Friday, May 27, 2011

Chicken Picata by The Ranch Kitchen

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Today is bittersweet for me! My middle daughter is graduating from high school!  We are very, very proud of the young woman she has become, with good moral values, determination, and example she has become for her younger sister!  She is off to college at our favorite university Texas A&M.  Gig'em!  We love you Bethany!  I thank God for his many blessings. 

As I thought about today what recipe to share with you over the Memorial Day weekend!  A friend the other day asked if I had a good Chicken Picatta recipe....and I just did.  I love Chicken Picatta especially from The Cheesecake Factory or Grand Lux Cafe in Las Vegas, Dallas, and/or Houston!  This is my rendition of it and I hope you like it.  A special thanks to Campbell's soups for taking a ton of work out of this recipe!  The can is my friend!

Chicken Picata by The Ranch Kitchen

4 – 6 chicken breast – seasoned with salt and pepper - can be slightly pounded flat if you like
1 onion sliced thin - optional
juice of one to two lemons, depending on size and your preference
1 can cream of chicken soup – not light version
1 can cream of celery soup – not light version
½ to 1 cup water to thin soups
½ cup capers with 2 tablespoons brine/juice
2 tablespoons of Canola Oil or Grapeseed Oil
1/8 tsp. (not much) garlic salt, salt and pepper to season

Brown your chicken in a non-stick skillet with some canola oil – 2 tablespoons.  When almost done, add your onions and saute until slightly opaque.  Add soups, lemon juice, water, 1/8 tsp. garlic salt and more pepper if needed – you can use white pepper if you don’t like the black pepper.  Cook until chicken juices run clear and there is no longer a pink middle.  Taste and see if you need more lemon juice, caper juice/brine or seasonings.  You can also slice lemons in a thin circle to serve on top. I serve this over Angel Hair pasta.  This is the closest I have come to replicating The Cheesecake Factories/Grand Lux CafĂ© (owned by same company) in Dallas at the Galleria and in Houston.

***As you celebrate this Memorial Day in our U.S.A. remember those who fought for our freedoms.  I thank my grandfather Herbert Young who's service to our country was in the Pacific Theatre in World War II. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Spaghetti For A Crowd. One of my most requested recipes.

Summer is almost here!  I can't wait! It' my turn to relax!  This summer I will be moving daughters to two different universities, attending cattle shows, getting in a little traveling like camping at the lake in our RV, going to Sonoma, California for a Hereford Gala, and most of all just being home.  I plan on enjoying my yard and vegetable garden, outdoor kitchen (thanks Scott) and gearing up for a very busy fall with new students in my classroom and plenty of trips to see my girls.  Because as my husband said to our youngest daughter, we are going to visit them until we don't miss them so much! :o)  I know they are going to be so excited about that!

I realized that I had NEVER shared my most requested recipes for you all!  It's the Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Spaghetti For A Crowd!  Each year this is a staple at all the Hereford cattle shows we attend like the National Jr. Hereford Show this summer, the State Fair of Texas in the fall; in the winter the Southwestern Exposition in Fort Worth and the Houston Livestock Show in the spring.  You can't go wrong with this it's a filling, stick to your ribs kind of meal that fills the biggest man up.  My friends kids tell me that when they are at the shows they expect this meal...thanks Taylor S.! 

I guess one of the reasons I cook is to bond with others at these shows.  There is nothing like a 'home' cooked meal to do that in a barn full of cattle.  I've met some of the nicest ladies over the back of a stall as we all cooked for our state associations and families.  Each year my family spends about a month or more with our 'Hereford Family'.  The memories, friendships made from across our state and nation, are something we hold dear to our heart.  It's hard work raising both our kids and our cattle.  The folks we have grown to love are some of the best examples of what we want our kids to become and I thank them for that.  Some years our vacations are the cow shows...because after you've already been gone two or more weeks to cattle event like our shows or our PRIDE leadership retreats/camps, getting in another vacation just isn't happening as school quickly approaches. 

So I hope you'll try this recipe and share it with a crowd like we do!  It takes a little planning ahead like cooking and freezing your chicken before you go if you are like me and don't really care for chicken ala can...chicken in the can.  But it's so worth it.  Many years ago my sweet husband surprised me with a lock box on rollers to put all my cookware, utensils,and food supplies in for our week long shows.  It has proved to be invaluable and gets lots of use. I know most women wouldn't get excited about a lock box for food....but it has been my right hand man at shows.

I also hope you discover the many meals you can make with a large electric roaster oven.  I love the portable aspect of these ovens. Any brand will work...just remember to grease it slightly as if you don't you'll have a mess to clean up!  I love my roasters and will share later in the summer some of my go to meals that I fix at our summer shows.  In all honesty we enjoy our meals that we prepare in the barns to going out to eat at these shows, because a week -7 or more full days of eating out makes one yearn for home cooking the most!

