Friday, January 22, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

The only reason I am posting this recipe tonight, is that I just received a threatening phone call with lots of heavy breathing saying that if I left my house tomorrow without sharing this, my family would be in danger.  Okay, not really.  But Hye Country Heather was VERY persuasive....and insistant so here it goes.  For those of you that have never made homemade yogurt, it is EXTREMELY easy and requires very little "equipment".  You'll need a large stainless pot, a gallon glass jar, a thermometer (I wouldn't use a candy thermometer, I don't think they go low enough), a measuring cup, a seamless stainless spoon and plain yogurt culture.

First, you need to go to the grocery store and secure a culture.  Why am I talkin' all fancy pants here.  Go to the dairy section and get you a small container of plain yogurt with LIVE cultures.  For those of you that use Activia, you can buy a small container and make yourself and entire gallon for pennies.  Seriously, it only takes a 1/2 cup of cultured yogurt to make a gallon.  You do the math.

Also, if you are using store bought milk it is pasteurized so you can omit the first 2 steps of the recipe.  Here we go:

     1 gallon whole or skim milk
     1/2 cup cultured plain yogurt

1.  If you are using, fresh unpasteurized milk, pour it into a large pot.  (NOTE:  You can make this fresh from the cow and it is the exact, perfect, couldn't-be-better temperature.  Also, I have made it without pasteurizing my fresh milk and it works great, too).  Place over medium heat and heat to 161 degrees.

2.  Remove from heat.  Let cool to 115-120 degrees, stirring every once in a while to speed up the cooling process.

3.  While the milk cools in the pot, pour 1/2 cup culture into a wide mouth glass gallon jar (If you are wondering where to get one of these, stalk your local restaurants.  Locally we have a pizza place that uses tons of jalapeno peppers that come in the glass jars.)

4.  After the milks cools to 115-120 degrees, remove the film from the surface (this only happens if you pasteurize).  Pour the milk into the jar with the yogurt starter.  Stir briefly with a wire whisk, or large stainless seamless spoon, to mix the yogurt into the milk.

5.  Screw on lid.  Wrap the jar in a bath towel and secure it with clothespins.  Basically, you are trying to insulate it so it cools every so slowly.  Set the jar in a warm spot for 4-6 hours.  I skip the whole towel thing and have an igloo cooler that I stole from my husband.  It seats two gallon jars side by side perfectly.  When the yogurt is thick, unwrap the jar (or pull it out of the cooler) and store it in the refrigerator.  Let chill before using or it will separate.  Be sure to save 1/2 c. for starting your next batch! See how this can really save you money.

A couple of notes on making homemade dairy products.  It is very important that you use seamless equipment. Remember that dairy products are a result of good bacteria.  If you have a seam in your equipment, it harbors nasty bacteria.  Eeeww.  Also, only work with stainless steel.  Aluminum reacts with the acids in the milk and that's not good either.  If you have any questions,  post a comment or send me an email.  

Prairie Kerri

P.S.  If you actually try this at home, please come back and post a comment.  I would LOVE to hear!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Prairie Kerri on Rennet

It was called to my attention this morning, that not all my readers are dairy maids and that perhaps I should actually note a source for "weird" ingredients.  Okay, my friend didn't quite put it that way, but I know what she was thinkin'.  Our phone call went something like this:

Friend:  "So, I was reading your blog and was thinking wow, Feta.  Then, I read the ingredients.  What's rennet?"
Me:  "Oh, something used to make cheese."
Friend: "Yeah, but what is rennet?"  (She's persistent like that)
Me:  "Well, actually is derived from the lining of calves stomachs."
Friend:  (pause....not a long one though) "I didn't really want to know that."
Me:  "Me either.  I prefer to think of it as a little pill that makes cheese happen."
Friend: "So, where do I get it?"
Me: "For you, you come to my house and I'll give you a tablet that will last you 8 batches."
Friend: "Yeah, but where else do you get it?"  **Did she not hear me?
Me:  "Well, you can get it out at Homestead Heritage or order it online."
Friend:  "Maybe you should post sources for it.  And, next time remember your reader base." (Okay, she didn't really make the last statement, that was more of a notation for myself)

So in the spirit of knowledge, I, Prairie Kerri, am about to school you on rennet.  There are actually different sources of rennet nowadays.  There is vegetable rennet derived from fig juice, nettles, thistles mallow and ground ivy.  There is microbial rennet derived from a special mold...doesn't sound appealing.  Then, there is a GMO rennet.  Don't get me started here as there is a special soap box about GMO's.  For those of you that don't know about GMO's it stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Here is an informational article on GMO's if you've never heard about them, and most likely you haven't.  I am trying to steer clear of this soapbox for today, but trust me it will show itself on another occasion.  Back to rennet and it's first, pure form.  The following excerpts came from wikipedia.  It is not for the faint of heart, but none-the-less here it is:
Ok, I struck that whole line, selected the whole excerpt and hit delete.  If you want to read it on wikipedia, click here.  I decided I valued you readers more than that.  If you go there, it's at your own free will and I won't stand in your way.  But, some of you out there might be a little "soft" and I don't want to interfere with the entertainment I am providing you here. 

There is an important thing to note.  There is a type of rennet you can find in some health food stores called junket rennet.  I have heard mixed reviews on this.  It is NOT the typical rennet you use in cheese making and heresay is that you get mixed results when using (most often lack of success).  So, if you are actually thinking you might want to give it a go, order rennet tablets (or liquid) online and wait patiently.  You'll thank me for it. 

Some online sources for cheesemaking supplies that I have friends that use are:

New England Cheese Making - this is Ricki Carrol's site.  She has a great book called "Home Cheesemaking" which you can find many places....even Tractor Supply!

