Category Archives: food
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
Thinly slice the cucumbers, onion and peppers. Toss in a large bowl with salt and set aside.
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.
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!
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.
- 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
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.
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.
I might have a slight obsession with sweet tea. It started when I went to Alabama, because here in California, it’s just not a thing. When one has “sweet tea” here, it is just a glass of ice tea with a packet of sugar added to it. Disappointing and grainy. When I had it in Alabama (or anywhere in the South) it was an ice-cold glass of delicious nectar. Every time I get to go to the South or have a layover at the Atlanta airport, I’ll bring airport sweat tea back in my Swell bottle. I ration it for a few days and think Southern thoughts.
If you can find Milo’s tea in your area, get that. That is my baseline to judge all other sweet tea. If you can’t find it, you are going to have to make it. But it’s ok, I’m here to help! For me, the secret to a good sweet tea is the simple syrup. You must make a syrup or you don’t get the same mouth feel. The syrup makes the tea just a whisper thicker, and if you get the good ice (you know, like the kind from Sonic’s), you end up with a kinda tea slushy which is heavenly, IMHO.
A basic simple syrup recipe is equal parts water and sugar, heated until dissolved. You add that syrup to your ice tea and you’ve got a pretty good start of a decent sweet tea. However, if you wanna church it up a whisper, add some fruit to your syrup. Since its summer here in beautiful Northern California, we have all the fruits right now (literally and figuratively), pretty much all of my sweet tea is a fruit sweet tea. This week I’ve done peach, blackberry and nectarines. We have wild blackberries growing here right now, so that is why I am doing blackberry for this blog.
Blackberry (0r Fruit) Sweet Tea
Fruit Simple Syrup
- 4 cups fruit
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 8-10 cups of water
- tea bags (I prefer cold brew bags)
In a saucepan, add fruit, water and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 times. Mash up for fruit with a potato masher and simmer for 10 more minutes. Let cool. Run this mixture through a mesh strainer. Discard the solids.
Since I don’t have air-conditioning in my house, and I think sun tea is a bad idea, I use cold brew tea bags. I think it tastes the same, especially if you are adding fruit syrup to the mix. It makes making tea easy. I simply add my water to my container, add my tea bags, and stick it in the refrigerator until cool. Then I add my fruit syrup, mix well, and serve over ice.
If I close my eyes and turn my smoker on when I drink this, it almost feels like I am in the South! Mess around with this recipe – some people (who aren’t used to sweet tea), find this too sweet, some people (who are used to it), find it not sweet enough. You’ll find your happy place pretty easily. Add some mint or fruit when you serve it, to up the ‘wow’ factor. Enjoy!
Recently my Mom was laid up for a few weeks. It was hard on her because she is incredibly active here on the ranch. There really wasn’t much I could do to help her with Dr. ordered rest, but I could make her comfort food. There was a lot of tomato soup, grilled cheese, broccoli bacon salad and this little gem of a recipe. There are about a million versions of this floating around the internet, this one happens to be our favorite. I think next time I might switch it up a little and add some sweet purple onion. It’s always a crowd pleaser so think about making it for your next pot luck.
Tuscan Ravioli Salad
1 lb. cheese ravioli
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Dash of red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
1 cup cooked bacon or pancetta, crumbled
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, mix olive oil, vinegar, honey and season with salt and peppers to taste.
In the large serving bowl add bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and dressing, toss until well combined.
This doesn’t even count as a recipe. It’s more of a happy memory. When I taste this punch, I am 8 years old again. It’s Christmas, I’m surrounded by my playing cousins. This punch, or a variation, was served at all family gatherings for most of my youth. And I looked forward to it! It wasn’t a proper family gathering until I felt nauseous from happily drinking too much of this.
Now that I’m an adult, I make variations of it for all kinds of events. When I do make it, people always, without fail, ask me about it. Seems like punch is one of those old timey things that we don’t make that often anymore. Which is too bad, punch is awesome! In an effort to make punch great again, I’m sharing my basic recipe.
