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HOWDY!

I am so glad you are here and I can’t wait to get started on this culinary blogging trail; one woman’s journey of exploring her French roots in Northern Michigan blended with a lifetime of adventure in America’s wild, way out west–Wyoming. As a child, growing up in Michigan, somehow I just knew my life would always revolve around horses, music, Wyoming, food, faith and family.

My 4-H leaders, Kimmer and Marla,  enrolled in the equestrian program at a community college in Northwest Wyoming. After two years, they returned and filled my head with big, wonderful horse stories. I vowed then and there (age 13) that I would be heading out to Wyoming someday.

Forty-two years later, my dreams fulfilled, horse trainer, musician, wife, mother, cook and writer, I am ecstatic to share my wild, western windblown life and eats with you.  So, tighten up your cinch, buckle on your spurs, and brace yourself for family and French cuisine, cookbook reviews, photos, fireside tunes and tales–Wyo-cowgirl style. (Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of motherly (and wifely) secrets and advice along the trail as well.) Saddle up, Missy,  we’ve got a trail to blaze!

Addy at Irma

Me and my girl Blue Dover Boon…aka: Addy– out in front of The Irma, Cody, Wyoming spring, 2016

A Dream Being Realized

I have to keep pinching myself and try to stop smiling so broadly as my cheeks are beginning to ache!

Because of my dear peeps of whom I derive my essence, my being, my determination to move forward each day (and you know who you are), I ventured out. All the way out to Bend, Oregon and the International School of Baking.

With the first four days of school under my belt and copious amounts of bread flour under my fingernails, in my hair and stuck to the bottoms and tops of my shoes, I am well on my way to that bakery I have always dreamed about.

Quote

Who knew what a little flour, water and salt could do for the insides of this girl? I have always known that horses, dogs, and wide open Wyoming spaces healed my soul everyday of my short life, thank you Jesus, and now this!

I have been planning for months with the thought of some sort of culinary program in my future. I had heard of the International School of Baking in an article I had read of a doctor in Torrington, WY that attended this school to fulfill a dream of a family bakery. I read this article a few years back and then could not remember the name of the school. I searched the internet numerous times and could never come up with it. Then last December it simply popped up on my computer screen. The very school ‘The Bread Doctor’ attended. I gobbled up the web site’s information and quickly dialed the number. The director, Marda Stoliar, answered immediately. She informed me she was on her way to Torrington, WY  that very moment! WHAT? I told her that Construction Man and myself would try to get there as soon as we could to meet with her, see Ezdan’s bakery and sample his wares.

We jumped in the car and headed to the east side of the state. The meeting went spectacularly and from that moment on most conversation between the hubby and me has mostly encompassed the logistics of a bakery in Cody, WY.

Fired up, I have been non-stop baking up a storm practicing my pastry and bread baking arts. My sourdough starter has had quite a work out and it looks like increased, grand fermentation is in it’s very near future!

I left home on the third of April and had a very good day of travel. All flight connections, the rental car and the weather cooperated well enough to land me in Bend, OR at a nice, quiet lodge just outside of town.

The very next morning I was off for my first 8-10 hour day of doing something I truly enjoy… baking!

We braided Challah, 1 over 3, 2 over 3, 5 over 2. Marda, my teacher, believes you must create large quantities of each item. Number one reason- for practice, and secondly to begin the mindset of a real bakery setting where many loaves, muffins, etc. are made and sold daily.  Not to mention the fact that in a real bakery setting you are always doing more than one project at a time. So in addition to this, we fashioned English muffins, an apricot glaze, and sponge for the next day’s bread. Before I knew it, the first day was under my apron strings! (Literally… 🙂 munch, munch, sample, sample) With aching feet, a tired back and a smile that couldn’t be squelched, I fell into bed quite early.

The second day went just as well creating a Black Peasant Bread, Olive Focaccia dusted with Fennel Pollen, bagel make-up for next day cooking/baking, and almond tart dough to place in the freezer until further use. And of course sponge for more bread. Thinking ahead, preparation and planning is the name of the game. Just like in training horses one step builds on another. No wasted motion. Moving forward, sometimes teeny, tiny baby steps… but still moving forward.

And so it went for two more days. Creating, baking, cleaning, eating. Eating. Eating. Did I mention eating? A friend texted me and asked if I was going to gain weight at baking school.  I asked if she would still love me if I did. She replied, “only if you share!”

