m! M’m! Good!” while Campbell sobs silently to himself.

Heat (don’t boil) for a few minutes, serve it up and have yourself a happy and well-fed fall.

Sunday Column: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

IMG_9739Out here, in this season, snow comes and goes quickly. We froze our butts off early last week, only to be welcomed by a thaw at the end of it, followed by 30 mph winds that blew the snow sideways on Sunday.

Coincidently this is also the day we chose to clean out the shop and our basement, sending me winging boxes of unusable crap into the garbage pit only to have it all fly back into my face…like three of four times…before I decided to approach the whole chore from the opposite direction. You know, wind at my back…always the right choice.

A choice made after almost the entire contents in the back of the pickup blew out across the prairie on my way to the dump, sending me flailing after it.

A choice made after the old pickup without a parking brake nearly rolled into said garbage pit while my back was turned, you know, flinging things.

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

Because when the season of snow-pelting-you-so-hard-in-the-eyeballs-they-threaten-to- freeze-shut is upon us, we strip off our forty-seven layers and head to the kitchen to whip up something warm, preferably with noodles and heavy whipping cream.

Yes, if we have to have winter, at least we have heavy whipping cream to get us through.

IMG_9779So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about the recipes Husband and I concoct in our little kitchen to pass the time on long winter nights.

Coming Home: Bring on the heavy cream, butter and winter weather
by Jessie Veeder
11-23-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_2906And I realize that the holiday season is just starting, and we have a trip to Cabo in the works to help ring in the new year, so really, I should just take it easy and have a salad for gawd sake, but for some reason the thought of squeezing my pasty white squishy body in a bathing suit in a month or so is not scary enough to keep me from a second helping of Husband’s famous cream noodles.

Yes. You read it up there. Homemade noodles fried and smothered in cream.

There’s that. And then there’s the two giant pots of knoephla soup mom and I cooked up for the crew of hunters/family this weekend. And yes, it was me who convinced her to add another pot.

Because you can’t have enough creamy soup. You can’t have too much! You can always save it and have it for lunch every day until Christmas!

Want to see how it’s done? I show ya here:
Cowboy Cooks Knoephla

And don’t even get me started on the traditional holiday cheese ball I’ll be concocting on Thursday…

Or the fact that all I want for breakfast for the rest of my life is a caramel roll followed by a donut washed down with seven cups of coffee.

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

It’s winter and my primal instincts are kicking in.

“Stock up, stock up, stock up…” they whisper. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from.”

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

It’s coming from my refrigerator and from the imagination of the man with deep German immigrant roots who can make anything with enough butter, flour, cream, potatoes and a side of pork.

Ugh, I’m so hungry. I can’t wait until 6:00.

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Cowboy Cooks Crunchy French Toast

Well Cowboy got his cute butt back in the kitchen this weekend. It was no big deal, except the clouds opened up, the sun shone down on the barnyard and all the animals and the birds in the woods met me outside in the morning spring air and joined me in my pouffy dress as I  spontaneously choreographed a song and dance number appropriately titled “Hallelujah.”

And then after my big finish I pulled myself together and promptly joined Cowboy inside because I didn’t want to miss this. I mean he’s been a busy man who, despite my protesting, has left his apron folded up for so long he actually forgot about it. But this weekend enough was enough. After weeks of overcooked noodles, undercooked chicken, Fruity Pebbles for breakfast, lunch, dinner and bagels for dessert I was carb loaded, tired of googling recipes with three ingredients and ready for some real, hearty, cooking.

And ready for breakfast, Cowboy style.

Turns out I was not the only one who has been impatiently awaiting Cowboy’s triumphant return to his craft. Cowboy’s dad has been phoning in his requests for recipes for Cowboy to tweak and try for months. Recipes he’s concocted or dreamed about while flipping through and falling asleep to home renovation channels, reality TV and hunting shows.

Yes, this breakfast idea came into Cowboy’s culinary life via a phone call from his dad, who has probably found the only hunting program on the face of the planet that has a cooking segment. But I guess you come across some surprising programming when you are faced with insomnia and one trillion channels.

Anyway, after three prodding phone calls from his loving father, Cowboy caved and began the process of analyzing the ingredients and making tweaks to Cowboy this recipe up.

