Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish all my friends and family a very Happy and Healthy New Year 2010.

I am looking forward to creating more fun recipes and relating all the crazy stories that make up my cowgirl life!

Keep checking in for good things to come here at

I am looking to make some great cookies for a musical evening with in January. I will be posting my weekly meals (if they are worthy) and blogging about the spring works soon.

Thank you for the support and Happy, happy, happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good Old Chocolate Chip Cookie!

Yesterday I spent a ridiculous amount of hours baking Christmas cookies. I made my doughs the night before and transported everything over to a friend's house where we baked and baked and baked batch after batch, then iced a million sugar cookies with toxically sweet frosting (but needless to say delicious), and then put together mixed cookie plates to give to our friends/family as gifts.

Together, we made hundreds of cookies, 7 different varieties, plus fillings and icing! I decided that I would make a double batch of my now 'famous' chocolate chip cookies because my friend's husband, Jack loves them and since he was going to have to tolerate our whole day of baking in his house and I figured he deserved a treat for that.

Throughout the day as we baked one recipe after the other, I watched the most interesting phenomenon. The cookies that were "sampled" the most during the day by Jack and my husband, Matt were the plain old every day chocolate chip cookies! We made snickerdoodles, Linzer cookies filled with jelly, Russian tea cakes, Red Velvet (which turned out purple, but that's another story) sandwiches filled with fresh cream cheese frosting, gingerbread, chocolate chip and frosted sugar cookies. We had to force the guys to try the fancier cookies, some attempts failing. Every time Matt would take a batch of chocolate chips out of the oven for me, he had to perform quality control and eat one warm out of the oven. Needless to say I was glad I made a double batch, and Matt ended up with a stomach ache for his valiant efforts to make sure the cookies were good enough to send out. I am not even sure how many Jack squirreled away from the cooling racks, but I am sure it rivaled Matt's count.

So...for all the fancy cookie recipes out there...beware....taste tests prove that men still prefer the "Maryann" over the dressed up "Ginger" of cookies!

Here is my own chocolate chip cookie recipe that I hope you will share with your men!

Helen's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER

1 package of butter flavored crisco

3/4 cup of brown sugar

3/4 cup of white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Milk and Semi-Sweet chocolate chips to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a medium bowl, cream together the crisco with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and mix well.

In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda.

Mix dry ingredients into sugar mix, a little at a time, mixing well in between.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Make 2 inch balls of dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes - depending on your oven or altitude. The cookies should be light golden on the edges (not brown!!) and still soft looking in the center when you remove from the oven. Let the centers set before removing from the cookie sheet and moving to the cooling rack.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marriage, bliss and donuts....

Well, since my last blog I got married. We drove up to Las Vegas, met some friends there, had a limo driven "drive-up" wedding and then drove home. Short, sweet and VERY fun. Unlike most weddings, we didn't have stress, we didn't get ourselves into debt and the best part, we had a blast! There were only tears of laughter shed and we will remember sharing the funky, fun experience with our friends for the rest of our happily ever after life!

I must admit, I am totally head over heels crazy about this guy and feel completely blessed to be able to share the rest of my life with him.

I would do it all over again! Except maybe not eat at a Buffet every meal like we did! UGH! So, what exactly is the BUFFET PHENOMENON? We ate ourselves to the gills at every meal! We ate sushi, crab legs, elk, salad, steak, prime rib, salmon, shrimp, and whatever other delicacy they offered up...ALL IN ONE MEAL! We would never consider doing this at home! As a matter of fact, we could hardly clean our plates of one measly serving for the whole week following our gluttony in Vegas. I don't understand how the mind overrides the body's "I am full" sensor when a huge buffet of food faces you, but it did. For breakfast and dinner every day we were there. Most days we skipped lunch because we had snacked on goodies at all the trade shows (like mini donuts...OMG!! Those were fantastic!

So...for those who didn't have the chance to taste the mini donuts at the Sands Casino Trade Show...this recipe is for you!

Mini Donuts...not for the faint of heart...

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, plus more for deep frying
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup canned evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground mace
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

For coating: 3/4 cup granulated sugar, or 3/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or sifted confectioners' sugar
For filling: raspberry jam

Melt the 2 tablespoons shortening in a small sauce pan. Set aside to cool slightly but remain liquid.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and melted shortening together on medium speed. Add the egg and beat well. Add the evaporated milk and vanilla, continue beating until the mixture is light, about 2 minutes.