Glengarry -  Homestead Heritage gets alot of their supplies here. 

I am sure there are other sources, just google cheese making and see what pops up.

I am out of here.  I have a cow to milk and the longer I wait, the more she shows signs of Mad Cow Disease (that post to come later).

Prairie Kerri

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dairy Daze....

I am beginning to have an excess of milk and have another cow, April, who will calve any day now.  So, to get back in the swing of things before that blessed event, I started playing mad scientist in the kitchen making butter, cultured buttermilk, yogurt and feta cheese.  I should share with you how the whole dairy animals came to be at my house.  It really will shock you when I tell you that I am not a milk drinker (ok, if I had grown up drinking fresh milk I would be.  It's delish!).  However, my husband, in his younger years, could drink an entire gallon a day.  Right after Mini-Me was born, I told him that we could feed a dairy cow for less than what I was spending a month in milk.  That was at the beginning of 2000 and the thought never left my mind.  So, several years later we took our family to the Homestead Heritage Craft Fair.  Homestead Heritage is a Christian agrarian community in the Waco area.  From a distance, many people consider them Amish or Mennonite.  They strive for a self-sustained lifestyle and share this with the community Friday through Sunday following Thanksgiving.  This first year we attended, I stood and watched a young girl making mozzarella cheese.  All the while, I am elbowing my husband saying "I can do that!".  This whole event fueled the fire for my desire to own a dairy cow.  Did I mention I grew up in the city and had no idea what I was getting in to?  My husband, recognizing this, obliged me with a "deal".   We set out on a quest for a couple of dairy goats.  He said, "You realize that you have to milk them everday, rain or shine, hot or cold.".  At this point I heard him chuckle under his know how they pretend their coughing?  So, I started with 2 Oberhasli does, which led me to learn the art of soap-making, which I love.  After, passing my husband's test of two years, on Mother's Day weekend of 2007 we came home with my first cow, Elsie.
 Within 10 days, I had another cow Daisy and her heifer calf, April (you know, the one who's having a baby any day now).  And thus, my life as a milk maid began.  I have learned so much and I know there is still so much to learn.  I have made mozzarella, ricotta, sour cream, butter, cultured buttermilk, Feta and yogurt just to name a few.  This coming week I will embark on some of the hard cheeses.  You see, I must confess that my dear husband bought me a hard cheese press for our anniversary back in 2008 and I have never used it.  I can't help it if I'm scared.  Did I just say that?  I mean, I am not scared....I just haven't had time.  Whatever, judge me if you want to.  So, today, I thought I would share with you the recipe for Feta (and no, I didn't get this from Pioneer Woman thank you very much!).

Feta Cheese
1 gallon milk (you can use skim milk)
1/4. c. cultered buttermilk (this is what you buy at the store)
1/8 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/4 c. cool water
3-4 T. coarse salt (you can use table salt, but use less)

1.   Warm milk in a pot to 86 degrees and stir in cultured buttermilk.  Cover pot and let sit 1 hour.
2.  Stir dissolved rennet into milk.  Cover pot and allow to sit 1 hour more to coagulate (I don't like that word...but that's what the recipe says).  During this time, do not stir or disturb it.  The milk will be one solid mass.  You can check to see if the milk has clabbered by sticking the tip of a knife into the curd and lifting up.  If you get a clean break, the milk has properly set.  But if the curd is the consisitency of yogurt, it should sit longer.
3.  Cut the curd into 1/2" cubes like a checkerboard.  Allos to rest 5 minutes to expel whey from the curds.  Then stire gently every few minutes for 15 minutes, keeping the curds at 86 degrees.
4.  Line a colander with butter muslin (I used a piece of an old sheet that is 20"x20" that we steam pressed to sanitize) and set inside a big bowl if you want to save the whey.  The whey can be used to make ricotta simply by heating up and adding apple cider vinegar.  See isn't that easy?  Pour curds into cheesecloth.  Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth together and hang to drain for 4 to 6 hours.  The curds will form a ball.
5.  Slice the ball in half and lay the slabs of cheese in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle all sides with salt, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
6.  After 24 hours, pour off the excess whay, salt all surfaces again and let set another 2 hours  Place the cheese, covered in the refrigerator.  Use immediately or allow to age for 5-7 days to sharpen the flavor.  Use within 2 weeks or freeze. 

You can also cut the cheese into 1/2" to 1 1/2" chunks and either store in a brine or in olive oil with herbs.  The latter is WONDERFUL and usually what I do.  You can pack a jar with sun dried tomatoes, basil, garlic and the cheese and fill will oil.  YUM!  If you want to brine, mix 1/3 c canning salt, 3 c. cool water, and 1 c. whey from the cheese.  Make sure the feta is completely submerged and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  If it is too salt, remove what you need and soak overnight in milk.

If any of you try this, please come back and post!  I would LOVE to hear from you.

Prairie Kerri

Oh and by the way, we had PW's Chicken Spaghetti for dinner.  It was also yummy.    The wonderfully awesome thing about it is that you use a whole chicken.  I love it when that happens because I use the chicken for the recipe and come back and make a gallon or more of chicken broth which I can for later use.  Again, all these things take time, but I get so much satisfaction knowing that I made it rather than bought it. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

