Category Archives: food

Recipe: Ranch Beans

This recipe is one that has always existed for me. My Mom got the recipe from her ex boyfriend’s Mom before I was born. It was a staple growing up. It was made for every ranch work day. Quite frankly, I take this dish for granted. I didn’t realize just how deeply satisfying and delicious it was until college, when my friends would beg me to take them to my Parent’s with me for lunch. For a while we called these Todd’s beans because my friend Todd talked about them so much when we were in college.

Pure comfort.

Pure comfort.

This recipe is just a suggestion. You can add things, like jalapeños or bay leaves or not. It really depends on your personal preference. My Mom generally doesn’t put peppers in hers,  whereas I go crazy and use chicken stock, bay leaves and jalapeño in mine. It’s important to not salt this dish until the end because the cured pork already has a lot of salt.

Cranberry beans are my favorite bean.

Cranberry beans are my favorite bean.

Ranch Beans

1 ham hock (or meaty ham bone or ham shank if you want a less meaty batch of beans)
1 pound cranberry beans (I think cranberry beans are a must have here, they are a really great bean!)
1 (or 2) minced jalapeños (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
1 or two bay leaves (optional)
Water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight, drain and rinse. Place beans in large stock pot or crockpot; add all ingredients and water or broth to cover. Turn heat to high, watch closely, when it starts to boil, place lid on pot and turn temperature to simmer. Simmer for several hours or until beans are cooked and meat has fallen off the ham hock. Use slotted spoon to remove bones and any undesirable parts from ham hock. Then taste, add salt if needed or more pepper, depends on your tastes.

Cleaning the ham hock is a crappy job, lots of little bones and stuff to get out.

Cleaning the ham hock is a crappy job, lots of little bones and stuff to get out.

This makes incredible leftovers too! It also freezes well. Try with it with Mexican cheese and tortillas, it’ll rock your world!

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Favorite Things 2018 – A Gift Guide

Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year againTime for a list of my favorite things, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for Holiday giving. Please excuse me for being late this year. The Camp Fire has taken its toll and everything is just a whisper off.  Ok, back to business, I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the link under the photo (the underlined words in the caption of the photo) and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that.

1.

Last year after the Cherokee Fire, a group of my friends sent me boxes of “things that made me feel better”. All of the things made me feel loved and better. But my friend, Dairy Carrie extra spoiled me because she sent a box of glorious cheese. I won’t lie, I cried when I opened it. You will too. This is a great gift. My whole family loved and benefitted from this gift.

2.

 

This has been a big year in terms of personal growth for me. I learned a lot about feminism, patriarchy and how we react when confronted with ugly truths. Without this book, I would have been very lost. Ms. Solnit’s writing helped guide me through some nasty misogyny this year. I highly recommend men, women and teenagers read this book. It is a wonderful start into this complex topic.

3.

If you are from Chico chances are you have a Klean Kanteen and this is why: “The devastating Camp Fire in our Chico backyard decimated the town of Paradise. We’re proud to offer our exclusive ‘Butte Strong’ 16oz Insulated Wide. 100% of NET proceeds will go directly to Camp Fire relief efforts. Special thanks to local Chico artist 12 Volt Tattoo for the custom graphic. “
I bought one because they are giving back and supporting the survivors of the Camp Fire and I love this model because of the lid.

4.

Authentic Japanese snacks, need I say more? I’m a foodie. I like to try different foods. I heard about Snakku and I knew immediately I needed to try it. It did not disappoint! Everything the box contained was a new and exciting experience in taste and texture. It came beautifully wrapped, so not only was it a treat for my palate, it was for the eyes as well.

5.

Two words: honey bears! Travis started his own apiary (aka beekeeping) from scratch. I had the privilege to meet his bees, taste his honey and see some of it get bottled. It was fascinating. I’ve always wanted my own bees until I figured out I’m allergic and I saw how hard Travis worked. It’s much better to buy honey from the professionals. I highly recommend this one.

6.

Growing up in Durham, you know the Sohnrey family. You just do. A couple years ago they opened up a farm store. It’s my go to place for local agriculture products. These Lemon Almonds have been sent all around the world in gift packages because they are freaking amazing. All the best fruits and nuts come from California, here is the best place to get some.

7.

It makes the List every year for a reason, wiping your own butt is gross. It will make the List every year for that reason. Enough said.

8.

My Mom makes this lovely soap. She has for over 20 years now. She hand makes it, in her kitchen, in small batches. She uses goat’s milk, essential oils, clay, olive oil, and other feel good, smell good and look pretty things. It’s all I use in my shower and I swear by it. I know I’m her kid, and I’m supposed to say this, but sweet Baby Oprah, this soap is glorious. You have to email her at SharonLBrown@gmail.com if you’d like to place an order. Her inventory changes with the season, so make sure to ask about all her scents.

9.

Black Chickpeas! Small Town Specialties has some unique products!

