Sunday, March 11, 2018

Houston for Spring Break and the Chicken Spaghetti Saga Continues....

March is here and with that is our annual trip south to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  Each spring our show season for the winter comes to an end with our cattle at one of the biggest shows in the nation in H-Town. Houston is the culmination of show season for many kids from our part of Texas as our county fairs are held in the fall of each year.  Houston with it's big city lights, world famous rodeo and livestock shows are always a great way to ring in our spring break even with a few hiccups here and there.

So thankful for sweet friends who capture the picture off the internet for me of the live show feed!

Pulling into first place in her class!

For more years than I can honestly count, our girls have shown in Houston with our Hereford cattle and competed in their Agricultural Speaking Contest.  With the show usually falling right smack middle of our spring break, it's always been a blessing that our girls did not have to miss school.  One side bar of competing at these events is making sure your first priority of your education is taken care of. Thankfully our little district and our great teachers understand whole- heartedly realize the premier growth and leadership opportunities that our kids get to experience from these contest. So, ultimately when school is missed as this week when spring break fell a week later than Houston for us, they are more than accommodating and supportive our our FFA students.  Not every school is that lucky and thank you to our administrators and our fantastic teachers!

These girls are just going in and coming out from speaking as I type this post!
Wishing them all the best at the largest speaking contest in the USA!

This past week our daughter Audrey and our Gilmer FFA show team traveled to Houston to compete in the Junior Beef Heifer Show with her Hereford female, NH She's A Treasure.  From the name you can tell we think a lot of this new little heifer and she was a substitution for the show due to her heifer she had previously won Grand Champion with at Fort Worth calving with her little bull calf.  She's A Treasure has been up in our barn since she was weaned and it a heifer we are all excited about.

Waiting to take backdrop photo.

Audrey's first inaugural show with her went surprisingly well and she garnered a Division Championship in the middle division. With three divisions chosen, this meant that Audrey and her calf were in the Grand Champion drive again for the year.  That in itself was very exciting for our Audrey and family to have happen twice in the same year and something we honestly do not take for granted. It's taken a lot of years to breed our cattle to what we hoped would stand well in the ring.  All those last placed, second to last and middle class placings built character, perseverance and helped build our cattle herd in the process.  Our girls have learned that the lessons you learn first in the barn are those that carry you forth in the ring and later on in life.  For all those times, we grew as a family and slowly, slowly built our herd to one that thankfully was more competitive and above all else docile enough that we knew our daughters could handle them in the ring.  Our Hereford breed has given us more than we could have ever imagined over the years.

Two Houston H's. One for 1st in class and then the second for Division Champion.

Family photo with another smiling shot of dad!

Audrey and Ag. Advisor Kyle

Audrey with Bethany

Audrey with Ilissa

Audrey and proud Scott

As always at these shows, it is a tradition of mine to cook one day. Each year I plan, purchase, prep and pack everything we need in my big, black, cooking box on wheels.  Years ago I remember how excited I was when my husband Scott came dragging in the barn my first black box on wheels proudly smiling and saying, "Here you go!  Your very own cooking box on wheels!"  Now, some women might not have been as thrilled as me with a cooking box to store their wares, but cooking is and will always be my way to share and give to others.  So this rolling cooking box was definitely one of my favorite gifts he has ever given me.  To date I have cooked my fair share of meals for our hungry show team and fellow Hereford friends with this year was no exception.  However, what we didn't realize initially was what was left at home...

Unloading at any stock show is a big event.  Trailers line up the night before, sit through until the light of dawn and gradually begin to file into the barn as the rooster crows.  This year much to our delight, dear family friend Grant Bitner made sure he was on the Houston Livestock Show Volunteer Welcoming Committee and had not one, but three tractors to unload all our gear.

Wish you could see a larger, more expansive picture of trailers unloading...

Grant, Grant as we call him has been one of our oldest daughter Ilissa's dearest friends since they were Texas FFA State Officers together their freshmen year of college.  They just clicked, attended Texas A&M together and has remained a dear family friend ever since. Grant and the over 40,000 volunteers for the three weeks of this event, make the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo run like none other for no pay other than the thank you from participants and visitors.  I am always amazed at the time and effort this show puts in to making everyone feel welcome and the world class event anything associated with HLSR is.  Thank you from all of us!  You all make this show a pleasure to attend each year!

Our Grant, Grant - Grant Bitner! 

This year after everything was unloaded and Scott walked in to check our stalling location, he called me a little frantic as my Bethany and I drove down after my work at 8:30 p.m.  "You're not cooking chicken spaghetti this year if we can't find your roaster!", he boomed over the phone.  I was like surely we packed it and he said he thought he saw it unloaded and placed out back with our table and chairs.  Many years before sadly, my favorite portable rocking chair had been stolen.  In my heart of hearts, I hoped this was not the same thing happening again.  Scott continued looking and Bethany started Googling for a Walmart on our route.  I knew innately how hard it was to buy one of these large 'turkey' roasters out of season and knew if we found one, we'd be lucky.