Sift the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, mace, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture on low speed until just combined. The texture of the dough will be soft and loose. Turn dough out of the bowl onto a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap it well. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Roll the chilled dough out on a very lightly dusted workspace until its about 1/2-inch thick. Dip the edges of a 2-inch round cutter in flour and cut the dough into discs. Place cut dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Heat about 2-inches of shortening in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375 degrees F. Line a large plate with paper towels.

Working in batches, fry the doughnuts, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer the doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon or skimmer to the prepared pan. Cool. Repeat with remaining dough, taking care the oil comes back to the correct temperature between each batch.

For jelly filled doughnuts: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with raspberry jam. Let the donut cool slightly. Make a small opening with the pastry tip and gently fill each donut with some of the jam. Dust with sugar as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For sugared doughnuts, roll the doughnuts in sugar or cinnamon sugar while they are still warm. For confectioners' sugared covered doughnuts allow the doughnuts to cool completely before rolling in the confectioners' sugar.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dutch Babies and kitchen distractions

Have you ever eaten a Dutch Baby? Well, it sounds a little absurd, but a dutch baby is a type of pancake. I copied the official definition/history of the Dutch baby down for you at the bottom in case you are interested, but all you really need to know is that they are DELICIOUS! I love them. Super simple to make and really yummy!

I decided to make one for Matt and me on Thanksgiving morning since I wanted the whole day to be special. They are easy, but seem like a treat!

Well, I started putting the ingredients together, and got my mixing bowl out, but Matt kept distracting me...holding me, kissing me, tickling me, etc. All lovely, but quite distracting when you are trying to make breakfast. Well, I mixed up the batter for the dutch baby and started the bacon cooking while I preheated the oven. I put the batter in the pan, put the pan in the oven and we waited for the pancake to cook. I was all excited to take a picture of it for this blog and so when I went to take it out of the oven I had Matt ready with oven mitts so that I could snap the photo before it "fell". Dutch babies rise like a souffle and fall quickly once removed from the oven, so I wanted to make sure to get the full glory of it in the photo. Matt opened the oven and I was ready, was FLAT! Browner than it should be and FLAT!

Ugh! It was the first time I had tried the Dutch Baby since we moved and I wondered if I had done something wrong with the oven heat or if I had overcooked it and it had fallen in the oven. I was perplexed. I even took the recipe sheet and crumpled it up! I was sure it wasn't a good recipe.

We ate it anyway, but I dislike it when my food doesn't turn out, so I was very disappointed. Not a good way to start Thanksgiving at all.

When I started cleaning up the kitchen I realized that I only saw 2 egg shells in the trash...not the 4 called for in the recipe. I asked Matt if he had thrown out extra shells. "No", he said. Then I started to put it all together. While I had been mixing the batter, Matt had been hugging on me and playing around. I guess I had started with the eggs, got distracted by Matt and then forgot to put the remaining eggs in. It all made sense! I put the full blame of the flat Dutch Baby on Matt and he laughed and protested. He did admit to maybe being a little troublesome while I was in the kitchen, but wasn't taking full responsibility, so I fished out the crumpled up recipe from the trash and decided to try them again the next morning and see how they turned out. This time...NO distractions!

Well, long story short, the Dutch Baby turned out delicious and perfect. As it should be. So, I have written out below the recipe for you and I hope you enjoy! Moral of this story...don't let your man be a kitchen distraction!


4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half and half

for the topping: melted butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees

Melt the butter in a large cast iron or heavy oven safe skillet
Whisk together eggs, flour and half and half
Pour batter into the skillet over the melted butter and slide skillet into the oven.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly brown

Removed puffed up pancake from oven, drizzle with melted butter, lemon juice and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Serve immediately! Feeds 2!

Puffed up and yummy!

All's well that ends well. Matt was happy with the second version of the Dutch Baby, but he will eat most anything!

A Dutch baby pancake, sometimes called a German pancake, is a sweet breakfast dish similar to Yorkshire pudding and derived from the German Apfelpfannkuchen. It is made with eggs, flour and milk, and usually seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon, although occasionally sugar is also added. It is baked in a metal pan and falls soon after being removed from the oven. It is generally served with fresh squeezed lemon, butter, and powdered sugar or fruit toppings or syrup.
It is thought by some that the "Dutch" moniker refers to the group of German-American immigrants known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, where "Dutch" is a corruption of the German autonym "deutsch".
The Dutch baby is a specialty of some diners and chains that specialize in breakfast dishes, such as the Oregon-founded The Original Pancake House or the New England-based chain Bickford's, which makes both a plain Dutch baby and a similar pancake known as the Baby Apple, which contains apple slices embedded in the pancake.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lil' Red and Sweet Potato Pie