So I’d like to take a moment to thank father-in-law for his persistence. See, lately I’ve had this brilliant idea to partake in lunges and boxing and weight lifting and other torturous activities under the guidance of a DVD staring a couple TV personalities who go by the name of Jillian and Bob. Did I mention the lunges. Lots and lots of lunges.

So for the love of Martha, I was starving.

Let’s get to it.

Cowboy Cooks Crunchy French Toast


Step 1: Hydration

This particular morning called for the classic Orange Julius.

My recipe:

  • 6 oz frozen orange juice from concentrate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • splash of vanilla
  • 10 ice cubes

Throw in a blender and blend away.

And then gasp as your husband grabs the vodka and turns you into a sinner and your innocent Orange Julius into something much less family-mall-day and a little more rock-star rebellious–The Vodkaulius. Or, if you have Malibu rum you could turn your morning into a tropical getaway by creating what we fondly refer to as The Malibulious.

Please don’t judge us.

Step 2: The Ingredients

Ok, once you are adequately hydrated and liquored up at 11 am, fumble around the kitchen and gather the following:

  • 8 slices of bread (Cowboy likes Texas Toast the best. Wifey couldn’t find Texas Toast at the grocery store. We worked through it)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream (yes, I said it)
  • 2 cups flakey cereal (We used Honey Bunches of Oats, but corn flakes or some sort of bran could work too)
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon
  • A sprinkle of sugar

Now step back, throw some bacon on the griddle, take a sip of your VodkaMalibulious and wonder how you could go wrong with heavy whipping cream, sugar and vodka in the morning.

You will not come up with an answer.

Moving on.

Step 3: Mix it up

  • Warm up your griddle or pan to about 350 while you mix up the ingredients and wait on the bacon (because if you think you are going to have a Cowboy breakfast without bacon your are sorely mistaken my friend.)

  • In a casserole dish or other flat container crack three eggs

  • Add the cream, milk and vanilla

  • Then whisk (or fork) it all together

  • Sprinkle in the cinnamon and sugar. We have a fancy 2-in-1 cinnamon and sugar grinder because apparently we use the combo enough to warrant this type of purchase. Try not to be jealous.

  • Here’s where Cowboy, in his true spontaneous recipe fashion, threw me a curveball secret ingredient and reached for the brown sugar I didn’t know about (and neither did you) and added a few pinches of the sweet stuff. Ok, ok, things were getting serious around here. I started lunging.

  • Ok, now set that concoction aside, in a separate casserole dish add your cereal

  • And crush it up a bit, Cowboy style (or you know, you could use a utensil if you aren’t man enough to use your knuckles…geesh)

Step 4: Cook it already

Alrighty, now we bring it all together.

  • Make sure your griddle is saturated with cooking oil and the oil is nice a hot.

  • Dip a piece of bread in the egg/milk/sugar/crazy healthy concoction, fully coating both sides, regular french toast style

  • Then move the saturated bread slice over to the cereal and coat it evenly on both sides

  • Now throw it on the griddle

and continue the process until your griddle is full of coated bread and the house smells like breakfast and sweet cinnamon and sugar and everything that’s right and good with the world.

  • Cook the toast about three minutes on this side or until the cereal is nice and golden brown. While you’re waiting get your syrup and bacon and all your breakfast additions ready to roll so you won’t have to wait one extra minute to eat. Now flip ’em over!

  • Wait another three minutes or so, plate the golden, sweet, crunchy breakfast toasts up and turn around to find that your dear wife has called your in-laws and they are waiting patiently with their own Vodkauliouses, bacon, syrup and snarky napkins for this hunting show inspired, father suggested, breakfast item…and that same wife is lunging and singing a Disney song. And then whisper to yourself “what have I become?”

And enjoy…with bacon and maple syrup…

or bacon, eggs and a little splash of summer in the form of homemade Chokecherry syrup.

Ahhh, heaven is a sunny weekend and breakfast at the ranch.

Have a great Monday…

If you need me, I’ll be lunging…

Cowboy Cooks: Garlic Beer Can Chicken and Deep Fried Green Beans

One of Cowboy’s specialties is seasoning. He seasons everything. He stands in front of the spice cabinet while rubbing his chin and saying “hmmmmm…” for a good amount of time before he delves into any kind of grilling or baking or frying recipe. He smells the stuff, he breathes in the aroma, he says “hmmmm…” again….

and then he sharpens his knives…

Yup, Cowboy’s cooking is well thought out. And his knives are sharp.

