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Ranch Recipes

First a saloon, and now a rotation of new columns from writers across the ranch. Carrot Ranch is gathering in the literary community as the world pauses and hunkers down.

Every Monday, you can expect to have fun with Kid and Pal, creations of D. Avery, who will operate the Saddle Up Saloon where Ranchers and their characters can gather. D. will interview characters and their creators, prompt writers, and generally keep the wit and writing flowing.

Every Tuesday, you can expect a column and a “closed call” in rotation among a fine array of Ranchers, including H.R.R. Gorman, Anne Goodwin, Bill Engleson, Ann Edall-Robson, Susan Sleggs, Norah Colvin, Sherri Matthews and me, Charli Mills.

Columns will vary in topic and include a call to participate. For example, I’m going to ask if any of you have recipes to share today. You can respond in the comments. A “closed call” means we are not link-sharing, blog hopping or publishing submissions. We want to create weekly social engagement and give writers a chance to play in the Carrot Ranch sandbox. Have fun! Be social!

We will continue as normal with the 99-word story challenges on Thursdays to share links, blogs, and publish submissions to the collection. If you want to publish in the collection, remember to enter the submission form. If you want to respond to any Monday or Tuesday prompts, do so in the comments.

Ranch Recipes made use of easily transported food that could feed large gatherings. It was said that my great-grandmother, who was a ranch cook, had no concept of making a small meal. Her recipes include beef and paired well with pinto beans.

Shortages at the grocery store will challenge us to think beyond our standard fixings. A good shift in thinking is to practice substitutions. How can you make a familiar dish from different ingredients? How can you alter it to reduce preparation time? Great-grandma’s enchiladas are time-consuming to make. This recipe is an easy one that alters her original but maintains a similar flavor. It’s also similar to lasagne but doesn’t call for pasta, which might not be in stock.

Enchilada Casserole

1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 cup black olives
1 medium can Enchilada Sauce
12 corn tortillas
1/3 cup cheddar cheese shredded

Brown ground beef and onions together for about 10 to 12 minutes, drain. Spray a casserole or pan (8×12 inches). Place half of tortillas in bottom. Spoon half of beef mixture on top and sprinkle with half the olives. Then layer the last tortillas, beef mixture, olives and cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve with beans, garlic bread, and a green salad.

What if you can’t find beef? Try chicken or pork instead. A vegetarian option replaces the meat with 2 cups cooked rice, 1 can of black beans, and 1 can of corn. A vegan option replaces the cheese with a nut “cheese.” If you can’t find enchilada sauce, use any kind of jarred salsa or taco sauce. Corn tortillas last in the fridge much longer than flour tortillas. They make a great substitute if your store is short on bread.

Bottom line is to not panic and ranch forward. What would a chuckwagon boss do? Take stock of what is available, and use your creativity to play with ingredients and alter familiar recipes.

What tips or altered recipes are helping you shop during a shortage? Share in the comments.


  1. tedstrutz says:

    I think I will make this tonight, I’ve not done this method before. I was just heading to the store, hopefully they have tortillas, I haven’t looked lately, but we have a large Mexican population on the island, so I would imagine if available they will be there. I have a can of enchilada sauce in the cupboard somewhere. I think I will do 3 layers and add some corn to the mix. I think I have a jar of Trader Joe’s Corn Relish which would make for some awesome flavor. Oh, some green 🌶(I know that’s red but I’m using green). Thank the Chuckwagon Boss for me.

    I should write a story for you sometime about when I worked haying at a cattle ranch one summer in the 50’s, my dad figured it would make me see the light about going to college.

    • tedstrutz says:

      HouseBoat Chicken… put some chicken pieces (your choice, I like thighs), a lot of cilantro, some olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a bag and let sit for a lot of hours then throw on the grill. Cooking tip: use a plastic bag not a paper one.

      • Charli Mills says:

        You had me at “a lot of cilantro”! Thanks for sharing and I like all your ideas for the Enchilada Casserole. I’d love to hear your story sometime about haying. I used to love to climb the hay stacks and play up top.