Just a recap of yesterday afternoon.  I carved time to make P-Dub's Tres Leches cake and fell in love.  And, to update you folks....the honeymoon ain't over.  I reserved the extra 3 milks and they met my coffee this morning.  And, now my Senseo Godiva Creme Brulee and the 3 milks are in love (there has been alot of love around my house the past 24 hours).  So, as I am typing this I am anxiously awaiting another friend to come out of the oven.  *start pause and ponder* Is it strange that I am referring to food as my friend?  *end pause and ponder*  I threw together PW's Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits and not without a price.  I actually had to threaten to chop my husbands fingers off.  You see, he has a nasty habit of eating my ingredients before they are all mixed together.  And, this morning, the Lord knows my heart, I tried to silent my tongue but didn't make it happen.  For those of you that haven't read all my posts, please click here and see line item #4.  It is yet another sign that I am still an untrained ranch wife.  I am going to remain positive and say that I am certain that these babies will make me do back hand springs (okay fine, so I might actually break my neck if that happened or pull a muscle...or 10), even though my husband probably ate a quarter of a pound of bacon.  Now, I will confess to you readers, and only you, that I, in fact, at 2 or 3 pieces.  *start pause and ponder*  Can one live on bacon alone?  Is there a diet out there called the Bacon Diet?  If so, I'm in.  *end pause and ponder*

Hang on a sec....the oven's beepin'....OK, I'm back.  These babies are reminiscent of the famous Bisquik Sausage Balls only with bacon.  I love those sausage balls and I love bacon....therefore I must love these Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits (analyitcal philosophists would love that).  The kids are in the kitchen attacking the biscuits with a fury.  I am happy to say that I hoarded a plate full and retreated to my bedroom to finish this post.

The propane man just left and now my cow is by the back door....literally.  Thank goodness for that cow bell.  I will post about that at a later time but for now, I have to go milk a cow.

Prairie Kerri

Oh, I almost forgot to share the recipe!


2 cups All-purpose Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

¾ teaspoons Salt

¼ cups Vegetable Shortening (crisco, Etc)

10 Tablespoons Milk (whole Milk Is Best)

4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 whole Egg

10 slices Thick Cut Bacon, Fried And Crumbled

1 cup Finely Diced Onion

1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preparation Instructions:

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until all combined.

Combine milk, oil, and egg in a separate bowl. Whisk together.

Combine flour mixture, milk mixture, bacon, onions, and cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Stir gently until all combined.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes on 375 degrees until golden.  Remove from pan and serve warm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shhh.... I'm in love with the Three Milks...

I have to tell you that the crumbs are still falling off my chin as I type this.  OK, maybe I am exaggerating.  Actually, they might have fallen on the keyboard of my husband's laptop, but I licked 'em up so there's no evidence.  You can't prove it...just you try!  I have been wanting to make PW's Tres Leches for weeks and I just haven't made it happen.  But, today, instead of cleaning my house while the husband and kids went riding at the arena (I have avoidance issues), I carved out the 30 minutes to throw this baby in the oven.  Boy, am I glad I did.  This recipe is not for the Atkins dieters out is their enemy.  Tell them all to stay away....far away (that will leave you more to devour anyway).  If this cake makes it through the evening at my house I will be shocked.  I couldn't even wait for it to truly absorb the Tres Leches much less take the time to whip the cream to top it.  My husband better watch out, I am feeling a bit like a three year old....I don't want to share.  I wonder if I bite him when he tries to cut a piece, do you think I can get away with that behavior at 36?  I'm just sayin'....

Again, lucky for you readers this recipe graces her website.  So, here you have it.  Take it.  Bake it.  You'll thank me for it later.


1 cup All-purpose Flour

1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder

¼ teaspoons Salt

5 whole Eggs

1 cup Sugar, Divided

1 teaspoon Vanilla

⅓ cups Milk

1 can Evaporated Milk

1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk

¼ cups Heavy Cream



1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping

3 Tablespoons Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

**Let me interject, this is where I had to call it quits.  I poured the 3 milks over the top, and hovered about 82 seconds before I could wait no more.  Do what you want, but I am still seeing stars.  If this isn't on the menu in Heaven, I ain't goin....

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.

FINAL NOTE:  She says to just throw out the remaining milk mixture, but if you know me, that it against my religion.  So, I put it in a jar and have scheduled a secret meeting tomorrow morning in my kitchen.  Just me, my coffee and the three milks.  I'll get back to you on that one....
Prairie Kerri

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Grooming of a Ranch Wife

After much consideration, I thought the rules for grooming a ranch wife may be of value to some wayward cowboys that stumble on to my blog.  First, it is important to note, a good ranch wife does not necessarily come from "rancher's stock".  This means that you don't have to grow up on a ranch to make a good ranching wife.  DISCLAIMER:  These are merely guidelines/suggestions strictly for entertainment purposes.  Please do not try these at home.

1.  Good bone structure. Select a woman that is thick boned and sports nice, wide hips.  These will prove important during child-bearing.  It also is important to know that often times when good bone structure is present, it is often at the sacrifice of gracefulness.  However, it all balances out in the end.  When she falls face first while walking on a completely smooth surface, the heavy boned woman is less likely to break a leg (or arm, or wrist....or nose).

2.  Evaluate prospect for competitiveness.  This will become HIGHLY valuable to the rancher.  Just tell her she can't do something 'cuz she's a girl and see what happens.  It is a chemical imbalance reaction similar to mixing vinegar and baking soda.  Amazing things can happen here.  However, as the prospect ages, she will likely be laid up in bed for a week doped up on Hydrocodone trying to recover her youth.  I know this because it is still a phenomenom I suffer from, however with age is gradually coming wisdom to actually know my limits and abide by them.  I still will embrace the challenges set before me, like trying to dig a post hole to 3 feet in ground where bedrock lows 13" below soil level, just to prove that it CAN be done.  However, it may be on my time schedule.

3.  Complexion.  Look for something with an olive complexion.  It will save you thousands of dollars on sunscreen and aloe vera gel.  The gals that don't burn in the scalding Texas sun have a longer shelf life.  If however, you secure yourself a pale face maiden, don't fret, just cloth her in long sleeves, long skirt and wide brimmed hat.  She may curse you now, but thank you later when she isn't battling skin cancer from all the third degree sunburns she would have received. 

