Category Archives: Ranch Kitchen

Cooking For The Ranch Crew ~ Part 1: The Menu

Does your job include cooking for the ranch crew? Mine does, sometimes. :) I was not raised on a ranch, cooking for the crew, but I had the blessing of being taught to cook by a mom who was raised Amish. I was raised in a Mennonite home, myself, and let me tell you; a Mennonite Sunday dinner is some of the best food you’ve ever eaten! 😉 Ok, maybe I am a bit prejudiced…

the menu

Anyways. Here you are, your boss wants you to cook for 12 men and you have no idea what to cook. Let me just say that you better serve beef. if you are on a ranch in the American West, I can almost guarantee they will want beef. Maybe pork will get by, but chicken probably won’t. Once our boss bought some fried chicken and put it on the table for a joke.
Yep. It’s that much of a joke around here! 😀

How to cook for the ranch crew, Part 1: The Menu

Hurried photo because 25 cowboys were waiting! ;)

First, you need a menu. I usually pick a type of beef first, then work around that. A typical menu for me is  something like this:
Beef Roast
Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans
Broccoli Salad
Jello Salad
Dinner rolls
Homemade Pies
with ice cream.

Yes, I know that is a lot of food! But these guys are hungry! They usually get up before the sun on these cattle-working days. They catch, saddle and trailer their horses to our ranch. Then they ride out a couple miles, round up and bring in several hundred head of cows, then sort, vaccinate or load them. By lunch, they can put away lots of  food! :) It is satisfying, really. They don’t care if I forget the salt or the potatoes are lumpy. (Or they are just too polite to mention it.) Anyways, I figure two normal serving per person, when I am cooking for the ranch crew!

How to cook for the ranch crew, Part 1: The Menu

Can I just point out something to y’all here? The only people wearing hats inside the house here are: A woman, and a man who was not ranch-raised. I was raised with old-fashioned manners. Can I just say that if you eat in my house I want that hat off, ok? Thank you. ;)

OK, now go make your menu.
Step 1: Choose your meat. Think of a cut of meat you are comfortable making. I love roast, because it can be in the oven on low all night, then you just have to keep it warm till noon. It can sit in there for awhile without causing any damage.

Step 2: Choose your vegetable. Peas, beans, corn, whatever you like.

Step 3: Choose your salad. I like salads that have the dressing already on them, like broccoli salad or layered lettuce salad, but any salad will work. It likely won’t be the star of the show anyways, just sayin’. Don’t spend all day on the salad. 😉

Optional step 4: Choose a jello salad. This is entirely up to you, but they will probably like this better than the green salad, ok. 😉

Step 5: Bread. Some kind of bread, whether it is biscuits, dinner rolls, cornbread, anything. Preferably fresh from the oven.

Step 6: Choose your dessert. Pies, cobblers, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes… they love it all. But be warned; they may take a second (third?) helping of beef instead of dessert. Yes, this happens frequently, and no, I am not offended. That just means me and the kids can pig out be rewarded with the leftovers later. 😉

Have fun making your menu! And I’ll be back soon with the cooking help…

Cowboy Lunch

I get up at 5 am, when my husband’s alarm sounds. I love getting up early, and can’t seem to sleep after he is up. After he leaves, I get started on my lunch prep. Checking the beef that has been all night in the oven, peeling potatoes, chopping salad.

I sweep the floor, put out a fresh towel by the sink, and set the table. I fill salt and pepper shakers, dish out homemade jam, and fill the butter plate. I call the kids to do a last minute clean-up of toys and line up their shoes by the door. The food is ready, so I turn the oven to low and wait. Sometimes the boss calls me to warn me that they will be in soon. More often, I look up to see them walking across my yard.


This is the crew that I feed several times per year. There are more, but these are some of the ‘regulars’. Only 3 work here on a daily basis – the rest are neighbors who come to help on cattle-working days. Then we go help them on the days they need extra hands, of course. That is the beauty of ranch community. When you need help, you call your neighbors, and they come help. No pay except a hearty meal. Then when they need help, they pick up the phone and call you. And you get to return the favor.

cowboy crew

These guys are so thankful for whatever I make. Many people could take a lesson. They sit around my table and tell wild stories and joke. They laugh and tease the young guys about taking seconds. They praise the cook and carry their plates to the sink when they are done eating. They walk with that peculiar bow-legged gait, spurs jingling, out the door. They set their hats back on their heads and buckle on their chaps – ready for more cattle work.



