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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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6 tips for using a breast pump – and a giveaway!!

When I landed in the NICU with a premature baby, I had barely used a breast pump before. It was a bit intimidating, really. But after awhile, I figured out a few things that helped, which I thought I would share with you.Mother with baby

Get a high-quality pump. Trust me, when you are pumping every few hours, you want a breast pump that does the job as efficiently as possible! I spent a lot of time researching breast pump brands, figuring out which was the best. I feel the comfort and efficiency of a quality pump is worth the cost. Check out Diapers .com for some really good options. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a great prize from them!

Slow down and take your time. So much talk of pumping is about schedules and time frames, etc, but if it is your first time using a breast pump, just slow down and take your time. Learn the machine, learn what settings work best for you. Don’t try to crank up the speed and get it done as fast as possible – that could cause soreness and believe me, that’s not worth it! Go at a speed that you are comfortable with.


Remember why you are doing this. There will be days and times it will be so inconvenient. Maybe you are sore. You will feel like quitting. Stop and think about your reason for pumping. You want your precious baby to have the best start possible, and we all know that breast milk is ideal for babies ! It is worth some trouble now, for their sakes, right? So keep going, mama, your baby needs you!

Get Comfortable.  If you are at home, find your comfy chair, or corner of the couch. Put a few books or magazines nearby. Maybe the charging cord for your phone!
I spent most of my time pumping in the NICU,and I had access to a pumping room. Mine had private sections with comfy chairs and magazines. If you are using a breast pump at work, find a private, comfortable spot, if at all possible. I found that relaxing was key in having a good pumping session.

Drink plenty of water! The hospital gives you a large water cup when you have a baby, and I recommend keeping that jug filled! Take it with you everywhere you go.  And if water isn’t your thing – drink juice or tea, whatever. Drinking plenty of fluid helps more with milk supply than anything else. Here’s some more tips on drinking enough. Eat good food, too. That is so important. You are feeding small human, remember? 😀

Get enough rest. I know how tempting it is to try to get a lot of work done when the baby is sleeping,  but the fact is, you are not helping anyone by getting so worn out that you can’t even function properly. You need rest to stay healthy to produce good milk. So get as much sleep as possible.  Don’t try to be superwoman. Take care of your baby’s mama!

Remember that your baby is worth every effort! Give it the best start possible with your milk. :)giveaway, breast pump brands

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! Congratulations, Kim!

And hey! I am holding a giveaway for a $50.00 gift card, that will be great for you as a new mom!   Diaper .com has so many fun options for using your prize, I am so happy to be offering this to you guys. If you don’t have any babies currently, maybe you have a friend who would enjoy this prize! Winner will be announced towards the end of next week.

Giveaway rules: 

1.Leave a comment below with your favorite thing about newborn babies!

2.For additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media. Come back to leave a comment and let me know where you shared. Each social media platform that you share it on, counts as an extra entry! So go wild! 😀

Classy baby, breast pump brands

This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate.

Congratulations to our giveaway winner; Kim!