4. You may want a woman with a "tongue" on her.  NOTE:  This is the hardest quality to keep in check in a rancher's wife.  The rancher must be highly, trained to use is like the highest wizard's spell.  The woman's tongue, should be trained and controlled to be used only in ideal circumstances and NEVER, I said NEVER, on the rancher.  The woman's tongue should allow her to handle herself with dignity and pride when sassed  by salty, ol' cowboy's at the sale barn wondering why she is there with her 3 children during school hours.

5.  Smart.  She must be smart, or atleast learn-ed (that should be said as two separate words...."learn" and "ed"), and of good, sound mind.  Even if she doesn't know how to perform a certain task, she should be capable of learning it easily.  Again, in all fairness, you may want to revisit line item 1 and the whole lack of grace thing.  Often time, a native city girl can mentally grasp a concept such as tying fence posts or catching wild horses, but actually making those things come to fruition may be difficult due to lack of good ol' fashioned hand/eye coordination.

6.  Healthy.  Don't go find yourself some sickly gal that you picked up at the local drugstore while fillin' a prescription.  And, don't invite the gal you were chatting with at the waiting room in the small town clinic.  No siree.  I am not being judgemental here.  I know there are perfectly healthy women going in for checkups, but there is a LARGE chance that you are chatting with a girl who is deteriorating from the inside out, right before your eyes.  Think to your future, and your kids future.  When sickness infects your house, the rancher's wife still needs to be able to milk the cows in 19 degree, sleeting weather, while nursing vomitous little ones and washing the accompanying laundry. 

7.  Good cook.  This can be trained in to a prospect but if you luck upon one that can actually dish you up food that is both tasty and nutritious that is a plus.  It is important to note here that in early matrimony, the rancher will often be forced to eat a small variety of they can be counted on one hand.  If he is committed enough, and can perserve for about 10 years, he should be eating well.  But, it is the proof of the survival of a cowboy as to how many times he can smile and say "This tastes great, Honey" when eating Beef Stroganoff for the 200th time. 

8. Good driver.  Call the DPS and verify her driving record.  Watch carefully for speeding tickets and fender-benders.  In the long run, speeding will accrue several thousands of dollars in tickets/fines and insurance premiums.  Eventually, it could even lead to her license being this point your up a creek without a paddle.  You will become her personal chauffeur....wait, actually this could be turned into a positive.  She would then be stranded at home unless you carted her somewhere (which is a negative anyway you look at it).  This would mean she would should be more efficient at household chores and she would have more time for general ranch maintenance like fixin' fence or shredding. 

9.  Able to work a flashlight.  And, no fellas, I do not mean find you a gal that knows how to manually turn the flashlight on or off.  A rancher's wife must know, or have had practice, in holding the flashlight, usually in some sort of extreme weather....high winds, dust storms, freezing rain.  There are many factors that must be considered.   The rancher's wife almost always will have to hold the "main beam" on a small screw or hose that is not only behind another structural element, but there will also be the brim of a cowboy hat to contend with.  (Ladies, I wish you luck here....just when I think I have mastered this one....I haven't).

10.  Finally, it is helpful if your wife is fluent in TSL (Trailer Sign Language).  It's similar to ASL - American Sign Language, but yet so different.  They should know the universal symbols for "keep it coming back", "come back slowly", "veer slightly left/right" and "whoa!stop!".  This will save the rancher countless hours of his life if he has a gal that can help him hook up the trailer and get a trailer load of hay backed into the narrowest of spaces. 

Once all of these have been evaluated and a prospect has been selected the true grooming process may begin.  It is like boot camp (in my case, it was called Boots Camp, seeing as my husband's name is Boots).  Ask her to stand bent over for atleast 4 hours a in and day out....picking up rocks. Tell her you need them picked up so as to not hurt the riding lawn mower.  If you've picked a good'un, she'll do it for you, trust me.  If you really want to test her, ask her to do it in summertime in Texas.  Or maybe, you should ask her to help you fix the entire perimeter fence of the property at high noon in June (that's a rhyme). You know, when you literally can cook an egg in a cast iron skillet on your porch. Ask me how I know? My kids do it every year.   Oh, make sure you live on atleast 200 acres so you can really put her to the test. 

I would love to say that I fit all of these qualties after 15 years.  To know the truth, not my version of the truth, you will have to find my husband and ask him yourself.  But, I should warn you, he is a man of few words, it's the "cowboy way" so, good luck!

Praire Kerri

The Conclusion of the Butcher's Wife

It has been 11 days since I last posted and I have to say I have missed it.  To update you on our "situation", to be honest, it all went smoothly.  The weather definitely worked in our favor with two mornings in the single digits.  One of my dear friends, really sister, from college, Aggie,  and her fiance came and helped which was a blessing.  She was able to keep us fed and I went back and forth between the house and the barn to wrap meat.  She even cooked up two PW recipes for me so I could stay on track!  The first recipe was for her Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  There are not words to describe how amazing they are and you folks that don't have her cookbook yet are oh so lucky the recipe is on her site! 

