Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Strawberry Angel Food Cake



One of my favorite memories from my Granny's house was her love of strawberries.  As a small girl she always had a vegetable garden of some kind each summer and would always grow a few strawberries.  Each morning for our breakfast she would let my brother and I go pick some strawberries to put in our cereal.  I remember thinking that doing this was pretty special and looking back, it really was.

They say you are either a sweets or main dish cook and for my grandmother that was true.  She didn't really make many things that were sweet, although being a diabetic, she loved her sweets a little more than anyone.  She once told me to not ever just eat the cake icing straight out of a container...I told her she must do that, because the thought had never crossed my mind!  She was a sneaky diabetic buying doughnuts for the grandkids, along with pound cakes that were just for us.....

This weekend, we celebrated both Independence Day and my mother's 70th birthday with this sweet Strawberry Angel Food Cake.  We used a sugar free whipped cream that hopefully carved off a few carbs for my mom sugar wise.

Click here for the recipe and card for Strawberry Angel Food Cake

To make this dessert, cut your store bought Angel Food cake in half and place strawberries and whipped cream and then repeat on your top layer to make this pretty cake.  It's simply that easy and the results look really pretty.  Kids young and old enjoy this cake and any extra will keep nicely in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to keep the air out.

So, when you are looking for a fast and fun cake to make on the run or something easy to create for your family, this little cake is simple and impressive to make and very economical.

Below are some scenes from the fireworks show we watched on my mom's birthday in our little town.  They were awesome and sponsored by my brother and cousin's law firm for us all to enjoy. My mom especially enjoyed it and that made all our night. In the past month, she has been recovering from a severe stroke to her left side. I've never seen her work as hard to recover and it was a welcome treat to have her with us and enjoying the holiday with her grandkids. I've never been prouder of her deligence and spirit through this difficult time and the positive attitude that she will regain all of her left side function. Strokes can be devastating and for my mom, this is not an option.




Happy July everyone and hope your Independence Day was a fun and relaxing one.

View from Lake O' The Pines at dusk


Alise - The Ranch Kitchen 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy

 The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Fried Steak

Every once in a while, we love our chicken fried steak.  It's southern comfort food at it's best and when served along side some mashed potatoes and gravy you have the perfect meal.  

On our ranch we of course use our Hereford beef raised on our place.  The flavor always shines through and it's great knowing we raised it ourselves.  

The trick to chicken fried steak is letting it fry at an even heat and not handling your meat too much once it is placed in the pan with the hot oil.  I use either water or milk in my batter as two different methods for battering your steak.  Both turn out great everytime.  Cast iron skillets are some of the best, even skillets or pans to use for chicken fried steak also.

To begin, first take the egg(s) and milk and best them together making a batter with a dash or two of hot sauce.  This is 'red' hot sauce like Tabasco Sauce that will give your egg batter a bit of flavor and add to the overall taste of your meat. We love anything spicy and since I use the hot sauce with my fried chicken tenders, I thought why not with my steak.  If you are measuring the dash of hot sauce it would be around 2 teaspoons or adjust to your heat index.  I've also used Chili Sauce some and it is just as good.  If you are out of milk, must use water and it's just as good.

Whisk the two together and and 'bread' the steaks in this order.  First dip the steak in the flour that has been seasoned with 1 teaspoon of garlic salt and 1 teaspoon of any brand of All Seasoning Spice like Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning or an all purpose steak spice covering fully (mix the seasonings well with the flour) and then placing in the egg and milk, then back in the flour.  Place immediately in the hot vegetable or Canola oil that has been heated to around 350 degrees Farenheit or a medium heat. The steak should sizzle when you place it in the skillet and not smoke. If the oil smokes, then turn it down and allow it to cool before you place your battered steak in it.

My rule of thumb on frying steak is to allow each side to side to fry for one minute, then gently turning with tongs.  Don't stab at the meat as you turn it or you will cause the crust to tear off the sides of your steak.  After you've turned the steak once, you then allow the steak to fry for 3 - 4 minutes per side until the crust is a light or darker caramel color (that is light brown).  

Take out steaks immediately allowing the excess grease to drip back into the fying pan before placing on two paper towels to drain excess oil.  Season with an additional - light sprinkle of extra garlic salt and allow to cool. 

