Tag Archives: Ranch

Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce

Oh my gosh, where does the time go?! I’ve been pretty committed to blogging every other day or so and then April hit….holy cow! I’m barely able to fit in once or twice per week……please bear with me!

I am in charge of checking the cows every morning, which I enjoy immensely! I compared checking calves earlier this week to looking for Easter eggs….they are everywhere…..and sometimes hard to find! I count the calves every morning….I like to see how we are progressing. So far,Β  we are half done….exciting!

The other morning while checking the calving pasture I saw something extraordinary……and I hope I can describe it accurately as there was no time for pictures of any sort. The past month of checking on the cows has allowed me to see some really amazing sights. I saw my first batch of 6 coyotes hunting together. I’ve seen 3, 4, and even 5 coyotes packed up together, but never 6!!! It was amazing! They really don’t bother our cow herd that much. We have never lost a calf to a coyote attack as some people will claim they have so I wasn’t too nervous seeing them, but I always keep a watchful eye. If something looks out of order, I take note. I also always pack a gun…..in case of such problems. I’m no Annie Oakley, but I’ve been known to out shoot some of the men around here so……(guess I will pat myself on the back out of their sight!). πŸ™‚

Anyway, I cam onto a flat…..I call it “Baby Flat” because this is where our cows like to hang out with their babies. I looked across the prairie and could see little black flecks everywhere (baby calves). Our cattle are for the most part black angus and black angus cross. We have a few Corriente cows and a few Longhorns….I actually love to see their bright colors every once in awhile (eye candy). As I was checking everything out I happened to look across the flat to the hills. I saw a bunch of cows (30 or 40) acting strangely….running and circling around. As I looked on, I saw one cow in the lead…..and she was charging on. It was while I was checking her out that I discovered she was chasing something….something light colored and quick moving. Holy moly…..she was chasing a coyote…..she was in hot pursuit and not slowing down! No kidding…..she was on that coyote’s heels! She chased it all the way over the hill and kept on going! The cattle were all quite riled up by then so they all followed her. Over the ridge they went and down the hill to the dam. They didn’t stop till they got to the water….this was a trek of about a mile or so. I figured the coyote was long gone but the time I got there…..nope….there he ran….and 5 of his buddies weren’t far off. I decided then that I definitely need to keep my eyes open from then on as to these coyotes. If they become a major problem…..well, we know what happens to major problems to our livestock around here…..enough said.

The next day I searched for the coyotes, but didn’t see a single one….and I haven’t since….maybe that old cow gave that coyote a run for its life. Maybe it decided to go elsewhere and told it’s pack mates the same thing…..maybe…..we’ll see.

With all the busy days on the ranch I haven’t had a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. We’ve been up early….going all day….then eating supper sometimes at 10 pm!! Last night we got home rather late, but I decided to make something new….we deserved it! So, I made the Pioneer Woman’s Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce. O – M- G……it was too die for!!! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces, weight Jumbo Pasta Shells
  • 30 ounces, weight Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 8 ounces, weight Parmesan Cheese, Grated, Divided
  • 1/2 cup Grated Romano Cheese
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 12 leaves Basil, Chiffonade
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Parsley
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 pound Italian Sausage
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 1 whole 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 whole 15-ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Parsley

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta shells for half the cooking time; make sure not to overcook. Drain and rinse in cool water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add Italian sausage and brown, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Pour in red wine and let it cook for a minute or two.

Pour in cans of crushed tomatoes and stir. Add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasonings; can add crushed red peppers if you like a little heat.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, half the Parmesan, Romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Stir until combined.

To assemble, coat the bottom of a baking dish with sauce. Fill each half-cooked shell with the cheese mixture. Place face down on the sauce. Repeat with shells until cheese mixture is gone. Top shells with remaining sauce. Sprinkle on extra Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with crusty French bread.