I have this lovely coming 3 year old filly that I adore. Her barn name is Lil' Red. She is gorgeous red roan color and put together just right and will mature out to be a wonderful horse, if I don't kill her first! Unfortunately, she is a total "red-head". She is the horse equivalent of a Southern Lady. Lovely to look at, but all brass tacks underneath! She doesn't take any flack and she has shown herself to be quite a sugar coated pill to work with. She has a hard time taking direction from anyone. She rules the roost out in the pasture and will kick first and ask questions later. I don't mind a determined female in a horse at all! My other mare, Mini, is also quite determined, but has a much more amiable temperament to go with her huge courageous heart. Lil' red, well, not so much. She thinks she can just do what she wants. She is very gentle, sweet and compliant, when it suits her. Otherwise, watch out. She knows her assets and uses them without spare! So, I decided to use an old cowboy training method that if done right can make quite an impression on the mind of a horse. I laid her down. Getting a horse to lie down is quite a difficult task. Being a prey animal of flight, they know they are severly compromised in surviving once they lie down. Horses view humans as predators, which unfortunately, many are to horses. So, I use this "tool" very carefully and only after much thought; making sure I have exhausted all other effective training tools first.

I drove out to the ranch with the plan to work with her and if she hadn't made some changes in her responses to my questions, I would lay her down. Well, she was a little better to catch this morning, but still seemed tense. She doesn't like me touching certain areas of her body, so I tried those out...tail swishing still and if I pushed it, she would attempt a kick. Okay, enough is enough, so I led her into the soft, deep roundpen, put my lariat rope on her left front pastern (ankle) and brought it up under her belly, over her back and through the rope going upward from her foot to create a loop that I could pull on her with. I asked her to raise her foot and shortened the rope so that it kept her foot in the air and was tight around her cinch area. It took no more then two steady pulls to get her to lie down. With her foot hiked up she naturally just started to "bow" down. Once she is in that position I softly asked her to go all the way down on her own. There are horses that really resist this. They have a very strong survival instinct and this goes against that instinct completely. She resisted a little, but not really what I had expected.

Once she was down I loosened the rope on her belly and foot and sat down on her butt. I waited to see how she would react to this. Many horses will sigh, chew they mouths, groan, and make all kinds of noises. This is a sign of the tension releasing and leaving their bodies. When a horse is down, they are yielding themselves completely. They don't know we aren't here to hurt them. To lie down is to give up essentially, for a horse. It is powerful and that is why I use it with great respect. She didn't make much noise, so I started touching her all over. Touching the parts she doesn't like, especially in her flank and belly button area. I patted and petted her all over. I moved her tail around. I bent and unbent and jiggled her legs. I petted her face, opened her mouth, rubbed her lips, massaged her ears. I touched her ALL over all while sitting on her prone body. There was some mouth-chewing and some small sighs. Nothing earth-shattering or reflective of a big release, but she was accepting of most of my actions. Once I had touched her all over and she was accepting on her right side, I asked her to get up and started all over on the other side. Horses have two different "brains". One for each side of their body. What is okay on one side doesn't always translate to the other side, so I am thorough and make sure she is accepting of all touch on both sides. She once again lay down pretty easily. I repeated the process and when she seemed accepting of all I allowed her to get up again. She was very, very docile and quiet. I didn't do much more with her after that. I thought it might be a good place to leave her to soak on what had happened and process it through on her own.

I look forward to seeing how she acts tomorrow. If no big improvement, then I will probably lay her down again until I can see a change in her.

On my way home I was comtemplating what I should prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner party we are invited to at our friend's house. I am in charge of PIE. I already have the ingredients for a cherry pie, but wanted to make another. So, with my sweet Lil' Red on my mind, I decided to do a truly Southern recipe for Sweet Potato Pie. I was inspired by my filly for her Southern Lady attitude and I also hope she turns out as sweet and wonderful as this pie tastes! I will keep you posted on her progress, but in the meantime, I will post the recipe I chose to use for Thursday! Wish me luck!

Sweet "Lil Red" Potato Pie

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Transfer dough to 9-inch pie plate and ease the pastry into the bottom and around sides. Place the shell into the oven and bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with the egg whites.

Rub the sweet potatoes with the vegetable oil and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes, until very tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Peel the potatoes and pass them through a fine mesh sieve using a rubber spatula. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of smooth sweet potato puree.

