Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#FFAProud - 2017 Texas FFA Convention

Summer time has been in full swing at my house. This past week, I was able to be at the Texas FFA State Convention with my youngest daughter Audrey in Corpus Christi. This event culminates Texas FFA chapter's year of activities, service, and contest with a whirlwind of motivational speakers, state level competitions, concerts, fun nights and our state officers running one of the largest state convention in nation.

All three of our girls and Scott were actively involved in FFA from an early age. Scott was a member of our hometown school chapter in high school and knew he wanted our daughters to be part of what he wished he had been more involved in.
So it started, and all three girls joined our Junior FFA program, got involved, served as district, area and state officers during their tenure. Now as our youngest Audrey sets her sights on her own path with FFA, it's her sisters that she continually asks about and looks up to with their successes in the FFA.

Bethany, Ilissa, Scott and Audrey with their Texas FFA jackets
Bethany Area VI VP, Ilissa State VP, Scott and Audrey local chapter

Last week, as I sat through what has become probably my 14th state convention, I was emotional several times thinking about the impact it has made on my daughters and our lives.  Not everyone understands our involvement, way of life and time spent with this association.  We, however always knew it was much bigger than us and if our girls could just tap into it's principals and teachings they would be the better for it.  We could have never dreamed the places it would take us, how much it would help our girls and ultimately guide their paths in life. Both girls received undergraduate degrees and masters in agriculture  (Texas A&M and Texas Tech) with one now leading at the state level for the Texas Department of Agriculture in government and legislative policy and the other being heavily involved with top agricultural firms in communications and marketing.  To say that FFA guided them in their paths would be an understatement.

Bethany's Houston Grand Champion win with a heifer her sister owned the year before that garnered a division championship with while showing with our local FFA chapter.

 Audrey with her win at Houston while with our FFA chapter

Life is all about choices.  Early on, our choice and to this day we have never looked back.

This past week as I watched with pride as our Audrey competed in the Texas FFA Jr. Prepared Public Speaking contest, I couldn't help be most proud of her grit and determination.  For over a year, Audrey has worked on her speech over Bees.  Both her Agricultural Advisor Sue Witt and I watched a documentary along with Audrey and knew this would be a perfect topic for her.  Audrey researched and with minimal help from me, wrote a speech that she has refined, practiced, competed and researched over for now on a year.  I've watched Audrey pull herself up, walk in and deliver speeches since the fifth grade that I could never have done with a level of confidence and poise that amazes me.  As a naturally shy person when she was younger, she has grown in her demeanor most through these public speaking contest and like many young FFA member in these contest they have grown immensely from being a part of the speaking contests. For that I am forever grateful.

Audrey's win this year in Junior Prepared Public Speaking
You see, FFA isn't just about showing livestock like we love to do, but it's also about building those career and leadership abilities that will help our youth one day in this big world of ours.  More than once, my two oldest girls have repeatedly used their job interview skills from an FFA contest back in high school.  They've repeatedly relied on what they learned from public speaking contest in their jobs to this day. Contest like Extemporaneous Speaking, Public Speaking, Livestock Judging, running for district, area and state offices and even showing cattle with the our local chapter and the Texas FFA have truly been irreplaceable in getting them where they are now.  They've learned leadership skills from Texas FFA programs like the Nomination Committee where they've assisted select National FFA Officer candidates and led programs for Texas FFA like the Ford Scholars.  Each of these FFA opportunities resulted in numerous scholarships, college acceptances and leadership at both while at college at both Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Oldest daughter Ilissa speaking as a Texas FFA State Vice President at convention in 2008

Our girls representing on the state and local area during their FFA years

As they week started what warmed my heart the most is the fact that the two older sisters  Ilissa and Bethany came to be with their sister Audrey as she competed.  Audrey would repeatedly ask, "Are the sisters coming?' and of course they were there to watch their baby sister.  They prepped her in advance on speech questions, cheered her on through prelims and later the finals and screamed the loudest when she placed 8th overall with her, "What's All the Buzz About Bees?" speech while on stage at the convention. Sure makes a mom proud to see her girls support each other the way they do.

Ilissa, Audrey, myself and Bethany at the preliminary competition in Corpus.

During the week our local chapter had the distinct honor of one of our own former students Jake Traylor presiding over the Texas FFA Convention.  To say he did an outstanding job is an understatement. As Texas FFA President, he was poised, confident, humble and related with every person in the convention hall during each and every session.  Jake...we are so proud of you and look forward to see where life leads you next!  It'll be a great adventure for sure and we know you will be relentless in your pursuit of it!