Here are my pictures of my cooking adventure:

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How good was it? My husband (and I) flipped….he rarely gets excited about anything besides steak, but he absolutely loved it!! πŸ™‚ 2 thumbs up, Pioneer Woman…..this is absolutely divine! Give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Enjoy! ~Cheyenne

First Time Pizza & Martha

We tagged our heifers yesterday. Basically this means that we took out the I.D. buttons that were in their ears and replaced them with ear tags that mean something to us in our record book. We use numbers on our tags plus the year on them as well to identify what year these particular heifers were born. This is what our ear tags look like (this year we are using purple).

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Working cows around here is a family effort. Even though Stone had oral surgery on Tuesday….he was out helping us like a trooper. Most ranch kids are this way…..Shane and I can totally relate because we were both raised like this. It taught us the value of working hard at a young age. The term “Cowboy Up” comes to mind when I think about our lifestyle. We don’t get sick days…..someone always has to be available to check on things around here and take care of our livestock. Ranch kids don’t shirk their responsibilities and they grow up understanding the importance of pulling their weight. I am truly so glad we get to raise Stone in the same fashion. I truly think it’s a gift to be a rancher. Here is Stone pushing up the heifers….he did a great job too!

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Stone is fortunate enough to have a few cows to call his own. His most gentle cow is #76. She was obviously someone’s bottle calf at one point. This isn’t commonplace what I’m about to show you!

Stone on his cow

She’s a great cow….and she’s young so we hope to have many more fun-filled years at the caking pickup with her! Next up in the “gentle” category is Stone’s soon-to-be-milk cow, Meet Martha!

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She is a “milk cow-in-training”. She hangs out with our heifers in the calving lot and is one step closer to learning the ropes around here. Milk cows are essential on a ranch. We use them primarily for a good milk source for any bum calves we have along the way. Stone recently found out about milking cows….he’s all fired up about milking Martha. That won’t take place until next year as Martha has to wait until this spring/summer to meet a handsome boyfriend.Β  Stone is pretty proud of Martha….can’t you tell?!

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Martha has a lot to learn in the next year….primarily…..how to wear a halter and how to lead. She really needs to be as gentle as a kitten by next spring….we are hoping that she is as quiet and nice as she is now come next March!

Our first step with her today is to get her accustomed to her new halter. Shane is putting it on her here.

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We will keep a close watch on it as time goes on….inevitably she will grow and her halter will need to be adjusted to grow with her. She really is a nice Holstein heifer. She even got a new pick ear tag that said “Martha” on it with Stone’s brand on the back of it. πŸ™‚

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She doesn’t seem to mind her new halter at all!Β Stone gives her some pets to reassure her that all is okay. πŸ™‚

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Animals and children really are gifts from God. We are blessed to have them both in our lives. My son is at the center of everything we do. We are truly blessed to be parents and we know it…..we are thankful always. Teaching our son the value of animals in our livelihood and how to care from him is truly a bonus in what we do for a living. I took a selfie today…..not something I do all the time, but I couldn’t resist. I had the best cowhand by my side today…..who cares about the dirt on our faces…..it’s pure happiness in our hearts doing what we love to do!

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We had a great day working heifers…..great weather and each others company….what more can you ask for?!

As I mentioned yesterday I have never made pizza from scratch…..GASP!!! Haha…..I think it’s rather funny and odd that I’ve never done it before…..I don’t know why…..just never have. I guess I should reword that….I have made homemade pizza before, but I let my bread maker do all the work for me. Talk about a nightmare kneading that dough…..ugh! By the time the second one came around I grabbed for my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it do all the work.Β  I still can’t feel my left hand…..I have an old injury in my left wrist that really flares up when I have to do certain strenuous things….kneading dough is one of them….so……I’m all about modern conveniences when it comes to that. Forget about doing it old school!

Anyway, I started with this:

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I used the recipe for the pizza crust on the back. I won’t go into all the details of that. It was relatively easy once I got the hang of it……I have to be honest here….Thankfully there were three packets because I ruined the first batch. UGH!!! I’m not afraid to admit that I’m far from perfect…..I have occasional accidents in the kitchen….and this was one of them. Check this out:

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Doesn’t that look yummy?! Haha…..it was hard, dry, and gross….it went in the garbage. The next batch I made…..I slowed down and added half as much flour…..what a huge improvement. I tend to do things too fast some of the time…..guess I won’t do that again when making pizza dough!