Today I rest and go have a look around this magnificent town of Bend. Many coffee shops and breweries. The landscape is wooded. Quite a contrast to the dry, rocky region I call my Wyoming home. There is much rain thus far and early spring flowers are coming on. The Deschutes River is beautiful and it smells green and alive here.  I certainly miss my family and walks in the early morning around the ranch. Ahhh… springtime in Cody, WY… meadowlarks and red wing black birds singing away. Green grass poking through the sleepy, brown pastures.  NOT!! It’s snowing and in the teens right now.

Ranch in Snow

My homesickness won’t last for long as fast as these first days have passed. I will be home in no time baking, planning, ordering, renovating, and praying for these plans of whipping up my French roots in cowgirl boots! Operation, french bakery. Oh me, oh my, what an adventure!

But as for now, I need coffee.  I’ll keep you in the loop here in Oregon.

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love you!

Butter Tarts From the Motherland

Wheat Honey Pecan Bread and TartsRustic Pecan Butter Tarts

Today we celebrate the humble pecan. Although when paired with brown sugar and butter, these Three Musketeers comprise one of the tastiest, delectable, gooey, caramel-y treats to ever grace the palate! Eaten warm with a dollop of whipped cream, melting and pillowy, my life has been changed forever. This is not even to mention the crispy, buttery crust that simply adds that golden brown crunch to every bite.

And then the bread! What does one say about a Whole Wheat Honey Pecan Loaf? Doesn’t the name speak for itself? Tender crumb, doused with butter and a chewy crust baked brown to perfection. The honey comes through with just a hint of sweetness and a pinch of salt enhances the ensemble. Oh, and have I mentioned butter? (just kidding!)

My grandmother on my dad’s side was French Canadian, my grandfather on my mom’s side was French Canadian. I have tasted butter tarts in my dreams. I am made of brown sugar and butter. After all, they say we are what we eat… and today, this was the breakfast of champions.

This same savory crust that encapsulates these tarts is the same dough I use to make my Michigan Pasty.  However, with the German influence from Construction Man’s grandmother, I also incorporate fried cabbage and onions into mine. So good! So good! (in the famous words of Neil Diamond)

All is well here at the ranch. Well almost. Hank the Cowdog has developed some very mysterious allergies in the last few weeks. He is on some high powered steroids at the moment to help him stop scratching holes in his sides and his ears. 😦  We did some blood work to see just what was causing such an upset in his little system. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. He is allergic to everything except black walnuts, oats and dairy. WHAT? Yep. Everything including various grasses, mites, corn, beef, chicken, lamb… the list goes on and on.  I am trying to take care of him the best I can. I still squeeze him, and call him handsome and smart, but I had to cut down on the food and treats. He was a bit overweight as well. (We’ll see if his new diet and meds will work. I hope so.)

What can I say? My love language is feeding people and things. I’m much like the mother and aunts on My Big Fat Greek Wedding!

“What? You eats no meats? That’s ok, I make you lamb!”

Rose Collage

By the way, Happy Valentines Day!

Saddle up missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love ya!

Whipping Up French Macarons

What could be more French than whipping up a batch of macarons? Well…nothing!! Except maybe some choux paste, a croquembouche, or a cruller.

“Macaronage:  the process of incorporating the dry ingredients with the egg whites to make macarons.”

This is a bit tricky as you work to beat so much air into the egg whites and then you must deflate them to just a certain point with the folding in of the almond flour and confectioners sugar. The consistency makes ribbons as you fold it over and over with the spatula or whisk. The batter is then piped onto a baking sheet and baked at a low temp for 15-18 minutes. But, not before these delicate sandwich cookies are left to form a bit of a skin over them before baking. This helps insure proper baking to form the “feet” on the bottom.

So much fun! You can add food coloring to make delightful colors and then pipe jam, buttercream, and even flavored curd inbetwixed these light and airy creations.

Macarons

And there you have it. The ultimate, elegant sandwich cookie!

I filled these with a vanilla, butter cream. And, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I plan on making lavender, lemon and orange as well.

Other baking news:  All is well in my kitchen. I continue to practice and experiment with my sourdough starter. It is amazing, living thing that never ceases to bring me surprises and joy with the versatility of it all.

Sourdough

One word:  Banneton! These little proofing bowls make a perfect round loaf with gorgeous markings.

Construction Man has been ice fishing on his days off. My beautiful daughters continue to make the word a lovelier place giving of their gifts and talents. The horses are duking it out with the colder temps. Hank the Cowdog is mamma’s boy and sticks pretty close to Diane. It’s good to be so loved and needed.  🙂

Keep up the good fight. We got this, cause God’s got us.