And so we embark on another four hour cooking project.

Because little sister came home a bit upset that she missed the last Cowboy concoction, so she made a formal request that on this trip she be involved in the process.

So Cowboy began a plan to cook something she might like. And vowed she wouldn’t get away without getting her hands dirty.

And I vowed to make her wear a neckerchief.

Don't worry, she loves it when I do this.

Poor little sister had no idea what she was getting into.

And after a good nine hours on a train in the middle of a blizzard with no sleep and a “few” drinks the night before, little sister may have very well relinquished her request if she could, but Cowboy made good on his promise to teach this young woman a thing or two about seasoning…

…and how to really cook in college.

Because the following recipe was developed and tested tried and true while Cowboy was earning what some call an education.

Yup, this little masterpiece would hang out on a low heat grill for up to six hours, seasoned to perfection, while Cowboy and his roommate….er…studied…taking breaks to check the moisture of the meat, to baste, to monitor.

And this process worked really well for them, because as soon as their studying was done, as soon as they knew everything there was to know about philosophy or psychology or introduction to walking, the chicken was there waiting for them…

Or maybe it went more like — as soon as they were nice and toasted, so was the chicken.

I think that sounds more like the truth.

Speaking of toasty, let’s begin with the warm up:

Cowboy’s beverage of choice on a cold day…

…and mine. As you can see, I’ve come prepared.

And little sister?

Yeah, little sister figured she had enough the night before.

Ok, now that we’re all settled in, I present to you…

The chicken:

Step One: Pre-heat

Here is where I would like to tell you to get up in the morning, have some coffee with a splash of Bailey’s,  pre-heat the grill to 225 degrees and be prepared to hang around and hem and haw over the bird for a good six hours in the warm sunshine. And it will be worth it.

But this is what we’re dealing with on this blustery, November day in North Dakota.

And by blustery, I mean, with the wind chill,  20 degrees below zero.

Ain’t no body grillin’ today.

So we improvised.

And preheated the oven, located inside our cozy abode, to 350.

Now for the ingredients:

Chicken Rub:

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 pinch Basil
  • 2 pinches Poultry Seasoning
  • 2 pinches Weatherford Famous Seasoning (Cowboy says: “Not sure what in it, but that shit ‘s good)
  • Sprinkle of Celery Salt
  • Seven grinder twists of Garlic Sea Salt
  • Sprinkle Dillweed  (the seasoning, not your uncle Bob)
  • 1 pinch Lemon Pepper
  • 2 pinches Parsley
  • 1 pinch Ground Bell Pepper
  • Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 pinches Rosemary
  • 1 secret ingredient (shhh, I’ll tell you about it later)

And…

  • 1 tired, travel weary little sister
  • 1 woman with a camera and a growling stomach
  • 1 Cowboy
  • 1 blizzard
  • 2 neckerchiefs
  • 1 tiny house
  • and a couple dogs

Step 2: The Chicken Rub

  • Mince  garlic and  onion and place in small bowl

Woah those little ones are rank…

Keep it together girl, Cowboy’s don’t cry.

  • Add  extra virgin olive to the garlic and onion mix

And if that doesn’t look delicious enough, I have to tell you what happened next…

..trying to hide his secret ingredient, Cowboy snuck behind my back and added two tablespoons of melted butter to the mix as well…still a little reluctant to fully expose his methods in the kitchen.

I yelled “Stop! You must tell the people what you do! You must tell them everything!”

Cowboy replied, “Can’t I have any secrets?”

I hollered, “No! No! There are no secrets from me. There are no secrets from them. There are no secrets you can keep!”

Little sister worried about our marriage falling apart before her eyes and blurted, “Oh, look at the pretty horses out the window.”

So I did…

And so did Cowboy…

Then all was right with the world again, so he gave in and agreed about the secret thing…

…but not before giving me this look.

…sometimes I get this look.

Sometimes.

I hate this look.

But I must fight to give the people what they want. I must fight to win. So it’s worth it.

Ok, moving on.

  • Now add the rest of the seasonings to the garlic, yellow onion, olive oil and BUTTER mixture

(Just a note, the above seasoning measurements do not have to be precise. Cowboy doesn’t use measuring spoons and you don’t have to either. Just do what feels right…and smells right)

  • Now mix the concoction with your hands so you’ll be mistaken for a grilled chicken for two to three days—a great way to attract manly men. Little sis can thank me at the wedding

Now it’s time to rub that chicken up.