Jake delivering his wonderful retiring President's address at the 2017 Texas FFA Convention

Jake's week was especially meaningful to our Ag Advisors, Sue Witt, Russell Thomas, Paulette Aguilar, Kyle Keahey and Cati Heikennen who proudly received his first state officer jacket on stage from Jake and watched as a prodigy of theirs in the form of young man, led convention over 12,000 plus members and guest.  His loving family and teachers have done an outstanding job helping this young man achieve his dreams.    
Jake here with our Ag teachers after the final session of the Texas FFA Convention after retiring his jackets.  His shirt signifies the members of the Area VI Association who signed it as a token of remembrance.
Also during the week, I stopped by to visit with The Pulse who I blog for as they were present in the exhibit hall at convention.  It was great to see them there as always supporting our youth and the kids having fun with their games.  What I love most about Sullivan Supply and The Pulse is their constant support of our youth and associations like Texas FFA. Thank you!

Now as we look forward to finishing out summer, this week will always stand out in our memory.  As a family we are thankful, proud and most importantly humbled to know that there is an association and teachers in FFA that give and care so much for not just our children, but those of so many.

Next time you see an agricultural education teacher, realize the long, sometimes thankless hours they spend in and out of the classroom.  Just this week our own local chapter took over 30 kids throughout the week to convention. Some might call that crazy...but we call it devotion and instilling hope in the future of these kids. During the course of their week, perhaps one keynote address or event spurred enough of a passion in them that FFA will forever be in their hearts.  I know it holds a solid place in our entire families hearts.


Thank you Texas FFA, Jake, and our Ag Advisors for this past week and to the Texas FFA for putting on a stellar convention yet again.  Congratulations to everyone who competed, placed and won while there. Remember it's not about the ribbons and  awards, but what you learned along the way.  Take your experiences from the convention theme Relentless home and apply it to your life. I know I personally came away with a renewed spirit and continued appreciation and love for this association's mission.

Audrey with her Agricultural Advisors Russell Thomas, Sue Witt, Paulette Aguilar, Kyle Keahey and Cati Heikennen

#FFAProud #TexasFFA

Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day to my two favorite dads!

This morning thinking of Father's Day, I got a little sentimental. Seeing all the early morning post about each person's husband, dad and grandparent got me thinking about how lucky we all are to have these special men in our lives.

This past week, dear friends have lost their special father and had one undergo triple bypass surgery. It was an emotional week for them all and they are and were constantly in our prayers. These two have made an undeniable impact on their communities and our Hereford Associations over the years and are men everyone admires.  

As I thought of the gifts that have been given and we would give Scott today and my dad, it came to me that the most perfect gift of them all in my eyes would be to write a post about how much they mean to us.

As most dads aspire to be, Scott is the last to ask for a thank you or get credit for a job he's done. He's solid.  He's the man I hope my grandboys/grandgirls (if I am lucky to have any one day, will aspire to be like) and I know our daughters already do. Raising three daughters to survive in this big old world, has been his mission.  He's taught them that girls can do anything they make their minds up to be and have pushed them gently to be a servant leader in everything they do. Because of their dad, they have a solid base to build on and have always lived by his motto, "Never forget who you are".

I know it's not been always easy and we can be at our best hormonal at times, but he has taken it all in stride.  He told us throughout the years that it was meant for him to have all girls, as he would have been too hard on sons!  

Years ago, we chose to build a family, ranch and herd that centered around our girls first.  Our days, nights and weekends were focused on raising three very independent girls who understood the value of hard work, family, dedication to the task at hand and a sense of service to others.  Along the way, Scott's devotion to us has been a huge force in why our girls have gotten to where they are today.  His pocket book would constantly give to help us all in our passions.

Whether it was degrees and masters for all three of us, cattle, cheerleading, FFA involvements, or travel to Hereford shows across the state and nation, he made it happen and never ever complained. 

Here's a few photo's I found from my phone of our 'baby' Audrey with Scott. 

On top of it all he gardens and trot lines with the best of them to share with all his friends and family.  He's discovered he's pretty good at it and loves to taunt his friends in the Panhandle with his tomato crop and cat fishing skills. 

These past two years have been some of my proudest of Scott as he finally did something for himself and fulfilled a few bucket list items with becoming along with his contracting business and ranch, a realtor and auctioneer. These two new ventures took many hours, a trip to auctioneer school and many late nights of studying and stepping out from his comfort zone, but he has taken it all on with the same gusto and drive he gives everything else in his life.  Scott, like myself is shy in nature, but over the years his love of his family, his friends, and leading by example to his daughters has continued to push him in ways I could never have imagined.  I used to get on to him for being shy, but now tell friends he's turned full circle and become as outgoing as they come.