I often make a big lunch. Beef brisket, mashed potatoes, gravy, veggie, lettuce salad, jello salad, rolls, and dessert. But yesterday, I made a very simple cowboy lunch: BBQ Beef sandwiches, Asian Slaw, baked beans, and butterscotch pudding dessert.

cowboy lunchcowboy lunchcowboy lunch

After the guys are gone, I park myself in the easy chair with a plate of food and a mug of hot black coffee. Aahhh, the life of the ranch cook. 😉

What do you cook for the cowboys? (or other large group) I can always use inspiration! Tell me your favorite recipe for beef in large quantities. :)


Old-Fashioned Custard Apple Pie

custard apple pie


Apple pie is delicious anyway you make it, I believe. This is an old recipe from a Mennonite Cookbook that my mom had when I was a kid. I made it first when I was about 15, and have loved it ever since. It is an open-faced pie, and it has a yummy custard layer under the apples.

First, mix the flour and sugar and spread in an unbaked pie shell.
custard apple pie

Then place the apple slices on top, and carefully pour the milk mixture over the apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and dot with butter.custard apple pie

Bake at 350 for an hour. Serve warm or cool. A scoop of ice cream on the side pushes it over the top! :)

custard apple pie


Pie-baking tip: Most pies can be baked at 350º for one hour. The edges never burn, and the bottom crust is sure to be done. Yes, sometimes it ‘cooks out’ a bit, but don’t overfill your pies, and it will be fine. I bake every pie like this. 

Old-Fashioned Custard Apple Pie
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 6 tart apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 TBL
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ cups milk
  • Pastry for one 9 inch pan
  1. Mix sugar and flour together and spread in pastry shell.
  2. Pare apples and cut in quarters; fit tightly together in shell, on op of flour mix.
  3. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and dot with butter.
  4. Pour milk over the mixture.
  5. Bake at 350 for one hour.


How about you? Do you have a standard baking time for pies? Or do you just follow the recipe?

Herbed Beef Roast ~crockpot friendly

herbed beef roast

Nothing easier or more satisfying, than putting a good beef roast in the crockpot in the morning, then coming home from a day at town/work, and lifting out tender, steaming chunks of flavorful beef – dripping with its own juices!

To make the best flavor – thaw the beef roast and sear it well on both sides. Just throw a bit of butter in the frying pan and fry each side about 3 minutes over med-high heat. Then place the roast in the crockpot, and arrange some potatoes, onions, and carrots around the edges. Sprinkle with spices and herbs, and pour some beef broth over the top. Turn it on low and leave it alone for 8-10 hours.

herbed beef roast

When you get home that evening, carefully lift the beef onto a serving tray and slice – or just pull it into chunks. This is rib-sticking goodness, easier than drive-through! :)herbed beef roastbeef roast


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Herbed Beef Roast ~crockpot friendly
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 3-4 lb boneless beef roast (chuck or pot)
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 TBL salt
  • 1 teas thyme
  • 1 teas rosemary
  • 1 teas parsley
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Sear beef roast approx 3 min per side in a hot skillet over med-high heat.
  2. Place in crockpot.
  3. Place vegetables around roast.
  4. Pour beef broth over roast.
  5. Sprinkle herbs over the roast.
  6. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.


What I’ve been doing… July ’14

Like to see what I have been up to?

Nothing too spectacular, really. Just living. Working. Cooking.  Made this simple, comforting beef pie that reminds me of James Herriot and Yorkshire. :)

Savory Beef Pie
IMG_7096Spent a while in my husband’s leather shop, working on some rustic, leather-bound journals…

leather journalFinished this pretty blue and brown cinch for an Arizona customer…cinch

So I got a bunch of stuff crossed off my list, and yet my list grows instead of diminishing! :) I am also picking, shelling, and freezing peas from my garden. Watering and otherwise tending to my precious tomatoes. I plan to do a garden update one of these days. My greenhouse is crazy and out of control! 😉

What have you been up to lately?