Black Chickpeas! Small Town Specialties has some unique products!

Small Town Specialties has black chickpea and Livermore red walnuts. Both super cool things! I had the pleasure of meeting both Allen and Melissa, they were wonderfully nice. Black chickpeas and red walnuts are pretty usually, so this would be a wonderful gift for your favorite foodie or entertainer in your life.

That is it for this year folks. I hope this helped or at least gave you some good gift giving ideas. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and thank you for reading.

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The Best Spinach Dip

Spinach dip is a death row food for me (you know, what you’d request if you were on death row for a last meal). I grew up with our family making it a certain way. As I became an adult and went to non family parties, I learned a bitter truth: not everyone made spinach dip the best way. It was shocking, to say the least. In an effort to show people the best version of spinach dip, I feel compelled to share our family version.

Cold, creamy, deliciousness. And it's spinach so it's healthy, right?!

Cold, creamy, deliciousness. And it’s spinach so it’s healthy, right?!

The Best Spinach Dip

  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise  (if you don’t have Duke’s, Best Food’s will work fine)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts drained and chopped
  • 1  packet Knorr Leek Soup Mix 
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 Green onions thinly sliced (as an onion dis-liker, this is optional)
So basic! So easy! So good!

So basic! So easy! So good!

Defrost and dry your spinach. This is a very important step, if you don’t dry you spinach enough, you get soggy dip, and that’s gross. After your spinach is nice and dry mix all the ingredients together. Let’s chill in the refrigerator overnight. If you get too exited about this and try and eat the dip before the it gets to set, it’s going to feel like you are eating glass because the dehydrated leeks are tough.

This right here is the secret. Use LEEK soup mix. Not vegetable like to Knorr recipe calls for. This is SO much better!

This right here is the secret. Use LEEK soup mix. Not vegetable like to Knorr recipe calls for. This is why it’s the best!

Serve this dip with good sourdough bread. If you feel fancy, hollow out one of the sourdough bread rounds and put the dip in it. That’s how it was done at family holidays around here. Also as much as I hate saying this, raw vegetables also compliment this dip very nicely. That is it, the best way to make cold spinach dip!

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Wordless Wednesday: Cochon555

Be there!

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Recipe: Blueberry Almond Croissant Pudding

Want to make something for brunch or breakfast that will be a major crowd pleaser? Want it to be super easy and low stress too? Well I give you Blueberry Almond Croissant Pudding. This has been a winner every time I have served it. I made it for Mother’s Day for my Mom. I made it for Cal Fire (I love them so much) when they were saving the Ranch during the Cherokee Fire  I made it for a Ranch Day. Each time, it was met with rave reviews and recipe requests. The almond paste gives it a very subtle nutty flavor that is divine! You can omit the almond paste, but I think it’s what make this dish so good.

Best brunch dish ever.

Best brunch dish ever.

Blueberry Almond Croissant Pudding

7 large croissants , cut up
2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 package almond paste
5 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
2.5 cup milk

Your ingredients.

Your ingredients.

Layer croissant pieces,  blueberries, and small chunks of the almond paste in a 9×13 baking pan. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla in your stand mixture until well blended. Slowly incorporate the milk. Pour the mixture over croissant pieces. Put in your refrigerator overnight.

I love watching the bread soak up the liquid goodness.

I love watching the bread soak up the liquid goodness.

Bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until set in center and golden brown and a knife comes out of the center clean.

IMG_5450

 

It’s just that easy! But if you need some more breakfast/brunch ideas, may I recommend…

Caramel Pecan Rolls & Cinnamon 

The Most Delicious Banana Bread Recipe Ever!

Spring Sausage Casserole 

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Wordless Wednesday: Pomegranate 

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Wordy Wednesday: Beef 2017

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My Hog Scholarship: The First One

It’s true what they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child”. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who helped me build my knowledge and skill set. However, I did not realize it at the time. When my Grandpa Brown gave me my first bucket calf, I had no idea that would be the start of my ranching legacy. When my Grandpa Halsey would take me out to his garden and spend time with me, I had no idea it would foster a lifelong passion for growing plants. When my Mom chauffeured me to endless 4-H community and project meetings, I had no idea I would end up as the AgHag.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

Papa and me spending time in his garden. One of my fondest memories.

While I was busy as a child learning from my elders and putting that knowledge to use in 4-H and on the ranch, my Mom was busy investing my 4-H and bucket calf checks in a savings account. By the time I was 18, due to family and friends supporting me, I not only had a good foundation to the education I was going to receive in college, I could pay for it without struggling.
The ability to not worry about finances while attending university was a massive gift. I was able to focus on learning, I was able to join clubs that furthered my education and network, I was able to make friends and have the blissful experience of being a college kid. This molded me into who and what I am now. My world and my point of view was altered for the better and greater good.

This hog helped me pay for college.

This hog helped me pay for college.

