Tag Archives: beef

3 Tips for a stress-free branding meal.

3 tips for a stress free branding meal. Strategies that work for any large crowd.

If you are new to cooking, it may look daunting to get a big meal ready all by yourself! I thought I would share some strategies I use for stress-free cooking for a crowd!

I have been cooking for a ranch crew several times a year (or more) for more than ten years. I have learned some things that help me keep my sanity! 😀 

I like to run out and take pictures while the cowboys are branding or shipping, and I can’t do that if my meal is helter-skelter and I am stressed out! So, I learned to prep the right way. These tips also work for other large-group meals. This is also how I manage church functions with very low stress. 

3 tips for a stress-free branding meal. Works for any large crowd

1. Plan ahead. 

If you take away nothing else – please, please, please plan ahead! This one tip will help you tremendously. If you know what needs done, you won’t get caught off guard. 

  • Menu. Write it all out. Even if it is just boughten cookies or jugs of tea. Next, write down everything besides food that you will need. Paper plates, garbage bags, napkins, plasticware, toothpicks, salt & pepper shakers, cream for the coffee? 
  • Groceries. Now, figure out what ingredients you will need for each dish. Write down everything you will need to buy. Make sure you figure enough! 
  • Time. Check recipes, and figure out how long you will need to cook each dish. If you are making meat and rolls and cake and potatoes and baked beans… do you have two ovens? What order will you bake them? Can you use a crockpot for something? You need to figure this out now, because there is nothing worse than needing to put rolls in the oven, but your meat has the oven busy all morning!

3 tips for a stress-free branding meal, works for any large crowd.

2. Prep the day before.

This is my biggest secret to a restful branding meal! I normally prep as much as possible the previous day. In fact, I try not to plan anything else the day before, so I can just prepare all the food! Trust me, you will not regret spending several hours the previous day! It makes branding day so much easier, and you will be less likely to get in a jam. (remember the oven cramming?)

  • Peel potatoes. If you are making a potato casserole, make it and have it ready for the oven. Or have your baked potatoes scrubbed and wrapped. You can make mashed potatoes and then reheat the following day, also. (Although – sometimes I just want those fresh, fluffy mashed potatoes. :) )
  • Cook your meat. I like to cook roasts slow overnight. It really frees up my oven and – bonus! – makes the roast fork-tender. Almost any meat can be cooked the day before and reheated. The exceptions would be prime rib and burgers. If you are doing pulled meat sandwiches, you can just shred and reheat on branding day. So easy!
  • Make your dessert. Bake your dessert the day before. If you want it warm-from-the-oven, you can still get it ready. For cobbler, I make the crumbs and put them in a ziploc bag, and get the fruit ready. Then you just have to assemble it right before baking. Pie crusts can be made and refrigerated overnight, filling can be made, etc. If nothing else – at least make sure your butter is sitting out overnight so it is soft the next day. If you want to bake your dessert the day of branding, be sure you have time to fit it in with your other oven dishes!
  • Chop salad veggies. Most salads you can prep the day before. Just wait to add dressing till you are ready to serve. Chopping veggies for salad is messy, and this helps keep your kitchen cleaner on branding day!
  • Thaw frozen things. Do you need to thaw vegetables? Fruit for cobbler? At a bare minimum, you need to get your meat out and let it thaw! 
3 tips for a stress-free branding meal, works for any crowd

The branding crew, Chugwater, WY. May 2016

3. Get up early.

I know – who wants to get up early?! (Well me, but I know most people don’t enjoy mornings! :) ) But if you want to have a smooth branding meal, you need to get up at a reasonably early hour. Maybe your man doesn’t want to eat at 5 am, but mine does, so I cook him breakfast. Sometimes I let him eat cereal, but I try to make him breakfast. Then I get started on my day.