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My second batch….I used my mixer like I mentioned. Both of these batches turned out perfectly. Mama Mia….I love pizza!

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I used my two pizza stones from Pampered Chef….I love them both and I’ve used them a ton as you can tell from the looks of this one.

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I sprinkled them both with corn meal to give a little slip under the dough.

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I spread out the dough (does that sound like the right term?) and then used my fingers to push in little holes all over the place. I was told this helps prevent air bubbles in the crust as it is baking.

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Next I put on the pizza sauce.

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Then on went the cheese!

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About this time, my little boy asked what I was doing. He got so excited about putting the pepperonis on……I love his excitement at this age!

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He did a great job! Now it’s ready for the oven:

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I baked both pizzas (one at a time) in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes each. They were both perfect! I swear I could each pizza daily and it wouldn’t phase me…..as long as someone else can knead the dough for me….I’m good!

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Do any of you make your own pizza? I’m totally inspired now. My mom and I absolutely love the Tuscan Roma pizza at Pizza Ranch. It has a base of alfredo sauce and is topped with spinach and tomatoes….Yummo!!! I’m going to try some exotic mixtures like that next time I do this…..like in a few days…..I wasn’t kidding when I said I love pizza…..Stone agrees with me….pizza once a day would be heavenly! ~Cheyenne

Feeding Our Cattle & 4B’s Cream of Tomato Soup

Stone and I are home alone this morning on the ranch. My mom is in Arizona visiting her sister and the guys (Shane & my dad) are hauling hay. So, we are the feeding crew today!

Back before I had Stone I was outside all the time….I wasn’t much of a domesticated gal back then. Don’t get me wrong….I loved to cook, but I wasn’t passionate about it like I am now. After I had Stone, I was pretty much housebound for quite a few years. I’m not trying to make it sound like I was isolated….I wasn’t…..I was where I needed to be….keeping the home fire burning. πŸ™‚ I didn’t quite know how to take the first year in stride, but eventually as Stone grew older and was able to do more I developed a true love of my kitchen and the things I could create there. I like to do a lot of things in there that involve my son. I like to think that I am preparing him to be self-sufficient later in life…..he is good help and he loves to “cook”. πŸ™‚

Anyway, Stone is 5…..so I’ve had 5 years of not being out doing chores all day every day like I used to. I still water the horses, feed the chickens, tend to our dogs and barn cats….that kind of stuff, but as far as going out feeding and chopping water….it doesn’t happen as often as it used to…..and us being on our own doing it is almost unheard of.

I certainly wasn’t apprehensive about doing it…..I was raised a ranch girl so these kinds of things don’t daunt me…..except for when it comes to my folks’ white Dodge hydra bed pickup.

Insert some scary music…..maybe the Jaws theme is appropriate here! πŸ™‚

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The problem is that it pops out of first gear all the time (my folks have tried to have it fixed, but I think it’s past that). So, when carrying a 1,000 lb+ bale, it’s hard to start out in anything but first gear! The seat doesn’t move closer to the petals and the seat also squishes down so short people like me can barely see over the dash. I’m sure I am quite a sight driving it! However, many cuss words and a sore hand later…..I had it mastered. We grabbed the bale we needed and headed off to feed my folks’ heifers. It really went much smoother than I anticipated! *Why not sell the pickup or get rid of it…..well, it’s paid for….and if you are a rancher you know the value of inching by when you can!*

We feed cake (cylinder compressed feed that looks kind of like a vegetative hotdog if you will), hay, and lick tubs (plastic tubs full of a hard-almost-like molasses/syrup kind of stuff full of protein, fat, and vitamins/minerals) to our cattle.

Here are some heifers bellied up to one of the lick tubs:

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We started our day off by feeding our heifers with our caking pickup. Feeding this way is so convenient and easy (the feeder dumps out however much feed you set it to dump out – from 2-8 lbs. mostly). The most important thing to know is how many pounds you need to feed to each critter. Counting (to figure out how many “dumps” to put out) is critical as overfeeding can lead to all sorts of bad problems. Stone is a great help with counting…..plus, it helps him to learn math and to see how useful it is in every day life (we’ll save the algebra discussion for future years)! Here is my co-pilot for the day:

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Every good rancher needs a good cow dog….or three! That’s what we have…..3 great girls who are part of our family. Meet Sky, Tee, and Remi……they make our lives complete!