      • tedstrutz says:

        This was the first post I wrote when I started my blog in 2010. I had no idea what I was doing, but had seen a woman’s blog and it looked like fun. She had done a story for Plinky, which is no more, so I thought I’d try. The prompt was ‘what is your favorite summer vacation’. I’ve had a lot of nice summer vacations, but I will never forget this one. Seems perfect for the Carrot Ranch.

      • tedstrutz says:

        Oh, btw, I did make the enchiladas. Delicious. I didn’t put in enough sauce, but that was remedied with the leftovers, which I am still eating.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Cowboy Ted! I enjoyed your post thoroughly. And glad you enjoyed the enchiladas. That’s some old-time ranch fare. My grandfather ran his cattle in Portola for a few years when he was in between ranch foreman jobs. If you know where Markleeville is, that’s where I grew up and worked for the Jubilee Ranch, an outfit from Jack’s Valley, Nevada that had mountain summer pasture around Markleeville. You stimulated some memories! I can smell the hay.

      • tedstrutz says:

        I do know Markleeville, but I’ve never been. Damn, you know what? I just realized that one of the first posts I did for Friday Fictioneers would have been perfect for your Rabbit Week. I may enter it anyway.

      • tedstrutz says:

        That was from the summer I spent haying. I was on one side and my friend was on the other and his brother was driving. I had never shot a shotgun before. Someone could have been killed, what were we thinking? Kids.

  2. Jules says:

    I’m just getting better about using left overs. I made some roasted mixed veg to use as is (as a side for a fish dish), and to added some of that same veg mix to pasta sauce over cheese ravioli. I saved some of the jarred sauce for homemade pizza on naan bread – that’s what we had tonight. The pizza with zucchini slices and chopped onion.

    Good eats makes for healthier bodies and that’s always a good thing 🙂

    • tedstrutz says:

      For happier bodies too, Jules. Now I want some cheese ravioli, that sounds good with the roasted veggies.

      • Jules says:

        I also like easy Dutch Oven meals… (just a pot or pan you can cover and put in the oven)…

        Any veggies you want chopped more or less the same size. If I use a piece of beef I sear it first, but not chicken parts. Put your protein on top of your veggies and add one cup of stock (low salt, store bought or your own home made) – then add whatever spices you might want on top. Top the Dutch Oven put it in the middle of the oven and let it go on 350 F for about an hour and a half and it’s ready to eat. I’ll save my easy stir fry for next time… if I forget you can remind me. 😀

        I buy ready made ravioli. The last batch I bought is something new – spinach is added in the cheese filling!

      • I made a pork roast the other night adding potatoes and carrots! It was a delicious one-pot meal and it served the entire extended family. Thanks for the encouragement! C

      • Jules says:

        One of the cooking show I watch also has one sheet pan dinners. I think you have to adjust it just a little by cooking the protein at least part of the way first and then adding the veg (again whatever you fancy).

        Try some parsnip – it gets very sweet when cooked. 🙂 I like adding extra onions and of course to keep the vampires away one needs garlic! 😉

      • tedstrutz says:

        I love one sheet dinners! Yes, Jules, you are right about the meat. That is key.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I love Dutch Oven cooking — the original slow cooker! That’s such a great idea, to remake a dish out of leftovers. We have an old-time supper club in Hancock that has had the same owner for 50 years and he makes the best home-made ravioli! Spinach and cheese are a tasty combination!

  3. This looks great, and I really like your vegetarian suggestions – any type of Enchilada sauce you recommend?

    • Charli Mills says:

      If you are going vegetarian and use flour tortillas and Jack cheese (or not), try green. If you use corn tortillas and cheddar cheese (or not) try red. The black olives go best with the corn tortillas and red sauce. Green chilis would be great with the green sauce.

      • Ooh, the green chilis and green sauce sound good.

      • tedstrutz says:

        I used a combo of Jack and cheddar, shaved. I’m doing tomatillo sauce next time. My next door neighbors are from Mexico and grow tomatillos in our the back yard and Maria makes the best sauce. I’ll have to use store bought I’m afraid. It’s always a treat when she brings something over.