  • Start your snack. If you will be taking a snack/coffee break to the crew, you need to make sure that is done first. Are you making cinnamon rolls? Get the dough mixed up to rise. Do you need to bake or make anything? Get it going. 
  • Check your meat. If you had a roast in the oven overnight, you need to check it first thing. Probably as early as 5 or 6 am. If it is done, take it out and let it rest. It can cool for an hour or so, while you start your snack, then you can slice or shred it.
  • Set your table. IF you have the room, get your tables set up for lunch. Set out the plates, cups, etc. Fill the water jugs. Put out butter to soften. Salt and pepper. Toothpicks. Chairs. Get a garbage can ready for all the trash.  Think about the flow… where will the guys come in? Where will they file through to get their food? Make it as easy as possible for them to go from door to sink to food to table. And PLEASE have a big towel by the sink for their hands! I can’t abide little wet rags to ‘dry’ my hands on! 😉 (pet peeve)
  • Get drinks ready. Water is perfectly fine, but whatever you have to drink – have plenty! Especially out West here, we get so dried out! Those hard-working cowboys are going to need lots to drink. 

These tips have served me well for feeding groups of cowboys – as few as 8 to as many as 30. I use the exact same strategy for feeding a church group of 200 or more. Yes, I have made mistakes, and you might, too. Cowboys are generally pretty forgiving of us cooks, as long as we have plenty of food! I appreciate that. 😀
Whether you are cooking for branding, processing, or shipping, you can follow these tips for a relaxing, stress-free meal. 

If you need some inspiration, check out these cookbooks! They are some of my favorite! Beautiful photos and fun stories throughout. 

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Branding calves with friends.

Wyoming Cowgirl roping Branding season is upon us, and it is great! Warmer weather, lots of friends, and of course, roping – if you’re into that sort of thing. 😉

We went to our first branding on May 6, and had a great time. There was quite a crowd to help out, and we got to catch up with lots of friends. Some I hadn’t seen since last year.
Wyoming cowboy roping wyoming cowboy roping wyoming young cowboy  branding in wyoming Red angus calves Heel trap at a branding in wyoming cowboys at a wyoming branding cowboy and branding irons cowboy roping at a branding

The older kids rode along and Jenni even roped a couple calves. I kept the two little ones with me, and we came later, helped with the food, and played with friends. :)

I did enlist my teens to check on  the sleeping toddler while i snuck in the pen and grabbed a few closer photos. It is hard for me to get in there and get the shots I want – I am always afraid I will be in the way, ha! ranch kids playing at a wyoming ranch Cowboy branding

I have been so stinkin’ busy with the spring rush, that I just haven’t taken much time to write. I have been working in my garden and taking care of kiddos… I will write a garden update in a few days or weeks, haha!

Snowstorms and Sunshine

Monday night a winter storm moved in. It was so pretty when we woke in the morning to a layer of fresh now and very little wind! But as the day progressed, the wind picked up and it began drifting like crazy. These photos are from yesterday, about 10 am. It snowed a good several hours after this.barn in snow

 

snowy cattlecows in snow

 

cows in snow

winter house

 

Shipping Season on the Ranch, 2015

When it’s shipping season on the ranch, I am up before the sun – preparing the meal for the cowboys, and feeding an early breakfast to my man.
shipping season on the ranchSoon the sun is high and the yard filled with horse trailers and cattle trucks, and the sound of incessant bellowing is heard.shipping season on the ranchMy Lucia doesn’t want to miss one minute of the action!shipping season on the ranchSometimes the drivers get the truck backed up perfectly the first try, sometimes it takes many tries. But it all works out. :)shipping season on the ranchCalves and trucks wait to be loaded.shipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchSorting off a specific number of calves to be loaded.shipping9shipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchshipping season on the ranchShipping is the sigh relief of a job well done at the end of the ‘cattle year’. Sometimes the calves come in at a good weight, and sometimes under. Sometimes the market is high, and sometimes low. But for those of us who enjoy this life, it is worth the uncertainty and risk. We ship off the babies, then begin preparing for next year – starting the cycle all over.

We don’t ranch because it is a sure way to get rich, but because we enjoy the way of life. The quietness, working with the livestock, the pleasure of working outdoors, the comfort of a neighborly community who has your back – all things that are disappearing from our culture in America at a rapid rate.

We ask for help when we need it, we return the favor gladly, and we have a jolly good time doing so. We find comradeship and sympathy during the rough years, mutual cheer during the good.