Now remember, this recipe is just a starting point. It can be altered to fit your tastes, preferences and budget. Basically as long as you use frozen juice concentrate, ginger ale and sherbet, you’re gonna get the desired results and specific mouth feel. But you can experiment with different juices, add fresh fruit!
Grandma Halsey’s Holiday Punch
- 2 litter ginger ale
- 1 frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 gallon sherbert
In a punch bowl or pincher, allow sherbert and juice concentrate to thaw for 20 minutes. Pour in ginger ale. Gently mix all ingredients. Serve over ice.
Bam. Done. If you use rainbow sherbert you and don’t mix it up, you can call it unicorn punch and kids LOVE that. In you use orange juice, orange sherbert and add vanilla vodka adults LOVE that (think dreamcicle ice cream bar!). I’m fairly certain it is impossible to find a bad combination here. So enjoy, go wild and please serve at your next family gathering and drink one for me!
Being from California, we are graced with stellar Mexican food. Over the years I’ve taken advantage of this, and taken cooking classes, and sampled as many Taco Trucks as I could, you know, in the name of science and stuff! Actually I have this deep seated fear that when I move to Tennessee someday, I won’t have access to the same quality of Mexican food. I want to make sure I can re-create all my favorites, just in case. This is one of my favorites, something about potato with meat in a spicy broth just makes me happy. This is perfect for a cold day, it’s deeply comforting with a nice little kick.
Mexican Homestyle Soup
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 2 serrano chiles, stems removed
- 1 poblano pepper, stem and seeds removed
- 1 white onion, sliced
- Half of a head of garlic, paper left on
- 1 pound carne asada, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3.5 cups beef broth
- 1 can black beans, rinsed
- 2 cups frozen sweet corn
- 3 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
Place the tomatoes, Serrano chiles, poblano pepper, onion and garlic in a 375 degree oven. For about about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic after 15 minutes and turn the other ingredients halfway through cooking time. Let cool. Remove the blistered skin from the poblano and paper from garlic. Add all the roasted ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.
Season the beef with salt, pepper and cumin. Preheat the oil in a large pot. Cook the beef until nicely browned. Add the potatoes and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring once. Add the broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
Add the pureed mixture to the boiling beef and potatoes. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add beans, corn, cilantro to taste and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with tortillas, avocado, limes and sour cream.
A major part of growing up on the ranch was food. I guess it is because we work so hard. We need to replace those calories! It was safe to say that whenever we had a big work day or a super busy time, my Mom would fire up her oven and keep everyone full, dumb and happy.
I’m pretty much the same way. Whenever I know I am going to have a crew of people out here, I start planning a menu. I recently had the crew from FarmHer come out to the ranch for their show. Needless to say, I was 30 kinds of excited.
Every time I make this casserole, it is met with rave reviews. So I am sharing it in hopes your family will enjoy it too! It’s super easy to toss together the night before and seems like more work than it actually is, perfect for a crowd!
Spring Sausage Breakfast Casserole
- 1 pound Brown Ranch pork sausage
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 1 pound asparagus, cut into bite sizes
- 9 eggs
- 3 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 7 slices sourdough bread, cut into bite sizes
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I prefer a nice melty cheese like an Asadero Or Oaxaca)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
Liberally grease a 9×13 baking dish. Layer the sourdough bread in the dish.
In a large cast iron skillet, crumble and brown your sausage. When the sausage is no longer pink, layer it on top of the bread cubes. Use any leftover grease to caramelize your leek, then layer those on top of the sausage. Do the same thing with the shredded cheese and asparagus.
Meanwhile, add the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and mustard in a large bowl and beat until well mixed.
Add the egg mixture to the baking dish. Top with parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The following morning, remove casserole from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake i until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
This is great topped with some hot sauce, or even better, California avocado!!! Also you could add jalapenos, regular onion, or a variety of other veggies! This recipe is easily adaptable to your taste.