I should go back a bit and tell you that my oldest daughter is involved in our counties 4-H Plant ID/Range Team.  They had a contest on Saturday of last week, which due to the week's events, proved most inconvenient.  I would also like you to know that I am VERY active in my kids extra-curricular activities, either leading or assisting with most 4-H projects.  So, Friday evening, after my husband looked at the 7 Day Forecast, he says that there is no way we can go to the competition.  After petitioning that our oldest was on a team that was counting on her, I was given the go ahead to call my mother-in-law, Granny, to see if she could escort Mini Me to the 4-H competition.  To give you a history on Mini Me's Plant ID career, she started last year and was the youngest (by about 4 years) on the team.  Not only was she new to 4-H, but the Plant ID project takes years to master.  So, most of her scores last year were between 25-60 (out of 400).  Her first competition this year was at the State Fair of Texas, where she scored a 96.  So close to breaking 100, but yet, so far away.   She has been working really hard on her grasses and characteristics, so I somewhat expected her to break 100, but barely.  My mother-in-law texts me to let me know that she scored a 163!  So, I politely demand request that Aggie bake her PW's Red Velvet Cake.  I was wearing coveralls and was later told by my husband that they made me unusually "raunchy" in the mouth.  To set the tone of that comment, I merely asked Longhorn where he was really from.  It certainly wasn't Texas because he requested non-sweet tea with his dinner!  Apparently, that little comment deems me "raunchy"....who'da thought?

Mini Me has been eye-balling the Red Velvet cake for weeks.  So, I promptly leave Aggie unattended in my kitchen.  I have no worries, after all, we lived together in college.  Later that evening, we sit down to dinner, where Aggie comments, under her breath, that she really doesn't like my Bosch mixer.  I have to laugh, because it is a true workhorse.  Made to knead the toughest of bread doughs, which is what I typically use it for.  Being that I predominantly use if for bread, of course the dough hook is the attachment that stays on it.  At the dinner table, Aggie proceeds to say how the mixer didn't do a thorough job of mixing the cake batter and I begin to snicker.  Somewhat softly at first, but as sad as it is to admit, I may have actually snorted later.  Even though the Red Velvet Cake was thrown together with a dough hook it had a great flavor....a little dense, but yummo!  And, as an extra suprise, it gets better the longer it sits. 

Back to the butchering of the steer.  We got most all the processing done by Sunday (when I had another Pampered Chef Show 3 hours away!).  OK, fine, honestly, I left my husband alone on Sunday where he finished the last cuts.  On Monday, we packaged the last steaks and ran the last batch of meat through "The Grinder".  Speaking of "The Grinder", we found an awesome commercial grinder at Cabela's which Aggie's fiance, Longhorn, brought us!  It was another moment to see two men and their man toy.  They chose the 1 HP model which I can honestly say never even balked at the meat we were throwing it's way. 

We have sampled our grass fed beef and it's wonderful.  It is such a blessing to have a deep freeze that is full of wonderful steaks, roasts and ground beef.  It is also wonderful to know exactly how the steer was taken care of....antibiotic free and hormone free.  I have been asked by several friends if it was exhausting or terrible and to be honest it wasn't bad.  The only glitch in the whole process was that I had two Pampered Chef shows scheduled and Mini Me's Plant ID Contest.  Would we do it again?  In a heartbeat.....that's just how we roll!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Butcher's Wife

Today started as any other day.  When I woke up, there were no signs that today, this day, would be any different from most of our days.  The following is a transcription of my day as it actually occurred...
I woke up this morning and shared a cup of coffee with my soon to be 7 year old son.  You see, he is the only person in this house who drinks coffee.  I groomed him to be a coffee drinker.  I need someone to share my morning coffee with now and in 20 years when he comes home to visit.  I started breakfast (PW's Egg In A Hole), which is nothing shy of taking a slice of bread, cutting a hole in the center with a biscuit cutter, then pan frying an egg in the center all the while the bread is swimming in melted butter.  I must confess that I tried this many months ago with NO success and vowed that it never be attempted in my kitchen again.  However, I caved and somehow it came out a success.  But, in the split second I was relishing in my success, my world began to crumble without me even knowing it.  Okay, I am being a little melodramatic, but it was the beginning of the end of my day.

My husband was outside and for a brief moment I saw that he was penning a steer, Norman.  The story on Norman is this.  We purchased him 3 years ago when I got my second milk cow, Daisy.  He was a little tyke that would eventually grace the presence of our freezer.  About 5 months after we got him, we went in partners with some friends of ours.  He went to live with them and when it came time to process him, we would split the bounty.  Now 3 years later, as life would have it, we never got around to butchering him.  About two weeks ago, he came back home.  And, for two weeks we have swung like a pendulum as to what to do with him.  Do we take him to the packing plant or the sale?  You see we have 3 other steers coming up.  I must insert a side story here.  A couple of days ago I was visiting with a friend who is also a fellow milk maid.  She mentioned that her daughter asked her if my husband processed our own beef.  Her response was, "There is no doubt that he COULD do it, but I don't think he does."  Have I ever mentioned how strongly I believe the power of spoken words?  I would also like to say, that even though my husband and I decided not to exchange Christmas presents this year, I gave him a copy of a book called "Basic Home Butchering of Livestock and Game" which would prove very hand later in the day.   Now, to get back to the original story, I see my husband pushing Norman into the "yard" (our yard is about 2 acres of fenced area by the barn and mobile home).  He then calls me to come help him because the steer, who looks like a wicked beefalo cross with nasty horns, oh and he weighs nearly 1000#, has decided he would rather NOT go in the pen.  All of this is signaling to me that Norman will not be in the freezer but is going to the sale. 

I proceed to go outside in my thermal socks and flip flops to help.  The funny thing here is that I, not being raised in the country, have a different "way" of working cows.  You see, my cows and my goats are all dairy goats.  They are prima donnas, if you will.  My husband grew up on a working ranch where you push cows instead of luring them.  I am sure it goes against everything that my husband is made of when I start "singing" the cows/goats individual names and they run to me.  I shouldn't really say's more of a yodel really.  Things start falling apart at the seams as my husband is pushing Norman, so in comes Buelah.  Buelah is my work horse of the dairy cows.  She is a gentle giant who sports my great-grandmother's cow bell around her neck.  I have found it particularly useful when "luring" your cow to a particular location.  By the loudness and quickness of it's ringing, you are able to judge when you are about to get run over like a speed bump.  Shortly after Buelah enters the picture, I watch my husband drive off.  It is important to know that my husband is a particularly chivalrous man and that he had an appointment that he had to make by 9:00 am.  Some women would have been angered that without a spoken word he was gone.  But, me being the odd ball, I swelled with pride that he left knowing that I, alone with my 6 year old son, would no doubt get that steer penned.  And, not to be boastful, we did it within 5 minutes.  I did decide to leave Buelah in the pen until my husband's return that afternoon.  In hindsight, maybe it was that I didn't like the way Norman acted without dear Buelah. 