In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato puree with the sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream with the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the cream/egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir to blend. Pour this batter into the prepared pie shell and place the pie on a sheet pan. Bake until the center is set and the tart is golden brown. 35-45 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

1 Recipe for Sweet Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tbsps bleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and chilled
2 tbsp vegetable shortening
3 tbsp ice water, or as needed
Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening. Rub the fats between your fingertips and thumbs until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 1 tbsp at a time, work in the enough ice water just until the dough comes together, being careful not to overmix.

Shape into a smooth ball of dough, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 days.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Everyone Loves Pizza!!

Okay, so when Matt requested pizza for dinner tonight I decided to do it from scratch so that I can learn to make a crust and see how it turns out. I asked friends for suggestions on recipes and found one online as well. I will let you know how it turned out, but here is the recipe to start...

Pizza Dough

1 package of active dry yeast (.25 oz)
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 cups bread flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp white sugar

In a small bowl dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand until creamy (about 6-10 minutes

In a large bowl combine flour, olive oil, salt, sugar and yeast mixture. Stir well and beat into a stiff dough.

I like my crust thin, so I made formed 2 balls of dough and made 2 pizzas out of this recipe

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough out into a pizza crust shape. Your thickness is your preference. Place on a pizza pan or stone.

Place your favorite sauce and toppings and bake in the preheated oven (350 degrees) for about 20 minutes or until melted and golden brown.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homemade Bread...once a week

Okay, I have been holding onto this subject for a while...haven't dove into it because it is such a tough subject for me!

I make all our bread we eat weekly. Sunday is usually my baking day and my recipe (which I will write down for you below) makes 2 good sized loaves that last us all week. I love oats and oat bread, so I searched and searched for an oat bread recipe that was easy, delicious and simple in ingredients. I tried several before I found the one I really liked. Now it is almost routine, although I still work on different aspects of it to see if I can improve the taste, size, and crust.

Our little tradition is now to tear off the corner of the bread as soon as it is out of the pan and taste it, to make sure I did it right! I had a few disappointments....hard as a rock bread, flat "I didn't rise hardly at all" bread, crumbly beyond normal bread, etc..
I have never been around much baking from scratch and certainly not bread baking, so all my lessons have been from the School of Hard Knocks! I try to follow a recipe as it describes and if it doesn't turn out right, then I try to analyze why not and try again.

My lovely sister saved me a lot of heartache by sending me a link to the following site that has "lessons" in bread making that has helped me immensely in understanding the science and mystery of making bread. (


1 cup rolled oats
2 cups boiling water
1 cake yeast (2 1/4 tsp dry yeast)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1 tbsp shortening, melted
4 1/2 cups sifted bread flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine rolled oats and boiling water. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add to cooled oats along with honey, salt and the melted shortening. Add the flour in parts, mixing thoroughly in between. When all incorporated, knead dough for another 5-10 minutes, until soft and silky.

Return to the greased bowl, cover and allow to rise to double it's size.

When it is double it's size, remove from bowl, punch down and knead again for another 5-6 minutes.

Shape in a rectangle, cut in two and place in 2 separate greased bread pans. Cover and allow to rise again. It should rise to over the sides of the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once risen to desired size, place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Should sound hollow when tapped if done.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brisket like none other!

I found this recipe for brisket so long ago I don't know where I got it. I would like to give credit to the person who put it out there, but unfortunately I can't! Whoever you are...THANK YOU! It is amazing!

I have made this several times and it turns out perfect every time!


5 lb brisket
salt, pepper and fresh garlic to taste
1/4 cup Merlot Wine
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup beef stock
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2 stalks celery, chopped with leaves
3 large carrots, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, diced
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried rosemary

Rub the brisket with salt, pepper and garlic and place in a shallow baking dish, marinating tray or large resealable bag. Combine the Merlot and Balsamic vinegar and pour over the brisket. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. I suggest overnight.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Arrange onion rings in the bottom of the roasting tray. Sprinkle the garlic, thyme and rosemary over the brisket and rub in. Pour the remaining marinade in the bottom of the pan along with beef stock and stewed tomatoes and lay the roast on top of the onion rings so they form a roasting rack. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.

Roast for 3 hours in the oven, then uncover and add carrots and celery to the pan. Cover again and roast for another 1 to 2 hours until the brisket can be pulled apart with a fork.

I suggest serving with mashed potatoes and a lovely red wine! ENJOY!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls...yet another disaster!