Continue to fry all steaks until they are finished.  You may have to add more oil to the frying pan as you go. If you do this allow the oil to heat to the correct temperature before frying the rest of you steaks.  You can also keep them warm in your oven on a heat proof dish on the warming element of your settings.



another way to fry up a family favorite! 

For the gravy:

Once all steaks are fried, carefully pour all but 1/4 cup of oil out of the frying pan in a heat proof dish and heat oil to just smoking.  You'll want the small left over cooked bits of steak batter to stay in the pan with the oil to help 'season' your gravy.  Add to the hot oil your water or milk that has had 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour added to it and whisked together until smooth.  Pour this milk/water and flour mixure into the hot oil and continue whisk to blend together.  Allow mixture to come to a light brown color (usually takes one minute) and bubble as it boils.  Then add 2 more cups of water and continue to cook on a medium heat, whisking continously.  Season as you whisk the gravy with extra salt/sea salt or black pepper.  

Some people prefer milk to water in their gravy.  Either way, this gravy is so delicious and easy to make.  It just takes time and watching your gravy and not leaving the pan as it continues to cook.  You can add more or less water or milk to make to the desired consistency/amount of gravy you'd like to serve. 

Spoon the gravy over your steak and mashed potatoes for the perfect dipping sauce! 




You can use this chicken fried method or fying steak with chicken, pork, deer/venison, goose or dove.  It's great with any meat you chose to batter and fry up in this way.  

With this meal above is also my recipe for my Sure is the BEST Broccoli Rice Casserole that is my husband's favorite.  This side is usually what I prepare for his birthday dinner each fall or as a special side at the holidays.  

Hope you'll give my chicken fried steak and gravy a try.  In a world where we don't fry things near as much as we once did, it's a welcome treat every once in a while to enjoy a little chicken fried steak. Because after all, it's comfort food... and sometimes that is reason enough!

Happy frying!

Alise - The Ranch Kitchen 



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why I Blog and Post My Recipes

Today as I was posting one more recipe the realization struck me pretty hard.  I've been doing this blogging thing now over nine years.  Over 190 blog posts later and with almost 187 recipes to date, this blogging - recipe thing is a pretty big part of my life. 



Someone recently asked me when they saw the large photographer's light in my house, just why I needed that?  The answer came off my tongue strangely quite easily and I told them that because I cook mostly at night, I need the professional light to photograph my food for my recipe and blog site.  It's funny how my family is now used to me taking photos of almost everything we cook and when a recipe is good they will nonchalantly say, "Make sure you put that on your site".  To me that is the ultimate compliment! 


When I think about it, I don't do this blogging thing to for anything else other than to share and teach others about cooking and my love for it.  My recipes aren't difficult, fancy or require four different cheeses for a simple 'mac and cheese' dish or expensive cuts of meat. I made that promise to myself years ago that the recipes I shared would be those that any cook could make, on any budget and be both economical and family friendly. 


While all my recipes may not be the leanest or the most cutting edge, they are my tried and true family recipes that either I created for my daughters and husband, or are the handed down from of my sweet mom and dear Granny. I feel pretty blessed to have watched some awesome cooks in my lifetime like the both of them.




I may use a soup can now and then to thicken a sauce or a little too much Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, but when you find a good thing there is no need to change it.  I like to think my Granny is looking down from heaven and is proud I love cooking so much and in the process shared a few of her recipes.

My greatest wish is that my legacy for my girls will be one of love, sharing and teaching and giving through service to others through this blog and my life's work.  My blog and recipe site are yet another way as the educator I am to continue to teach others how simple and fulfilling cooking is and how one of greatest joys is to enjoy our family around a good meal.  There is simply no need for our youth or new cooks to think cooking is hard or tedious.  


So as I post yet another of my recipes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumbler, remember it's just the teacher in me helping another student learn.  It's also the momma in me sharing my recipes with my girls and the advocate 'agvocating' about our beloved agricultural lifestyle.  And it's just me sharing my passion and enjoying what I've always loved...cooking and ultimately writing.  It's my way to do something that's just for me.  As a mom and wife we all give so much of ourselves each day. My blog is my outlet and believe it or not, my ultimate downtime.


Deep down I'd like to thank all my friends, subscribers and especially my family for following, sharing and liking my recipe posts.  What started as a way to share recipes on my blog for my girls while at college has turned in to so much more and for that I am very humbled and thankful. 