Next time you eat beef, think about the hard-working ranch families who raised it. :)

 

Menu Plan For a Month: The Meals

menu plan part two

I thought I would share our meal list for this month, since some of you were asking. It is pretty simple and somewhat repetitive. 😉 But it seems that we do better if I stick to meals we know and like most of the time.

Breakfast:
Monday – pancakes and bacon
Tuesday – crepes x 2, and chile rellenos x 2
Wednesday – waffles
Thursday – eggs and toast
Friday – sausage gravy and biscuits
Saturday – baked oatmeal (never actually got this made, somehow. Just ate leftover breakfasts from earlier in the week)
Sunday – cold cereal (what I would eat every day if I could. 😉 One of my favorites!!)

Dinner: (lunch)
Monday – rice and beans
Tuesday – rice and beans
Wednesday – rice and beans
Thursday – rice and beans
Friday –  rice and beans
Saturday – rice and beans
Sunday – Okay, so our church has a potluck every Sunday noon. (yes you read that right! 😉 ) And this is the one meal I had the hardest time sticking too! I made some of the planned meals, but our Saturdays were so crazy that I ended up throwing something together quick most Sunday mornings. Yeah, so I’m thinking I will plan easier meals for next months’ Sunday dinners! :) Maybe some more freezer meals?

Supper:
Monday – Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes, Indian chicken, balsamic pork loin and mashed potatoes, Navajo tacos
Tuesday (Frank’s meals) – taco salad, chicken fajitas, meatball subs, lasagna
Wednesday – sandwiches and chips
Thursday (Jenni’s meals) – beef enchiladas, chili soup, mini-meatloaves with roasted potatoes,
chicken fajitas
Friday – hamburgers and roasted potatoes
Saturday – pizza
Sunday – beef-stuffed crescent rolls, jalapenos and fish sticks, philly-cheese-steak sliders, bbq meatballs and soft pretzels

NOTE: Sunday suppers have also varied somewhat from my menu. We ended up having guests, being gone, etc. And along with the listed menu items, we always have popcorn on Sunday evening. :) My favorite tradition!

So there you have it. A month of meals from my kitchen. Now you know what we eat, haha! Oh, and the kids really enjoy making a meal and having everyone praise and thank them for it. Frank still needs a lot of instruction, but Jenni is getting pretty good at cooking. But the main tip I have for kids cooking, is to have them start early in the evening so they have enough time to cook. They can’t throw things together like I can – it takes them about twice as long. And that’s ok – I just have to plan for it. :)

Do you have any suggestions for yummy freezer meals for Sunday lunch?
Preferably crockpot meals, since that is easiest for our kitchen crew.

Basic Meatballs

meatballs

Who says ground beef has to be boring? We love it around here! Meatballs are so versatile, you can make many different dishes with them. 

Spaghetti and meatballs,

meatballs in cream sauce over pasta,

meatball subs,

BBQ meatballs… 

But the best part is having them on hand for those busy nights when you just don’t have time to cook! My kids (and me!!) love those frozen, fully cooked meatballs. But I refuse to buy them when I have beef in my freezer. I mean, how silly would that be? So I decided to make my own precooked, frozen meatballs. I mixed up a big batch of these and baked them for 15 minutes, then bagged them and stuck them in the freezer. Now I can pull them out at a moment’s notice and pop them in the oven to reheat or in a pan of sauce on the stove-top. How cool is that?! :) 

UPDATE: I like to freeze these meatballs raw, too. Both ways work fine! Obviously, you will need to bake longer if you are freezing them raw. :)

Sharing over at: http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/04/homestead-barn-hop-155.html

Basic Meatballs
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs, ground fine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Shape into balls.
  4. Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Cool and freeze.
  6. Can double or triple recipe easily.