Raw Date Bars

I am not usually a fan of ‘healthy, raw’ recipes. Because, lets face it – most don’t taste that good. (Unless you are one of those extreme dieters who live on organic kale chips and kombucha. 😉 ) But – I am finding a few recipes that are super healthy and taste delicious! How fun! :)

Here is my most recent addition to my file. It is raw, healthy, and yet tastes sweet and delicious. I dare you to try it. No really. See what you think! :)

Raw Date Bars | A Ranch Mom


They are so easy that you really can’t mess them up! Just throw everything in the food processor (or blender) for a few minutes, till ground up fine and well blended. Pat the mixture in a 9X9 pan, lined with parchment paper. Chill several hours and cut into small squares. Eat as necessary. 😉 They are fine without being chilled to, but will be softer and crumble more.

Raw Date Bars|A Ranch Mom

Raw Date Bars | A Ranch MomRaw Date bars | A Ranch Mom

Raw Date Bars
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: snack
Serves: 12
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup dates
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup prunes
  1. Place all fruit and nuts into food processor.
  2. Grind till well-blended and past-ey.
  3. Press into a 9X9 pan, between two sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Chill for several hours.
  5. Serve.


Home-made Apple Pie Filling

apple pie filling

What says comfort and down-home cookin’ like a warm apple pie?!  Like many people, I think my mom makes the best pies! :) So of course I learned from her, and make them ‘like mom does’.

When I was 12, my parents bought a bakery from our Preacher’s wife. I worked in that bakery every summer from age 12 till I married. (at age 19!) I hated it, quite frankly. But it definitely gave me experience in baking. :) I soon realized that I enjoyed making pies more than most other things, so I was the pie-maker for the last 3-4 summers that I worked there. We made anywhere from 20-40 pies a week, depending on the market.

I have had several requests for my apple pie filling recipe, so today I thought I would share mine with you all.

First you peel the apples. Core them, slice or dice, as you desire. Put them in a big kettle – with enough room to do some serious stirring. This filling can splatter! Add sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and water. Simmer for 5-10 min, depending on how soft you like your apples.

apple pie fillingMeanwhile, mix water and Clear-Jell in a small bowl. It will seem thick at first, just keep stirring, and it will dissolve nicely. Clear-jell does not get lumpy! So nice…

clear jell/water mixture

clear jell/water mixture

When the apples are softened, pour the Clear-jell mixture into the apples in a thin stream, stirring the apples quickly. The Clear-jell starts to set very quickly, so keep stirring and stirring as you slowly pour the Clear-jell in. As the filling starts to thicken, it will start to bubble up and splatter. These splatters are hot! I recommend using an oven mitt on the hand you are stirring with. You can turn the heat to low, too.

apple pie fillingKeep stirring constantly till the Clear-jell is all mixed in, and the filling is thick. It will set up and thicken a bit more as it cools, but not much.

apple pie filling

When the Clear-jell is all mixed in, and the filling has returned to a boil, (bubbling) remove from heat and cool.

Pour into prepared pie crust and bake.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Having trouble finding Clear-Jell? I buy mine from Amazon:
Hoosier Hill Farm Clear Jel, 1.5 Lbs.  It lasts a long time.

Here is a post on how I make the pie crust: Easy, Flaky Pie Crust
I am sharing this recipe over at one of my favorite blogs:Nancherrow.


Home-made Apple Pie Filling
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2 pies
  • 3 lbs apples, peel, core, slice
  • Water to nearly cover apples in pan
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 3 TBL butter
  • Juice of one lemon, or 3 TBL ReaLemon(can omit if apples are very tart.)
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 3 TBL Clear-Jell
  • ½ cup cold water
  1. Peel, core and slice apples.
  2. Place apples in a large pan and add water till apples are nearly covered.
  3. Add butter, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice.
  4. Cook 5-10 minutes, or till apples are softened. (not mushy!)
  5. Mix ½ cup cold water and Clear-JEll.
  6. Pour Clear-Jell slowly into the apples, while stirring apples quickly.
  7. Bring apple filling mix to a boil, (bubbling slowly) and remove from heat.
  8. Cool. Pour into prepared pie crusts and bake at 350* for one hour.


French Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb… mmm! Anyone else as crazy about rhubarb as I am?! I love the tangy taste, the unique flavor it brings to any recipe. Rhubarb is one of my favorite jams, and certainly one of my favorite pies!