If he doesn't know it already, I am a pretty lucky woman to have met him at the DQ one Friday night, marry him and build a life with him for now on almost 30 years.  Love you, love you and thank you for everything you are to me and our girls.  

Next to Scott comes my dad and my second biggest cheerleader. He's always had a belief in me that sometimes I never had.  As his first child and only daughter, he's exasperated me with his outgoing personality at times, but as I grow older it's that spirit I try to embody. Being naturally shy (I know that is very hard to believe), my dad's larger than life personality has always been his biggest strength. From crossing the ocean to live in a new country as a 17 year old, to giving me experiences I could never have dreamed of in his own country, and forever enlightening me to political analysis of all kinds, to teaching me to be love others always and be thankful, my dad has taught me so very much in my lifetime that he is not even aware of.  He is a devoted grandparent and his zest for life is unmatched. Everyone can't help but love him and his neices and nephews can attest to his thoughtful ways and fun loving spirit. I love him dearly and knew that I could never say it better than to write about him today.


So, as we all celebrate those special dads in our lives today for this Father's Day Sunday, I wanted to pay tribute to two men that have made an extremely special impact in my life.  We would not, could not be who and what we are without them.  Life has been an adventure with you both and as I look toward the years ahead and our day today, I realize innately how very blessed we all are. We all love you both, you've given your all for all of us and you deserve only the best.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads our there and especially to Scott and my dad Al. 

Alise - The Ranch Kitchen 

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Ranch Kitchen's Recipes From the Garden

This year in Texas, we've had a very early spring and therefore our garden is producing earlier than usual. No complaints from our family and friends though, as my husband Scott's garden keeps everyone stocked with all the tomatoes, squash and peppers we can grow.

Each year my husband and I grow a huge garden.  I can remember well as a child having to pick and shell purple hull peas for hours.  I remember saying, "I'll never have a garden when I grow up!" to my grandfather.  I've lived to literally 'eat' my words and we are thankful I didn't keep that promise.

Gardening has become a big part of our summer each year and I save a ton at the grocery store. Just to name a few, Scott's garden this year has had broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, jalapeno, Cayenne, Anaheim, Cowhorn and banana peppers, summer 'yellow' squash, zucchini, cucumbers, basil (it's great to eat as your lettuce on hamburgers) and radishes.  What we don't eat, we freeze, can or give away.  We've learned a garden is pretty good PR as well with clients of Scott's. :o)

          Brussel's Sprout plant               Black Krim Tomato Plants with basil plant between                                                                                                   them to keep bugs off tomatoes

Brussels Sprouts!  You just pick from the bottom.  Ours last right up until October all 
year which is amazing considering our hot Texas summers. 

Scott picking our garden one evening this last week. Notice the pig panel for a cucumber trellis.  We use what we have and it's worked well for years.

Some of our very favorites are our Black Krim Tomatoes.  We love these heirloom tomatoes more than any other tomato we grow each summer.  Some can get as big as your hand and they have tendency to crack some, but slicing these to have inside of a mayonnaise, lettuce and cheese sandwich is a favorite meal for me each summer.

               Our Black Krim Tomatoes!

This past Saturday, I made these pickled squash and zucchini.  I added in some onions and a few banana peppers for some added flavor.  You can keep these in the fridge or can them to serve later in the year.  You'll see my favor Kilner jars that I use for my refrigerator version.  In this recipe link below there


               Pickled Refrigerator Okra and Squash

And you can also make these pickled okra too!  The trick is to pick them everyday or they get huge. Or, go to your local farmers market calling before to ask them to hold back the ones that are 3 - 4 inches long only.  I was schooled on that little trick from a little lady who got the best pick of okra before I did!  She had smartly called before hand to have them ready for her canning. 

We eat these pickled okra with fried fish and make a ton while you are it as they are addicting. Everybody loves them and they are great in your favorite Bloody Mary drink too. 


                                                                                  Pickled Okra

This fried okra is a southern treat as a side dish. It takes a little time to master it, but once you do, it's pretty much a perfect food in my book.  I like to eat these as they come out of the hot grease with a little ketchup. 

                    Ranch Fried Okra

              Ranch Fried Okra

Next, these Zucchini Squares are absolutely the best and smell amazing coming out of your oven. My friend Debra Warren adds jalapeno peppers to hers and says they are wonderful.  You might just remove the white membrane if your heat tolerance it not very high.  We eat these warm as a side with dinner or cold as an appetizer.  

