Autumn Sights and Smells

Well, Construction Man was home for the weekend! We had a great time hunting, eating, shopping, and precious marriage maintenance. What’s this, you may ask? You know. All that conversation, coffee, hand holding and smooching that a couple needs to catch up on regularly. We have lots of history, 34 years worth, that is endearing to know has shaped us into the same heart. I just love that guy. I got one of the good ones… just sayin’. I am humbled and grateful for this blessed relationship.

 

I spent a great deal of time making my own puff pastry this weekend as well. Now, this requires quite a bit of time and work, but I’m going to tell you, it is so utterly worth the effort.

And the final result: A Napoleon!

Napoleon

The pastry was so flavorful. It had great texture, flaky, buttery, with a hint of salty to complement the raspberry chantilly cream of my own design.

1- 8 oz. block of cream cheese, 1/4 c whole cream, 2 rounded tbls sour cream, 4 tbls Chambord, 1 c confectioner’s sugar. Mix wet ingredients and gradually add powdered sugar. This is a bit thicker ‘cream’, but the flavor and texture is divine. Plus it spreads well atop the delicate, homemade pastry and stands sturdily under the pressure of stacking high those luscious berries.

I also made my dutch oven bread. Hey, it was a windy, chilly weekend and it felt so good to rev up the oven and alert the olfactories of heaven’s scent… baking bread!

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So, now it’s Monday. I will continue to work through my new cook book: The Art of French Pastry. I have been making pate a chous for many years for cream puffs and gougeres, but that is what I will be baking up today. Look out piping bag, you’re about to get rode hard and put away wet!~~~ “Saddle up Missy! We got a trail to blaze!”

Around the World in 80 Days!

I wish I could say I thought about this blog while I was away, but alas, I did not! No apologies here though. I had a ball visiting family and friends from North Dakota to Minnesota, Nashville to Keeneland, and Michigan to Wyoming again. Ok. So i wasn’t gone for 80 days, but it sure did feel like it late yesterday afternoon when I rolled up to the ranch with Hank the Cowdog in tow. He really couldn’t believe his eyes when we walked the fields last night before collapsing into bed, yes, both of us collapsed! And, I didn’t travel the world, but with all the adventure packed into this past month, food, family, laughter, tears, scenic vistas dotted with autumn riots of foliage, there is no world as blessed as my world.

I arrived back home to a new cookbook.

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This is going to a most enjoyable journey creating through this one! I am gathering up the essentials as I type. I am moved by this man’s sweet stories, and sweet spirit, and sweet creations. Oh how  I am pleased to have reconnected with my mother and father on my trip and garnered more stories of our family history and traditions.

I look forward to sharing such recipes and tender morsels of life and love as these winter weeks and months unfurl. I hope you will join me, please do!

You must know that I started my exercise routine this morning by saddling up one of my favorite, “go-to” mares and loping the most intricate, round circles. She remembers, me too. Addy girl… you smell like my childhood. Love you.

Addy on road 8 with tongue out

Addy’s fashion halter was a gift from one of my sweet, young friend and student many years ago.

Baking, Moving, Traveling, Following

Just in case you were wondering, I have moved just this last week from the ranch in Wyoming to North Dakota with Construction Man. We took all of last year off to build our house which is now complete. We are excited and glad as these big jobs are pressing, tiresome, and meticulous. Now, I’m not complaining, mind you. But when a husband and wife go to building their dream home that he has been designing and redesigning all of their married life, and then he executes the plan with a timeline, emotions can interfere. More like try to commandeer such grandiose undertakings!

We survived, thrived, contrived, and devised an amazing home. This is no ordinary house mind you. Situated on approximately 40 acres of lush, irrigated and sub-irrigated grassland/pasture and surrounded by at least nine mountain ranges, I insisted on huge windows. It’s more than a million dollar view, it’s heaven. Ok.  It’s not heaven, but you can see it from there!

Construction Man and Carter Mountain

But now, we are off to places unknown for Construction Man’s work. He is a very smart man, capable of much wisdom and application within the world of oil and construction– from building homes to highways. My hero, really! He has a tender side, a grand following, and passionate fanfare, as you will see as this blog unfurls. Oh, Look! Here’s one now:

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Me and my oldest daughter, Austin Claire. Today is her birthday. She is a beaut! We love her with all of our hearts. Happy Birthday my girl.