I am thankful that there are a few plants growing here on the ranch, although – granted, they have been neglected for years and therefore don’t produce much. But with time and care, I am hoping to eventually get some growth going. This year there was enough for this one pie. I treasured every bite! 😀

Here’s how I made it:

Mix the chopped rhubarb with the egg, sugar, vanilla and flour. Mix well and place in prepared pie crust.rhubarb pie

Using a pastry blender, mix the butter, oats, flour, and brown sugar together. Sprinkle it on top of the rhubarb mixture.
rhubarb pie

Bake at 350* for one hour.

rhubarb piefrench rhubarb pie

4.0 from 1 reviews
French Rhubarb Pie
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 TBLS flour
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb, chopped
  • ¾ cups flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 prepared pie crust
  1. Beat together the first 4 ingredients.
  2. Stir in rhubarb.
  3. Pour into unbaked pie crust.
  4. Mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter, sprinkle on top of teh rhubarb mixture.
  5. Bake for 1 hour at 350*.
  6. Cool and serve.


Do you enjoy rhubarb?

Do you have any tips to help me grow my plants? :) I would much appreciate it.

Easy Pizza Sauce

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is a staple at our house. We use it for our Saturday night pizza, but also for spaghetti, tater-tot casserole, etc. I love to can my own, but I haven’t been able to save my tomato plants from the deer for years, now. So I have to buy it. But I am a very frugal grocery shopper! I dislike paying a lot of money for staples. So I came up with my own frugal alternative.

I have a Sam’s Club membership, (worth it just for staples, when you have 4 growing kids!) so I buy the large cans of tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz) and add my own seasonings. I am notorious for just throwing stuff in, but since a friend wanted this recipe, I did measure this time, and I think it’s pretty close. :) But it is very adjustable. Add more or less of any spice you like  – make it how you like it.

pizza sauce

I just stir it all together and then ladle into jars (leaving a 1 inch headspace or more) and store in the freezer.

The can of sauce costs 2.77 at my store, and the spices are minimal. It makes about 4 normal size pasta jars full. I usually spread it between 5 jars, though, so the sauce has room to expand as it freezes.

Easy Pizza Sauce
Prep time
Total time
  • 1 can tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 teaspoon onion powder
  • 5 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 2½ teaspoons garlic powder)
  1. Mix all together.
  2. pour into 5 jars.
  3. store in freezer.


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Easy Strawberry Cake

easy_strawberry_cake_recipeStrawberries are coming into season around the country right now, red and luscious and oh so delicious! Strawberry-anything suits me just about right!

Fun Fact: Did you know that strawberries have more vitamin C, oz for oz, than oranges? Yep. (but don’t ask me where I read that, because I forget. But go check it out yourself! Dare ya.) :)
IMG_4403After I’d made several batches of jam with these babies, I still had some bright berries left over. I decided to make a simple strawberry cake.

I didn’t feel like digging through my very un-organized recipes to find one, so I just made up my own. It was fabulous. (Yes it was!)

First, I sliced the strawberries and stirred in the sugar. Then I let them stew in their own juices while I mixed up the cake.
easy strawberry cake I cut the butter into the flour, added the sugar, salt and baking powder, then added the eggs and milk. Stir it together, spread it in a greased 9×9 pan, and into the oven it goes.easy strawberry cake I let the cake cool almost completely, (not in the fridge! You want it soft) then just before serving I spooned the strawberries over the top, drizzled with some soft whipped cream*, and served immediately. Yummy. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge. The cake stiffens up in the fridge, but it is still very tasty! This is a faster way to serve the scrumptious strawberry shortcake. Especially for a big group.


Strawberry Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 9
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1-2 cups whipped cream or cool whip
  1. Slice strawberries, mix with ¼ cup sugar.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
  4. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter.
  5. Add beaten egg and milk, stir.
  6. Spread batter in a greased 9x9 pan.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool.
  9. Spoon strawberries over cake.
  10. Spread cool whip over strawberries.
  11. Cut and serve immediately.
  12. Store leftovers in fridge.

*I had some real whipped cream leftover from another dessert, so I stirred it up, (which made it kind of runny) and drizzled it over top. Regular Cool Whip would act differently, of course.

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