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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

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

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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.

Hearts Towards Thanksgiving

Next to Easter, I believe I like Thanksgiving best. As a young girl we would go down state in Michigan to visit all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. I have lots and lots of cousins! Those days are not just good memories, they are grand! So many family members now passed away. I miss my grandmother Lily’s mashed potatoes. If my memory serves me well, they were lumpy (good lumpy, not bad or raw potato lumpy,) and just the right texture to sport that salty turkey gravy that filled the spoon dip or miniature mote. When the dam broke, that gravy saturated my whole plate including the raspberry fluff/jello. By then my belly was getting full of nutritious foods, and I was already facing down the homestretch of pumpkin pie. Lil’s pies were a might on the spicy side, speckled dark with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. (I think she had one too many Kessler and Squirts while preparing them!) I like them that way still, but my middle girl just complained the other day that my pies were too spicy for her tastes. I may cut back a tad on the flavorings in my pies this year… NOT!

If not for Jesus, I don’t know how I could face another holiday season. I miss my sister, Cheri. I miss my brother, Dave. Each died young and each left huge craters in our family’s hearts. We have survived with the knowledge that we will all be together again in Heaven, but sometimes the wait gets so long and I become anxious to hear their voices, their laughter. There is great comfort in the hope of Heaven.

This year it would seem that not everyone is on board for all that family togetherness that comes with the season. While walking through Walmart today with the youngest girl, she commented that it felt like nobody was into it this year. So I made a proclamation right there in the aisle between the clothes and the cleaning supplies, on our way to the self checkout, “Dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas will be at the ranch, and I am cooking!” Her reply? “Okay, mom.”

Sometimes just a little effort is all that’s needed to smooth over undone thoughts or emotions. I will be the one to get fired up and into the swing of the holidays and we will start with Thanksgiving and food, glorious food! I think we will return to the old tradition of writing in the family journal just exactly what it is that we are personally thankful for. It can be as simple as pumpkin pie or as controversial as being happy for the our new President Trump. You see, not everyone in our immediate family is a conservative. (We won’t hold that against them!) Anywho… I digress. It’s such a beautiful thing to go back and read what other family members have written, especially those who are gone on ahead.

And of course, early in the morning Construction Man will load up Chemist Child ( our third girl) her black lab Nell, and Hank the Cowdog and head out for the annual Thanksgiving pheasant hunt. I got me a hankering for a hearty, cast iron skillet roasted pheasant. So easy to do. Such a good thing to do. Such a natural thing to do– seeing as though I was raised on it.

ROASTED PHEASANT

Simply skin and clean your bird, (keeping the tail feathers for bragging rights) and soak it in the sink for awhile to soften the meat and remove any buckshot. Pat it dry and dredge it in flour, salt and pepper. Place the pieces of the bird in the cast iron skillet with a little oil and butter on medium heat to get a good sear. Then turn it down low, add water as it evaporates and let her simmer until fork tender (2- 2 1/2 hours.) Serve it up with some wild grain rice and oven roasted brussel sprouts. And don’t forget to make a pan sauce with those juices in your pan. Make a little slurry with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and some warm tap water, turn juices up to boil and add slurry. Stir well until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Welp… better check my bread dough. This sourdough starter is miraculous. Really? Just flour, water and air. Wyoming must have some amazing, wild yeast. I know it’s got some amazing, wild women!

Now, saddle up Missy! We got a trail to blaze. Love ya!

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Yours truly on the left, my friends Ashley Smallwood and her mom Karen Johnston.

This was a few years back at a ‘Go Mama Go’ barrel racing event. I did not, nor do I run barrels, but Ashley and Karen do. They are pretty darn good at it too.