        Definitely add the green chilies, I like Ortega fire roasted whole ones and cut them in big chunks.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I haven’t had tomatillo sauce in years! That would be good. I like the idea of chopping up the whole green chilis into bigger chunks. I hadn’t thought of that.

  4. eLPy says:

    This is great! I’m sorry I don’t really have a recipe, but I will share that I had a couple leftover baked potatoes. I reheated them cut in half, made a few slices, added some butter, provolone cheese slice on top, reheated some more, sea salt veggie mix with a side of chopped of avocado. Some bites were both. It was really quite good and simple. And last I check potatoes were in alright stock at the store and they last a while. 🙂

    • Simple is always good. I think everyone is going to be more mindful about not wasting food and using their leftovers creatively.

    • I often find a leftover (or brand new) baked potato topped with whatever leftovers are around makes quite a good meal. Surprisingly filling, too. Leftover beans? Toss them on with some salsa and cheese. Leftover salsa that’s languishing? Toss it on the potato alone, even! Leftover hamburger, chicken, or other meat? Chop it up, toss it on. Just about any vegetable works. Fun for kids, too – they can go to town getting creative.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Great ideas for extending baked potatoes! I love avocado and your tip sounds delicious! Save back some of your potatoes and let the eyes sprout, and plant them.

  5. Ranch recipes, awesome! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better around here, Charli rolls out the chuckwagon.
    Recipes are prompts, not rules, I shall return later when I have been inspired. As the real hunkering truly begins, I wonder what meals I might concoct. I wonder what I actually have, as I shop somewhat impulsively. Pantser through and through, I feel I have plenty of food, but can’t recall a clear plan. I recall that I have a rather large cabbage. Hmmm. What was I thinking? Probably that cabbage keeps well. Or that two heads are better than one. I’ll see what else I have and get back to you.

    Ms. Mills, are you still running that sourdough? My last loaf was just starter, whole wheat flour and chocolate oatmeal stout. A little salt and oil of course. Wonderful bread! Good and good for you.

    • I have many ideas for cabbage. Ask me anything. Just used it tonight, in fact, for a big skillet of lahanorizo (Greek cabbage and rice).

    • Here you go, D. We just had this last night. Super easy. Surprisingly filling.

      As the post author says, your best choice for rice is a nice white medium grain because it does indeed get that creamy texture. But I used half that and half brown last night and it was still plenty creamy and just as delicious. I also had to cook a bit longer to adjust for the brown rice, but still awesome. Adjust the spiciness as you need. Don’t skimp on the lemon at the end!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It pushes us to get creative with our pantries. We are fortunate to have a supply chain yet intact. Yes, there is TP in the Keweenaw. Some shortages and the co-op ended special orders, for now, to prioritize keeping shelves stocked. I was feeling nostalgic and thinking of how much I used to love the creativity of cooking. Cabbage makes nice roll-ups for seasoned rice or hamburger. I love to chop it up into fried potatoes ith shredded carrots and bacon.

      Well, now that you ask, I have to confess I killed my starter. I was going to town baking bread for people and crumpets every morning for us and I kept feeding it and it started to turn grey. It caught a bad something. I was sad and tried to rescue it but it kept getting grayer. I might have been to freehanded with it, I’m sure what happened. But I miss it and was going to buy a scale and crock and maybe pay better attention to amounts.

      • Oh. My. I need a minute.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

        Ok. I started that starter pretty easily. Just flour and water on the counter. It self started.
        Mine is going strong. I have only ever used white bread flour (King Arthur) for the starter, it is my one consistency.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Why did it die? (That sounds so mournful, but I also ask for practical reasons).

      • Temperature? Did it go long without getting fed and start to turn?
        I’ll ask my source, the quiller of Crescents & Coils.
        It was easy to start my own too, just set flour and water going let it catch some air.