 

Sweet BBQ Mini-Meatloaves

Beef is a staple at our house, as you have probably figured out by now! :) We have ranch-raised natural beef in the freezer, and we eat it every day. Sometimes I pull a package of ground beef out of the freezer and let it thaw – just so I have something to work with at dinnertime! I know – I should be organized enough to have a menu plan – but I am just not always that organized, ya know? 😉

minimeatloaves

Now this recipe is very quick and very delicious – due in part to the super-sweet sauce. But – before I lose you on the sugar content, let me just tell you that you can substitute any kind of liquid sweetener, like honey, agave, etc, if you want a healthier option. 😉 I don’t make this all that often – it is a treat when I do make it!

Make the sauce, slice the onion, and fry the mini-meatloaves.

minimeatCollage

Put the fully-cooked meatloaves onto a covered plate to keep warm.
(Don’t worry about the browned bits on the pan – that just adds flavor!)
Add a little butter to the skillet and caramelize the onions.
Add sauce to onions and de-glaze the pan.
Pour the sauce and onions over the meatloaves.
Serve with potatoes or pasta.
meatloavesCollage

 

This has been one of my husband’s favorite meals for a long time. You should try it! You will like it. 😉

IMG_4270

 

Sweet BBQ Mini-Meatloaves
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ⅓ cup dark Karo
  • 6 TBL steak sauce
  • 6 tsp mustard
  • 1 onion
  • 1 TBL butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix ground beef with salt and pepper, shape into 8 patties.
  2. Fry over med. heat until fully cooked.
  3. Remove to covered serving plate, keep warm.
  4. Put butter in frying pan - add onions.
  5. When onions are sauteed, add sauce.
  6. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Pour over mini-meatloaves.
  8. Serve.
  9. To make sauce:
  10. Mix the karo, steak sauce, and mustard together.

 

Sharing at: http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/04/homestead-barn-hop-155.html

Beef Recipe #1 ~ Sweet & Savory Steak

Welcome to my beef series! This is the first in a series of beef recipes I plan to post this year. I will be posting a different beef recipe every week – only recipes that we eat and enjoy! So be sure to sign up for new posts by email, so you don’t miss any! :)

sweetsteak2

My sister gave me this recipe last summer, and it was an immediate hit! We love grilled steak, but when the wind is screaming, and the snow is flying – well, you ain’t gettin’ this southern-at-heart girl outside to grill! Baked steak is a wonderful compromise. This recipe is so easy, and very tasty. It is quite versatile, too! We like to pour the broth over rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes.

Step 1: Mix sauce ingredients. I used red wine vinegar this time, but any kind will work. I usually use apple cider vinegar.

The round-up of ingredients.

The round-up of ingredients.

Sauce ingredients mixed.

Sauce ingredients mixed.

Step 2: Get your skillet hot, and add a little oil to the pan. Sear the steaks for one minute on each side. Because I never remember to get my beef out of the freezer, these were still pretty much frozen solid. So they didn’t brown as nicely. But, hey – who cares, right? It works.

Searing the steaks.

Searing the steaks.

I don’t time the searing part – I just fry ’em till they are a little brown on each side.

IMG_2835

Step 3: When you are done searing them all, lay them in a 9X13 pan or similar. Just stack ’em in, baby. They will shrink as they cook.

Just stack ’em in.

Step 4: Pour the sauce over the steaks.

Pour the sauce on, baby!

Yummy, no?

 

Step 5: Cover with foil and bake at 350º for 2 hours. You can also do this in a crockpot for 4 hours on high or 6 on low. (You may need to adjust your time in the crockpot depending on your type of steak  and your particular crockpot.)

The inside of my oven is rarely a pretty sight...

The inside of my oven is rarely a pretty sight…

I used rib steak for this recipe, but I have used different steak cuts – sirloin, elk, etc. Basically just whatever I happen to have in my freezer and feel like using. :) I hope you enjoy this beef recipe as much as we do!

So delicious!

So delicious!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Sweet & Savory Steak
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 lbs steak
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Sear steaks in skillet over high heat for one minute per side.
  2. Place steaks in a baking pan.
  3. Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl and stir well.
  4. Pour liquid over steaks.
  5. Cover pan with foil.
  6. Bake at 350 for 2 hours.

 

Sharing over at: http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2014/01/02/thrifty-thursday-week-41/

and: http://aranchmom.com/weekend-wind-party-2/