My husband returned home earlier from his appointments than I expected.  At which time, he hooked up the trailer and called the oldest kids to help him load Norman.  On the outside, all appears not too far out of the norm for us.  Until my husband comes inside and tells me to come look what the stupid steer did.  Now, we all know that stupid is not a very nice word, however, there are times when it is one of the only appropriate descriptives.  What happened next, I would have never expected.  I mean I have seen cows flatten gates, tear down fences, jump (and clear) fences without a scratch, but never have I seen this.  They had penned Buelah, Norman and my dairy goats in a smaller trap which makes loading/unloading livestock easier.  My son pushed the goats and Buelah out of the pen leaving Norman alone.  Loneliness does strange things to people cows.  And, when my husband turned his back to open the gate, Norman the Stupid Steer began to act....well, stupid.  He went to the gate, at which my kids were standing on the opposite side, and proceeded to butt his head against it.  When this part of the story is being retold to me, I was ever thankful that both of the kids were not hurt.  But, Norman didn't stop there, he then decided from a standing position he would see if he could clear the gate...which he didn't.  He did manage to get his front legs on it, then instead of backing off, he slid his way to the hinge, hung his foot at the ankle, laid down and flipped over, snapping his leg in two at the ankle.  Forgive me for keeping it real, but again it is what it is.  This sends my day into a frenzy.  It took my husband nearly 30 minutes to get him out (I wasn't much help here because although I think I am one tough cookie, there are just some things that make me want to cry....animals suffering is one of them) and he lost his leg from the ankle down.  I immediately come into the house trying to find a packing plant to take him.  I learned alot about the packing industry today and some things I am not quite pleased with.  I called all plants within 100 miles of us, told them my story,  and all of them were too busy to take him, with the exception of one.  However, today wasn't a kill day so he would have to suffer until tomorrow.   My husband is a tough ol' cowboy, but he does not believe in letting things suffer.  So, he rose to the occasion and decided we would process the steer ourselves.  Within the hour, his step father brings over a backhoe, which makes our life much simpler, I mean as simple as it can get at this point.  As my step-father-in-law is assesssing what is going on at our house, I boast that I gifted my husband this really great book, at which point my husband laughs and says "It's not like I had a chance to read it yet!".  We managed to get the initial part of the processing done.  The cold front that is coming in is working in our favor but we'll spend the next few days consumed by nearly 500# of beef.  At one point during the day of misdadventure, when we were both ingrossed in the processing, my husband said, "I could do this for a living."  My response was, "I could so be the butcher's wife!".

Although my day did not go as planned, it did prove to me why I don't normally make plans.  Me and plans are like oil and water.  We can comingle together (I love the idea of plans), but we never really "blend".  It is a vain effort to make plans in my life, because there is always something like this that comes up.  And, to be honest, I don't mind.  A wise friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that God had laid on her heart about how often we make idols of things in our lives.  And for her, she realized that her need to adhere to a  strict schedule was just that and when her day went off schedule she became angry with her children.  When that happened she would throw a hissy fit because her day was no longer in her control.  As she told me this, I felt so blessed to have it revealed to me, areas in my life that I had taken away from God.  Because I, too, am guilty of being a "spoiled brat" when things don't go my way.  I have prayed that God would work on my heart (which is often painful and slow) and today, on this day, I let it go and let it be God.  So, my day wasn't what I expected.  School didn't get done (or so I thought).  My laundry didn't get done.  But, God provided food for my family and an wonderful opportunity for my children.  And, just when I thought school didn't get done, we were able to have a HUGE science lesson in anatomy.  I can feel sure that my kids, if in public school, would not have gotten this kind of science today! 

On that note, for any of you readers that have questions about sharing these kinds of things with your children, these are my thoughts on it.  My children have been blessed with a life that allows them a true understanding of where our food comes from.  Yes, all of our animals have names, even the ones that will eventually end up on our table.  Yes, we love on them and enjoy them.  We provide for them up until they provide for us.  And, yes, I have to admit that each one of my children, when young, have been saddened by this.  However, my answer to them is simple.  Each one of us, all creatures, have a God-given purpose on earth.  How wonderful is it for us to fulfill God's purpose?  How wonderful is it to have lived and completed God's work here on earth? 

