Kitchen blunders (and recipes) from ranch cooks
It’s been said that the only thing worse than a good cook who doesn’t cook is a bad cook who will. If you’ve been married to a farmer or rancher for any length of time and are expected to cook for a crowd, a kitchen flop is bound to happen, even to the best and most experienced of us, and usually at the worst times.
I’ve been married not quite four years and have had a fair amount of experience both in the kitchen and outside. This past summer we were having company for dinner and it was one of those days. My new baby was fussy and didn’t take a very good nap, the guests were early and my house still needed to be vacuumed. Due to a wild hair I had already planned to fix chicken-fried steaks, mashed potatoes and gravy. I managed to fry the steak, only slopping grease on the floor once, the potatoes were cooking and I embarked on the gravy. I decided to try a new recipe for it and I was stirring away. I happened to lift out my spatula to check the thickness and noticed that the end of the spatula was growing shorter with each pass over the bottom of the skillet. Apparently it wasn’t as heat-resistant as it claimed. Well I didn’t want anyone to die from silicone poisoning so I dumped out that batch and started over with a wooden spoon this time and my old recipe. Everyone ate my meal and my husband even commented on how good the gravy was, so all my stress over the meal was needless.
Tanna Licking of rural Seneca, Nebraska, ranch wife of 38 years was making a custard pie for her family one time and failed to put in the sugar. The pie came out of the oven looking beautiful and it wasn’t until the first bite that the truth was known. “It didn’t even taste like a good quiche” said Tanna. “and my family was very disappointed.”
Cindy Hamilton of Thedford, Nebraska remembers the first time she fried a chicken for her future husband. “I fried a boiling hen and it wasn’t very tender.”
Tough chicken apparently didn’t scare John away as they have been married for over 38 years now.
Lora Jenkins of rural Mullen, Nebraska is a ranch wife veteran of 43 years. “Branding day is always a stressful time, and I always cook my chicken the day before and let it cool on the counter. George, my husband, came in and I asked him to take out the scraps from under the sink. Later in the day I thought it was time to debone the chicken and put it in the refrigerator. I literally thought I had lost my mind when I couldn’t find the chicken; I looked everywhere, in the oven, the cupboards, and the fridge. Finally I told myself to calm down and think where I had seen it last. I asked George if he had taken the bowl from off the counter. He had and had fed a whole chicken to the cats without noticing it. It was too late to buy another one, so in the morning I made noodles without the chicken and nobody complained. One man even told me he liked the noodles better without the chicken.”
Bonnie Porath of Mullen, Nebraska, has been in the kitchen for over 50 years. Quite a few years ago she had put a roast on for supper before leaving for work. Before she got home her husband, Gaylord, decided to help out and finish the meal for her. “Gaylord added baking soda to the gravy instead of cornstarch; it blew up all over the stove. At least they had it cleaned up by the time I got home.”
Pat Finney of rural Mullen, Nebraska, a 45-year ranch wife, remembers the first time she tried to make jelly. “I picked the chokecherries and cleaned them. After cooking them into juice and straining it, I added the sugar and Sure-Jell and started cooking. My mother told me that the jelly was ready when it ‘sheeted’ off the spoon. I just kept cooking it, and it never ‘sheeted off’ the spoon in my opinion. Forty minutes later I decided it had to be done and poured it into the jars. Then I read the Sure-Jell package and the recipe said to cook for two minutes. My jelly really set up, we couldn’t get it back out of the jars and ended up having to throw everything away, jars and all.”
Erin Nelson of Lamoille, Nevada, fondly remembers her first year of married life. “I couldn’t cook and was trying hard to learn. My husband loved pie so I baked pie all the time for him. Someone gave me a jar of mincemeat filling; I saw meat on the label and made a mincemeat pie for supper, it was a little sweet for a main course. About that time Matthew told me he was tired of pie.”
Almost 10 years and 5 kids later, she’s a good cook now and he doesn’t get pie nearly as often anymore.
Failures are proof that we are trying, so if we are going to cook, there will be times our efforts fail to meet our expectations. One old ranch wife always tried to be flexible and have the meal ready whenever her husband wanted them. One day her husband came in early and expected to be fed and the food wasn’t ready. So she handed him a box of crackers and a glass of water and said. “Here’s your dinner.” And he never did that to her again. So keep crackers handy just in case you need a fast meal.
- 2 cups flour
- 3 Tbsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together dry ingredients, add cream and milk. Add enough extra flour so you can handle it, roll to about ½ to 1 inch thick, depending on preference. Cut into rounds and place on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.
LORA’S HAMBURGER AND BAKED BEAN CASSAROLE
- 4 strips bacon, browned and chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped and browned in the bacon grease
- 1 ½ lbs hamburger, browned and drained
- Add 2 Tbsp. flour to the hamburger and mix well.
- Add 1 can tomatoes, 2 cans pork and beans and ¼ cup brown sugar, stir well.
- Add bacon and onions, stir and then pour into a greased 8” casserole dish and bake 1 hour at 350.
PAT’S ICE CREAM DESSERT
- 1 package 24 count ice cream sandwiches
- ½ of large container of Cool Whip
- Chocolate and Caramel syrup
Unwrap and lay one layer of ice cream sandwiches in a 9X13″ pan.
Cover with Cool Whip and drizzle with chocolate and caramel sauce. Sprinkle with peanuts.
Add another layer of ice cream sandwiches, Cool Whip, Sauces and peanuts.
Cover and freeze. This will keep well in the freezer for quite a while.
ERIN’S PIZZA CRUST
3 cups flour
1Tbsp. dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 110 degrees
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
¾ cup cool water
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 cup flour, salt, honey, cool water and oil. Stir until smooth; add remaining flour to form a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Knead and let rise in a greased bowl until doubled, 1 hour. Punch down and roll out to fit pizza pan, add desired toppings and bake at 350 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and bottom crust browned.
DEANNA’S SIMPLE GRAVY
For each cup of milk or cream add 1 tbsp. each of butter (or drippings) and flour for a thin white sauce.
2 tbsp. each for a medium gravy
3 tbsp. of each for a very thick sauce.
Cook until the desired consistency is reached and season to taste.