    • Jules says:

      Besides just coleslaw… stuffed cabbage is good. I didn’t see Lisa’s recipe yet. But I’m sure it is good. Use your bigger outer leaves for the stuffed cabbage and then the smaller ones for coleslaw.

      And coleslaw is really just salad – any veg you want with a little mayo. Cut thicker or minced to ity bits. Some drown the stuff in vinegar and maybe some sugar instead of mayo.

  6. susansleggs says:

    My hubby is now working at home, so we are having a big breakfast at 10 am. A 1 pm snack and 7 pm dinner. This morning I made my first ever batch of corned beef hash because I had a couple of potatoes, onions, banana peppers, and sliced corned beef. I fried them all together then made two wells in the hash to fry eggs in. Pumpernickle toast finished off the meal. (I chickened out trying to poach the eggs.) There were no leftovers.

  7. I love this! When husband was so rudely relieved of his job back in 2012 we embarked on a long period of financial frustration. We have had to get pretty creative at stretching our dollars and stretching our food supplies. I’ve learned a lot about how to be pennywise and how to make pretty darn good meals out of pretty much of nothing. I find my tendency to be a pantser helps quite a bit in this department. LOL

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! Yes, being a panster in the kitchen helps. You can get creative and frugal. We’ve had tight time but always good meals. Thanks for all your ideas!

  8. I’m not a cook, but one-pan rice and lentils is one of my favourite dinners! You can spice it up with pickle/chutney added to individual plates and add whatever veg is in the fridge as a side.

    • This recipe column/sharing is reminding me of Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. (yeah, I read some)
      Dang, wish I’d picked up lentils, now that you mention them. Thinking I’m going to go with what’s in the house for a while.

    • Ooh, chutney in lentils and rice – hadn’t thought of that! I always end up with chutney after a recipe and it just sits. Good tip, Anne.

    • I’m remembering the making do with cupboard contents more than any specific recipes, and grim circumstances, though not as grim as present reality. Sheltering in place when their shelter was collapsing around them. Also one of those two stories in one novel deals. I remember it took me a bit to get into it, then I quite liked it.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I like to make curried turkey meatballs with chutney and rice, but I’ll have to try it with lentils instead. I love the bulk section at our co-op and I’ve got a full canister of dried lentils. Versatile veg changes up things!

  9. Norah says:

    I don’t usually have a lot in my pantry. I’m used to shopping fresh a couple of times a week. My Mum would have been great at this. She was known for her ability to feed a crowd from 2 fish and 5 loaves, or less. With a family of twelve to feed every day, all her meals were nutritious and economical. I didn’t take after her in the cooking stakes. I cook to eat to live. But only if I have to. 🙂

  10. Jim Borden says:

    I love the community that you have created, and the use of weekly columns will be a nice addition.

  11. TanGental says:

    I love cooking though I do go overboard in adding ingredients which amaze and appal my family in equal. I think if I’m offering a recipe it’s got to be the boiled orange cake.
    two large oranges boiled for two hours – weight them down with a plate so they stay submerged and top up the water if needed. Roughly chop and heave out any pips. All the rest, skin pith and all put in a food processor with 5 eggs and blitz.. Separately mix 250g of ground almond, 250 g of sugar and 1 tsp of baking powder, and whisk in the orange-eggy mix until well incorporated. Put in a well buttered cake tin (10 inches – I line the bottom with parchment paper) and cook at 190C/375F for about 65-70 mins depending on your oven. Stick in a skewer to see if it’s cooked and cool. Eat!!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, my, Geoff! That sounds like a delicious sponge with the oranges and almond meal. I might even have almond meal in the pantry. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jules says:

      I’m not so good with baking on the fly…. I like to doctor boxed recopies.
      I always use at least half the water replacing the other half with applesauce. And I always add dried fruit. The cranberry muffing or bread mixes might have one cranberry cut into minuscule bits that you need a magnifier to locate. Takes a little longer to bake, but use your toothpicks and when they come out clean – they are done.

      • TanGental says:

        Sounds like a plan. If I can I cut the sugar by half. Recipes always have too much.

