Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sauteed Cajun Squash and Potatoes

Our garden is still producing thanks to God and the rains Texas received this past year!  Prayers have been answered for our hay field and gardens, as our squash, tomatoes, and veggies are taking over my house! My husband has become Farmer Brown and gardening his newest obsession!  Not that we our our neighbors and friends are complaining.  Each night I try to find yet another way to cook the ever growing trays of squash that are accumulating on my cabinets!  We do give some away, but I realize as any squash grower knows, that the season doesn't last long and as we can we need to enjoy the fruits of Scott's labor!

Just the other night I decided that my meat and potato man might like it if I added new potatoes to the squash that I normally fix.  Potatoes take much longer than squash to cook on my wok or pan.  So, I started out by sauteeing the new potatoes (red potatoes) in about a quarter cup of olive oil.  I cooked these until they just started to become tender and turned a slight soft yellow.  To this I added my sliced onions and sliced yellow squash.  You'll notice there are no zuchinni in the picture because our garden had not yet produced any yet.  I added about 4 more tablespoons of olive oil and then some Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning.  If you do not have a good quality Cajun seasoning available, then use garlic salt, pepper, paprika, some chili powder, and red pepper sparingly. 

I continued to sautee this on a medium/low heat until the squash was cooked and the potatoes began to crisp, seasoning with more Cajun spice as needed.  I always taste as I go.  Even when I served my girls baby food...if it didn't taste good...they didn't eat it...that was my motto.  So always check your seasonings with a clean spoon, so that you don't pass on any unwanted germs!

If you don't have your own garden, check out your local Farmer's Market or grocery store for squash that is now in season for May, June, and July.  Prices should be better now and your family will love this recipe I promise!  Also, if you have any great recipes that you would like to share and have me post, please email me and I'll make sure to put it on The Ranch Kitchen.


Sauteed Cajun Squash and Potatoes

6 - 8 medium sized new red potatoes, sliced in 1/2 inch cubes

1 onion sliced

6 - 8 small to medium squash, sliced into quarters of one inch thickness

3/4 cup olive oil

Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning

Sautee potatoes in 1/2 cup of Olive Oil on medium heat until slightly softened or cooked.  Potatoes should turn a slight yellow.  Add to this one onion sliced and your sliced and quatered squash.  Add the remaining olive oil and cook on low to medium heat.  I like to use my wok for even cooking with more cooking space.  Sprinkle Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning on generously or sparingly depending on your heat preferenced.  Too much Cajun seasoning will 'light' you up as we say in the south!  Continue cooking on low - medium heat until squash and onions are cooked and potatoes start to get a crisp/browned look to them.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Pork Roast and Sweet Potatoes! - National Jr. Hereford Expo

This past summer, we took one of our annual family vacation.  This vacation is not a location most families would call exotic or exciting.  But for the over 1,000 people in attendance, the National Jr. Hereford Expo each summer is exciting, highly anticipated and worked toward, and one of the vacations of choice for my family and many others from across our nation.  Through corn fields, wheat fields, over the mighty Mississippi river, and across a few plains, our pick-up truck, loaded with Hereford heifers and one bull this year will make the trek once again for a week full of reminiscing, competitions, good food, and fun!  

Hereford enthusiast come by usually by pick-up truck with one or more head of Hereford/Polled Hereford cattle in tow in a trailer behind them.  Show boxes are packed along with luggage.  Snacks that are both homemade and store bought are packed in coolers and lock boxes ready to feed the hungry kids for this eight day week of a show.  We all look forward to the 'Jr. Nationals' each year in breed associations across the nation like the Hereford, Angus, Beefmaster, Shorthorn, Simmental, and Santa Gertrudis.   Its a time to reconnect with good friends and cheer each others children on.  Because when it's all said and's not about the winning, but the memories and friendships made along the way.

It is at the national show last year in Kansas City, Missouri, that our girls and others will competed in numerous contest like Illustrated Speaking, Livestock judging, Hereford Quiz Bowl, Showmanship, and Team Marketing where those chosen to compete on the national level market one of their Hereford heifers to a group of judges.  They showed their cattle in showmanship contest and cattle shows, and mostly visited with their friends they haven't maybe seen in over a year.  Its always fun to watch the kids start to reconnect weeks before the show by text, email, and Facebook.  It at these shows that our girls have learned that winning comes from the hard work at home before you come to the show! 