When I think about my youth and young adulthood, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to grow up in this world surrounded by the people I did. Sadly, most of the “old timers” have died. But they left a legacy. In me. It’s now my turn to offer that same support to the children in my world. It’s what they showed me to do.
That’s why I am excited to have a couple little “programs” here on the ranch that help me corrupt the next generation, just like I was. I’ve worked hard to expand and improve my hog operation since Adult 4-H days, and I am now at the point where I can afford to give a few piglets away to kids to raise, donate finished pork to local non-profits and generally do Good Things. This makes me about 100 kinds of happy and makes me feel like my hard work is paying off.

Very new Ian meeting his piglet!

Very new Ian meeting his piglet! He was totally helping me out this day!

I have just completed my first round of the “scholarship program” with my hogs and Baby Ian. Ian and this litter of pigs were born on the same day, his Parents have also supported my meat business for years, so it was totally meant to be that Ian was the first of my friend’s kids to do this.
When Ian was born I gave him a piglet to “raise”. The deal was, he’d pay for his pig’s feed and when it was time for the hog to be slaughtered his Parents would “buy” the pig from him to eat. That money is to be put into an account for college or trade school. I figure I’m killing two birds with one stone, I expose kids to agriculture very young and they get a little seed money for their future. It’s a win/win.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I'm pretty sure I make that same face.

Ian enjoying a first taste of his pork. Kid, I’m pretty sure I make that same face.

This situation worked out perfectly. Ian got his meat back just as he started solid foods! So he is able to eat his own pork he helped raise. This program was so fun to do I cannot wait for my next litter! As of right now I have scholarship recipients for the next couple of litters. If I have anything to do with it, in about 18 years we are going to have several new ag majors joining our ranks!

This brings me so much joy right here.

This brings me so much joy right here.

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Easy Refrigerator Pickles

I love pickles. That’s not a secret. As I type this I have four different types of pickles, pickling. This particular recipe is super easy and amazingly delicious. I serve these pickles often at potlucks and BBQ’s and they are always met with rave reviews. Give them a few days to “pickle” before you get into them, it will be worth it I promise! Again, this is a recipe where you can mess with the spices a whisper and only good things will happen. For example, omit celery seed, add a cinnamon stick, or just use pre-made pickling spice.

Fresh garden goodies ready to be pickled!

Fresh garden goodies ready to be pickle

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

  • 6 medium cucumbers
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 small bell peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • Bay leaves (optional)
Sliced veggies enjoying their salt treatment.

Sliced veggies enjoying their salt treatment.

Thinly slice the cucumbers, onion and peppers. Toss in a large bowl with salt and set aside.

Cooling pickling mixture.

Cooling pickling mixture.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, mustard and celery seed. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and add 3 cups of ice. Place vegetables in jars, adding a few garlic cloves  and a bay leaf to each one.

In just a scant few days, these will be amazing!

In just a scant few days, these will be amazing!

Once the ice has cooled the pickling mixture, pour over the vegetables. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

See? Super easy! I hope you enjoy these pickles as much as I do!

 

 

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Summer Panzanella Salad

My Mom and I first had a Panzanella salad a few years ago. It was at an event that took place in the middle of the summer, on a ranch, outside. It was hot and fairly miserable. The thought of eating anything hot was not appetizing at all. This beautiful salad was served before the main course, it was cool, flavorful and downright pretty. We quickly ran home, lurked up a recipe and this has been a staple in our world since. I noticed some recipes don’t include the mozzarella balls, and that is a big mistake. Those little marinaded cheese balls make this salad. It’s my favorite part. And using good balsamic is a must too, something about the sweetness of it really compliments this dish. If you don’t have zucchini, a cucumber can be used instead and you don’t have to grill it.

Sigh, it's so good.

Sigh, it’s so good.

Panzanella Salad

  • 1/2 loaf’s worth of good crusty bread made into croutons (recipe here)
  • 1.5 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, treated for moisture and lightly grilled (I’ll cover this later)
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 container (who am I kidding? Use two, it’s the best part!) marinaded mozzarella balls
  • 20 to 25 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1/3 cup oil reserved from marinaded mozzarella (or you can use olive oil)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
See the moisture on the top of the zucchini? This step really does make a difference.

See the moisture on the top of the zucchini? This step really does make a difference.

Slice zucchini into rounds and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, the salt will draw out some of the moisture. Do that for each side of your sliced zucchini. Blotting with towels remove excess salt. I like to grill my zucchini for about 3 minutes on each side or until I get nice grill marks. Cool, and cut into bite sized pieces.

I love this salad because I get to use almost everything from my yarden!

I love this salad because I get to use almost everything from my yarden!

Combine the first 6 ingredients in large mixing bowl. Toss to mix. In a separate bowl mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and mustard. Mix well. Pour the vinaigrette over the rest of the salad.

Let chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Pre-dressing

Pre-dressing

Enjoy!!

 

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