Okay, so I have tried to make cinnamon rolls twice now with disasterous results. I didn't post the last time, because I thought I had learned from my previous mistakes and had it all figured out! The first time they came unrolled, leaked filling all over creation and my oven, but tasted like heaven! I had even improvised a bit with the icing and it turned out fantastic. So, I learned they had to be baked squished tight together so they don't come unrolled or fall over. I learned that I shouldn't baste butter across the whole inside or they won't "glue" together once they are rolled up and I learned to let both the butter and cream cheese get soft before I mixed the frosting, instead of melting the butter. Okay, so I "fixed" all those issues. Today I rolled out my dough perfectly, put butter all over the inside-except for about an inch by the top, filled it with cinnamon/brown sugar mixture, rolled them up TIGHT, pinched the ends together so they didn't unroll and then placed the individual rolls in a greased muffin tin (as was suggested by a friend). Everything went completely as planned and they looked marvelous! While they baked, I mixed together the icing and it was of a spreadable consistency. Yippee! I thought I had fixed all the issues and should have some delicious cinnamon rolls to send to work with my sweetheart.
Alas, it was not to be. Although I baked them for the same amount of time as last time, the filling burned to the bottom of the muffin tin and they are stuck in the tin....I PRIED one out and frosted it. Tasted burned. Certainly NOT like heaven. They look perfect! They look like they why is it that I cannot master the art of excellent taste and perfect presentation? I am going to get another batch of dough going and I am going to attempt them again! I am going down with a fight!! No easy cinnamon roll is going to beat me! Stay tuned for the next round of Cinnamon Roll vs. Cowgirl Helen. The odds aren't good since the score is already Cinnamon Rolls - 2 Helen - O, but I am going to give it another shot before I completely give up on making cinnamon rolls because they smell fantastic and taste even better! I am going to post the recipe below, but if you have a better one...please let me know!

Cinnamon Rolls

White bread dough (I use the frozen white bread dough)

Filling -
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter (softened)

Frosting -
1 (3 oz) packed of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

Once dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough out to about a 16X20 rectangle. Spread softened butter all over the dough, leaving a 1 inch area without butter along the top of the rectangle. Sprinkle the filling mixture onto butter. Roll up the dough tightly and once you reach the top, pinch dough together so the roll stays rolled up. Cut into 12 individual rolls and place tightly in a lightly greased 9X13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake rolls until golden brown (not burned like me), this takes between 11-15 minutes. While rolls are baking combine ingredients for frosting in a bowl and mix well. Spread frosting over warm rolls before serving.


Cowgirl Helen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dutch Apple Pie!

You will certainly want to write this recipe down! It's easy, it's delicious and goes well with ice cream. No need to say more...

I decided to surprise my sweetheart, Matt, with an apple pie made from scratch today. He isn't used to such treatment and so I like to give him a treat every now and then to make sure to keep him happy!

I didn't actually mess this one up either, so I will give the recipe and post the end picture...I got tied up with work (yes, that ugly word) and so wasn't able to take pics of the process. Maybe next time. I got a little help from my sister on the bottom crust, since I am a rookie at such things, but she was able to text me the simple recipe and I was able to make a success of it, so I will include that as well!


5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon and 2 tbsp flour. Add apples to pie pan and then sprinkle with this mixture. Then drizzle lemon juice over the top of this.

In another bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of flour. Cut in the butter until it forms a rough crumble. Top the pie with this mixture.

Pie crust
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
3-4 tbsp ice water

Mix together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until it is in small crumbles. Add ice water until it forms a soft dough ball. Roll out the ball and place in pie pan.

I recommend baking at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then covering with foil and baking for another 20 minutes. This will ensure the crust doesn't over brown (like mine!).

You can top with homemade whipped cream or ice cream! Your choice.

Well, have fun baking and Bon Appetit!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

To school or not to school....that is the question

I toured a private culinary school today.

Needless to say, I held my breath the whole time! We went over curriculum, schedules, tuition, and then toured the "campus". When we reached the 2 huge kitchen classrooms, I was all aflutter inside! Huge gas ranges, GIGANTIC mixers (my gosh...I was ready to take one home with me!), and all the tools required of proper cooking!

It was like being Charlie in the Chocolate Factory for me! I was thrilled from the moment I went in to the end of the "interview". This private school only accepts so many students and so they were interviewing me as much as I was interviewing them. I was beaming when he said I was exactly the type of student that would fit in there. I didn't want to think that was what they said to all prospective students!

The curriculum alone was thrilling to me! Courses called Advanced Patisseries and Chocolate Confections, whole quarters spent discovering the cuisines of a region/country. It appealed to me on so many levels! I am a perpetual student. I will always have the learning bug and seek to know more about the world around me. I was excited at the prospect of buying books again, and when they showed me the "kit" for the Baking and Pastry Arts program (a bunch of lovely tools of the trade!), I was sold.

