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Yet, I’ve been filled. Filled with the love a Mum has for her children no matter how old they are or what they are doing. It’s easy to say I’m proud of them when they’re making terrific leaps in life. But I’ve also been here long enough to understand that they struggle, too. We all do.
Life is like a rhubarb season. Rhubarb grows where planted, but comes into fruitfulness slowly, within it’s own timing. Rhubarb has amazing fruit, but toxic leaves. Life is like that, too–the good intertwines with the bad.
So we bake cake! Another metaphor for life–make something tasty out of it.
Rhubarb Snack Cake
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups fresh rhubarb stalks
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a Kitchen Aid like I do (and yes, I brought it with me when I drove over to Montana) just toss all the ingredients except the rhubarb into the mixer and mix until creamy and smooth. That’s the easy buckaroo way. My son-in-law is a talented baker and would first cream the butter, then add the sugar, wet ingredients and finally the dry ingredients. But we both agree on folding the chopped rhubarb in at the last. Pour the mixture into a 9” x 13” baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Give it the finger-press-test: gently press a fingertip to the middle of the cake. If it leaves no indentation, then it is done. Set on a rack to cool.
The following is a snack cake (no frosting needed). Easy, tasty and fulfilling!
Spring is subtle. While it’s difficult to capture the exact moment when grass greens or to know when the last snow squall will cover tilled sod or early peas, the light has returned to our days noticeably. I’ve read that it is light, not warmth, that triggers the return of migratory birds. This explains why robins show up, pecking at piles of snow.
Warmth, we can still gather from our ovens. And from a shot of whiskey.
On these spring mornings when the ranch pastures are coated with heavy frost, bread pudding seems like a direct line to heaven. Whiskey Bread Pudding is versatile. You can use up stale bread or cinnamon bagels. When company comes a’calling you can let a loaf of French bread harden on the shelf and then break it up for bread pudding.
In addition to using different breads, you can change the flavor profile easily. Sometimes I’ll toss in a cupful of frozen huckleberries or add raisins and cinnamon. Tomorrow, I’m making pumpkin bread pudding for guests to serve with linguica for breakfast. It’s supposed to be a cold spring day so we’ll enjoy the warmth of bread pudding and who knows–maybe we’ll splash a little whiskey into our coffee cups.
Whiskey Bread Pudding (Pumpkin Version)
- 5 cups of torn chunks of baguette
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup pumpkin
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. freshly crushed cardamon (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. whiskey
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Tear apart a stale baguette (about 5 cups) into a 13″ x 9″ baking pan (ungreased). Mix remaining ingredients until smooth, like pumpkin-colored satin. Pour mixture over the bread. Bake for about 40 minutes, until an inserted butter-knife pulls out clean. You may need to bake 5 to 10 minutes longer.
You can serve this with whipped cream or whipped cream and Whiskey Sauce. Why not? It’s spring and it’s still chilly!
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 beaten egg yolk
- 2 Tbsp. water
- 2 Tbsp. whiskey
Melt butter, add sugar, yolk and water into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it boils and the sugar crystals have dissolved. Remove from stove and add whiskey. Serve warm over warm bread pudding.
While warmth is the key factor to yummy bread pudding, whipped cream forms best with cold utensils. I place my Kitchen Aid whisk and bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before whipping up the cream. Or you can use a buckaroo cheat–Cool Whip.
(Note: the photo below is of a blueberry version which omits the pumpkin and spices, increases the milk to 2 and 1/4 cups, reduces the bread to 4 cups (I used cinnamon bread for this one), omits the whiskey and is baked in an 8 x8 inch pan. Experimenting with bread pudding is easy!)
My Great-Grandmother Clara had a Portuguese last name, but she was half Scots and half French-Basque. Growing up, I knew her as an aged, lean woman who liked to laugh and gamble at the nickle slots. She was a fiery old lady. In fact all the Kincaids were known for their heat in the small cow-town of Tres Pinos, California. They were tough pioneers and buckaroos with a fighting-spirit.
This Scots clan clung fiercely to their Catholic faith despite being kicked out of Scotland for fighting on behalf of the Bonnie Prince Charlie back in the mid-18th century. My particular ancestral line of Kincaids settled in Virginia then Missouri before pushing cattle into California to build up ranches that would feed the gold-rush miners. Great-Grandma Clara’s grandfather, James Kincaid, settled in the San Benito County area where hills and valleys were rich for growing hay and cattle. The Kincaids even helped to build the Tres Pinos Catholic Church.
Tres Pinos was the furthest inland from San Francisco that the train pushed. This track traveled through vineyards, orchards and ranches known to Steinbeck, and any story of his that I’ve read, I can’t help but picture the place of my birth; the same place where Great-Grandma Clara was born; the place where buckaroos come from. The Kincaid women were tough. Clara’s mother was a justice of the peace and famous for orneriness.
One Kincaid woman, an aunt of Clara’s, decided she had enough of being a ranch wife and left her husband and children, stepping onto that San Francisco bound train with a young, handsome cowboy. The story goes–which is printed for posterity in an old 1880s Tres Pinos newspaper–that the aunt’s husband met her at the station with a gun. He shot the young swain, but didn’t frighten his wife at all who simply yelled at her husband, wrapped her cowboy’s wounded arm and left on the train.
So it should come as no surprise that Great-Grandma Clara like food that matched the temperament in her Kincaid blood. She liked it hot. This recipe is a bit of an alteration on my part. Originally Clara heaped this cheese-topping on a split loaf of French bread, but I use it for quesadillas. Serve it with sliced mangoes for lunch or along side vegetable soup for dinner.