So stop by my site from time to time, try a recipe, save or share it and tell me if you liked it! I hope maybe just one recipe will inspire a meal around your table with family and friends.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from The Ranch Kitchen blog and site.  


Remember, no one said cooking had to be hard! 

Alise Nolan - The Ranch Kitchen





Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Ranch Kitchen's Dilly Dip

As spring turn into summer, our garden is starting to overflow with squash and all our other vegetables.  One thing I always insist on making sure we have plenty of is crookneck squash and zucchini as we love it!

Last summer to help be a little healthier, I began to cut the fresh squash and serve it with Hidden Valley Ranch Dip as an appetizer before our meal each night.



This year with the fresh dill from my garden I've starting making my own The Ranch Kitchen's Dilly Dip that my husband and I have become pretty addicted too.  We enjoy it nightly now this past week and I can't wait to make it for my health conscious older daughters when they come in for Memorial Day weekend!



This recipe literally takes under five minutes to make and you will love it just as much, if not even better than traditional ranch dips or salad dressings.

The trick is to this dip is to grow your own fresh dill.  Dill is super, simple to grow and will spread in huge clumps pretty rapidly.  However, I don't think it taking over our herb garden will be much of a problem with Scott and I making this Dilly Dip all the time.



I used a new seasoning in this dip by Tone's called Six Pepper Seasoning Blend as you can see in the picture below. Click on the link in the name in the last sentence and you can buy it off Amazon. It's fantastic in this dip and even better on top of homemade pizza from our grill.

So give it a try and let me know how you like it.  It would be even healthier with a good Greek Yogurt or light sour cream used instead.

Try this dip as a side for baked fish like salmon, cod or catfish too!

Enjoy!

Remember, no one said cooking had to be hard!

Alise - The Ranch Kitchen   

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Ranch Kitchen's Jambalaya

In an effort to not just cook the girls usual favorite meal of salmon or goulash when they came in, we opted for something a little out of the ordinary this Easter weekend when they came home.

Jambalaya or anything Cajun has a strong place in our girls hearts.  We love our crawfish season like none other and especially enjoy fried, boiled or it cooked as an etoufee served over rice.  So for Friday nights meal, I cooked a family favorite that we usually don't eat at home but from our favorite Cajun food restaurant Dudley's.  We cooked our own The Ranch Kitchen's Jambalaya.



I used my large nonstick Wok to cook this one pot dish and this recipe could easily have served eight people or a small crowd.  Along with a salad and some crusty French bread to dip up the broth, you have a meal that is worthy of serving company.

Years ago, when my two older daughter's each had their high school senior week activities, we always had a Crawfish Boil at our house with a big Capture the Flag game in the pasture at dark.  To serve along the boiled crawfish, I would make a huge triple batch or two of this recipe for The Ranch Kitchen's Jambalaya and serve it for those kids who didn't really enjoy the main course of 'mud bugs' as some call them in the deep south.  Crawfish are small lobster looking creatures that are harvested in the creeks and man made ditches in Texas, Louisianna and Mississippi. Spiced up with a Creole Seasoning like Tony Chachere's or Zattarain'a Shrimp Boil, you can't find a better meal.  We just boil and serve them out on top of huge tables covered with newspaper for easy cleanup.

I remember those parties well and the fun the parents had cooking for our kids and watching them enjoy each other in their last days before graduation.  It's a tradition we hope to continue for our Audrey when she graduates in a few years and hope they enjoy it as much as her sisters and friends did.



For this recipe you will use three different meats like the shrimp, sausage and chicken we used, but sometimes we can opt for just one.  You can add crawfish if you like and even bits of cut up fish like Crappy, white fish, bass, ling, snapper or catfish.  Just use what you have and make it how you like it! Do however be careful with the Creole Seasoning and add enough to make it as 'hot' in taste or mild depending on your own likes.  When you think about it, jambalaya is a very close to a seafood gumbo with most of the broth or liquid cooked out and white rice already added in.

This jambalaya dish also freezes well to serve for a quick nights dinner.  However, left overs were not an issue and what little was still left the oldest daughter gladly took home to her 'home away from home' for dinner!

So try you some mud bugs or crawfish soon while they are in season!  Season is any month that has a letter R in it (September - April) and especially January - April...because the hot summer months are just too hot to harvest them.

Enjoy and get you some crawfish if you have never had any soon and do try The Ranch Kitchen's Jambalaya!

Alise - The Ranch Kitchen