She has long been my butter- cookie- making -partner, being the oldest and all. This recipe was handed down through our family from my paternal Grandmother Claire (Charlebois) Johnson.

BUTTER COOKIES  (PREHEAT OVEN TO 400*)

In a mixing bowl put in 2 sticks of softened  butter, cream with 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Add one egg, pinch of salt, big splash of vanilla, two tablespoons of whole milk, (you can even use cream, evaporated canned milk or half and half) and mix well enough.

In another bowl sift together 2 1/2 cups of flour (keep other half cup for rolling out the dough) and 1 1/2 teas. of baking powder. Add dry to wet in increments, to allow the flour to soak up the wet ingredients. The dough should be sort of dry and soft to the touch in order to roll out and cut. If it is sticky, add a little more flour. (Don’t work the dough too much or add too much flour in the rolling and cutting action, as it will get tough.) This is the place where most recipes call for refrigerating the dough. I do not include this step. Perhaps I’m just a talented enough baker to whip out these delicate delights, but really it all boils down to being hungry and needing a cookie right now! Scrape down sides and pull out half of dough and roll out on floured surface. Cut and place on heavy duty, ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400* until edges of cookies are golden brown. About 9-10 minutes. Roll out rest of dough and repeat.  Frost when cooled.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Add 1 stick of softened butter, one egg white, pinch of cream of tartar and a large (2 teas.+) splash of vanilla to mixing bowl and give it a good swirl about. When this is mixed together, slowly add up to 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar. Frosting should be of good spreading consistency–not too dry. If you find you have added too much powdered sugar, you can add a splash of milk to loosen the frosting up and make it sticky again and vice versa.

Get cracking and saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

 

Dutch Ovens Fire-ever

IMG_1779Construction Man and me riding somewhere in Montana on a wagon train a few years back.

We agreed to head up the food and preparation on this trip. The Dutch oven is one of the finest pans in my culinary arsenal! From scrambled eggs for our breakfast burritos, to warming the tortillas, and even whipping up Shepherd’s Pie; Dutch ovens are the bee’s knees.

I bake a meaty, dense brown bread regularly in two of my smaller cast iron beauties. This is a no knead recipe that has become quite a standard at most family gatherings.

Prepare the dough the night before:

In a large plastic bowl add:

4 1/2 c bread flour

1 1/2 c light rye flour

2 1/2 Tbls yeast

2 Tbls brown cane sugar

1 c  quick oats

2 teas salt

mix dry ingredients together, then begin adding wet ingredients:

2-3 Tbls olive oil

1/2 c molasses

3 c (+scant) warm water

Stir and mix quite well, dough will resemble a shaggy dog texture and be fairly wet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on counter overnight, about 12 hours.

In the morning,  pop your Dutch oven, one larger 10- 12 quart or two smaller 6-8 quarts, into the oven and turn ‘er up to 425* . While the ovens are preheating, dump your dough onto a floured surface and knead a tad more flour into the dough to be able to handle it and cut it into two equal portions. Or leave in one large  loaf for larger pan. Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, on the counter until Dutch ovens are hot. Pull Dutch ovens out, remove lids and spray inside with oil. Be careful, these pans will be screaming hot! Drop dough into pan, it will sizzle if you are doing it right. Score top of dough three times with sharp knife. Replace lids and pop back into the oven. Set timer for 25 minutes. When timer rings, pull Dutch oven lids and bake for 8-10 more minutes. Bread will be golden to dark brown and sound hollow when you knock on the top.

Remove from oven and turn out on rack to cool.

Serve up with plenty of salted butter and a good glass of dark, dry wine! This bread also pairs very nicely with Shepherd’s pie.

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artwork by Diane Whitlock

 

 

Full of Firsts

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This is Heart Mountain. This particular view is from the Rattlesnake Mountain side. My hubby, whom I will adoringly call Construction Man, and myself began a Jeep touring/outfitting business two years ago. We love to create new excursions for our customers by going out and exploring all the trails surrounding Cody, Wyoming. Copious amounts of photos decorate my phone, computers and website.

I’m always up for new adventures–cooking, new foods, tasting new wines, meeting new folks and seeing new scenery.

This is a part of my reality. Shotgun in a Jeep for many hours at a time. I’m not complaining, for the wildlife and mountain vistas feed my inner cowboy girl  and inspire me to write, cook and sing.

Yep. This is where I most certainly come from.

Saddle up, Missy, we got a trail to blaze!

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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