You see the saga of the chicken spaghetti was striking again!  First it was Fort Worth and now it was like the Houston of a year ago all over again.  Chicken spaghetti lunch was becoming more of a hassle than a positive.

Click here for the recipe for
The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Spaghetti for a Crowd" - jumbo version!

Several years back while at Fort Worth, they stopped letting us cook in the barns to allow more money to be spent with the food vendors on the site.  While we all understood that, it just made us get a little more creative in how we fed our hungry crews of kids and adults.  One year in an effort to get my chicken spaghetti cooked in and in the barn and cooking it in the rental house before, I may or may not have parked my car just outside our barn and left it for a few seconds to cart in my roaster...  Just as I rounded the corner to our stalls a very overzealous police officer told me to move my suburban now or go to jail.... I was like seriously, I'm going to jail over my darn chicken spaghetti, this can't be real. Anger, tears, a few words about power going to someones head came out of my mouth and thankfully when I looked behind me after a feverish prayer, the cop was gone.  For the next few days the barn superintendents were so apologetic to me and thankful they also got a few bowls of my chicken spaghetti!  They are more hardened criminals running the streets than a woman carting chicken spaghetti in to a barn I promise you!

At Houston thankfully they still allow us to cook for our students in the barns.  We now have been moved to the outer edges and loading dock walkways to set up our 'camping' areas as they call them, but I am not complaining.  Each year mom's rush to find the spot with electrical outlets to plug in Crock Pot after Crock Pot.  Just this past years as I was cutting up my chicken spaghetti's onions, out at of the corner of my eye here come the Fire Marshall.  I thought, "Oh, good Lord....why me"... and yep, they were coming just for me out of an entire row a football field long line of mom's with Crock Pots and roasters!  I guess I must look approachable, but after they told me I had to turn off my roaster because I needed a surge protector, I quickly went into Moma Bear mode and pointedly told me if I went down, every lovely lady on the entire block was going down! I had some seriously hungry kids from the barn and especially their dad's would be sadly disappointed if they did not let me continue to cook.

As the saga continues this year, finding a plug meant cooking on top of the cooler for a bit to find a hot electrical outlet!  And yes...Fire Marshall found me again and I had to move.  LOL! You have to laugh...because in the grand scope of things, it's all small stuff!

Audrey and her fellow district officer Anna eating my chicken spaghetti!

I think as women get older, we don't take as much off people as we used too.  That day, as I turned to face a group of several maintenance workers and Fire Marshall and started pointing my finger at them excitedly, I must have looked quite a sight with the onion knife in my other hand.  I remember vaguely my Bethany taking it out of my hand and saying, "Just let me have that...."  Oh my...the memories....but you don't mess with chicken spaghetti day at the stock show around me!  Needless to say, I got to continue cooking... ;o)

Well, the saga continued this year with the missing roaster.  What could have been a small hiccup and expensive lunch for all on the grounds, thankfully turned out alright.  A new Oyster Roaster was found last minute at a Walmart on the outskirts of Houston and my chicken spaghetti for lunch on Saturday was on again.

Click here to buy your own from Walmart

Add liquid 3/4th of the way up the pan and gradually add noodles on highest setting until soft.

Spices in and ready to add cheese!  Almost lunch!

Life will throw you curves.  Although my chicken spaghetti curves are minor in the grand scheme of life, they have brought humor to my life in many ways.  I've fed many a hungry kid and parent over the years and met some of the nicest people as we share recipes from our cooking setups.  To me, cooking has always been a way to bring people together. My The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Spaghetti for a Crowd is that recipe I know I'll always be remembered by.

And yes, in regards to the chicken, we are ranchers that proudly raise beef cattle and cook far more beef than any other meat.  But, my a bowl of chicken spaghetti will probably be etched on my tombstone one day!

Click here for The Ranch Kitchen's Chicken Spaghetti - family portion recipe (smaller sized)

So, today as I sit here supporting our Audrey and friends Jaici and McKenzie with her Ag. Advisor Sue Witt in her sixth Houston Agricultural Public Speaking Contest as her father and the rest of our crew loads our cattle and leaves for the ranch, I'm so extremely thankful for the life we lead.  The sometimes funny, stressful ups and downs of the show road with shenanigans like my chicken spaghetti make me realize how lucky we are to be involved in an industry we hold near and dear to our hearts. 

Audrey with her Ag. Advisor Sue Witt and friends Jaici and McKenzie!
They have competed for years together in FFA speaking contest! 

We go fast and we go hard, spending as much time as we can with our daughters and doing what we love, all while teaching them all we can in the process. Life is meant to be lived and we are trying to live it as fast and hard as we can. In life it's the small things that you look back on that make you laugh, smile and think what a great life we live even in the midst of a chicken spaghetti fiasco or two, or three!

Alise Nolan
The Ranch Kitchen

P.S.... as always you can also follow me on my The Ranch Kitchen Facebook page and Twitter for my newest recipes!

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