The Butcher's Wife

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Spaghetti and Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Hye Country Heather was antagonizing me a few days ago, saying it was going to get real old, real quick trying to cook my way through PW's website and cookbook.  Deep down, she knows me and how a challenge makes the hair on my back stand up.  Okay, not really.  Forever strike that visual from your memory.....NO, I DO NOT HAVE HAIR ON MY BACK!  Eeeew!  Anyway, I have become quite inventive in making sure that there is something from her cookbook or website in our day.  Tonight, the kids requested spaghetti.  I must confess my imperfections before the whole world (okay, maybe just the 3 of you that occasionally read this), my spaghetti all starts with a can of DelMonte Traditional Spaghetti costs a woppin' $.89!   I am not perfect and if I had been able to make a homemade sauce that tasted similar, I would ditch it in a heartbeat.  However, as of the present day, I can't, so I won't.  However, I do brown my meat, add in enough onions and garlic to ward off evil spirits and vampires.  Then, I add in whatever spices that makes my skirt fly up.....usually garlic powder (I love the stuff, I even add it to my brownies....NOT), onion powder, oregano, and maybe even some red pepper flakes.  What MUST go with spaghetti?  A salad of course.  My husband loves salad, atleast that is as it appears to an outsider.  But, what my husband really loves is lettuce who is acting as a carrier for Ranch Dressing.  For many years, there have been strict rules that are adhered to when it comes to such Ranch Dressing.  It may not be 'ready made', it must be mixed with Hidden Valley Ranch packets and you MUST use Hellman's mayonnaise (another something that I have tried to make homemade and can't recreate....if anyone has a recipe to share on that one, please let me know).  It's funny that at this stage of the game, my husband sits down to eat and it becomes a game trying to guess what part of the meal is from Pioneer Woman.  He knew instantly tonight and because of his strict rules on Ranch Dressing, I was curious to hear what he had to say.  Overall, he liked it....he did say initially it was a little bland.  This, however, is TOTALLY my fault.  You see, I don't do well making plans.  If so, I would have read the recipe earlier in the day, knowing that it was to appear at the dinner table.  I would have then known that you needed to mix it ahead and let it "marry" for a minimum of 2 hours.  Tit for tat...I thought it was wonderful and can't wait to sever my relationship to Hidden Valley...I am so tired of paying the CEO's salary. 

So, here's the recipe from her website.  It's worth making, but for the love of Pete, please make it and let it rest a while before making it's big debut!


1 clove (to 2 Cloves) Garlic

Salt To Taste

¼ cups Italian Flat-leaf Parsley

2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives

1 cup (real) Mayonnaise

½ cups Sour Cream

Buttermilk (as Needed To Desired Consistency)

White Vinegar (optional, To Taste)

Worcestershire Sauce (optional, To Taste)

Fresh Dill (optional, To Taste)

Cayenne Pepper (optional, To Taste)

Paprika (optional, To Taste)

Fresh Oregano (optional, To Taste)

Tabasco (optional, To Taste)

Preparation Instructions

Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle about an 1/8 to ¼ teaspoons of salt on it and mash it into a paste with a fork. Chop the parsley, chives and any of the optional herbs very finely and add to the garlic.

In a bowl combine all ingredients, adding other optional ingredients as you wish, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, thin with milk or buttermilk if desired.

Prairie Kerri

PW's Macaroni and Cheese

I must confess that I have scarred my children somewhat but, to be honest I don't feel ALL that guilty about it.  I turned my back on processed foods a few years ago.  Now then, don't go thinking I am perfect and make everything homemade.  I am not there yet, but I am working on it.  One of the things that never graces my pantry cupboard is Macaroni & Cheese.  I didn't really think too much about it until last summer.  We had a couple of weeks of successive visits to Chili's for my kids birthdays and other special occasions.  Each of the three times we ate there, all three of my children ordered Macaroni & Cheese.  This caused my husband to grumble on the first visit, as he does not consider this to be a meal, but rather a side dish to accompany some sort of meat.  He caved, however, as it was his baby girl's 4th birthday.  Who can deny the birthday girl, right?  So, two more trips occurred resulting in a total of 9 dishes of Mac & Cheese.  Finally, at the restaurant table, he looks at me and asks "Why?".  In this one cosmic moment, time stood still and I evaluated the question...."Why?".  The kids don't get Macaroni & Cheese at home.  I have tried my own science experiment of a recipe and countless others.  So, on the theme of eating our way through Pioneer Woman's recipes (both out of her cookbook and website), Kenzie asked to make PW's Macaroni and Cheese the other night. 

The recipe calls for a full pound of cheddar cheese, how could one go wrong.  I will say that there is a variation to the recipe.  You can either make it and serve it immediately or you can bake it for 30 minutes.  So, here rings my verdict.  Initially, I was dissappointed.  The consistency is beautiful and inticing, but I could taste the flour in the gravy and wasn't lovin' it.  So, we ate it gladly with joyful hearts, thanking God for food on our table, then put it away in the fridge.

It is important to take note here, that I do not own a microwave.  And, yes, this is by choice.  I have a rather large soapbox about microwaves.  My grandmother never had one and she survived countless ailments including cancer, AND she managed to feed her family.  I just don't understand how radiating food can be good.  I mean, I was programmed as a young child to shiver when hearing the word "radiate" said aloud.  That being shared with you, last night we had to re-heat the mac & cheese which means we had to stick it in the oven and wait about 20 minutes for it to heat through.  At this point, what have I done?  I have baked it, which is the other option she offered.  I will tell you, it was pretty darn good!  Was it Kraft? No.  Was it worthy of making again?  Definitely, if you are interested in saving the memories of your children!

Prairie Kerri

Monday, January 4, 2010

There's a criminal about.....

If you see her blazing the central Texas countryside with her compadre, Opa (a jolly, tall man with a moustache) in a Ford pickup, sporting a gooseneck livestock trailer holding a black and white, looks-like-a-longhorn-minus-the-horns-and-attempting-to-be-a-jersey-holstein-cross cow, pull over and stay away.  Contact the authorities IMMEDIATELY!  You see, Heather came to our place, stole her cow and ran away without so much as a 30 minute visit.  That is criminal in itself.  Yes, I said it, she stole HER cow.  Miss Ellie and her calf, Indie, have been a visitin' for nearly a month and it's time for them to go to their real home at the Hye Country McCarver's.  Heather and I had big plans of spending oodles of girl time together, making tamales, making cheese, making soap, sipping wine and giggling like school girls.  But, the forces of nature were against us and in true Prairiegirl fashion, you know the kind where you're actually supposed to be responsible, Heather came on a last minute whim and will be here shortly.  So, despite our "plans" that we tried to make, we're livin' like gypsies!  Love you, Heather!