      • Jules says:

        I’ve been using a supposed natural sugar sub in my coffee… I generally only add salt to boiling water – I try to used spices and herbs for flavor.

        There was a story about a famous guy (back in the day…) who when he was interviewing – took his ‘person’ out to lunch. If the person salted their food before even tasting it he was polite to continue the lunch, but would never hire them.

        I watch a bunch of cooking shows that say salt is needed to bring out flavor. I guess I’m used to tasting real food that I don’t see what the extra salt does.

        Everything in moderation… Adding fruit to baked stuff – I think that would make it easy to cut out some of the refined sugar because fruit has its own natural sugars. 🙂

  12. Ann Edall Robson says:

    This is awesome. I love to cook, can and bake but tend to lean towards the forever favourites. This evening I shared my sourdough starter recipe with a friend who has run out of yeast. I have lots and would have shared, but she is 2 hours away. Yes, apparently yeast is now becoming hard to find in our neck of the woods.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m sad, as I told D. I killed my starter. Flour is in short supply here, but I’ve got plenty and have been making scones on Sundays in a cast iron pan. Nice of you to share your starter! Cooking is a huge part of your creative process and books, too.

      • Ann Edall Robson says:

        Awww Charli, I’m sorry to hear you lost your starter. Perhaps when you make a new batch, you might want to consider drying some for future use. You know, just in case.

        Here’s what I do.
        Smear the starter on some parchment paper and let it dry. When it’s completely dry, break it into flakes and place in an airtight container. I use a glass sealer. To start another batch, disolve 1/4 cup of the flakes with 1//2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. Feed as normal until it’s once again active.

        I like to do this before I have fed it BUT after I have had my starter on the go for a month or so and I have used and replenish it a few times.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, wow! That’s a great resource! D.’s encouraging me to re-start but I’d like to know how I killed the last one.

  13. Heck, Charli, I can’t even cook. After almost ruining a friend’s (who had flu) oven by forgetting to take a pizza out of its plastic base, my cooking days are long gone. I can even burn saucepans by allowing water to boil away, and I won’t also go into how I almost positioned the whole family with a version of my Sunday roast. Let’s just say that my cookery styles are very much like my dark stories.
    Thanks for the recipe, though. I’ll pass it onto my partner. I’m happy to do the washing-up, though, so throw me over a dishcloth and teatowel.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Good plan, Hugh, pass on the recipes to your partner! I have a friend whose hood over the stove had signs of smoke-staining. The first time I saw it, I said, “So, tell me about your fire.” She asked, “Which one?” Good for you — stick to the dishes!

  14. It sounds like a great recipe. The strange thing here is that I can never find corn tortillas. I’ll try this and use flour ones.

  15. Michael B. Fishman says:

    “What tips or altered recipes are helping you shop during a shortage?”

    I follow a whole food/plant based diet so shopping has been a little bit of a challenge because I’m not crazy now about getting the open vegetables that are difficult to wash which means I switched to frozen broccoli instead of fresh and I’ve stopped eating lettuce. Rice and beans make up a portion of just about every meal I make and the panic buying wiped those items off the shelves of every store I went to and they’re very slow coming back. I called my store on Wednesday and asked if they knew when they might be getting more and she said they had a delivery that morning and she just stocked the shelves so I flew up there and got a few pounds of each which should last some time. Score! One life alteration I made was to take a break from Facebook. I find a lot of things posted there depressing, and adding in concerns about current events was the tipping point for me. Although now that I’ve read the group schedule you posted it makes me want to come back so maybe I’ll research to find a way I can set my account so I don’t see anything posted except for the Ranch.

  16. Jennie says:

    I love this!

  17. Catching up here on the columns at last, Charli! Thank you so much for your wonderful column series, I’m truly honoured and have been enjoying a wonderful round up here this morning of reading. And I am soooo happy you posted this recipe…Mike will be thrilled, he loves enchiladas! I feel like I’ve just spent a day at the Ranch riding and writing and enjoying an amazing supper around the fire afterwards 😀 <3

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