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Once we finished feeding our heifers and breaking open the pit (our water supply for the heifers), it was time to feed my folks’ heifers with the hydra bed. My job with it was to unroll one bale of hay for the heifers. They heard me coming and boy, were they eager!

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In case you are wondering, here is what a bale of hay looks like:

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Hay bales can be all different kinds (grass, alfalfa, oat, etc.). These are crested wheat grass bales. Bales like these can weigh anywhere from 1,000 – 1,400 lbs. They are made by cutting down grass or whatever the hay bales will consist of with a swather. Then they are baled up with a baler (pretty easy to understand, right?!) Hay bales are relatively easy to feed, but there is something that is vitally important when feeding like this:Β  REMOVE ALL THE STRING!

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The string is what keeps the bale’s shape and keeps it from falling apart….it is called Baler Twine……and it can absolutely ruin a critter’s stomach (it can even cause death if ingested so it’s vital to ensure that it is all removed). Removing it can sometimes be a task. First, you much cut all the strings with a knife or something sharp:

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Then you have to pull the strings (this can prove to be rather difficult if the bale is frozen or if the strings get wound up – as pictured).

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I had a tangle problem so I had to cut the string much more than normal. As I walked around the side of the bale to remove the strings I saw a heifer with some of it in her mouth as she tried to gulp down some hay. Here is what it looked like when I pulled it out of her mouth:

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She had already swallowed it by the time I pulled it out. Ick, huh?! How do you think that would have looked in her stomach if I wouldn’t have caught it? I continued to cut the string and pull it until it was all off the bale. I did a second inspection to make sure and then I coiled it up and wrapped it. There’s a lot of string on just a single bale! We have a lot of this around the ranch…..we try to reuse it as much as we can. I had to chuckle over some website out there with ideas on what to do with it. This site is pretty helpful: Top Ten Things to Do with Baler Twine.

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Knowing that the string was all removed, I jumped into the Dodge and fed the bale. It’s common for a bale to fall off the hydra bed arms when it gets towards the last 1/4 of the bale. Sure enough….it happened to me today….the girls jumped on it!

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No problem…..I simply jumped out of the pickup, walked back thee and proceeded to unroll the bale by hand…..by kicking it along as it unrolled.

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When I got to just the core, I left it for this lucky heifer….who looked like she just got a corner piece of some fresh baked brownies! πŸ™‚

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Back to the Dodge I went…..I drove around to survey my work…..everyone looks happy so my job here is done for today!

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Stone and I headed off to feed the bulls some cake. Once that was completed, we had done our chores for the day. Time for us to think about lunch……what sounded good? 4B’s Cream of Tomato Soup….that’s what!

This soup always makes me think of my Grandma June (or Gram, to me). We used to eat this frequently at the local 4B’s Restaurant in Miles City, Montana (where my Grandma lived later in life and where I consider kind of “back home”). If you’ve never tried this soup…..believe me, you are going to want to make it….it’s the best tomato soup I have eaten…..EVER!!! Here is the recipe:

4B’s Cream of Tomato Soup

  • 32 oz. can of Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 oz., Butter
  • 1 TB Onion, chopped
  • 9 oz. Chicken Broth (undiluted)
  • 2 TB Sugar
  • Pink of Baking Soda
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream

Mix first 6 ingredients & simmer for 1 hour. (I melt the butter first then add the onion. I let them cook for just a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, and baking soda.)

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Heat cream in a double broiler & add to hot tomato mixture.( actually don’t do the double broiler thing….I temper the cream by adding about a cup of the hot tomato mixture. I stir it and then I add it all to the remaining tomato mixture.)

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Enjoy! Make Β½ gallon.

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As you can see…..my recipe card has been used a bit!

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This recipe has been around for as long as I can remember. Do try it if you haven’t been lucky enough to try this soup….you will be glad you did! Super easy and super good! ~Cheyenne