Of course, they saved the cost of tuition for last. The large number that represented cost per year deflated my bubble a bit, but I was still elated enough to think I could possibly swing it somehow. All that mattered was that I was smitten. I was sold. I was already envisioning myself in the chef coat and sitting in the classroom.

Well, once I left the school, reality set in and by the time I got home and peeked once again at the curriculum sheets, the catalog, the TUITION sheet, I realized it probably wasn't to be.

The dream hasn't gone away completely, but I need to hunker down and get creative about how I could possibly pay for a private school when I am unemployed and barely keeping my head above water. Nothing is impossible, right?

I know there are many roads to Rome, but the feel and the formal college feel of this program appealed to me on many levels. I want to be a professional. I want to know all I can about baking and pastries. I want to get this. I really do. At least my tour solidified that for me. It made me realize that I am very passionate about this and that it is worth some sacrifice and definitely more exploration!

So...time to research!

Western music under the starry skies...and dessert of course!

Last night was just magical! I was lucky enough to attend a Juni Fisher concert (she's an award-winning Western music star) in Sonoita, Arizona. It took place in the courtyard of the lovely local B&B, La Hacienda de Sonoita ( The setting was gorgeous and with lights strung around the columns of the flagstone courtyard and a big mesquite fire roaring in the outdoor kiva fireplace it was truly inspirational and a one of a kind venue! The cool night was lovely and clear, so you could look up from your seat and name the constellations as you listened to the clear, beautiful voice of Juni singing her original songs about cowboy life, women rodeo stars, and life on the range. I personally love cowboy/western music. It is a far cry from the whiny ballads and countrified rock of modern country music. It harks back to folk music and Irish music and soothes the soul and takes you back to a time of simplicity and beginnings of the West. So the evening was really wonderful and I wish more people had taken the opportunity to experience Juni's music in such an intimate and awe-inspiring setting.

Of course, one cannot forget the important things...libations and dessert! The cool night air was tempered by hot decaf coffee, offered with several "tonics" to add some kick and warmth to the body! It was a nice, gourmet cowgirl's touch, but the real pièce de résistance was the delicious, warm, freshly prepared, pineapple upside down cake made in a dutch oven! It was fantastic! My mother used to make this dessert when I was a child, but I don't remember it being this fluffy, this light and this delicious! And of course, there is nothing like a real dutch oven, over the fire dessert to complete an evening that celebrated Western life and the cowboy legacy!

So, I thought I would post the dutch oven pineapple upside down cake recipe I like the best and throw some Juni Fisher info your way as well. Maybe you can purchase a CD, build a fire, brew some coffee (spiked with Bailey's was yummy), bake a pineapple upside down cake over your fire and look up at the stars and maybe feel some of the blessings that we did last night! ENJOY!!

Juni Fisher
2008 Western Heritage Wrangler Award Winner
2008 WMA Songwriter of the Year
2007 WMA Song of the Year Songwriter
2006 WMA Female Vocalist of the Year
2005 AWA Western Female Performer of the Year
2005 WMA Crescendo Award
Red Geetar Records

Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple rings (10 slices), with juice
10 maraschino cherries

Preheat a 12-inch Dutch oven with about 8 coals underneath and 18 on top.
In a mixing bowl or gallon-size storage bag, combine dry cake mix, eggs, oil and pineapple juice. Stir until lumps are gone. If more liquid is needed, use a bit of the cherry juice. Set aside.
Melt butter and brown sugar in the preheated Dutch oven, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Place the pineapple rings evenly in the oven. Place a cherry inside each ring. Pour cake batter evenly over the rings. Return heated lid to the oven and bake about 35 minutes or until the cake is done in the center. The cake will shrink away from the sides a bit when done.

Remove the lid and invert the cake onto a serving dish.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Best Pork Ribs EVER!!

Tonight we are having pork ribs! One of my favorite foods on the planet and I have been known to partake in rib-eating contests even!

I wanted to share this with you guys, because it is definitely one of the best recipes I have come across and I now count it as one of my staples in the recipe box.

There are 4 steps, it takes an overnight marinade, but it is definitely worth every minute of preparation once you taste the incredibly tender, flavorful ribs. The 1st step is pre-baking the ribs, the 2nd step is the dry rub and overnight marinade, and the 3rd step is the homemade barbeque sauce and the final step is the grilling.

Step 1: Rub the ribs all over with fresh garlic. I use anywhere from 4-6 cloves crushed up. I rub both sides of the ribs and then place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. Let cool once completed baking.