This past summer was extremely special to us as our middle daughter Bethany served as National Hereford Queen for our associations.   It was an honor she did not taken lightly and the support and encouragement she  received from our friends and fellow breeders was tremendous.  Last year Bethany wanted to host the first ever National Hereford Queen's Tea for women and girls in attendance and state queens who will competed for her position in October when she handed over her title.  We were extremely pleased with the turnout for this first annual event and all the little girls in attendance got to meet all the Hereford royalty and take pictures.  Our friend Diane Johnson, of Details by Design of Fort Worth, Texas gave an etiquette lesson and overview of 'tea' for all in attendance that was well received.  Her lesson came full circle when our youngest daughter Audrey and friend Blake remembered how to unfold and place their napkin in their nap at lunch one day at the Golden Ox Restaurant!  To put it simply, it was a perfect afternoon.  However, I could not have pulled it off without the last minute help of my dear friend Barbara Metch of Texas and our new Texas Polled Hereford Queen Sarah Smith, Texas Hereford Queen Kim Wilson and her mom and Sarah's friend from Texas, and  Mrs. Lambert of the American Hereford Women.  Many thanks!  And yes...even Queen Bethany helped prepare for the Tea before getting into her official white dress and crown! 

As a tradition of sorts and a way to eat healthier, we got together with our good friends the West from Channing, Texas and cooked several nights for our families and 'crew' of helpers there to assist with our cattle.  One night I enlightened everyone palette to one of my families favorite meals of pork roast and sweet potatoes.  Similar to a pot roast, this dish was easily cooked in one of my large roasters and ready to eat in under 3 hours.  Along side this, we had rolls, green beans, and tons of desserts left over from our tea!  The pork roast was a real hit and most had never had it prepared in this way. 

Throughout the week we continued to cook great evening meals.  I made my anticipated Chicken Spaghetti for a Crowd.  I sometime get ribbing about serving chicken at a cow show...but there is never a drop left and all the teenage boys attest that this is their favorite dish of all that we make during the week.

Due to the high heat and humidity, cattle were not tied out in their outside stalling area until after dark.  We are all pretty picky about keeping our long haired cattle cool and 'fresh'....I often say we care more about our cattle's hair than our own!  It's nice to have dinner at around six o'clock and not at 9:30 once cattle are tied out for the night.  It makes for cranky kids and tired parents.   I want to say a special thank you to the many families who helped chip in and serve fantastic dinners, especially to the West's help and the McCall's Hereford roast one night!  I hope to soon have her recipe as it was beyond good!  Dena Floyd was our Texas Jr. Hereford Director in charge and she did a fabulous job making sure all our kids were at their contest and we had snacks set out throughout the week for our hungry juniors and hot lunches for our state association.  Due to the generous donations of our Texas Poll-ettes group and an anonymous donor and contributions from families in our state like ourselves, we all saved a dollar or two not eating out every meal and making it convenient for us all to stay at the barns. 

Our family enjoyed our week immensely!  Our little Audrey showed so well with her cattle!  She showed all our three head as Bethany was consumed with her queenly duties of helping out in the ring and with official winners pictures.  Audrey placed for the third year in a row in the top three in PeeWee Livestock Judging...the first year when she got second we thought it was a fluke..then the next year she got first and then this year she received third out of over probably 50 or more kids ages 7 - 9 years old.  Bethany won the Illustrated Speaking Contest with her speech over Methane Digesters...look that one up...we do try to be green in the cattle industry!!  As I said, overall it was a great week!   It's memories I write about here and the ones I have on film that I hope you'll get a glimpse of what we do in and out of the show ring living what we enjoy most! 