 Zucchini Squares

This easy squash and zucchini recipe can be prepared on the stove top, on the grill or in your oven. Use any seasonings you like, but we over Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.

 Roasted Garden Squash

This pasta salad with added vegetables from our garden like banana peppers and cherry tomatoes is always a hit! 

 Garden Fresh Pasta Salad

This no noodle, vegetable lasagna is one of my favorite recipes to make when squash is at it's peak in our garden.  With the pork that we buy from our local FFA kids or from one that didn't make sale of our daughter Audrey

 The Ranch Kitchen's Pork and Vegetable Lasagna

Sure Champ Pork and Vegetable Lasagna

Making hot pepper sauce is a tradition my mom handed down to me.  We use this clear sauce that is seasoned from the Cayenne or jalapenos to season our purple hull peas or pintos all year long.  It's a simple recipe and when you run out of the 'sauce', just reheat some vinegar and add it back to your peppers.  Do, however keep this in the refrigerator after opening.  

 Hot Pepper Sauce


 The fruits of my daughter Audrey and her friend Bonnie's labor!

This summer my goal is for my daughter and her friends to learn something new to cook each time they come over. This past week Bonnie and Audrey learned how to properly stuff peppers into jars to make this hot pepper sauce. We cut the tops off the peppers before stuffing to make the pepper sauce hotter. 

Fried eggplant is another family favorite at our house and with my brothers.  I made these just last night for them and my mom to rave reviews.  The addition of cornmeal to the flour gives these fried eggplants just the right amount of crunch.  Serve them with ketchup on the side.  We also like to fry these with our catfish.  It's surprising how many people have never eaten fried eggplant. Delicious!

You know those jumbo plastic jars of pickles you see in concession stands?  Love them....don't throw them away!  I use the gallon sized jars that I get with my pickles or those from my local Sam's Club for this recipe.  During the week, we add more cucumbers to it and take out with each meal.  You can add white or yellow, sweet onions to these and even bell peppers.  Add fresh tomatoes also that haven't gotten too ripe to this mixture as well.  Yum!

 Marinated Cucumbers

Love, love my version of ranch dip.  My Dilly Dip is super easy and fast to make with fresh dill from my herb garden.  Serve it alongside uncooked sliced summer 'yellow' squash, zucchini, green onions and cherry tomatoes!  Low fat and delicious!  

 Dilly Dip

 And when life gives you tons of tomatoes...make my hot sauce and freeze or can!  We like to freeze ours the best and it's truly the only way we ever eat hot sauce or salsa as some call it.  The picture below is from one of my garden hauls a few years ago in July.  My mornings in mid summer are often spent collecting, washing up and putting away our vegetables for the cooler winter months ahead.  What sounds like a lot of work is really relaxing to me and I can get lost just playing in our garden.

 Nolana's Family Hot Sauce

This is picture below of the hot sauce I put up from our fresh, garden tomatoes.  The extra tomato liquid I save for soups as well. My daughters and their friends in college begged for this stuff.  We rarely ever buy store bought salsa or hot sauce anymore after making our own, tried and true recipe. Using summer tomatoes makes this salsa sweeter, so you may not need to add the sugar in the recipe. So taste test and add if you want it sweeter.  On the site as well is a blog post for how to freeze fresh tomatoes after blanching them.  Click here for The Ranch Kitchen's Guide to Freezing Stewed Tomatoes.

And oh my, these Cheesy Baked Tomatoes are surprisingly a favorite of my husband Scott how won't eat cheese on anything but these.  I bake or grill along side our favorite Hereford steak and there are never any leftovers!

 Cheesy Baked Tomatoes

And last these Fiesta Bell Peppers are a great way to use your bell peppers, zucchini or squash by stuffing them with this beef filled favorite.  Anytime I can it's beef we serve off our ranch and it's always Certified Hereford Beef.   


Recently as you will see below I stuffed my zucchini and summer 'yellow' squash with this recipe. This last time instead of using beef however, I used chopped up country style pork ribs left over from the night before. Use what you have and dinner is a snap.

 Fiesta Stuffed Bell Peppers

I hope you enjoy all these recipes I've share with you today. If you don't garden, consider it. It's not too late to plant some varieties of veggies and I have friends who container garden very successfully. Ranchers have tons of mineral tubs that when holes are drilled in the bottom, they make excellent planters.  If you are in my area, I have a few I'd share just to get them off our hands!

Peaches are almost in season and soon I'll be sharing some of our favorites with you here on The Ranch Kitchen and The Pulse! 

Get cooking and have a wonderful, fun summer ahead!

The Ranch Kitchen

 The Ranch Kitchen