Step 2: Once the ribs have cooled off from the oven. Mix together the following ingredients for a dry rub.

1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper (ground)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin

Rub the ribs all over with spice mixture and cover and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3: In a small saucepan, mix together the following ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered for 1 hour. Reserve a small amount for basting the ribs on the grill. The remainder is used for a dipping sauce.

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped onions
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 clove crushed garlic

Step 4: Prepare grill for medium heat. Grill, covered for about 12 minutes, basting with the sauce until nicely browned and glazed.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Cupcakes and Cattle

Who can mess up a cupcake? Hmmmmm....Well...apparently I can!

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes in the brain department to actually make a great cook! I made a wonderful Hungarian Goulash for dinner the other night and thought I would top it off with some strawberry frosted cupcakes for dessert! I just happened to have an old cake mix in the pantry along with the appropriate matching frosting flavor, so I dug it out and starting following instructions! I am good at that usually. Well, I got the cake batter mixed, found the cupcake tin (yes, I inherited one of those from my sweetheart, Matt) and even had the paper liners to put in the tin! I felt jubilant! WOW! I actually had all the ingredients in my pantry, which is a goal of mine to develop a well stocked pantry that sports all the necessary ingredients for whatever strange recipe happens to be on the menu, so I was really happy with my little success there. Then I even had the tools necessary for the job. That is an even great accomplishment. My kitchen, as you have probably read in my previous post, lacks a certain number of basics and definitely lacks in the more specialized equipment area, so having the tin and liners was a big COUP!

Okay...back on track here. I fill each liner with batter and use the whole bowl up on the 12 cupcakes as it should be. I thought I was really hitting a home run here. I did wonder at some point if they might perhaps be a little full, but it didn't really worry me enough to seek advice. Heck, how do you mess up something as simple as cupcakes from a box anyway? Right?

I stuck my tin in the preheated oven and baked for the time designated by Betty Crocker. The timer went off and I couldn't wait to see them and start frosting those babies! I open the oven and lo and behold, CUPCAKE TOPS ATTACK! My Lord! I guess I must have overfilled them because they all shared one common top and no matter how careful I was in surgically separating the Siamese cupcakes, the tops promptly tore off and left only the body behind! Ugh! Everyone knows the tops are the most delicious parts! Even Seinfeld had an episode about that!

I was just devastated! It is always very difficult for me to handle failures in the kitchen, but this one was particulary hard to swallow because it all came from a expertise necessary, right? Even a monkey can make cupcakes from a box. So, what to do? How can I fix this?

Cowgirl ingenuity came into play and we had "stuffed cupcakes". I frosted the tops of the bodies and glued the tops back on with the frosting! They looked like plain cupcakes, but they had a surprise filling! At least they tasted fine. Same ridiculously sweet, artificially flavored taste I was hoping for...just a slight change in presentation!

Well, I thought the disaster was averted. We had our dessert, it tasted just fine and we even had a few leftover for Matt to take to work.

The next morning I was contemplating how to store the remaining cupcakes when I was called to duty to help gather momma and baby cows on a 15 section (a section is 1 mile by 1 mile square) pasture. I decided to share in my bounty and offered the ranch owner and the two cowboys helping us cupcakes for the ride out to the ranch. Well, the ill-fated cupcakes once again had a devastating effect. While distractedly eating his cupcake in the truck, the ranch owner didn't pay enough attention to the trailer with our 4 horses in it and struck a curb with the trailer tire, promptly popping said tire and bending the rim beyond repair! UGH again! A quick morning ride turned into a whole morning spent at repair shop and tire dealership instead of out in God's Country in the brisk fall air gathering cattle.

Exactly how can a simple cupcake offer up so much frustration, disappointment and torment? It just did. Simple as that. I guess the moral of the story is that nothing is simple in cooking and baking. Nothing should be taken for granted and finally, DON'T overfill those cupcake tins!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Life as a Cowgirl

Howdy again!

Yesterday was a typical cowgirl day. Ran out to the ranch to ride my horse and I was shanghaied into helping gather, sort and rope 50+ hiefers. Since I was riding my trusty mare, Mini, I decided I could donate an hour or two of my time and lend a roping hand.

Well...I should have known by the surprise invitation that this was kind of a last minute preparation on the cattle owner's part and nothing was organized! The weather was calling for high winds (not so good for roping conditions) and they started gusting about 10 minutes after we had gathered all the beasts from the grassy pasture into the dry, dusty lot. Dirt was certainly going to be on the menu and also a spa version of dirt exfoliation was due. Why did I say "yes"? Remember, I live in Southeastern Arizona. No big trees, very dry (especially this year after a sad little monsoon season) and not much to stop the wind once it starts blowing! Dust devils can completely shroud you and your horse for up to a minute! So, again...why did I say "yes"? Hmmm...