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2-4 Tbsp spicy taco sauce
- 1 can diced jalapenos (or you can use mild green peppers)
- 1 can chopped black olives
- 1/2-cup chopped red onion
Simply mix all the ingredients. When ready to make quesadillas, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I prefer white-corn tortillas, but you can use your own preference. Set out as many tortillas as you want (my cookie sheet accommodates six at a time, but usually I just make one or two for myself for lunch). scoop cheese mixture onto each tortilla, spreading evenly. Top with a second tortilla. Bake for five minutes and then carefully flip. Bake for another three to five minutes. Serve with sliced fruit, rice or a green salad to counter the heat.
A friend in Minnesota regularly posts anything-bacon on my Facebook wall. She knows that a buckaroo likes her bacon. One recipe looked hot–as in spicy-hot-wings-hot. The first time I fixed it, my husband insisted that it required at least two beers to finish eating his plateful. Yep, it’s hot and you can tone down the heat by reducing the amount of Tabasco Sauce. But don’t skimp on the bacon.
Buffalo Chicken and Potatoes
- 1/4-cup melted butter
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1Tbsp. crushed black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 5 Tbsp. Tabasco Sauce (reduce if needed)
- 2 pounds boneless chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 10 medium red potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 8 slices of bacon
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Any recipe that calls for crushed peppercorns, get your hammer. Seriously. Place the measured amount into a small baggie and set on a stout cutting board. Hammer the pepercorns until crushed.
Using a large mixing bowl, mix butter, garlic, seasoning and hot sauce. Toss the potatoes in the bowl, coating them well with sauce. Spread potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn potatoes with a spatula after 15 minutes.
In the meantime, cut up the bacon into small squares and fry until crisp. Drain on a paper-towel draped over a plate. Chunk the chicken, shred the cheese and dice the green onions. When the potatoes are ready to come out of the oven, carefully slide the potatoes and sauce into a rectangular 2-quart casserole. Layer the chicken, then cheese, then bacon, then onions on top. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Heed this ranch kitchen warning: the sauce the potatoes are roasting in is mighty hot. When you open the oven to flip the potatoes, there will be steam and there will be Tabasco laced in that steam. Be careful not to singe off your eyebrows, scald your face or blind your eyes.
And don’t let that warning frighten you. If you like buffalo chicken and bacon, you will love this casserole. Serve it with a wedge of iceberg lettuce, celery stalks and cool, ranch-dressing. When your mouth gets hot, swallow some cold amber lager or lemonade.
As I sit at my desk and write, I smell of A-1 Steak Sauce. That’s because I forgot my protective cooking gear, namely an apron. The belly of my t-shirt is wet from a hasty scrub of dishes, and you get the picture–I was rushed fixing dinner at the ranch tonight.
You see, my husband is coming home after a week of working across state borders in Moses Lake, WA. He’s an A&P mechanic, turning wrenches on planes. Work is up and down; right now it’s up thus he deserves a nice home-cooked meal after working 10 hours and driving home three.
Only thing is, I have no sense of time. My intentions ran high earlier today as I baked a yellow cake while hauling wood and building a fire to heat the house. He called on his break and I promised dinner in the oven by 7 p.m. Well, shoot-fire, it’s 7:15 and the dogs are near collapse because I forgot their 6 p.m. kibble. Who can keep track of all this AND write?
Rushing downstairs, tossing kibble into bowls I open the fridge. Hamburger. Oh, now I remember–I was going to make hamburger-lentil soup with cheddar dumplings. That’s out of the question at this late hour. Ah, meatloaf. That’s quick and the house will greet my hubby with a savory aroma. Oh, yeah, and I need to use up those mushrooms so I’ll saute them in garlic butter and toss them in the loaf. Scrumptious.
But alas, I’m out of Muir Glen Organic Ketchup (best ketchup in the universe, f.y.i.). Then I see the A-1 Sauce. That will pair nicely with the mushrooms. When our kids were little (they’re grown, so don’t think I left them in a chicken coop or something while hubby was away) they used to call A-1 Sauce, “9-1-1 Sauce.” Not sure why but we let the nickname stick. Tonight it fits; A-1 Sauce to the rescue!
Recipe From the Ranch: 9-1-1 Meatloaf
- 1.5 pounds hamburger
- 1/4 cup Panko crumbs
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 4 Tbsp. half and half
- 1/2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 package of sliced mushrooms (4 oz.)
- 3 cloves hard-neck garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. tarragon
- 1/4 cup A-1 Sauce
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Get the mushrooms sauteing in the butter with the garlic and tarragon. While that’s going, mix the rest of the ingredients (except A-1 Sauce) into the hamburger; don’t be prissy about using your hands. Do wash your hands after mixing. Once the mushrooms are smelling divine and are soft, add to the meatloaf mixture. I dump the mixture diagonally into a square glass baking pan and mound it into a loaf with a nice flat top. The measurement for the A-1 Sauce is an approximation. The idea is to cover the top of the loaf. Sprinkle with extra tarragon for garnish. Cover with foil and bake for one hour.
While making the meatloaf, I scrub a couple of Idaho potatoes, prick each side with a fork and toss into the oven. After 30 minutes, I flip the potatoes and start steaming fresh broccoli on the stove.
A note about the half and half–we don’t drink milk, and I bake with buttermilk. The only other dairy I have on hand is the hubby’s coffee creamer (and if your creamer is something like Irish Cream Coffee Mate, use your horse-sense and don’t put it in meatloaf).