So, today I will share with you this easy 'Pork Roast and Sweet Potatoes'.  Sweet potatoes are not necessarily in season right now, but you can still find them in most grocery stores.  I happened to find mine at the local downtown Kansas City Market.  That was a story in itself that I got to experience several mornings in a row.  It is an international market of sorts and was like a dream for me to go there each morning....I kind of wore Bethany and Audrey out on it as we went 3 out of the 7 days were were there!  I love a good deal and where else these days can you find cantaloupe for a dollar or a packet of strawberries for that price as well? 

The recipe below for our show was multiplied by 4.  That means 4 large pork roast and about 20 pounds of sweet potatoes.  That large amount easily fed 40 people or more.  My Chicken Spaghetti For A Crowd fed over 50 that is also listed on my blog recipe page that I routinely serve at Jr. Nationals and the State Fair of Texas, Fort Worth Livestock Show and Houston Livestock Show. 

This year we are anxiously looking forward to Jr. Nationals in Nebraska!  To those states who will be hosting us, the Nolan family thanks you.  We realize the long hours of planning a Jr. Nationals such as ours takes.  Our girls are both very excited to catch up with their friends across the country and compete once again in this annual summer trip!

To our Texas crew - Chicken Spaghetti on Wednesday at the Nolan's stalls....making enough to feed our ya'll come by!

Pork Roast and Sweet Potatoes

1 large pork roast, approximately 4 lbs. in weight
6 - 8 sweet potatoes, skinned and cubed in 3 x 3 cubes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to season
water to cover roast 3/4 the way up the sides

In a large roaster place pork roast seasoning each side with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Cover with water to 3/4 the way up the roast.  Top with sweet potatoes.  Season with more garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Cover with your pot lid.  Cook for 1 and 1/2 hour or 2 hours on 375 degrees.

When pork roast begins to fall away from the bone the roast is cooked.  Take the pork roast out of roaster and allow to stand for five minutes.  . 


Try this at home sometime.  It's a taste of the south and a tradition in our family and a real comfort food for us.


My Italian Green Beans, Pork Roast and Sweet Potatoes and our garden tomatoes served up at Jr. a few people to love sweet potatoes!

 Audrey with Snoopy and Lucy at the show.

Audrey showing her heifer.

Bethany and State Queens 

Good luck this year to Amanda Bacon, 2012  National Hereford Queen from Arkansas!
This is a picture from when Bethany gave up her sash at the American Royal National Hereford Show in Kansas, City, Missouri back in October of 2011. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cheesy Baked Tomatoes

We are still in tomato season here at Nolan Hereford Ranch.  In anticipation of our upcoming Hereford Jr. Nationals we are trying our best to save up some tomatoes to share with our friends on the nights we cook out from our rv sites and then in the barns.  Scott saved up some tomatoes from our recent state show and sent to our dear friend Mary Barber up in the panhandle of Texas, because he knows how much Mrs. Mary loves them.  We carried a cooler full to our recent Texas State Hereford Show in Belton along with some sea salt and people ate them like apples.  With 53 plants, I think we will have plenty to share. 

When we are gone to our cattle shows usually the last thing I do before we leave and the first thing I do when we get home is cook a big meal.  It's the proscrastinator in me that makes me do it.  I know I have tons of things I could be doing, but having a big meal on my table is just something that always makes me feel complete.  I know you non-cooks out there can come up with a million things other than cooking to do, but for those of you that cook most nights like I do, there is no better feeling.  The only addition I would make to that is a cleanup crew afterwards, because, unlike Racheal Ray who throws all her trash in a large bowl, I am forever a messy cook.

So, the night before our big Belton trip, with tomatoes on trays ready to go to the show and shared with friends I made the Cheesy Baked Tomatoes I share with you today.  They are easy and one of my husband Scott's new favorites.  In winter, I use the hot house varieties of tomatoes available at our local grocery because part of the appeal of this dish is the accidity of these tomatoes along with the two different types of cheese.  Use only tomatoes that are firm, not mushy, or you will end up with a tomatoes that are a bit messy and hard to serve.