There she is, just waiting for her rub down.....(sorry, that was inappropriate)

  • Grab the bird and separate the skin from the meat and, using your hand, thoroughly, and surprisingly violently, shove the spice rub in there like so:

  • Rub the outside and inside of the chicken with the mix as well

Little sister has never been more thankful for being spared of a task…

Step 3: Time for the beer:

First, when your little sister asks the following question…

“What does the beer do for the chicken?”

…you must answer…

“It’s for moisture…it gives it a little bit of taste…”

And then you can continue

  • Crack open a can of your favorite beer. It doesn’t have to be camouflage Busch, but apparently that is our flavor of choice

  • The can should only be about ½ or ¾ full. And to get it that way, you know what to do.

Cowboy says: “If you accidentally drink too much, which can happen from time to time, don’t worry ‘bout it. Just open a new beer and repeat.”

  • Take the tab off the beer for the Ronald McDonald house
  • Place beer on the special beer can chicken rack, which is made for this sort of thing.

Cowboy speaks again: “If you don’t own a beer can chicken rack,  you sure as shit can weld one up quick-like….if you’re a real redneck…I mean cowboy….just bend some iron, use barbed wire, you know, that sort of thing.”

  • Place the unsuspecting chicken on the beer can like so:

Poor chicken...so innocent, so trusting...she never saw it coming...

  • And now another secret…more butter. Add another 2 tbsp of butter between the meat and the skin of the bird

Now to cook the thing….which requires a bit of explanation, because, like I said, if this were a summer day and not the middle of a blizzard, we would put the bird on the grill in the morning and cook it all day on low while we basked in the summer sun with a few beers of our own while we waited happily for about 5 to 6 hours.

It would be a major ordeal.

A holiday.

An event it itself.

But here, because of the cold and the time restraints, we baked the chicken on 350 for about 3 hours.

Here’s a link that explains how long to cook a chicken based on how big your bird is. Chicken Cook Time

I'LL see YOU later.

So Cowboy waits for his beer can chicken.

In the cold of November.

In the house.

And while he waits, he deep fat fries things….

Like these homemade potato chips for the guests while they wait…

Yeah, he just whipped those up.

But we must stay on task…

On to the next part of our meal.

Step 4: The Green Beans (how Cowboy gets his vegetables…deep fried and golden)

Ingredients:

Now you must answer another question as sister decides she feels well enough for a small drink:

“How many green beans are there?”

“In the world? A billion”

“No, in this bag.”

“Oh, I don’t know, a few big handfuls.”

Ok then,

  • A few big handfuls of fresh green beans with the ends removed
  • 4 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp Weatherford Famous Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Tony’s Seasoning (Cowboy’s Favorite)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup cream or milk
  • Frying oil

Now get out that deep fryer you’ve been dying to use (or you can use a frying pan with deep sides as well) and make sure your oil is hot and sizzley, about 350 degrees.

  • Clean and prep the green beans
  • Dump the pretzels on the counter and crush with a rolling pin. (You didn’t think Cowboy would get through this entire dinner without using a rolling pin did ya? )

  • Place pretzels in a medium bowl and add the flour. Mix together.

  • Add the Weatherford Seasoning and the Tony’s Seasoning to the mix

  • In a separate bowl, crack two eggs and add the cream or milk and whisk (or fork…you know the drill)

Now all is prepared and right with the world and you my begin the assembly line:

  • Dip a handful of green beans in the egg and cream mix…

  • then dip in the pretzel mix, coating each bean evenly…

  • and then place the beans on into the fryer

  • Cook each batch of beans for 5-7 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown
  • Remove from the fryer and place on a paper towel

Hey, hands off my beans! Wait for the chicken! Where's the damn chicken?

Phew…Ok. By now hours have passed and I am a good pound and 1/2 of fried potatoes and four glasses of wine in.

At the beginning of the evening I looked like this:

I have since found a new, styling way to wear my neckerchief:

But it has been well worth it, because the chicken! The chicken is done!

Go get her Cowboy!

Cowboy potholders

And now we eat.

Praise Jesus we eat.

And don’t worry, we’ll talk about those mashed potatoes (and the potato chips) later. They’re delicious, but I’m starving.

Hope you’re weekend was filled with days like these (minus the look).

Until we meet again…