Saddle up, Missy!  We got a trail to blaze.

Love you.

My One Word for 2018: SWEET

So Christmas came with a bustle of preparations. As you know, we were due to feed quite a crowd– those plans did change a bit. We still fed about 16 people and later in the evening close to everyone showed up for dessert, Buche de Noel, pumpkin pie, cookies, hot chocolate, Tom and Jerrys, raspberry mules,  and of course a rousing canon of carols, with the infamous tune of ‘Grandma’s Feather Bed’ tossed in for good measure.   Now mind you, I’ve been singing this song to my nieces and nephews for most of their young lives. This year, much to my delight, everyone sang along with great, robust, glee! I am proud of each and every one of them, as it is a stretch for most to sing so boldly with everyone listening. Well done, family. Well done!

My prime rib roasts came out quite well. Thanks to my free- spirited girl, Taylor! We sat down earlier in the day and developed a plan. She kept me to it as I began to panic about mid afternoon wondering if the meat would be overdone, underdone, undone…

So what does one make when all the hullabbaloo ends and the curtain drops on holiday celebrations of such magnitude? Well, prime rib pot pies, of course! With mini, crust snowflakes for garnish sakes.

And, on those days inbeetwixed Christmas and New Years I rolled out some puff pastry which is so dang easy to do and tastes a gazillion percent better than that store bought stuff. I had some Amarena black cherries and tucked them into little squares of pastry for a very sweet, buttery, flaky and tender turnover.  I have named them Cheery Turnovers as they added much delight to sub zero temps and close to a foot of snow over the holiday.

We spent quite a bit of time outside moving snow and hauling in the big round bales of hay for the horses to eat. How does a horse stay warm in -6 temps? Feed them to keep their engines revved and the furnace turned up. They are waiting right now for the master of feeding ceremonies to arrive with their daily breakfast of molasses oats, plenty of hugs and sniffs. I just have to bury my face in their manes each day to remember my childhood and joie de vivre! I simply love horses.

So, the new year begins. Oh the plans and thoughts God has for us and towards us.

I originally chose the word “brave” for my one word this year. (I have such a hard time whittling my life down to one word, really!) But in my daily excursion around the ranch, I felt like the one word that will fully develop as the months unfurl is “sweet.”

I’ll have to be brave to be sweet. And I can see me producing many sweets this year as I remember to be sweet to those around me. Particularly Construction Man. I have a tendency to take this very lovely person, a gift really, for granted. I am even downright rude on occasion to this guy who loves me so much. 😦

Maybe you have some grumpy, mean spirited tendencies as well towards those family members who have been around forever. I believe we can all forget the blessings of loved ones in our lives. As if somehow they will be here forever, and were put here for us to treat badly when we are having a bad day. This is so not how these special relationships were intended to proceed. It’s gonna take some work for me to be sweet. But I am going to give it one hell of a ride. (With much prayer, rest and good nutrition!)

So enjoy January! My favorite month… NOT!  (FYI:  I don’t like February or March either.) Hold close those you love. May you be brave and try new things this winter. May you be sweet. I’m on your side, you’re not alone. We can at the very least try.

Saddle up Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Love you.

Christmas Past, Christmas Now

You know those moments. Those moments when you just can’t put your finger on it. Those moments when you swear you can see Tinker Dust as you brush it from your eyelashes and shoulders. You know those moments, for lack of a better word, we’ll call magical. I seem to be having these at every turn. Like all over town, so to speak! Like all the way around the parking lot… like wonderment x 100. Call me a cornball, but I prayed for more wonderment in my life here about a month or so ago. Yep. WON-DER-MENT– in my face, in my heart, all up in my grill.

Today has been no different. My dough is rising peacefully in the oven (on proof mode,) my butter cookies are baked, frosted and looking rather coquettish. Let me just say they got the moves like Jagger. Do you think old Mick made cookies with his mum?

I know I did. She took the time to make the floury, powdered sugary, frosted countertops for miles kind of mess that only she was qualified to clean up when the dust finally settled. And, I did it with my girls too. I love those moments. They’re, well, magical.

I have written a Christmas chorus for the 2017 season. It’s been a few years since I’ve written a Christmas song to sing along with the fam.  It goes like this:

Good News and great joy     For unto you is born a Saviour

Who is Christ the Lord     Who is Christ the Lord

I wish you could hear it with my guitar. And in fine Chris Tomlin fashion, it pairs nicely with Away in a Manger. It completes that well known tune, and well, frankly, adds an element of truth to it! Now don’t take offense! “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Really? A newborn baby in a manager with cows lowing and strange shepherds coming and going at all hours. No crying? Ok.