One or two hours work turned into 7 hours of hot, dry, dirty, difficult roping. We had to wait for other cowboys to show up (also invited right then) and the ear tags to be purchased in town and delivered. Then the wind really picked up and made the roping part very slow going. Did I mention these were mostly 450lb replacement heifers that had to be headed and heeled in order to not kill the ground crew? At times the cattle were completely obscured in the huge dust clouds and it was hard to see who had a rope on and who didn't! Not exactly as safe an environment as I like to rope in, but conditions are what they are and some things have to be endured.

Surprise, surprise! No cooler full of frosty drinks, no snacks or lunch available. It was pretty minimal. When the two Mexican cowboys helping out starting talking about Cervesas while we were out there roping I wanted to abandon ship and head to the first bar! A frigid Corona with lime sounded mighty fine! Instead we just called a time out and all lined up at the hose to try and quench our thirst and wet our faces down enough to remove the layers of dirt in our eyes.

My horse and I survived. All the heifers got their proper ear tags put in and they were turned back out in the green, moist pastures once again.

As soon as my horse was put up and fed I headed out! I had dinner to consider and only an hour to make it happen! Darn! I was counting on a whole afternoon at home to research options and start something special since the forecast had been so crappy. So much for planning!

Well...cowgirl ingenuity prevailed. How about some leftovers? That made my life much easier and I felt much improved once I was able to shower and remove the sandblast from my face and other body parts!

That is the life of a cowgirl....

The Test Kitchen....

Okay, so I guess first things first. My kitchen is pretty rudimentary as far as specialized equipment and "tools of the trade" is concerned. I imagine it is like most other typical American kitchens of the working class. It has one set of nice pots/pans, some okay pieces of bakingware (usually procured at Marshall's, Ross or TJ Maxx in their home department) and unfortunately, an electric stove/oven. I do have another set of really nice pots/pans, several dish sets, lots of gadgets, etc, but they are all languishing in my storage unit in Florida. Destined to stay there until I raise the money to free them and move my stuff to Arizona. So in the meantime, I do with the absolute minimum and try my best!

Needless to say, I find myself having to use my imagination more than I did in childhood to replicate some of the more difficult recipes that call for specialized equipment. I find myself dreaming of a big Kitchenaid mixer and all the attachments! I find myself wishing for a pot hanger in the kitchen to hang the pots and have them at easy access. I find myself reaching for a classy set of mixing bowls that just aren't in my cabinets. I guess it gives me something to look forward to and a good list of things I can put on my wedding register!

While the adjustment to electric cooking after many years of gas has been hard. I am happy to announce that my kitchen, while getting a stiff reduction in size, will boast a gas stove/oven in the next few weeks when we move. That earns a big cowgirl "Yahoooo!!" as far as I am concerned. The adjustment back to gas should be easy! No more burned food! WAHOO!

So...any suggestions on where to find inexpensive kitchen supplies? What pieces are important to have? Is there a basic list of kitchen supplies that you should have on hand?

I am constantly seeking to improve my kitchen and it's contents so that I have the proper tools to work my craft and I don't have any excuses not to try the more difficult dishes. I think if my dishes don't turn out I would prefer to know it came from my human error and not because I had to improvise with the wrong equipment and that might have contributed to the failure. Since I am learning on my own and using the trial and error technique to see what works and what doesn't, I would like to be able to distill where the error occurred and not have too many variables in the experiment that cloud the results!

So...I look forward to your feedback!
Let's see what creation I come up with for dinner tonight!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Introduction to Cowgirl Cuisine

Howdy all!
I decided to blog about my persistent attempts to master the art of baking and cooking! Although I have had no true cooking training, I have always loved good food and truly enjoy cooking, from the preparation to watching people enjoy the end result. I don't think I want to attend culinary school, so I decided to teach myself and try and learn from the resultant creations what I did right and what I did wrong!

My patient fiance, Matt, is always game to try my newest creation and hasn't turned down a plate to date, but he has once said..."that recipe isn't really a keeper", and I took the hint!

I am always looking for advice, favorite recipes from friends and family, and new ideas to keep my pushing myself to try new dishes and new ingredients.

I hope if you follow this blog you will be brave enough to add your advice and or recipes for me to try!

Let the games begin!