Chicken Spaghetti for a Crowd

12 chicken breast, cooked and cubed (can used canned chicken and/or precooked chicken breast or thighs) 

4 large packages spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds – buy the best brand possible – good quality (it's a goey mess if you don't) 

4 cans Hunts 4 Cheese Spaghetti Sauce or any brand will do!

4 cans Rotel Tomatoes with lime and cilantro

2 lg. containers chicken broth - 16 ounce

2 lg. family sized cans cream of mushroom soups

2 lg. family sized can’s cream of celery soups

1 large - 2 lb. packages of Velvetta Cheese (no light version), cubed

*Optional – 2 – 4 large onions, chopped

***you can also add green bell peppers, diced

Salt, pepper, and additional water to cover

Spray large roaster with Pam or oil.  Halve ingredients between two roasting pans.  Place sauce, Rotel tomatoes, chicken broth, mushroom soups, celery soups, onions and water to 6 inches from the top in the two roaster.  Don't go crazy with the water or it will make a mushy mess.  Bring to a boil.  Add 1 package of noodles (breaking noodles into thirds – I prefer the thin spaghetti) at a time and allow each package to soften some before adding the next.  Break apart the spaghetti with a fork to make sure the pasta does not stick together as you boil it.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add chicken.  Continue cooking on medium to high heat. 
***Add cubed Velvetta cheese the last 30 minutes as it will stick horribly if added earlier. 

Get cooking!

Alise Nolan

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fajitas Over a Campfire - W4 Ranch & Lake Whitney

Camping in our RV - Motorhome is one of my very favorite things to do!  I never dreamed I would enjoy it so much!  The things I like most are that you are gone from home with your only obligation being to relax, sit by the fire, fish, swim, and ride around in the boat!  My girl love to wake board and I enjoy just watching them try new tricks! 

This weekend we spent at Lake Whitney State Park in Texas. It is a lovely park that has beautiful clear water!  My husband and youngest daugther went down the day before for a daddy/daughter trip as I had to teach and my middle daughter had an FFA Scholarship Interview.  We were attending a sale at W4 Ranch which is a Hereford Ranch outside Morgan, Texas for the Texas Hereford Association entitled 'Hats off to Herefords'.  Many thanks to W4 and all the Hereford breeders who brought or bought cattle at this sale that helped benefit the association.  We got some great pictures of our Bethany on the place as well.  It is absolutely a gorgeous ranch!  I can just imagine an Indian or cowboy coming over a bluff on horseback!

Later on that day, we spent the afternoon after the sale riding around on parts of their over 50,000 acre ranch!  You'll see some other pictures I have posted below as well....notice Audrey's grip on my arm...we were at the top of the cliff!  She is her mommas child....we both HATE heights!  We enjoyed our time with the Hartley's of H2 Ranch and the Coffelts of Whitney FFA.  It was nice to catch up with them away from a cattle show. 

Photo courtesy of

One of my favorite things to cook while we are on one of our camping trips is fajitas.  It's easy as cooking a steak on the grill.   I foil wrap my onions and bell peppers in a little oil, Cajun seasoning, and a few ice cubes to make sure my vegetables don't cook too quickly.   Once we have our meat and onions cooked and tortillas warmed over the fire, you simply need your salsa, guacamole, and chips and your meal is done!  Paper plates are set out, as are our fine plastic forks and knives.  Serve your favorite beverage or margaritas and enjoy your night under the stars!

Skirt steak is my preferred cut of meat that I use for my fajitas, but I have been known to take out some of my CHB (Certified Hereford Beef) round steaks from our herd to use as my beef.  A lot of this meal you can get ready at home and throw in your cooler or refrigerator.  I really like the new non-stick foil also for cooking these fajitas as it just released so well and helps me not overcook my meats.

I hope you'll find time to camp at one of the many state parks in your area.  It's an activity I wish we had done earlier with our older girls, but we are making up for now with our youngest daughter! 

W4 Ranch Bluff
Scott has talked about the view from the top of this for years and we finally got to experience it!
Here we are on top of the bluff..notice our little ones white knuckles!


The Ranch Kitchen's Easy Fajita Marinade!

3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
1 lime, juiced
1 - 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt - I like mine salty
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Add skirt steak to this marinade in a plastic bag or container.  Refrigerate 30 minutes, making sure to coat all of the steak in the marinade.  Grill on top of your fire on non stick foil or in a foil pack.

Serve in flour tortillas with roasted onions, peppers, and jalapenos!  This recipe is great along with refried beans, Spanish rice, guacamole, and Nolana's Family Hot Sauce!  Don't forget a very large fishbowl Margarita!  Sit back and enjoy!