As I gear up for Jr. Nationals in Nebraska this year, I am excited to be rv'ing with friends at their state fair grounds.  Our plans are to cook most nights and the menu's are going to put at least a few pounds on me.   My youngest daughter asked me the other night if this week was a diet week for me and jr. nationals not...I told her she was right on the money with that judgement!  Our good friend Jay West and new friends the Venerables (sp?) from the panhandle are handling the bulk of the meat cooking and the rest of us will be handling vegetables sides, pastas, and desserts.  My husband Scott is treating everyone to an old fashioned Texas Fish Fry one night and I am making my traditional chicken spaghetti for all the Texas attendees on Wednesday at lunch in the barns.  For most of my sweet Texas kids it's not a cowshow without it. 

So try these Cheesy Baked Tomatoes at home, camping, or at a cow show if you are vagabonds like us.  They are easy and a real treat around our house.  I hope you enjoy them.  Let me know how they turn out in the comments section of this blog and be creative.  Although I use Parmesan and the Mexi blend cheeses from Kraft, almost any cheese would be good with these.  I love blue cheeses and think I will have to try it with that next time.

Cheesy Baked Tomatoes

6 - 8 tomatoes, firm in texture
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
4 ounces Mexi - Four Cheese in the package
4 Tablespoons of canola, olive, or grapeseed oil
Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning to taste - or any seasoning you choose

Slice tomatoes in rounds of 1 inch thickness. Pour oil in cooking dish and dredge both sides of tomatoes in oil to coat.  Season with Tony Chachere's seasoning.   Sprinkle Parmesan cheese in a mound on top of each tomato slice.  Sprinkle Mexi Four Cheese in a mound on top of each tomato slice.  Bake on middle rack in your convection or regular oven at 350 degrees, uncovered for fifteen minutes or until cheese is melted.  I usually cook them the full 15 minutes.


Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ranch Kitchen's Stewed Tomatoes

One of our very favorite parts of summer here at our place is when the tomatoes from our garden are in season.  Each year we anxiously wait on the first bush to ripen.  This year we got an earlier start than usual with the unseasonably mild winter here in Texas.  With the added ease of our greenhouse where my husband started our seeds early, we've enjoyed tomatoes since the middle of May. 

Each year when I finally have at least three trays or cookie sheets full of tomatoes, I blanch and freeze them to use in the winter for stewed tomatoes.  Stewed tomatoes equal your grocery store variety of diced tomatoes with onions, green peppers, and spices.  They can be used in a variety of ways, including stews, beans, tomato sauces, goulashes, and my families favorite stewed tomatoes. 

Not wanting to wait the other night until winter to enjoy our tomatoes and in too big of a hurry to blanch my tomatoes to get their skins off, I used a sharp knife to skin them.  I cored each end of around seven tomatoes and then closely skinned their outer skin off trying my best to take away as little of the juicy flesh as possible.  I cooked these with a tad of water, one onion chopped, bell and chili peppers, along with garlic salt, and black pepper to taste.  After around ten to fifteen minutes of a low simmer, the stewed tomatoes were ready to top my cornbread and purple hull peas.

To me this is the ultimate of southern cooking.  Although canned varieties are good, my frozen and fresh stewed tomatoes far exceed them in taste and price!  And honestly there are few things that smell as good as they do simmering on my stove.

Give stewed tomatoes a try this summer.  Local farmers market are brimming with farm fresh tomatoes that are just beginning to get that acidic taste most people associate a summer tomato with. 


Veggies lined up on my bar ready to cook or freeze!

The Ranch Kitchen's Stewed Tomatoes

6 - 8 medium sized tomatoes. cored and skins removed
1 onion, sliced
1/4 of a green pepper, cubed (optional) or you can use banana pepper or any sweet pepper variety
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a sauce pan add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil.  Add onion green pepper and tomatoes.  Stir.  Add garlic salt and black pepper.  Bring to a boil and allow to cook 1 minute.  Turn down to a low simmer and cook ten to fifteen minutes more.

Serve over cornbread, peas, Lima beans, fresh green beans, or as a base for soups and stews.