Last year I wrote a poem for my sister in law. It is entitled “Rebecca’s Poem”  (it’s quite fitting as her name is Rebecca!)

Rebecca's Poem

My prayer for you this Christmastime is wonderment. May the dust of fairies, well heck even better, may the dust of Heaven reign ( I know, I know, “rain”)  down on your plans. May you be surrounded by the beauty of the season. May you have peace in every circumstance. And may the miracle of Jesus’ birth shine truth in all of our hearts. We could all use the truth now couldn’t we?

Merry Christmas

Saddle up Missy! We’ve got a trail to blaze… and probably a few boxes, wrapping paper…

Love ya.

My Wyoming Home

IMG_7988

So let me introduce you to the house that Construction Man designed and built with his (and my) own two hands! It took us a year to build and we are looking forward to our first Christmas Day in our cozy living area.

We have a rather large family and will most likely have about 40+ folks here for dinner. I am excited. I have many nephews, seventeen to be exact,  and three beautiful nieces. Some of those nephews have children of their own… as on and on it goes. 🙂 Of course, not everyone will be in attendance, but it will be a grand party none the less. Too much food, lots of beer and wine,  the occasional game of Connect Four, Tensies, Euchre and  Jablansky! I love Christmas. I love our family.

I love my husband of 34 years on December 17. He is creative, intelligent, steady, hard-working, and loving. How I could have ever been so blessed by this man is way beyond my comprehension.

As far as baking, I have been working steadily on my sourdough starter/bread recipe. Yesterday I hit upon a great Molasses Oat Bread that is simply delicious. When I perfect the recipe I will share. I promise!

My croissant and marshmallow endeavors are extraordinary. I made coffee flavored marshmallows and mason jars of hot cocoa mix to give away to friends and family. All you need add is two shots of espresso and steamy whole milk or breve for the ultimate cuppa cuppa!

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND BLESSINGS FOR 2018 🙂 🙂 🙂 :0

Love ya!

 

 

Sign Here=Obedience

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily and follow me.     –Jesus  Luke 9:23

Close to 20 years ago it seemed I signed on the dotted line when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Nobody coerced me into it; there was no huge pomp and circumstance. There was however a very sweet, small congregation at a Lutheran church that welcomed our young, growing family with wide arms and well meaning Christianese.

Fast Forward:  Many years have passed and our young family has grown and flown.

I don’t know why God chose the places where my faith would develop into what it has become so far. So many events too numerous to tell of have brought me to this point where I can have a safe vantage point or view separate from the confusion of Christianese–a language even more difficult to decipher than Mandarin.

One thing I know for sure and for certain is that though I may still have a faint sour taste on my tongue after having shoved off from the institution of religion, my love for Christ has not diminished one iota. I quit attending church religiously, but continued to read the Bible each day. (I do meet with other Christians regularly as well.)

I sift, I sort, I ponder, I pray. I wonder, I stand firm, I run away, I come back. I fail, I succeed, I hate, I love, I try, I quit. Then I get up and try some more. I have spoken wisdom into people’s lives and I have been a terrible excuse for a human being. I’ve murdered, cheated and lied, given birth, been honest, and have been painfully faced with the truth.

One thing that is certain in all my travels down paths of days squandered and fully lived, GOD DOES NOT CHANGE!

Though the name GOD denotes “high above” which He is, He made a way for me to know Him  and step into a much better place in my spirit. Clarity–it is a thing. Peace–it does exist. Wisdom–you can obtain some. Love–it’s not just another pretty face.

This is my faith apportioned to me by God. This is my dotted line. This is the grace I’ve received to live unashamed, take up my cross to follow the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road:  I put aside my selfish ambitions and get ambitious for those things that are good and right. Kingdom things.

Kindess, charity, generosity, hope. But this dotted line and following through are not easy. You can never count the cost. Jesus already did that on the cross. For you. For me. All I have is today. I can go a little farther. I can try to understand and do only what I can do– facing forward and exercising faith. Not faith in faith, but faith in God. This is my race to run, my row to hoe on His strength, mercy and forgiveness. By the power of His Holy Spirit.

Sign here? Done!

Nothing to lose and Heaven to gain.

Now, saddle up, Missy! We’ve got a trail to blaze.