P.S.  Miss Ellie may or may not, in fact, be a longhorn cross.  The now standing joke is that she is part longhorn which makes her unusually resilient to our Texas conditions, but Heather is holding out that she has got some milking shorthorn.  Tit for tat, she is a GREAT family milk that would make a pioneer proud!

Prairie Kerri

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hye Country Heather....she's a keeper

This is my best friend, Hye Country Heather and I love her.  I've known her for nearly 14 years and it's still a mystery as to why she sticks around.  We are so similar and yet so very different....we are a perfect balance.  I am the domineering, pushy, mouthy and highly opinionated gypsy spirit friend and she is the sweet, pleasant, peace-making, always has a plan friend.  God has led us together down the roads of our lives and fortunately we have been blessed to walk side by side.  I am the friend that calls and tells her we are going to do something crazy and she just says, "Seriously?".  She always complies which makes her so much fun!  She posted her first blog post today and I thought it was worthy of sharing.  She and I have many stories to tell, and hopefully in some of these you will get to know us, see God and maybe even laugh a little (or a lot).  So, hop on over to her blog and share the first of many of her stories.  I am thinking that in the future, this will be very interesting to the readers.  You will be able to here my version of the story and her's, which I am sure either way it's told will be most comical! 

If you are bored, which is how you landed here, hop over to my old blog and read the Story of the Snake Charmer and the Skunk.  It surely will make you pee your pants and give you a shining example of a day when the two worlds of Prairie Kerri and Hye Country Heather collide.   If you don't have a friend like Heather, get you one.  Everyone needs one.  Matter of fact, I think I could lease her out on a temporary basis.  She is a phenomal baker and cook, does light cleaning and not too shabby at cleaning out stalls or putting up clothes lines.  If interested, please contact me through my blog with the dates she is needed and I will try to coordinate. 

 Oh, and as for the above picture, I am sure she is cringing that I used it.  Here's the skinny on it.  It was last Thanksgiving, my first after losing my mom.  She and her family came to our house to share the holiday.   I was preparing the dressing/stuffing to take with us to my mother-in-law's and hit a dilemma.  I didn't have a bowl large enough to mix it in.  So, never fail you can use your milking pail!  The result was a picture perfect moment....and, this might go unnoticed to the untrained eye, but I managed to actually "capture" Heather.  She always has this same infectious smile on her face, isn't she a beauty?  Her beauty on the outside truly is a result of what shines out from the inside. 

Love you, Hye Country Heather!
Prairie Kerri

Friday, January 1, 2010

P-Dub's Chicken Pot Pie

I have a natural tendency to "tinker" with any and all recipes that cross my path.  My dear friend, Heather, and I are both afflicted with this condition.  Heather's mom, Oma, has strictly instructed us that at first, we are to follow directions.  Hmmm...follow directions.  I think God would agree that I have a difficult time with that.  It's one of the struggles I share with my children.  I have been fortunate to notice that God often uses our children to speak to us.  They are a reflection of us....and for me, it often scares me.  I see the wonderful and good things, but I have also found that all the "issues" they have are ones that I share with them.  So, even as an adult, the Lord still is working on me and unfortunately I think it becomes more painful to work through.  Oh, yes, back to the recipe...following directions.  I have made it my promise that no matter how strong the urge, I WILL NOT alter her recipes the first time around.  It was difficult tonight, trust me.  Mr. Garlic Powder was whispering from my spice drawer, wanting to shake things up a bit.  But, I didn't cave, he remained behind closed doors...literally.  I did, however, double the recipe and baked it in a 9x13".  I am such a deviant....this helped my "tendencies".  It was kind of like a Nicoderm patch for a smoker, I suppose.

So, last night, I cooked Chicken Pot Pie.  The verdict?  YUM!  I haven't had any other verdict yet, but I will keep it real.  I have to be honest that I would be suprised if every single recipe was a keeper.  But, stranger things have happened.  The recipe called for an optional addition of white wine which caused me to go back and forth.  Finally, I gave in and added it.  I love cooking with wine.  It adds a twang to a recipe that makes me smile and oddly my husband, Boots (aka. "wine hater"), seems to like it, too.  It contained minimal herbs, salt, pepper and thyme.  Thyme does not have a "spot" in my spice drawer.  Actually, I must confess I had to go out and buy it special for this recipe.  Being slightly afraid of the new herb, I bought a teensy bottle of it.  It was my way of being somewhat non-commital.  I wouldn't feel guilty tossing it if I didn't like it!  Again, awesome recipe and apparently you can make it ahead and either keep the filling separated and refrigerated for a few days or you can make the whole pie and freeze it.  It made me think of those Swanson pot pies from childhood only this was a 1000 times better! 

I am not going to post the recipe today.  It is only found in the cookbook and out of respect for PW, I will only post complete recipes or links if they appear on her blog.  If your interested in this recipe, I encourage you, AGAIN, to snatch up her cookbook!  However, you do place the filling in her Perfect Pie Crust.  I have used this recipe dozens of times and it is wonderfully flakey.  A lady came to our farm to buy some fresh, raw milk a few years ago.  In the course of conversation, we talked pies.  More specifically, pie crusts.  She told me the secret to flakey crusts was to find a recipe with vinegar in it.   When I did, it instantly made a difference and when I found PW's it was exactly perfect.  I love that I can make these pie crusts ahead, cover in plastic wrap and freeze.  Whenever, I get a wild hair to make a pie, sweet or savory, it's just as easy as a frozen, ready made pie crust.  Most of all, I love that it's fresh and not processed.

Another day, another adventure!
Prairie Kerri