To freeze tomatoes:  Core tomatoes on both end and slice an x on the top and bottom.  This will allow the skins to release easily once cooled.  Place in large pots of water and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for 1 minutes and turn off gas or electric stove top.  Tomatoes will need to cool in the water.  When the tomato skins begin to release and are cool enough to handle, gently spoon tomatoes into a colander that is sitting on top of a large bowl.  Remove all skin from each tomato.  Throw skins away.  Place tomatoes in large Ziplock freezer bags.  Pour liquid from the bowl beneath the colander into the freezer bags.  Seal bags removing as much air as possible.  Lay on a flat cookie sheet and freeze in your freezer.  Label with your month and year for future reference.  When tomatoes are frozen lay on freezer shelf.  Will keep up to six months in the freezer. 

When cooking, thaw and cook as above detailed recipe or add to beans or stews. 

It's so nice to know you grew what goes on your table.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

Our garden is exploding....well not literally...but the good rains we have received and Scott accidentally leaving the sprinkler on all night have resulted in a bumper crop.  Our neighbors and friends are reaping the benefits of our generosity! 

Each year Scott and I garden, however it seems Scott seems to garden more than I do lately.   It seems therapeutic to him after a long day at work.  For myself on the other hand, have gradually become the 'picker', cooker, and put-her-upper wife of all things related to the garden.  If I don't know how to put it up - I google.   Google, as we all know is a wonderful thing....whatever I think or want to ask I google...and comes up!  Just the other night we had the beginnings of too much cabbage.  Did you know you can freeze cabbage?  Well you can.  You quarter it, blanch it (submerge in a hot water bath) and then allow it to cool.  All the impurities, bugs (ugh- microscopic) and germs are cooked out and you are safe to freeze.  That is my next job....freezing cabbage after my day job is done!

This year we planted tomatillos for the first time.  I was a way impatient for them to produce.  We picked a few well before their time the size of large grapes.  Don't pick them at grape size.  You want them a little larger than a ping pong ball.  The husk makes the tomatillos seem larger than they actually are.  Push the husk in to see how large the tomatillos are.

So finally last night Scott picked some tomatillos.  I googled and devised my own recipe along with things I had in my kitchen.  I hate running to town to the store, even though it is just 6 miles away.  Living in the country means you have a stocked pantry.  My family and friends think I have a problem with the grocery store.  I admit they may be right, but last night I had most items, and what I didn't have my sweet mom picked up on her way in from get resourceful like that.

What resulted from my tomatillos was something I will definitely make for years to come.  It was SOOOOO much better than the bottled variety at our local grocery store.  It was that GOOD!  I know it had to be all the fresh tomatillos and cilantro.  But I think the lime juice threw it over the top.  I can't wait to try my own limes I am growing in containers on my back porch.  I bought Persian Limes in honor of my dad this year, and a few are almost ready to pick. 

For friends who live close by, if you need some tomatillos just 'holler at me' as we say in the south.  I'll get you some!  For those of you further north, you could possibly find them online or in specialty or international food stores.  One of my favorite things to do when we travel to a new city for cow shows or travel is shop in food stores that specialize in hard to find foods and spices.  Next time you find such a store, check it out - you'll be hooked.  Make sure you buy some tomatillos!

So I hope you'll make my rendition of tomatillo salsa.  For those of you that are trying to lose a few pounds, this recipe is definitely in the zero calorie range.  If you are salt conscious, try sea salt of salt substitutes. 

With that said, I'm hitting the refrigerator now to cook up a recipe with what I have left....enjoy! Click here or in the links below for a printable recipe for my Tomatillo Salsa.

6 - 8 tomatillos, husk removed and tops core removed

1 or 2 jalapenos, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro -
1/2 bunch of cilantro

1/2 tsp. of sugar
1 lime, juiced
Salt to taste

Core tomatillos and bring to a boil for 4 minutes in a pot of water.   In a food processor or blender place jalapenos, yellow onion quartered, cilantro, sugar, lime juice and a few sprinkles of salt.  Drain tomatillos and allow to cool with cold water.  Drain and add tomatillos to the blender or food processor.  Pulse to the desired consistency you chose.  I like my sauce chopped finely.  Taste the salsa and add salt and adjust the seasonings.  Serve cold. Refrigerate any left overs...if there are's that good. 

I served this with tortilla chips, but think it would be a great addition to the top of chicken enchilada's or with a bit of sour cream added to the mixture. 

Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen